Your mission statement is a ministry tool ready to be used to grow the Kingdom of God. Most churches now have a mission statement. It may live on the church website, on the wall of the church building, or in a notebook hidden away in a storage closet. How can this mission statement come to life in the ministry of a church? Perhaps we need to think of these words that we call a mission statement as a tool waiting to be used in the ministry of the congregation. Here are a few suggestions.
A mission statement can be a ministry tool when it is used as a . . .
- Congregational Exercise
The very process that is used to develop a mission statement is filled with the possibility of seeing this exercise as a ministry tool. The entire exercise can be a season of clarifying and focusing on the conviction of the congregation. Whether this is done with the entire congregation or selected leadership groups, many people need to be involved. The difficult challenge of coming up with the right words to express the mission of the church will stretch the minds and hearts of the people in a healthy way. I love the approach suggested by Tod Bolsinger in his wonderful book, Canoeing the Mountains. He encourages churches to write a mission statement with no more than eight words. It needs to be in the form of verb, target, and outcome. The process of stating the mission of the church in just eight words is not easy. That is the point. He writes, “Again, the process and the conversation around it is the most important element. As we discuss, debate and decide on each word, the mission becomes a conviction.” (p. 131) The very act of developing the statement is a ministry tool. Such statements should never be handed down from anyone. They should be “wrestled with” by those who will use them.
- Worship Guide
Once a statement has been adopted by the church, it becomes a wonderful guide for worship planning for a special season in the church. Even churches who regularly use the Revised Common Lectionary for preaching planning should step away from that plan for a few weeks to preach/sing/pray the mission statement into the life of the church. What are meaningful biblical texts that might accompany the words of the mission statement? Is there a special litany, hymn, or anthem that can be used/written to help the mission statement come to life? The goal will be that at the end of this worship season, the entire congregation understands the deep meaning and significance of the mission statement, and all have learned it so that they can say it together. (That is one great value of a statement of no more than eight words!) One more thing – don’t just do this one time and forget about it. Remember, your mission statement is a ministry tool. Revisit the mission statement in worship each year on a special anniversary Sunday or the launch of a new church year to remind folks of the meaning of the words and to include new people in the experience.
- Discipleship Design
Take the mission statement beyond just a worship experience. It can become a framework for the discipleship ministry of the church. Sunday Bible classes and weekday small groups can use the words of the mission statement to guide their plan for faith development. Rather than scrambling around to find a new book to study that everyone will want to read, or complaining about the literature that the church orders, using the mission statement to craft a very intentional form of spiritual formation over the course of many months can be a rewarding experience and the words of the mission statement are no longer just words on a wall, they become a ministry tool for personal spiritual growth.
- Staff Organizer
What if you staffed your church according to your mission – instead of just filling slots when they come open? Whether the staff is full-time or part-time, clergy or administrative staff, it is helpful to think of your mission statement as an organizing tool for the way that a staff team is built. Your mission statement expresses the convictions of who you want to be as a church. Are you staffed appropriately to make that happen? If not, then let your mission statement become a tool that helps you as you are building, or rebuilding, the staff team.
- Member Mobilizer
Staff members are not the only people resources that allow a church to accomplish her mission. The members of the congregation provide countless volunteer hours, passionate enthusiasm, and financial support to the ministry and mission of the church. Are you mobilizing these people in the right way? Congregations are very bad about maintaining structures of committees and teams that were helpful in the past but have outlived their usefulness today. Nominating committees work hard to fill all the slots before the church year begins, often without asking, “Are these the slots we should be filling?” A good mission statement can help a church prioritize how it mobilizes the members so that they will have the most meaningful service to help the church accomplish her mission.
- Budget Framework
The important words and convictions expressed in a mission statement should be reflected in the church budget or financial ministry plan. Are you applying financial resources in ways that will allow you to accomplish your mission? How is that demonstrated in the financial reporting that is shared with the church family? The sometimes dry and grueling work of church budgeting might take on a new life if you used the mission statement as a tool for providing a framework for the budget. It will also allow you to see if you are putting your money where your priorities are.
- Asset Manager
Most churches have assets that they need to manage. This may be the church buildings, vehicles, land, rental buildings, etc. How does this work of asset management allow you to accomplish your mission goals? If the mission statement becomes a powerful ministry tool to help in the evaluation of these assets, sometimes churches will conclude that the assets they have are not allowing them to properly fulfill their mission. This may lead to assets being sold, redeveloped, torn down, purchased, leased, and other options. When the mission statement is the tool that is used to manage assets, then the church is driven by mission and not by the maintenance of assets.
It only takes eight words or less to get started! What might the right eight words mean for your church?
SEVEN SUGGESTIONS SERIES: Information to inspire faithful creativity and spark a new way of looking at your church.