March 2, 2015

Do You Really Need A Mission Statement?

Top 5 answers to the question: Does your church have a mission statement? 

  • 5. Yes. We post it in our bulletin and affirm or revise it in our annual Vestry retreat.
  • 4. Yes. Well, maybe. No, I don’t think we do.
  • 3. We created one a couple of priests ago, but it isn’t really relevant today.
  • 2. No. Should we?
  • 1. Yes. But please don’t ask me what it is because I can’t ever remember it.
As a strategic planning facilitator, I suppose I should care deeply whether a congregation has articulated its own, unique statement of mission. Frankly, I don’t. 

Statements of Mission are wonderful, strategic tools, when carefully crafted and effectively used. They assist leaders in appropriately allocating resources to accomplish what the mission says they do. Therefore, these statements also help donors assess whether an organization, including a congregation, really puts its treasure where its heart is. 

A statement of mission is part of your congregation’s identity. It describes what you are called to do. This is vitally important to consider, to pray over, to use in decision-making. If your church has created a mission statement after deep reflection on your ministry strengths or based on a call to service, great! 

If you have not, my assertion is, don’t sweat it. The really important exercise is the aforementioned deep reflection. Rather than word-smithing the right mission statement, take time to consider how well your congregation is following ample direction offered in God’s Word. There’s the Great Commission, Matthew 28: 18-20:

"Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'”

Episcopal churches in particular have a Biblically based mission, echoing Ephesians 4: 11-13 and found in our catechism: “The mission of the church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” Book of Common Prayer, pg. 855.

Pretty clear direction about what to do exists. ARE you doing it? HOW are you doing it?

Reflecting on Christian mission can and should cover all aspects of congregational ministry. Some examples:

  • Do our outreach ministries provide opportunities for Christian witness? How welcoming is our church to the poor we serve?
  • Do our ministries offer renewal so members are refreshed and equipped to go out to serve others, or to continue serving without feeling burned out or burdened?
  • How does our Christian formation support the mission of the church?
  • How well do our buildings support the mission? Is our church accessible to all? Is our entry way welcoming? Are our Sunday School rooms safe, clean and comfortable? Can hearing impaired people fully experience worship? Can physically impaired people enjoy the Eucharist along with everyone else?

Whatever words you use for the mission of the church, consider how intentionally you are following it.

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