January 13, 2012

The Difference Between Mission and Vision

I enjoy helping churches and not-for-profits become strategic thinkers and doers, not just planners. Mission and vision statements are actually strategic tools that help a congregation or organization stay focused. Most churches and nonprofits have a mission statement, but surprising few have articulated a vision. What’s the difference?

Simply put, a mission statement describes who you are and what you do. A vision statement describes your hope for the impact of what you do. I found an example in the 4th chapter of Ephesians.

St. Paul’s writings demonstrate that he always had the eye on the big picture, even as he was encouraging the conversion and spiritual growth of individuals. He was looking to the outcome of all the preaching and teaching and baptizing. In Ephesians, he provides summaries of mission and vision for the overall Church:

11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.

MISSION: 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.

VISION: 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

Ephesians 4:11-13 - New Living Translation (NLT)

If your parish has already articulated its mission within the body of Christ, consider taking time to describe your vision for the impact of your mission and ministries. Here is an example from Christ Church in Pensacola, Florida:

Our vision for the impact of our ministries is:

  • Christ Church will be a place bringing people from different backgrounds together into an open relationship with each other and into an exploration of faith in Christ Jesus
  • The openness of Christ Church to welcome and engage all people in a faith journey will continue to grow
  • Pensacola will be a better community because of the service and leadership of those whose spiritual growth is deepened and inspired by the ministries of Christ Church

As you think about the future of your parish, consider what you want the impact of your existence to be. Write it, share it and use it to help leadership make decisions that keep you moving toward it.