Developing a mission statement for a church is not a simple or easy task. It involves a great deal of prayer, study, listening, thinking, and crafting. You won’t do this at a weekend retreat or over the course of two or three leaders’ meetings. It will take time and energy. It will require leadership and wide participation. It will need focused attention and consistent, persistent work.
Scared yet? The good news is that—though the task is daunting—there is a process that will help you develop a good mission statement. Follow the process and the resulting sense of mission will honor God and be true to the character of your congregation.
In the blogs to follow, I will flesh out the process that is outlined briefly here:
- Listening Phase—a period of prayer, study, and dialogue that allows you to hear God’s vision for his church, how he has commissioned people and congregations in other times and places, and how he is uniquely gifting and calling your congregation.
- Analysis Phase–a period of reflection and synthesis that sets you in search of patterns and intersections, allowing you to see order in the seeming randomness of church life and to find potential matches between your church and a mission worthy of God’s people.
- Writing Phase—a period of creating, shaping, editing, and building consensus around a clear, simple, short, and memorable statement that captures the church’s sense of what God is calling them to do.
- Buy-in Phase–a period for creating ownership in the mission statement on the part of church leaders (particularly) and the congregation in general … a time for communication, interaction, and persuasion.
- Integration Phase—a period of teaching, discussing, and promoting the mission statement, building it into the structures and programs of the church, aligning and evaluating ministries by the mission, and ensuring that the church’s leadership is committed to and willing to be governed by the mission.
Think of this entire process as an hour-glass-shaped endeavor. It begins (the Listening Phase) with the large and the many, looking at the broad sweep of God’s involvement with his church and with your congregation and at the congregation itself–it’s people and gifts and experience sets. It attempts to draw as many people as possible into information gathering, study, discussion, and memory. The Analysis Phase starts to narrow the process down, focusing increasingly on themes that are characteristic of and dominant in the history and DNA of your church. By the time you get to the Writing Phase, the process gets very personal and involves just a few people (probably only one) who attempt to boil down all the listening and analysis to a few pithy, memorable words.
From this point, the process begins to widen again. The Buy-In Phase involves communicating the mission statement to larger and larger groups of people, begining with the formal leaders (elders/staff) and moving in time to the entire congregation. Finally (in the Implementation Phase), the mission statement affects the entire church system, pervading the thinking, actions, and budget of the congregation as a whole.
Before getting into the process itself, perhaps a word about the necessity of leadershipthrough this process would be in order. Someone has to drive the missional bus. Many in the church will come along for the ride—important contributors to the journey. But someone must be responsible for keeping the process on the road, determining the speed and direction of the ride, and guarding against detours and delays.
As your church prepares to develop a mission statement, the first thing to do is determine who “owns” this process, who is gifted and capable and trusted enough to provide leadership, who understands the importance of this effort and feels God’s call to steer the church through the process.
As you consider who that person should be, thing about the following attributes:
- Theologically and spiritually mature (knows the Bible, demonstrates the Spirit’s fruit, has a committed prayer life);
- Thinks systemically (understands the importance of process, involvement, communication, etc.);
- Values meetings and knows how to lead productive meetings;
- Handles long-term projects (recognizes the need for pacing, persistence, and encouragement);
- Enjoys the respect and trust of the congregation;
- Has influence with and the respect of the church’s leadership;
- Is passionate about the church and its future;
- Knows how to work with groups (plans, schedules, delegates);
- A good communicator—verbally and in writing;
- Has the time and energy to follow the process from inception to integration.
If you can find someone with these attributes, who is willing to set aside their halo long enough to lead the church through the mission development process, you’re at least half way towards your goal.