4 Characteristics of a Powerful Mission Statement
If I were to ask you what Starbucks was all about as a company, what would you say their mission statement is? Would you say they exist to bring quality coffee to every street corner? Or would you say they exist to over-roast coffee and charge too much for it? (I would, but hey, I don’t really like coffee)
The official mission statement of Starbucks is “To inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.” (source) Go ahead, click that link and read up on their mission, vision, and values real quick. Seriously, it’ll take you about 3 minutes. I’ll wait.
Does it surprise you how short and concise the mission and values of such a huge company like Starbucks is? Starbucks has a laser-focused idea of what each word in that mission statement means and they work hard to create that same reality in every store. That’s why each Starbucks, whether large or small, has the same lighting, music, furniture, coffee, and that guy talking way too loud on his cell phone.
Over the next few weeks, we will look at mission statements, vision statements, and values for ministry. Your church probably has a mission or vision statement, so I’m not going to waste time debating which is which.
I will tell you, however, that all churches need a laser-focused mission statement just like a Starbucks. It keeps everyone in the church pointed towards the same goal, and that makes for a powerfully mobilized congregation.
I think a powerful mission statement has to have at least four characteristics…
The Mission Statement Must Clearly Reflect the Great Commission
No, this does not “go without saying.” I’ve seen many a mission statement go completely off the rails due to an attempt to be clever or creative. Mission statements don’t have to be clever or creative, they have to be CLEAR.
The mission statement for your church reflects the answer to the question “What are we here to do?” Many churches try to start answering the question before realizing that it has been answered already.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 28:18-20 what He wanted the Church to accomplish, so if your mission statement doesn’t reflect that, then it’s time to consider that you might be building something other than the church. (Like a sophisticated protest group.)
Can it be unique or represent your particular group? Absolutely! Just not at the expense of clarity. You want anyone to be able to read the mission statement and immediately know what your church is all about without any explanation.
The Mission Statement Must Be Portable
Andy Stanley says that “memorable is portable.” What he means is if you want your mission statement to have true power to unite your church under one banner, it has to be something concise that they can remember easily.
It has been my experience that if churchgoers cannot remember the church’s mission, they will make something up on their own. Having a concise, easy to remember mission statement is key to its portability.
Some would say it sounds more like a tagline or a slogan, but that’s not what we’re after here. We just know that most humans cannot remember long, detailed sentences verbatim without a lot of practice. Why not make the sentence that defines your church’s existence easy to remember?
A slogan answers the question “What’s in it for me?” which is not what we’re trying to answer with a mission statement. A mission is what you must accomplish no matter how many people are with you; a slogan is a way to convince them to come along.
Keeping a mission short and sweet is a great way to make sure that your people remember it for when they are asking to have their current pet project announced from the stage.
One of the easiest mission statements I’ve heard goes like this: “Leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.”
It’s not flashy and doesn’t always translate well to cool swag, but it needs no explanation, is memorable, and reflects the great commission. BTDubs, I read that in a church about 5 years ago and just typed it from memory.
A Mission Statement Conveys Your Church Identity
When crafting your mission statement, you will use words that are important to you as a church. Remember, you are summarizing the Great Commission. There should be something in there about Jesus and making disciples, but maybe not everyone you have in your church knows what a disciple looks like.
You may want to phrase it in a way that those people who come to your church and are on mission with you will be able to internalize and take hold of. Instead of “making disciples” you could say, “devoted followers of Jesus.” They both mean the same thing, but one is more accessible to certain groups of people. Just don’t use emojis. We’re not ready.
You also want to think about those who are not yet part of your church. How easy is the vocabulary in the mission to grab for someone who was not raised in the church? Can they quickly understand what it is to be a member of your church body? Getting new members on board quickly is important, as they typically have a natural energy and enthusiasm for your church you’ll want to harness.
A Mission Statement is a Team Effort
The last bit of advice on crafting a powerful mission statement is don’t do it alone. I believe that Jesus organized the church in such a way that we must rely on one another to accomplish the Great Commission.
So, if you are crafting a statement with your team, listen to them when they push back. They see the world a little bit differently and you need that perspective.
It reminds me of an episode of The Office. Darryl is writing a jingle for a commercial they are making and Michael, the boss, hates it. He says “It’s not me.” That’s when Darryl utters one of the wisest leadership lines of that show: “It’s better than you. It’s us!”
I have witnessed many ministry leaders ruin great ideas and great mission statements because the idea didn’t reflect or originate with them personally. This is a mistake. “We” should come before “me.”
A mission statement that is crafted after the Great Commission, portable, conveys your church’s identity, and created with a team is a powerful thing. It unites churches under one mission and is blessed by God because it is HIS mission.
Find more helpful ministry topics on The Seminary of Hard Knocks Podcast with Seth Muse every other Tuesday on iTunes! Don’t forget to leave a rating and review!