I belong to a number of clergy groups on social media where we talk about common issues, ask for ideas, look for support and so on. The groups range in their target audience by age, theology, and denomination. These groups are often great sources for wisdom as well, as we all have a wide variety of experiences to draw upon and share. Conversations are sometimes serious and sometimes downright silly. It’s great to have these opportunities to share with peers around the globe.

Lately we’ve been talking in one place about vision or misson statements for our churches.

I’ve gone to churches and asked the question, “What’s your mission statement?”

Some churches say they don’t have one. Some say there is one, but cannot remember it. Very few will actually be able to tell me what their mission statement is.

The church I serve does not have a mission statement.

Should we?

A while ago some members of the church asked me what I thought about mission statements. My response was, “If you want one, be prepared to work hard to show me how you live it out!”

Since then I’ve been thinking, and the discussion in social media has helped me out in this regard. Do we need a mission or vision statement?

The churches that have told me they have one, but have no idea what it is, make me wonder if it’s worth the work. Building a mission statement is not a short process and takes more work than just throwing some words on a plaque or banner. It takes time of discernment, evaluation, prayer and even some risk. So to put all this effort into a statement and have it sit on a bulletin board or buried in the back of the bulletin, with no actual change than saying, “Look! We have some pretty words” doesn’t seem a good use of time.

But, if the church is willing to embrace such a statement, making it the central focus of every decision made, every budget, every motion, every outreach effort, then it is worth the effort. 

I believe in mission statements and vision. I believe a focus on the future is critical in our efforts as churches, as communities, as organizations to move forward. Yet, there needs to be support, energy, excitement… passion! for what the community is striving to do in order to make it work.

Mission statements need to be succinct, easy to remember, and meaningful to the community. Long paragraphs aren’t going to cut it. Short. Simple. To the point. Sure there may be some literature related to this statement, but the initial one needs to be memorable and something people embrace.

Otherwise it’s just empty words.

How about you? Does your church have a mission statement? Do you know it? Do you live it?