Words in Our Mouths- Mission Statements

In the first installment of our series, “Words in Our Mouths,” today we tackle Mission Statements.

I think it would be fair to say that I love mission statements.  As a person who studied at the Drucker School, mission statements are very important to me. Peter Drucker is famous for having said, that “Mission Statements should be able to fit on a T-Shirt.”

An example of a T-shirt with a mission statement
An example of a T-shirt with a mission statement

He is also famous for his five questions that he asked every organization, one of which was also, “What is your mission?”  Mission statements have value because they force a group or organization to articulate their core work or business.  They should be short, and its best that they are memorizable because that way they are more likely to be ingrained in the people that participate in the work of the mission being embodied by the statement.  If there is no buy-in in the statement, or the statement does not accurately reflect the work that the organization is doing, its not worth the paper its printed on.

With that being said, I believe that at least within the congregational setting, mission statements as a concept need to be reclaimed.  Perhaps they should even be relabeled?  I believe there is honestly a missional church tension here.  It’s something that was made fairly clear while in seminary, “The church does not have a mission; rather they are part of God’s mission.”  I agree with this.  The church’s mission is not unique to the church, rather it is a response and part of God’s larger mission that encompasses the church but also that transcends it.  Perhaps then mission statements in congregations are wrong.

If we were to back track from mission statements in congregations, then what would be a good alternative?  Perhaps crafting purpose or vision statements might be more appropriate.  If desired, a congregation could explain that it is opting for different language then “mission statement” because of the confusion that creates around the questions of whose mission is it, and what is the mission.  As for content, the purpose or vision statements ought to be a reflection of who a congregation is, and who it might be becoming or called to become and transform to.  Things that might be included might be an understanding about God grounded in the Gospel and a belief that we are all created as Children of God and loved by God.  Such a statement might also reflect an idea of a joyful response.  For example, “Our joyful response to the good news of the Gospel is to join God in the work of building up the kingdom- of being bearers of good news, mercy, justice, love, and peace.” Now obviously this would be a long statement, and probably not able to be printed well on a T-shirt. But if you were set on the T-shirt design, perhaps use symbols instead of the sentence.

What are your thoughts?  Where have you seen a mission statement used well in a congregation? Or, perhaps purpose or vision statements?  Where have you seen congregations where such statements have not been helpful?  Perhaps they were created by a committee and then the only traction they ever received was being placed in some profile binder on a back shelf in an office?  In that case, those statements reflected and gave little to no life.  Whatever statements you have, work on, or would like to have need to be life giving and affirming. They also need to be representative of the congregation in order that they might be able to be identified with or grown into.

3 thoughts on “Words in Our Mouths- Mission Statements

  1. How timely! Heres where the T-Team is at: I dont know whether what we have is a vision statement or a mission statement. Probably a vision statement. Im never clear on what the difference is, other than, as you say, mission has churches.

    Mind you, these are SUPER ROUGH, drafts/works in process.

    My metric for statements is it have to fit on a bumper stickerand be readable at 55 mph! Certainly no longer than a Haiku. Six words would be perfect?!


    “In quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” — Isaiah 30:15b

    1. I am so glad this was timely! If you want some reading on vision vs. mission statements I can pull that together for you. Six words is a great and memorizable statement both for a bumper sticker and a T-shirt. What would be your ideal six word statement?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s