2021 Update

I've learned a lot over the past 20 years about guiding churches through a process to develop clear, unique mission statements. Recently, I remembered a blog post from several years ago and decided I would revisit it and add in some comments based on what I know now that I didn't know then.

What is a Church Mission Statement?

Before we go any further, let me clarify what I mean by a mission statement. For me, a mission statement is only one piece of a larger structure for articulating your church's unique DNA. I call it the Vision Frame. Within the structure of the Vision Frame, the mission statement must answer the question, "What are we doing?"

Your mission statement serves as a compass that sets the direction for your church and provides a heading around which every staff member, ministry leader, volunteer, and attender should be in alignment with.

How to Develop a Church Mission Statement

I believe there is one best way to develop a church mission statement: through a process of collaboration, listening, and revising your statement with some of your core team members. If you want your mission statement to become a rallying cry that resonates with your entire church, it usually can't be something the pastor develops on their own and delivers to everyone else.

The best mission statements are crafted through a process of brainstorming, collaboration, word-smithing, and iterating. Even more than that, though, the best church mission statements articulate how your specific church will pursue God's general mission for his church.

That means you shouldn't waste time in your mission statement talking about "going into all the world to make disciples." That's what every church should be doing. Instead, spend time as a team discovering how your church specifically will live out Jesus' Great Commission in your specific time and place.

Church Mission Statement Examples

Below are 10 mission statement examples from when I first drafted this blog post back in 2014. The good news is that as I look through these mission statements, I think they hold up pretty well. There is one area, though, specifically for the local church mission statements, that I've gained a new level of clarity about that I'd like to highlight.

Too many church mission statements fall into what I've started to call "Satan's Loophole." Satan's Loophole is when a church mission statement becomes about what the church as an organization is doing ... not about what every member of the church is doing every day.

For example, if your church has a mission statement like, "Helping people follow Jesus," the default understanding of that in the minds of the people who are a part of your church could EASILY be that you (as the pastor) or the church staff or the church as an organization is responsible for doing that ... and that it's not something they can be doing every day of their lives.

Your church mission statement should avoid Satan's Loophole by declaring a direction that encourages and even REQUIRES the people in your church to be involved with it every day.

You can see how having that lens might change the words you choose for your mission statement and how you invite people to be a part of it. It definitely changes the way I evaluate all church mission statements, including some of the ones below that I facilitated the process of mission articulation. Here's the list from 2014.

1. Making much of Jesus, because Jesus changes everything (in process)

- Austin Stone, Austin, TX (Kevin Peck, lead pastor)

2. Connecting people with God, through authentic relationships to serve communities (in process)

- Newbreak Church, San Diego, CA (Mike Quinn, lead pastor)

3. Passionately engaging believers on their journey of faith

- LifeWay Christian Stores, Nashville, TN (Tim Vineyard, president)

4. Inviting the striving to something really real (in process)

- The Bridge Bible Church, Bakersfield, CS (Jeff Gowling, senior pastor)

5. Rescuing one another from cultural Christianity to follow Jesus every day

- Park Cities Baptist Church, Dallas, TX. (Jeff Warren, senior pastor)

6. Promoting the discovery of Jesus through sports

- Upward Sports, Spartanburg, SC (Caz McCaslin, president)

7. Helping one another trade a checklist faith for real life with Jesus

- First Baptist Concord, Knoxville, TN (John Avant, lead pastor)

8. Equipping multiplying leaders with reproducible systems to plant more healthy churches

- Launch Group, Atlanta, GA (Mac Lake, lead architect)

9. Imperfect people, risking it all to make Jesus real one life at a time

- Salem Lutheran, Tomball, TX (Tim Niekerk, senior pastor)

10. Inviting the distracted and disinterested to realize their role in God's story

- Mountain Park Community Church, Phoenix, AZ (Allan Fuller, lead pastor)

What is the Difference between a Mission Statement and a Vision Statement?

As I mentioned above, the mission statement must answer the question, "What are we doing?" A vision statement should work right alongside the mission statement, answering the question, "Where are we going?" While these two are directly related, they are not the same thing.

For example, your church could have a mission statement that says, "Joining Christ daily in the restoration of all things." (This is the mission statement of Peachtree Church in Atlanta, pastored by my good friend Rich Kannwischer.)

A vision statement that would go along with that mission statement would describe the destination you're headed toward and/or milestones along the way. The best way to express church vision is through a tool called the Horizon Storyline that was the foundation of my book, God Dreams.

The Horizon Storyline enables church leaders to articulate 1 overarching vision statement (in the 5+ year time horizon), 4 areas of opportunity (in the 3-5 year time horizon) that support that vision statement, 1 significant milestone each year, and 4 90-day goals that move your church toward reaching your vision.

The power of the Horizon Storyline tool is that it provides BOTH big-picture vision for the long-term AND ultra-specific goals for the short-term.

So, in many ways, I don't like boiling vision down to a single statement. Your mission statement should be a single sentence. Your vision should include both a description of your long-term destination and clear, specific goals and milestones you're pursuing right now.

Using a Church Consultant to Develop a Mission Statement

I've facilitated MANY mission articulation sessions over the past 20 years. I truly believe that the church teams who engage in an intentional process led by a strategic outsider (you can call them a consultant if you like, I prefer the term Navigator) have a better change at arriving at a clear, unique articulation of their mission.

One of the reasons a consultant or Navigator can be so helpful is because it allows your entire team to fully participate in the conversation without being responsible for keeping the process moving forward. When the person facilitating the mission articulation sessions tries to speak directly into the mission statement itself, it creates a dynamic where the leader of the meeting (usually a senior pastor or other significant leader on the team) becomes the de facto "final word." Their input just feels more valuable because of their role in the meeting.

When a strategic outsider is facilitating, that person can remain completely neutral as different topics are discussed. Everyone in the room will know that the outsider doesn't have a stake in which direction the mission statement ultimately goes ... their job is to guide the group toward clarity.

Secondly, the value of a strategic outsider can provide perspective and guidance that another member of the team simply can't provide. For example, a good church consultant can appropriately challenge or push back on ideas that come up during the conversation without any relational or hierarchical baggage that might be present between team members. In addition, a good church consultant can provide perspective about the normal struggles church leaders have in the process and how to overcome those typical roadblocks.

If you're interested in talking to someone from Future Church Co. about what it would look like for one of our team members to guide your church through a process of articulating your unique DNA, including your mission, visit the Pivvot website. Pivvot is focused on guiding local church leaders in break-through processes so that they more closely embody the movement Jesus started. We'd love to help.