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Does Your Mission Statement Suck?

mission statement

Why do you do what you do?

Recently Sherry and I were in a pre-service meeting at a church where we were speaking that morning. The young lady leading the pre-service meeting of core volunteers asked, “Who knows the mission of our church?” There was some nervous laughter and feet shuffling, but no one had a clue. She turned to another staff member to see if he knew, but he was equally clueless.

Finally she read a well-crafted phrase that had been pasted onto the church website and promptly forgotten. There was nothing wrong with the stated mission, it was simply irrelevant to the people charged with executing the mission. In the end none of us who assembled to conduct church that day had the faintest idea of why we were there.

Contrast that with another church I am connected to, Real Life Church based in Orlando. On a recent weekend a stage host sprang a pop quiz on the congregation at the largest campus, “Hey, who knows the mission of Real Life?” Immediately almost the entire congregation responded, “Changed lives!”

There was no doubt the bottom line for everything that happens at Real Life, “Will what we are do lead directly to changed lives?” The mission is clear and easily understood.

One of the things I love about Community Christian in Naperville is the clarity and consistency of their mission. “Helping people find their way back to God” isn’t just a tagline on their website, it is the driving force behind everything they do. In the 13 years I’ve known Dave and Jon Ferguson their commitment to that one line has never wavered, and everything CCC does is organized around that simple concept.

The mission at Willow Creek has never changed since the church was planted in 1975, “We exist to turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Christ.” My guess is that every staff member and most members could tell you some form of that sentence without hesitation. Community Christian and Willow Creek know what they do and why they do it.

Jesus was a strong believer in a simple mission. In Luke 19 church people were outraged that he would seem to endorse the lifestyle of an infamous “sinner” in the community by having lunch at Zaccheus’ house. To help them understand they why behind the what of his actions Jesus gave this simple and memorable mission statement, “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” Simple, direct and memorable. I imagine each of Jesus’ disciples knew exactly why Jesus came and what it was he was about. He came to seek and save the lost.

What about your church? Do you have a mission statement that is compelling, memorable and actionable? If I met five regular attenders and asked them, “What is the mission of your church?”, how many could tell me? I’ve worked with some churches with no mission statement at all. They have no idea why they do what they do. I’ve worked with many churches with a long, detailed mission statement they had spent a lot of time crafting. The challenge was their mission was unknown and meaningless to most of the attenders.

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Geoff has served on the leadership teams at Seacoast Church and Saddleback Church, and as Managing Director of Exponential. He is the author of several books, including Together: A Guide for Couples in Ministry written with his wife Sherry. Along with writing, Geoff coaches churches and leaders around the U.S. and in Europe. Geoff lives in Denver, Colorado. Twitter: @geoffsurratt