Classic wisdom taught us our mission or purpose statements are timeless.
In many ways that’s true and it’s a helpful teaching concept. And in an ideal world, it works.
But in reality, there are times when a leader should change or renew or recreate the sense of mission. So don’t let the classic wisdom freeze you and prevent a significant opportunity to create fresh meaning and new progress for God’s people under your care today.
When should you rewrite your mission?
1. When no one knows the one you have.
This happens when leaders have not been emotionally connected to the big idea of what the church is about; therefore they don’t use it as an everyday leadership tool. It never makes it into conversations, team meetings, volunteer recruitment or preaching. Usually this is the result of some ridiculous, committee-based jargon that is way too long. Or it may be just a short over-generalization of the Great Commission or Great Commandment that has no real teeth for folks in the congregation.
EXAMPLE: Grace Presbyterian in Houston is in a two-year interim between senior pastors. The people of Grace engaged a vision process to better articulate their identity their and direction. Their previous mission to “Love God, Love people” wasn’t specific or actionable enough. So they are currently proposing a new expression, “Building a faith family by encouraging people overwhelmed by life to trust Christ in everything.”
2. When your existing mission reinforces, unintentionally, a consumeristic mentality.
We look for the “catalytic” factor in a good mission; that is, it should reinforce upon hearing it, that it involves everyone in the gathering of God’s people. Sometimes a statement subtly reinforces the idea that “we have a pastor or staff who does the mission for us.” (Even though this is always unintentional, it is more common than you would think.) The last thing you want is a statement that strengthens the death of the church with a clergy-laity false divide.
EXAMPLE: Bruce Miller grew Christ Fellowship in McKinney, Texas, to about 2,000 in worship attendance. As the growth began to slow, I challenged him with the idea that his mission wasn’t working anymore: “Helping people follow Christ.” What had clearly been everyone’s role when the church was 200 people (helping people) wasn’t so clear now that the church was 2,000 in attendance. He didn’t believe me, so he tested it out. I told him to ask his leaders, “Who helps people around here?” They all replied, “The staff.” So within the Vision Pathway process, the team added two simple words that changed everything. The mission of Christ Fellowship is now, “People helping people, find and follow Christ”
3. When you simply have a better way to be more clear and compelling as your church grows and multiplies.
Sometimes greater clarity comes as you lead. Sometimes a significant accomplishment behind you leaves you with an entirely new perspective looking ahead. At such times, a tweak or evolution of your mission can be strategic and powerful for the people you are leading.
EXAMPLE: At Faithbridge UMC, Ken Werlein saw tremendous growth in the first 10 years to more than 3,000 in worship attendance. Up to that point he had always led passionately with the same mission: “Making more and stronger disciples of Jesus.” To keep it catalytic, it would often be followed with the phrase, “By being a bridge of faith to people every day.” But as the church grew, Ken was concerned about the quality of reproducing disciples. They spent an entire year re-envisioning their groups process and wanted to further clarify the end that was already embedded in the mission but not clearly expressed as it could be. Their mission now: “Making more and stronger disciples of Jesus, who make more and stronger disciples of Jesus.”