Do It First, Write It Later: A New Approach to Mission Statements

Actions Plus Words Lead to Greater Actions

My point is not that we should stop writing mission statements. We need to know who we are, what we’re called to do and how we’re planning to do it. The old saying is true—those who fail to plan, plan to fail.

But we need to put them in their proper place. When we listen to the Holy Spirit, he inspires us to actually do stuff, not just say we’re going to do stuff.

Jesus told a parable about exactly that principle, involving a father’s Matthew 21:28-32” href=”″ target=”_blank”>two sons. One son said he would do what his father asked, but he didn’t follow through. The other son said he wouldn’t do what his father asked, but did it anyway. The initial point of the parable had to do with complex theological and historical issues involving Jews, Gentiles, the law and grace. But on a broader scale, it also speaks to the issue we’re dealing with. Someone who says the wrong words but does the right thing pleases God more than the one who says the right words but doesn’t follow through on them.

True disciples are always doers more than talkers. The best mission statements merely put into words what the church is already doing well by following this simple formula: Words that follow action, which inspire further action.

No matter how big or small your church is, you do something really well—or you can. If you have a reasonable handle on what that is and you believe God wants you to do more of that, turn it into your mission statement. Here’s how. Write out what you’re already doing in the simplest, clearest language possible.

Don’t try to be clever. Don’t worry about rhymes or alliterations. Don’t read a book about how to write a mission statement. Just say “we do this and this,” so people know what they’re in for when they jump on board.

Then keep doing it. With more passion and purpose every day.

So what do you think? Have you been stressing over a mission statement? Does this help relieve some of that burden?

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Karl Vaters
Karl Vaters is the author of The Grasshopper Myth: Big Churches, Small Churches and the Small Thinking That Divides Us. He’s been in pastoral ministry for over 30 years and has been the lead pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Fountain Valley, California for over 20 years. He’s also the founder of, a blog that encourages, connects and equips innovative Small Church pastors