Your youth ministry needs a mission and a vision. Most of you will nod right now, but a lot of people have trouble to see the difference between a vision and a mission or fail to see how these two relate to each other. It’s no use developing a mission or a vision for your youth ministry if you don’t understand what it’s for. Let’s see if we can shed some light in this darkness.
Here’s a quick overview of the different elements of vision casting and planning your youth ministry:
Mission: defines purpose, 10 years
Vision: defines future, 5 years
Strategy: defines plans, 2-3 years
Operational plan: defines actions, 1 year
Now let’s discuss each of these elements separately.
What is a mission?
A mission (also known as a mission statement) is a short statement (preferably one sentence) that describes the reason, the purpose of your youth ministry’s existence and your primary goals in doing youth ministry. A mission is usually something that you ‘keep’ for a longer period, say ten years or so, since the purpose of a ministry or organizations doesn’t really change that much over the years.
I’ve written about this in two previous posts: Why your youth ministry needs a mission statement and Creating a mission statement for your youth ministry.
What is a vision?
A vision for your youth ministry is what you dream of accomplishing in the future, say in five to ten years or so. A vision often starts with identifying what is wrong right now, with holy discontent about the current state of affairs. It’s what you want to see happen, to see change. It’s a descriptive picture of your youth ministry as you want it to be and it can be anywhere from a couple of sentences to a sheet of paper or so.
A vision always has to be personal, written specifically for your youth ministry. You can’t just copy-paste another youth ministry’s vision, it has to come out of your team, your youth, your circumstances. And equally important: it has to be realistic. It’s not a pipe dream, it’s a realistic, attainable future for your youth ministry.
A vision often says a lot about your values, about how you want to accomplish your mission. Let’s say your mission is to ‘bring teens into Jesus’ presence’. Your vision may very well add that you want to do this in close partnership with the parents and that intergenerational youth ministry is something you value.
The single purpose of a vision is to inspire people to get behind it and start helping to make it reality. For that reason it’s very important to not develop a vision by yourself, but to dream and visualize together with your team. Most of the time, a vision ‘lasts’ for about five years before it has to be updated to reflect reality again.
It really doesn’t matter if you create your mission statement first or your vision, as long as the two are aligned. If you already have one of the two, use that as the starting point. If not, you’ll probably do best to start with defining your mission. Your mission tells you your purpose (the why), your vision tells you where you want to go (the where).
What’s a strategic plan?
To translate the mission and vision into practice, what you need is a strategic plan. This describes the how and when of going, it’s the more concrete plan to help you realize your vision. Strategic plans usually last about two to three years and have to be adapted if the circumstances change. I’ve written about the process of making a strategic plan for your youth ministry before.
What’s an operational plan?
A strategic plan can then be formed into an operational plan per year. This plan details your specific plans and actions for that (church) year or season.
I cannot stress enough the importance of prayer in the whole process of vision casting. Your mission, your vision, they have to be inspired by God. All the plans in the world cannot benefit your youth ministry of you don’t build on what God has planned for you to do (Eph. 2:10). Take the time for the whole process to seek His will for your youth ministry, to pray and then pray some more.
It may seem like a lot of work, but this process ensures that the dreams you have for the future will actually become reality, by the grace of God. Tomorrow we’ll go into a bit more detail on creating an operational year plan.
Do you have a vision statement for your youth ministry? How did you create it?