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Why Most Church Mission Statements Aren’t Effective

A mission statement defines the purpose of an individual, group, business, or institution. Ostensibly, a mission statement defines the “end result” of the organization’s activities. “Shareholder profitability” may sound self-serving, but that is exactly the results expected of a publicly held corporation.

The reason so many churches’ mission statements don’t achieve the expected results is because too often these mission statements are about what the church wants to be doing rather than what it is expects to achieve. For example, the following mission statement falls into this category. “To Welcome, Grow, and Serve in the Grace of Christ’s love” are all activities that the church is expected to be involved in, but the end results are unclear. From the mission statement, there’s no real sense in what this church is trying to accomplish … and beyond that, whatever it is they’re doing, they’re expecting someone to show up for something (to grow and be served or to be a server?). Sure, this may sound nit-picky, but if a mission is about defining the “why” we exist, and since 85 percent of US churches are either declining or plateaued (a politically correct word for we’re declining but aren’t willing to admit it1),

then it’s pretty clear the church is pretty unclear about what it’s meant to be all about.

Too many mission statements, including the one above, presumes that the church exists to be a nice, safe, do-good-things kind of organization. But that’s hardly the picture Jesus painted of “his church” (Matthew 16:18).Ultimately the church does not exist to do good things.That’s United Way’s mission. The difference between the church and United Way is that the church’s mission is to make disciples … andevery good thing the church does is meant to point directly in that direction(Matthew 5:16). Welcoming and growing and serving and doing good deeds are all a part of what the church does, but all of those are a means to an end. The church’s task is to do all that “good stuff” with one end in mind: To Make Disciples of Jesus Christ.

1 If a church maintains its attendance for ten years, then it has declined, at least in terms of “market share of the population” by nearly 10 percent.

Question: How does your mission statement stack up? Join the conversation and share it with us in the Comments section below.

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Additional Resources:

  • Developing Your Vision, Mission, and Values
  • The Quest for Vision


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