How to Write an Effective Mission Statement

Most churches do not have mission statements. They have slogans. Slogans are nice and can even inspire and… they are no substitute for a mission statement. Slogans lead to nice feelings and, at best, general concepts of mission. Mission statements lead to plans that you can effectively execute to God’s glory and the benefit of those God has called you to reach.

A typical slogan looks like this:

Reach Up, Reach In, Reach Out.

Notice several facts about this slogan:

  1. It is vague. This tell us noting about the church except that it will worship, fellowship and reach out. And it only tells you that if you know the code. There is no hint of how any particular church will do these things or why or for what purpose.
  2. Any church can adopt it. Because of its vagueness any church could adopt this slogan, including every church in your neighborhood or city. It cannot answer the questions, “Why has God placed this church with these people who have these gifts in this area? What does He want this church to accomplish for his mission that no other church around us can?
  3. It targets everyone and no one. No church can reach everyone. No single church could appeal to corporate bankers, rough-cut bikers, suburban mothers, elite artistic intellectuals and the working poor. And that is before we begin to add in the various cultures, sub-cultures, languages and ethnicities that may live in your area. Who has God called this church to reach?
  4. It cannot be used to create a plan for a particular church. The vagueness, universality, and lack of target means that no church can create any goals from this statement. Without goals, there are not concrete plans (except what “seems good at the time” – sees Judges 21:25). Without concrete plans a church will end up doing whatever the pastor or the most demanding members want. Does that sound like how God wants his church to minister?
  5. Finally and most of all, It does not focus us on the only mission Jesus gave us. The Only Mission that God gives us calls us to the specific goal of making apprentices of Jesus (aka disciples) of people out in the world. This slogan calls us to “reach out” as one of three missions and leaves it vague as to just exactly what that might mean or look like.
Of course some churches do write out elaborate statements such as this one:

The ______________ church, is a
Bible-centered fellowship of believers led by the Spirit
worshiping God,
studying His word,
fellowshipping together,
and telling the world about Jesus.

If we eliminate all the phrases that any Christian church would claim it would look like this:

The ______________ church is a
Bible-centered fellowship of believers led by the Spirit
worshiping God,
studying His word,
fellowshipping together,
and telling the world about Jesus.

Every church is a fellowship of believers and wants to be led by the Spirit, based on the Bible, worships, studies, fellowships and claims to reach out. Since every church can claim this statement can be reduced to…

The ______________ church is a
(church just like every other church)

This is simply not true. Every church is God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do the good works God has prepared in advanced for that church. Your church has a unique mission God calls you to accomplish, different from and separate from all the other churches around you.

It is true that some churches with only slogans or poor mission statements succeed despite them. That is because they have people or a church culture which substitute for a mission statement. For a plateaued or declining church, slogans paper over the fact that they have no internal direction for ministry, are probably running on entropy, and are failing to complete the mission God has given them.

Write a Better Mission Statement.

Good mission statements represent everything that slogans are not.

  1. Good Mission Statements arise out of the gifts, experiences, passions, dreams and calling of the people of a particular congregation. God placed particular people in your congregation for a particular reason. (1st Corinthians 12:18) These people define one set of limits to God’s mission for your congregation. Only after reflecting on whom God has placed in your congregation and what God has designed them to do in His mission, can we understand the portion of Jesus’ mission that God has given to your congregation.
  2. Good Mission Statements reflect the place God has put you. I have known nice middle-class churches with nice middle-class members in nice middle-class neighborhoods who assumed God called them to “minster to the poor.”. Unfortunately, none of them knew any poor people, nor did they feel comfortable with them. So they just gave money to institutions and called it outreach.

    God wants more. God wants you to reach the people you actually live and work with; the people over the fence, across the hardware counter, and around the church building. Your mission statement needs to include who these people are that God asks you to reach.

    Of course, if you are that nice middle-class church called to reach poor people who don’t live in your neighborhood, your mission statement will lead you to move your church into that neighborhood. (I actually know a group of people who did feel called to reach out to the poor and moved not only their church, but also their homes there.)

  3. Good Mission Statements tell the church how God has called this church with these people in this location to accomplish His mission. “How” matters. It becomes a method for a church to both check the reality of their overall plans and way to stay on track.

    • Reality Check: If you want to reach a group of Spanish-speaking immigrants and no one in your congregation speaks Spanish you may not be living in God’s reality On the other hand, if you are a group of Korean immigrants who already teach English as a Second Language, you might really have an important outreach ministry for Spanish-speakers.
    • Staying on Track: I know of a church which determined that one effective way of reaching the upper middle-class people of their city would be inductive small group bible studies for women in the morning. Over a 5-year period they held these bible studies weekly from September through May with limited success. In year 6, the program exploded with unchurched women. Had this not been a part of their mission statement, they might have given up too soon.
  4. Good Mission Statements grip the congregation with a compelling vision, often depicted in a metaphor. When a church really understands God’s mission for their congregation, they not only can express it in words, they can also picture it in their minds and with symbols. A sea-coast outreach to immigrants might describe themselves as a “safe harbor for weary wanderers”. A church focused on helping people involved in drugs and alcohol might picture themselves as a healing spring for those thirsty for change.

What do Good Mission Statements look like?

A church ministering in an aging, culturally conservative area would envision their mission in with these words.

Walking the well-established path of Tradition,
_____________ reaches into the homes of seasoned citizens
often alone and lonely
and draws them out into the life of Christ through
excellence in classic worship, home-visitation, and benevolent small-group families.

A mission statement for a church focused on busy new move-ins in their area described their mission this way.

__________ is a rock in our ever-changing culture,
reaching out to people on the move
in the ________________ area
through diverse worship, inter-generational programs and small groups.

An inner-city ministry in gang territory would declare:

As a light shining into the darkness,
_________________ shines the light of Jesus into _____________
drawing wounded souls into new life through
personal testimony, recovery groups, job training, and hip-hop worship.

A church formed out of the remnant of a church split who learned how to be “family” described their mission in this way:

_____________, hears the call of Christ to create a family of God
in _______________________
through the development of

outreach programs,
educational events,
benevolent services

based on honesty and humility
and expressed through hospitality

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