A church’s mission statement matters. A clear, focused, intentional statement can be a rallying cry for a congregation, and many growing churches I know have members who quote and live out their mission. On the other hand, I also know many churches who have a mission statement but are still in decline. Here, then, are times when mission statements don’t matter much:
- When the church has none. This point is obvious, of course, but nevertheless an important one. It’s hard for a church to be moving forward when it has no stated mission.
- When no one in the church, including the staff, knows the statement. I’m amazed by how many times I consult with churches and nobody we interview can tell us their mission statement. An unknown statement is a waste of space on the church’s webpage.
- When only the staff know the statement. It’s imperative that those who lead know the statement, but an interoffice mission statement alone won’t have much influence in the entire congregation. The foot soldiers need to know where the troops need to go.
- When the statement’s so long that nobody can remember it. More than one person has noted that a good mission statement should meet the “t-shirt test”—be short enough that it fits on a t-shirt and can be read as you walk past the person wearing the shirt. Anything longer becomes unwieldy.
- When the statement doesn’t somehow address the Great Commission. Five times in the New Testament, Jesus spoke some version of this commission (Matt 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:45-47, John 20:21, Acts 1:8), and the early church lived out this task. A church mission statement without this focus is lacking.
- When it’s so filled with theological and church jargon that you have to explain it every time you state it. The folks who love those discussions might be proud of the “robustness” of the statement, but it’s usually impractical and unhelpful.
- When the statement’s just boring. It’s mundane. It’s unexciting. Nobody reads it with fervor, nor would it compel anyone to consider serving with your church.
- When church leaders, beginning with the lead pastor, have lost their passion for the church and its work. In this case, a mission statement simply won’t make much difference. Churches that live out their mission are led by pastors who’ve made that mission central to their ministries.
I’d love for you, readers, to share with us your church’s mission statement – not to critique them, but to learn from each other. Thanks!