Have you ever watched The Island with Bear Grylls? A group of strangers get stranded on a deserted island with little more than the clothes on their backs and are expected to survive for a month. Inevitably, they valiantly trek into the jungle to find food.
What happens? Four hours later, they’re back where they started. No water. No food. Just one big circle on the map of the island.
Humans are hardwired to walk around in circles. It’s a protection mechanism. If you don’t know where you are going at least you’ll make it back home…eventually. The big problem is that you waste a lot of time, energy and resource to make no progress.
In church life we struggle with the same thing. We try hard to make an impact, only to find that we’re not making progress.
To go in a straight line, you need one small thing: a compass. When it comes to churches, I would argue that our compass is our Mission Statement.
The Mission Statement should be so much more than a phrase that gets put in the ‘about us’ section on our website. It should be the very heartbeat of the church. Everything you decide, build and speak about should be guided by this phrase.
So how do you make a church compass? Here are three components:
1. The Great Commission
Matthew 28:19 makes the purpose of the capital C of Church clear: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” At the heart of your church’s Mission Statement should be The Great Commission.
If your church’s mission statement doesn’t ooze this, you’re probably not a church.
2. Target market
In the second chapter of the book of Acts, on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit enabled the disciples to speak in other languages to tell the good news of The Gospel to the festival visitors. “Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?” (Acts 2: 7-8).
Your job is to speak in your community’s native language. Language is so much more than words. Get under the skin of what your community thinks, feels and believes to speak in their language, not your own. When you write your mission statement, you are speaking to your community.
Leave this component out and you’ll make your mission statement all about you, and no-one wants to engage with an ego-driven church.
3. Your church’s calling
“For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles.” (Galatians 2:8). It was clear that Paul had one calling and Peter had another. Our churches are the same. God has placed a uniqueness in what he has called each church to do.
If you look back over the history of your church you may be able to start seeing the golden thread of a calling that God has placed on your church. If your church is a new church, or has been significantly repurposed, this calling can often be linked back to the founding/repurposing pastor.
Leave this component out and you’ll lose the uniqueness in your church’s mission statement. No church should be a cookie-cutter church.
Crafting the Statement
Once you’ve worked on these three elements, you can now start crafting this into a memorable mission statement. There’s no specific formula here to getting it right, but you should be aiming for seven words or less. Ask yourself: “Does this statement reflect the Great Commission? Does this speak the language of our target market? Does this reflect our unique calling?”
Spend time crafting and honing it, and soon enough you’ll have an inspirational phrase. When I recently helped a church land their mission statement and read it aloud to them, one of the leaders in the church ran around the room in excitement. A great mission statement inspires.
How to use it
Now you’ve crafted the statement, it’s time to put it to use. A mission statement that just sits in a dusty corner of your website is useless. To make it powerful, you want to use it in decision making.
There are so many good ideas about what to do, but which one helps you work out your mission statement most effectively? You should be able to link every decision you make back to the Mission Statement, and not just the big decisions either, even the small decisions you can link to your mission statement. Which response helps you live out the great commission? Which best fits the calling of your church? Which best helps serve those to whom you have been sent?
So, intrepid explorers, make sure you navigate your church well. No-one wants to walk around in circles.
Chris Bright is co-founder of thinking.church which is a company that provides on-site facilitation for churches to help focus their vision, planning and action so they can be healthy and thriving.
Premier Christianity is committed to publishing a variety of opinion pieces from across the UK Church. The views expressed on our blog do not necessarily represent those of the publisher.