Church Mission Statements: 30 second assesment to determine if yours needs help


Its Friday, its snowing and I’ve finally had a chance to start reading The Growing Church: Keys to Congregational Vitality, our February UU Growth Blog Book of the Month!  Well, given my schedule lets call it the book of the season.

I want to start with Chapter 3, MISSION, by the Rev. Thom Belote, editor of this volume.  We can go back to the earlier chapters.

In his essay Rev. Belote challenges each of us  look at our congregation’s mission statement.  Inspired by his challenge, here is a quick test for you. Without digging through old board reports to find yours, can you do the following?

In 30 seconds or less  please recite
your congregations mission statement.
No peeking!

Yeah, I couldn’t do it either.  Not for my home congregation. Not the congregation where my wife serves as minister.   I’m still working on perfecting my recitation of the UU principles and purposes and Thom wants me to throw a mission statement into the mix?

Before you go looking for your congregations mission statement – ours is printed in the Sunday Bulletin — take a moment and write down as much of it as you can.  What DO you remember?   And do you know where your mission statement lives?

Fortunately for me and those of you who failed today’s recitation, Belote states that it is not that we are bad members, but that we have poorly crafted mission statements.  If your key leaders can’t recite your mission statement, Belote says you don’t really have one.

If your minister or your key lay leaders can’t recite the mission statement from memory, then you don’t actually have a mission statement.  If the majority of the members in your congregation can’t recite the mission statement, you still don’t actually have one. When crafting a mission statement, the goal should be that if someone visits your church once, she should be able to say what it is when asked on the way out to the parking lot.

He raises a good point.  And that is that your congregation should have one – a point.  What is your congregation here for? What’s your mission?  It is crucial for long term health, growth and vitality that you know what this is.  It allows everything you do, your work, your ministry, your decision making to come into alignment.

Think about a magnet.  Everything is aligned and as a result it generates this amazing field that is able to impact the world around it.    Some things are pushed away, others repelled. Bring another magnet clse and it snaps into alignment.   Its beautiful thing.

Without that alignment you don’t have a magnet, you don’t have power.  Instead you have a paper weight.

Congregations?  Same thing.  No clear mission, no agreement, no clarity, no decisive action, no power.

I have a mission statement for my UU work.  How does this measure up to the Belote Test?

I want to make sure everyone on Earth who would be a UU if they only knew we existed finds out we exist,  is able to find a congregation nearby to join, and I want to help our congregations be healthy, growing, vital communities so they are ready to receive them.

What do you think of Belote’s mission statement challenge?   Feel free to share your congregation’s mission statement in the comments below.   It may be helpful to see some really good one as and some mission statement disasters.

If you’d like to join our growth conversations based on this book please order the book now. You are always welcome to comment on posts without having read the book we’re looking at, but our conversation will be deeper if you do.  You can help promote this title by printing out and sharing this flier

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7 thoughts on “Church Mission Statements: 30 second assesment to determine if yours needs help”

  1. our mission statement can be reduced and stated in one sentence:
    Our Mission is to create a safe place to celebrate, inspire, grow spiritually and care for the planet.

    It works for us and we have been building the church and our programming around this mission!

  2. One of my FAVORITE topics- MISSION!
    Couldn’t agree more with the post. Per the recitation quiz, I can only remember the words printed in bold and caps, “CHALLENGE…, SEEK…, SUPPORT…”, each followed by more details. Upon reading, it is “challenges, seeks, supports”- minor detail of verb tense. While I can read the full statement and find ways to translate/cut and paste into something inspiring- it takes some work.
    How about this from the WellSprings Congregation in PA?- “A Community charged full with the charge of the soul”- THAT stuck on me like glue after I first read it!

  3. And I’ll also add to the flip side of what more is needed to go with a catchy, memorable mission statement. A congregation can re-write its mission statement, making it succinct, catchy, etc. but if it is not constantly lifted up and put in front of everything, repeatedly asking, “does this ministry/activity/event helps us fulfill the mission?” it is likely to become another document on a shelf collecting dust. I also like using the term “mission-covenant” so as to include the importance of committing resources- time, energy, money, spiritual gifts; toward its fulfillment. Moreover, if a cadre of leadership isn’t committed to the newly minted mission-covenant statement, then there is a high probability of relapse into the the old, inward, institutional maintenance mission statement- which may or may not be written or spoken, but will be revealed by actions and budgetary priorities.

  4. Great thread.

    I believe our mission statement is actually alive for people; it certainly is for me. We do have it committed to heart.

    We are a religious community of open hearts and open minds working together to transform ourselves and the world.

    I’ve decided that transformation is what it’s all about. If we aren’t changing lives and in turn. inspiring people to transform society, then what’s the point?

  5. We have a statement of purpose that no one knows. But what I repeat every week at the beginning of services, and what appears on the top of our web page, and what I think every regular attendee could repeat from memory, is that our mission is “To transform ourselves, each other, and the world.” We did not craft it in workshops or vote on the wording. I just said a version of it one time during a Board retreat exercise that asked us each to state our mission, someone offered a friendly amendment (“add ‘each other’), everyone nodded, and we began using it.

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