Recently I was listening to a Jr. High Ministry podcast, yes, there are podcasts just for junior high ministry. This podcast featured Patrick Lencioni as a guest. During the podcast, the host ask Lencioni to talk about mission statements. Rather than providing the usual discussion on distinguishing between mission and vision statement, Lencioni sent the discussion in a very different and very helpful direction.
How many of us have seen mission statements that read like they were cobbled together by a committee? How often do we encounter mission statements that read like a series of buzzwords rather than a coherent definition of the unique purpose of the ministry? How many vision statements have you read that are so vague that they could apply to just about any church in your area or even across the country?
I’ve been there, trying to provide a clear statement to encapsulates who we are and what our ideal ministry is to be about. This is no simple process.
What struck me about the approach the Lencioni took was the diagnostic value that his 6 questions had. These are the questions that Lencioni suggested we should be asking to clarify our ministries:
Why do we exit?
How do we behave?
How will we succeed?
What do we do?
What is most important right now?
Who is responsible for what?
1. Why do we exist?
Another way to get at this is to ask, “why did we start this?”. For the church, this should be fairly basic. This is the area in which we ought to have plenty of overlap with other churches in our area.
2. How do we behave?
This is getting at the values of your church or ministry as they take shape in the way you behave. As Lutherans we tend to avoid behavior question out of a legitimate concern that we might see out salvation as tide to more standard of moral behavior. However, what Lencioni is getting at here is the fruit of our faith as seen in the behaviors that we value. How we treat one another and go about our ministry.
3. How will we succeed?
Churches have a tendency to only measure attendance and donations, and while those ought to be measured, the question here is more to the effect of what else, unique to your ministry should also be measured. Churches also measure baptisms, but what about tracking connection to families after baptism. A ministry might measure the numbers of people in small groups, or how many people are actively serving in the church or community. Maybe measuring the level of connection members demonstrate by measuring the frequency of worship or other ministry participation.
4. What do we do?
Here church leaders find that space in which to define the kinds of ministries that are a part of the DNA of a particular congregation and which really are not. No church can be all things for all people. Understanding who you are and how that translates into how you determine which new ministry ideas fit the overall picture of your church is essential for keeping on course as a ministry together.
5. What is most important right now?
This puts what is essential to accomplish in the next three months in order to be about the ministry of your church.
6. Who is responsible for what?
This connects the elements of the purpose or mission of the ministry personally into the hands of church staff and leaders. Frankly this should also put concrete terms to what individual members in general are responsible for. The mission of the church is useless if no one is personally accountable to see if enacted. This cannot be just the role of the pastor or church council or the elders either. This should be a corporately owned ethos that pervades the core of the culture of the church.
Changing or improving the culture of a church is a slow and deliberate process. All churches develop a culture. Establishing mission or vision for your church must connect to the culture of your ministry. When all six steps are examined, and when individual members of the church adopt the values of the ministry and have a personal investment in seeing the ministry of the church come alive, the mission is the church culture.
A mission statement in your Sunday bulletin cannot overcome the culture of your ministry. Church cultures can have a lasting impact, both for good and for ill. New members tend to adopt the behavior so of the dominant church culture. Thus formulating a mission or vision statement will have less impact than establishing a church culture founded upon a clear set of answers to Lencioni’s six questions.