For those of you who think a mission (or vision statement) will chart the course of your congregation and its leadership into the future, I have some pretty sobering news for you: they will not. Hear these words from Homelitics, May 2010:
“Although a lot of hours, flip-chart paper, marker ink, and coffee get consumed while crafting mission statements in board-rooms and retreat centers, the truth is that very few statements ever become fully engrained in an organization’s culture. (Consider the mission statement hanging in the hallways of oil industry giant Enron when it went out of business because of corporate corruption: ‘Respect, integrity, communication, and excellence.’
Martin Marty commented, “The culture of Enron’s leadership failed on all four counts.” “’Mission statements are like corporate Hallmark cards,’ writes Nancy Lublin in Fast Company. ‘Often written in a bland cursive font and plastered conspicuously at head-quarters, these inspiring epigrams are pretty words in Air Supply-like rhythm. Sometimes they’re created at a retreat in the woods, between the ‘trust fall’ and the passing of the speaking stick. Vigorous fights over semantics last for hours, even months.’ Martin Mary comments, “What you end up with, she says, isn’t so much a mission statement as a bunch of ‘jargony quasi-poetry’ that’s imminently [and perhaps eminently] forgettable.”
“The reason most mission statements are confined to a wall plaque or the back of the weekly worship bulletin instead of being at the forefront of the hearts and minds of leaders and congregations, quite frankly, is that most mission statements don’t clearly convey what the church is trying to do. The truth is that people ‘don’t get stoked by fuzzy mission statements,’ says Lubin, ‘but they will line up behind concrete goals.’ Martin Marty comments, “The bigger the goal, the bigger the buzz and buy-in there is among people in the organization.”
“The bottom line is that the best mission statement and strategy don’t mean anything without a church culture that undergirds the mission and nurtures its people to be the kind of disciples that make disciples. In order for us to do the mission God calls us to do, we must first be the people [God] calls us to be – a people who love one another as Christ loves us. The rest of the world isn’t reading our mission statements. As the old campfire song says, they will know we are Jesus’ disciples only ‘by our love.’”
Let us be about developing a church culture that puts mission first and celebrates making disciples. Let us get on with accomplishing some concrete, measurable goals that will have people lining up behind what the church is trying to do.
What might some of these concrete goals be? Our United Church of Christ sisters and brothers would say: Protect the environment, care for the poor, forgive often, reject racism, fight for the powerless, share earthly and spiritual resources, embrace diversity, love God, and enjoy this life. Not a bad place to begin.
All I know is that if you immerse yourselves in ‘getting dirty for Jesus,’ you will not be a church looking for a mission, but a church in mission. The difference between these two thoughts makes all the difference in the world!