We’ve talked about the difference between mission and vision.
We’ve talked about the importance of clarifying both.
We’ve written about ways you can communicate your mission and vision in real life.
But today, I want to give you some practical suggestions on working with your team to develop a mission or vision statement.
In other words, now that you know it’s important and you’re committed to creating clarity, how do you go about it? What does that process actually look like?
First, I need to unpack two important principles.
Key Principle #1 – Ultimately, vision comes from God.
Jesus said He would build His Church. So if the church belongs to God, the vision for its growth and health belongs to Him as well.
He chooses to use us in the process and we’re called to be good stewards of what He has entrusted to us, but ultimately, we need to be about God’s vision for God’s church.
We’re not out to clarify OUR vision for the church. Instead, we need to discern HIS vision for the church.
So before you do any strategic planning, you should do some strategic prayer.
Key Principle #2 – Vision is best developed in a team.
When developing and clarifying a vision statement, make sure you involve other people. This is one place where you don’t want to be like Moses.
Moses spent the large portion of his day hearing cases from the people. Instead of leading the nation, he was micro-managing. His father-in-law came for a visit and pointed out the problem:
“When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”
Jethro didn't just observe the problem. He recommended a solution: appoint other people to leadership positions and let go of the reigns.
For Moses to be more effective, he needed to be less involved in every detail. And when he learned to rely on others, he was a better leader. And lots of other leaders were empowered to use their gifts.
If you’re a senior pastor, you certainly have a responsibility to hear from God and lead the congregation. But don’t buy into the lie that you’re the only one who can discern God’s vision for the church. Don’t set yourself up as the sole bearer and steward of this vision.
Tony Morgan says some pastors have a “Moses complex.” He writes:
There’s a dangerous trend I’m seeing in churches today that embraces this theology of leadership. I refer to it as the “Moses Complex.” In these environments, only the senior pastor can receive a vision from God and it only happens through a Mount Sinai-type experience.
Key Principle #3 – A vision statement isn’t the Bible.
Your mission and vision should drive everything you do. But your mission, vision, values, strategy or programs aren’t the Gospel.
They can change.
Don’t hold to your vision statement as the 11th commandment. If you do, you can actually make vision an idol.
Vision is necessary for healthy church growth, but an over-reliance on the vision can ironically keep the church from growing.
If everything is about the vision, you’ll wind up with a church committed to a version of some vision, not to a life of faith and following Jesus. Even good things (like vision) can become an idol if they replace the ultimate thing.
Developing Your Mission and Vision Statements
With those principles under-girding the discussion, here are some practical steps you can take to lead your team through the vision discovery process.
#1 – Hold a meeting or a retreat with key leaders.
Each church is different. Each setting is unique. There’s no “one size fits all” approach to this.
But since vision is best developed in a healthy team, we recommend a series of team meetings or a leadership retreat focused on developing your mission or vision statements.
Creating space for big conversations and discussions is always a good idea. Working on your vision is much different than the tasks of daily leading the ministry, so carve out time to get away and make it special.
Who should be there? Again, every church is different, but involve people who think of the overall church not just a specific ministry within the church. You’ll want key staff, stakeholders, or representatives from each ministry. You don’t need to involve everyone, but you should involve the right people.
#2 – Prepare your team for a healthy discussion.
Before you pull people into a series of meetings or a retreat, you’ll want to help them prepare.
- Make sure everyone knows the desired outcome of the retreat or the meeting. Say something like, “The purpose of our retreat is to deeply discuss why our church exists and summarize it in one poignant sentence.” Let people know that you’re not gathering to discuss strategy or individual ministries, but the mission and/or vision of the entire church.
- Have everyone read relevant materials in advance. Share our blog posts on mission and vision. Buy everyone a copy of Will Mancini’s Church Unique. Or send other resources to people in advance. A couple of weeks of preparation will make your meeting far more effective.
- Look at samples and examples before the meeting. Make sure people have adequate examples from other churches or organizations before they gather.
#3 – Get help from a facilitator.
My friend Jeff Henderson is the Lead Pastor of Gwinnett Church in the Atlanta area. Jeff is a great communicator and leader, but one of the things I most respect about Jeff is his ability to empower a team.
I remember discussing creative team meetings with Jeff, which are a regular occurrence at Gwinnett Church. A group of people gets together to plan the services, including music and messages. As the Lead Pastor, Jeff is really interested in the outcome of these meetings.
But he told me he doesn't always lead them. He trusts people on his team who are better facilitators. Though he is leading the church, he doesn’t have to lead the meeting.
That’s really great leadership.
So when you approach a team meeting or retreat that’s focused on crafting a mission or vision statement, you might truly benefit from an outside facilitator.
An outside voice pushing the team forward and bringing fresh perspective can be just the thing you need to make considerable progress. Consider bringing in someone skilled in strategy and facilitation to lead your retreat. Or at least ask someone on your team who has demonstrated skills like this to be the facilitator.
#4 – Thoroughly discuss key questions and write down answers.
When you gather for your retreat (or series of meetings), brainstorm answers to mission and vision type questions. The goal is to start broad and get more specific as time goes on.
You can choose your own questions, but here are some of my favorites.
- Who are we, really?
- What unique thing has God called us to do and how is that different from other churches?
- What does God want us to do in our church in this next season?
- If we could only do one thing, what would it be?
- How do we want to be known in the community?
- What business are we in?
- If the local newspaper was to write one headline about our church, what would we want it to say?
#5 – Commit to a process of refinement and clarity.
Mission and vision clarity isn’t just an event, it’s a process.
You can make considerable process in a retreat, but it’s really just the start. In the weeks (maybe even months) following your initial sessions, you may go through a period of refinement. In some cases, you may even go back to the drawing board.
Clarifying your vision is really important and it’s worth the long-term view. If you don’t get it exactly right in the first retreat, step back and then dive in again. Read more. Bring in help.
And keep working.
So What's Next?
You're supposed to lead your staff and develop leaders in your church, but where do you start?
To make it simple, we created a FREE resource called the Senior Pastor's Guide to Leading a Staff. This simple guide will help you with practical ideas and resources on leading a staff intentionally and consistently.
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