Church Mission and Vision
In our current Church culture, the priest shortage and our abysmal post-confirmation retention rate have led many congregations to spend countless days, weeks, and months agonizing over the perfect wording to revitalize their mission statement in hopes that an inspiring mission will renew their parish. If this is where you currently find your parish, it’s time to consider two truths: 1) Jesus has already given the Church it’s mission statement, so your energies are likely better spent elsewhere. 2) Mission statements will never bring people to the Church. Jesus and his disciples bring people to the Church. No matter how inviting or clever your turn of phrase is, your parish will not be refreshed simply by coining a new mission statement.
A proper mission statement should give everyone clarity. An outsider should hear it and summarize what an organization is about; it should provide context and expectations to members, and it should help staff to prioritize their day-to-day efforts. The mission of the Church is static. It never changes. The greatest commandment and the great commission will always be the mission of the Church. For every Christian ever, this is your mission:
The Greatest Commandment (Matt 22: 37-40)
You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The Great Commission (Matt 28: 19-20)
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.
This is the bar that is set for the Church. This mission tells us what success looks like within a parish context whether you are a staff member, congregant, or visitor. This mission statement says “We love God. We love you. We are disciples of Jesus. We want you to be a disciple too so that you can experience the life changing love of God.” This is an awesome message. This is the Gospel, the Kerygma. There is no reason to soften it by declaring, “We are a warm and inviting community committed to blah, blah, blah…” Be bold, be concise, and invite people to relationship with Jesus.
Valuable time has been lost with Church councils arguing over the precise wording needed to craft the most attractive mission statement when it would be more beneficial to focus on how to live out the given mission of the Church in their community. If the mission statement lets everyone know who we are and what we do, then the vision statement identifies how we fulfill the mission. Unlike the mission statement, the vision statement is dynamic. It should change as the parish evolves.
This is where your parish needs to identify areas of greatest local need. A Church located in a poor community is going to have a different vision, a different set of “hows” than a parish located in an affluent community. A great way to begin discerning the vision of your parish is to identify that one problem that everyone sees in your community but refuses to name (probably because they’re afraid they will have to do something about it), then imagine a parish that doesn’t have this problem. That is your vision statement.
What does your flock need? What are your people hungry for? Are congregants skipping Mass? Do your parishioners need to learn to pray? Is there a lack of authentic community and friendship among members? Is the budget struggling because parishioners don’t tithe? Is there a social justice issue that should be addressed? Are the poor in your community going hungry? Is there a prison that needs to be visited? Once you have identified the greatest need, name it, and cast the vision of a community without this need so that your parish community can see where it’s headed.