Your church will never be able to be fully healthy if you do not operate out of a clearly defined mission. Aubrey Malphurs puts it this way: “You’ll never do ministry that matters until you clearly articulate what matters.” That’s the heart of mission: understanding your mandate so you can do ministry that matters.
The role of mission in revitalization cannot be overstated so you’ll definitely want to read Scott Ball’s post on the subject. In our work with churches through a revitalization process, establishing a Great Commission mission statement is one of the first things we get done.
Before we work with a church on crafting a mission statement, we will have them reflect on these two questions:
1. Do you have a contagious, biblical mission that serves as a compass to navigate your church through change?
2. Do you habitually consult your mission when making any and all decisions that affect the future of your church?
What we often find is that churches do have a mission statement, but it’s not compelling enough for even senior leaders to have it memorized. More critically, the mission is rarely discussed in the course of making critical decisions. It’s no wonder, therefore, that churches are so easily guided off course on good-not-great ministry ideas.
These are compelling questions, for sure, and can help your team set up two important concepts to consider when forming a new mission statement.
First, a mission statement serves to identify what the church understands its function to be.
Second, that the mission statement is intended to be a tool used continuously in the ministry.
Let’s look at some simple workshopping guidelines that you can use in your church to develop a Great commission mission statement.
Understand that the Great Commission is the primary mandate for the Church.
Christ has made it self-evident what it is that we (the Church) should be doing until His return: making and maturing disciples. We see this clearly in Matthew 28:19-20, but also in Mark 16:15, Luke 24: 47-48 and Acts 1:8. Take the time to lead your revitalization team through a firm understanding of these commands. Don’t just note it and move on. Spend some time together looking at these passages and discussing their relevance on your church today.
Understand that there are two primary components of the Great Commission.
There is an emphasis on evangelism in the “Go” and “Be” statements in the gospels. We see “Go make disciples”, “Go preach the Good News” and “Be witnesses”. This is an announcement of the Gospel for the purpose of gathering more and more people into the Kingdom of God.
We also see the command to teach in the Matthew passage. Teach what? Only “everything I [Jesus] have commanded”. That’ll keep you busy for a while. This commands churches to be effective and maturing believers, too.
Put simply, the Great Commission has two components: evangelism and edification—making and maturing followers of Jesus Christ.
Use examples of good mission statements for inspiration.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I know that feels odd to admit. But God doesn’t give you bonus points if you develop 100% original wording.
Your mission statement doesn’t have to be unique in wording, but it needs to activate your church for action. Not just any mission statement will do that. It’s important that it uniquely inspires you, but it’s not important that it be uniquely worded.
Don’t get hung up on crafting something that nobody has ever used before. The right statement for your church will resonate with your team whether it’s been used somewhere else or not, so priming the pump with some decent examples will shorten the length of your work.
Make it short and memorable.
If your congregation can’t memorize it easily then it won’t become part of the culture. One sentence is all you need. It needs to be easily communicated verbally and written so it should fit on a business card, email signature, banner, poster, t-shirt and website.
Your mission statement should become a natural part of your church vernacular. That means you’ll need to say it more than once from the pulpit every Sunday, and find ways to communicate it above and beyond the pastor’s sermons.
Use understandable terms.
Although the church’s mission statement is primarily for the church and not the world, avoid insider terms that people will not understand. Remember, you’re likely to always have new believers in your midst (if you’re living out your mission) so they need to get it and own it quickly and easily too.
In fact, a good rule of thumb is to phrase a mission statement in a way that is designed for the least mature Christian in your church. If you stick to that rule, you won’t go wrong.
Be clear and action-oriented.
The Great Commission leaves no ambiguity. Your statement should also be a clear call to action for your church.
If anyone can look at your mission statement and think, “That’s just for the elite Christians but not for me,” then you haven’t found it yet. Keep working until you craft a mission statement that leaves people with an “on-deck” or “next-man-up” mentality. Making and maturing disciples is a team sport, and everyone who calls Jesus their Savior is on the team.
With these guidelines your team should be able to come to a short list of options within a few hours and move into the word-smithing phase to settle on the right statement for you.
Remember, there is a church because there is a mission, not the other way around. Your goal is not to figure out what your primary function is. Your job is to state the primary function given to you and live it out.
A.J. Mathieu is the President of the Malphurs Group. He is passionate about helping churches thrive and travels internationally to teach and train pastors to lead healthy disciple-making churches. A.J. lives in the Ft. Worth, Texas area, enjoys the outdoors, and loves spending time with his wife and two sons. Click here to email A.J.