When Paul came to faith, God gave him a clear mission statement: (Paul) “is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel” (Acts 9:15). When Paul defended himself to King Agrippa in Acts 26, he reiterated this purpose statement. In his defense to brethren in Jerusalem Paul again made clear his ministry was to the Gentiles (Acts 15). In Galatians, Paul distinguished himself as the apostle to the uncircumcised. Paul was clear in his purpose and he measured his steps to insure that he did not get off track. In Galatians, when others else were being swayed by hypocrisy, Paul did not waver “for even an hour.” (Galatians 2:5). Paul knew his mission and his calling. It embodied him.
Purpose statements do that. They identify your organization’s clear calling so that under pressure when everyone else is confused, you know what your organization is about. I had a business professor in college who offered this story. At the turn of the century there were about six buggy whip companies. Yet one company defined itself as a “vehicle accelerator” while the other five embraced the buggy whip identity. When cars came into production, the five went out of business because they could only do one thing. The “vehicle accelerator” company innovated and built carburetors. Clarity of purpose insures long-term viability.
Clarity of purpose insures long-term viability.
A good mission statement should accurately explain why your organization exists and what it hopes to achieve in the future. It articulates the organization's essential nature, its values, and its work. Writing a purpose statement takes vision. It takes revelation. It is not about wordsmithing to create platitudes. It is the cornerstone of a ministry. It will be your lighthouse to guide you through a fog.
Steps to a Vision Statement
1. Start with the end in mind
To begin a vision statement, start with the right side of your brain (the creative side) and not the left side – the logical side. To do this – find a picture that reflects what Stephen Covey says is “your end in mind.” In a media ministry I was consulting with in Indonesia we had this photo. The ministry wanted to see Muslim respondents teach other Muslims about Christ in a 2 Timothy 2:2 fashion. This helped us shape our purpose statement. When our guys did programming, they had this picture in their mind and on their wall. It was about people, not tasks. It was about the vision and the purpose.
DO: Look through your own photographs, or do a Google search or www.unsplash.com to locate photos. Maybe draw your own. Then share with the team your photo(s) and explain why this (or several) photos mean something to you in relation to your ministry. Don’t write a statement; write your inspiration.
Next, think about a passage that describes your ministry. My friend Mark in Southeast Asia shared Isaiah 41:15 with me as describing his work: "Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges.” Mark saw his work as having two “edges”: Media and Volunteers/follow up for reaping the harvest.
2. Describe what you do
Ask three questions of your ministry:
- What do we do?
- How do we do it?
- For whom do we do it?
I would suggest writing answers on colored sticky notes for each question (yellow for one, blue for another, green for third etc). Write out as many of sticky notes as you can for each question. Over the next week find a room or wall in your office where you can put your inspired notes, by color. Over a period of time, each team member keeps adding notes. Keep thinking. Carry notes in your pocket—if you think of something, put it on the note and then when you are back in the office add it to the lists. Later we will combine the notes into a whole.
3. Group meeting process – Set a date
When we meet, work through the photos that you collected and select out one or two that best “fits” you. Later you may want to shoot a better one, but at least for now have a “good enough” picture. Now combine your sticky notes to represent the “core” of the three questions above. Develop key words to represent your questions. Now you are ready to start developing your purpose statement.
There are four key elements found in effective statements: inspiration, value, purpose, and specificity. In a couple of short sentences, you should be able to convey the value of your mission that will inspire and encourage your team. The purpose statement must be plausible. Find a key theme for your ministry, and make sure each of these components revolve around it.
Pioneers International's mission statement is: Pioneers mobilizes teams to glorify God among unreached peoples by initiating church-planting movements in partnership with local churches. The US Mobilization base specifies its purpose in conjunction with the International mission statement as: The USA Mobilization Base partners with churches to mobilize, prepare and support missionaries for effective church-planting among unreached peoples.
Notice that Pioneers statement is purposeful (initiating church-planting movements), inspirational (glorifies God), values driven (mobilizes teams and local churches) and specific (among unreached peoples).
Shape your statement; work on it and then wordsmith it so that it is short and clear.
4. Get it approved
After you have a written statement, have your “next up” leaders understand and approve your statement. Then roll it out to the rest of your team. Talk about each of the concepts and how they are important to the team. Dialogue and let the statement “melt into” your team.
The French author and hero Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote: If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. Rejoice in the Lord and long the kingdom of God to be established through your ministry.
If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.