Nearly every congregation has a mission statement. A good mission statement reminds leaders of who their congregation is and what it does in the world.
Every year about this time, I get calls from lay and clergy leaders who want help writing a mission statement. They hope that with a clearer sense of mission, their congregations will stop reliving yesterday and start building tomorrow. I think they’re on the right track, and once upon a time I would have joined them in the mission-writing process. But today I usually suggest starting instead with a vision statement.
Planning only matters if it makes a difference to your congregation’s work. If, after a weekend of planning, staff and volunteers wake up Monday morning and do just what they did before, then all your planning was for naught. Grand statements of mission and vision have no value unless someone turns them into action steps.
The change of a calendar year suggests inspiration. The old year with its depleted reserves is behind us. For leaders especially, the new year calls forth optimism and imaginative beginnings—or it should. But what if you just feel empty? What can you do when fresh vision eludes you, when you have lost capacity to dream on behalf of the congregation you serve? Is it time to leave, or is there a way to recapture the passion and vigor of new perspectives?
Congregations love the drama of arriving at a vision. Unfortunately, most visions go nowhere. One way to avoid this pitfall is to use Appreciative Inquiry.