Bible School

I remember when it started becoming trendy for churches to create mission statements, or vision statements, or both. But there was little real clarity on how to create these, how they were supposed to help, or how to use them effectively. As a result, many churches went through the process of brainstorming, visioning, word crafting, and then finally getting their statement or statements voted. In some cases it was put on a plaque, painted on the wall, or put in the bulletin. And that was the end of it--until the next pastor, who felt led to repeat the process!

Go into most churches today with a mission or vision statement, and you will be hard pressed to find one person who can recite either from memory. The impact of the process in many cases was minimal.

“Mission and vision statements are vital levers in church revitalization.”

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Now I'm definitely not opposed to the process. A mission and vision statement are both vital levers that can be used to help transform a church. In the church I pastor, we have both--and they have played an important part in our growth and transformation. They can be powerful, but to use these two kinds of statements effectively, we must understand the difference between them.

While there are probably as many views on how these two kinds of statements should be defined, as there are mission and vision statements, I've found the following thoughts helpful:

The Mission Statement

The mission statement expresses the reason your church exists. The fundamental purpose that drives us. It answers the question "why". Going through the process of trying to study out and discern more clearly what God wants your church to accomplish is valuable in its own right. And ultimately, it gives the only real measure of success. Everything accomplished by your church is of value only so far as it contributes to what God has actually called your church to do.

The Vision Statement

A vision statement is different. It is the strategy your church settles on to accomplish the mission, given your unique resources, skills, personnel, location, etc. It captures the basic plan your church is going to use to get the mission done. It answers the question "how". Creating a vision statement is also important. It helps your church translate its desire to fulfill its purpose into specific and concrete steps of action.

“The mission says why, the vision says how.”

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Understanding the Differences
At first glance, a mission and vision statement are similar. They are usually both short and concise. That makes them easy to learn and remember. They are inspiring and motivational. That's part of what we use them for. And they are arrived at through a similar collaborative process. Understanding their differences, however, is the key to making them work. Consider the following:

The mission is given, the vision chosen.

The goal of the mission statement is to express God's purpose for the church as revealed through Scripture. God created the church for a purpose, our job is to understand that purpose--not make something up. There are multiple approaches to fulfilling that purpose, however. And each church must choose the approach it believes will be most effective given its unique circumstances.

The mission is universal, the vision local.

While the wording of a mission statement may vary from church to church, it's essentially the same for every church: it's the Great Commission. The vision however will vary as each church has its own specific gifts and abilities. In fact this is part of what makes the local church so amazingly beautiful--it's incredible diversity.

The mission is primary, the vision secondary.

Because your vision statement is a strategy to accomplish the mission assigned to us, it makes sense the mission should be clarified first. Knowing your objective is essential to choosing the best strategy to accomplishing it. You must know the destination before you can plan the route.

The mission is changeless, the vision transitory

Because our mission is assigned by Scripture, it is unchanging. We can tweak the wording as our understanding deepens, but the underlying purpose is timeless. The vision, however, can and should be changed over time. Changes in resources, membership, leadership, and more can all justify a review of your strategy. Actually, we should be constantly tweaking our implementation of the plan for maximum effectiveness.

The mission is invincible, the vision is not

Not every plan will work as well as we hope, and if our motivation is tied too closely to a specific plan, we can experience serious discouragement. When our motivation is tied to the mission however, the plan is just one means to an end. We may be disappointed when results are less than hoped, but we go back to the drawing board until we find a plan that works better. The Bible makes it clear that in the end our mission will be fulfilled. We have every reason for confidence!

I'm sure you can think of other contrasts between the two. But this should be sufficient to help clarify the relationship between the two.

An Example
In the church I pastor, we spent a good bit of time the first few years exploring our mission and vision. The mission soon became clear: making disciples. That included reaching out to our community in evangelism, and training those who joined to do the same. We also recognized there was an end time, prophetic element to our mission. So we settled on this simple mission statement:

Empowering disciples to share the everlasting gospel.

As we thought through how best to accomplish this, church leaders became inspired with a vision for seeing our church transition toward becoming a training center for Christian workers. In the end, we adopted the following as our vision statement:

To become an effective training center that wins souls
by mobilizing and equipping members for ministry.

We then went on to establish a committee to break down that vision into a step-by-step action plan. We had to address questions on content, methodology, goals, resources, structures, and more. We tried lots of ideas. Some worked well, some not so well. And we are continuing to experiment with, and refine our strategy.

The results have been positive. We've given one full year of discipleship training to more than 60 members, of which nearly 15 have served an additional year as a trainer. During that time, attendance has roughly doubled, and there has been a steady increase in revenues. While not exceptional, our growth has been slow and steady.

I believe our success is directly linked to the time we took at the beginning to develop a clear sense of mission, and then to develop a clear vision for accomplishing that mission. I encourage you to carefully rethink your mission--and make that the rallying cry of your church. And then together map out a vision, your specific strategy or plan to accomplish it. You may just see some positive results in your church too!


Does your church have a mission or vision statement? What impact have they had on your church? How important is it to have a clear sense of mission, and a clear vision for accomplishing it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Posted by Carole Bliss on 07/31/17
Our church does have a mission statement. It is so important to have this. We need to keep praying for our Lord to direct us, as to how we are to fulfill this mission. We need to be about our Fathers' work, and make sure, we are following His plan for us, in the church, and in the community.
Thank-you for the above information.

Posted by Dan Vis on 07/21/17 - Coach
Glad you found this helpful Gaius!

Qing, not sure if light-bulb is one word or two, but I agree our community is pretty awesome. And as for our tools, that is exactly what drives us--to give people the tools they need to live out the Word. Such a compelling vision... Or is it mission. :)
Posted by Qing Ling on 07/21/17 - Coach
Nothing like getting bonus messages out of something you've read before, hey Dan? If there's one word I'd use to describe FAST, it would be "light-bulb", for the many light-bulb moments I get from the training and insights shared by our awesome community:)

I think what makes FAST resources so useful is that it LINKS Theory to PURPOSE in such an easy to understand way. I can KNOW so much information about so many things, yet have no idea how that knowledge can be useful to me in my life...praise God for FAST Missions :)

Julio - see you in the Journey :)
Posted by Gaius A. on 07/21/17
This is very helpful especially to those people who craft these statements for the fun of it. I was fascinated with your comparisons. Thanks
Posted by Dan Vis on 07/21/17 - Coach
Addie, that's the problem with many mission and vision statements, and why they often don't have much impact. Understanding their purpose can help (that's the goal of this post), and next week I'll repost an article that will address how to use them. Like most things, it's the implementation that makes all the difference in the world.

Thanks for sharing this article with your pastor!

Julio, Qing is exactly right. Check out the discipleship traing in our Online Store. Better yet sign your church up as a training center. We have pretty much everything in our store available to partner churches, and much more. And every member gets access.

Great idea to apply these concepts to your small goroup Valerie. I think it's also valuable for ministries to answer the vital questions of why and how. Let us know what you come up with.

That is providential Qing! And I love it when you lift out statements like that. The always strike me differently. Thanks for linking this post to what we studied in the Life Focus System and glad you found it helpful!
Posted by Julio Useche on 07/21/17
Thanks Qing ! I will look into this track!
Posted by Qing Ling on 07/21/17 - Coach
Julio if I'm not wrong I would be checking out the suite of resources in FAST Discipleship Track.which includes the leaders booklet. But maybe Dan has more tools? If there's anyone you would like to train, getting them to sign up for The Journey would be a good start. :)
Posted by Qing Ling on 07/21/17 - Coach
I literally just shared about the importance of a strategic plan/road map/communication of vision-mission statements with my church board this week, before I read this. Now I've shared this article with my pastors too. Loving the timeliness of this conversation.

Everything accomplished by your church is of value only so far as it contributes to what God has actually called your church to do.

Much like our individual walk with God, needing to be in tune with His will (which we learnt in the time management challenge), I firmly believe in the need for the church family to be travelling in the direction God has called it to also. Ephesians 5:17Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.

Thanks for another awesome article, Dan. I have studied vision/mission/business planning before, but nothing presented so clearly and concisely as what you have done here!!!
Posted by Valerie Wise Burrell on 07/20/17 - Coach
Pastor Dan,
This helped me very much. I meet with a small group of believers in home meetings. Upon reading this I realized that there is no true Mission in our meeting and there is not a vision to be sure. I will prayerfully share with the group these thoughts then wait upon the Lord. Oh how much we need the Holy Spirit!
Posted by Julio Useche on 07/19/17
Hi Pastor Dan, can u share the training you used for discipleship course? We're in dire need of this in my church.
Posted by Addie Jackson on 07/17/17
Hi Dan,
Our church created a mission statement about three years ago but no vision statement. Nothing has changed at our church since adopting the mission statement except a steady decline in attendance and a felt sense of disengagement.. I've forwarded the information to my pastor and we have a meeting scheduled when he gets back from camp meeting. I am an educator ( higher education/university level) and am a firm believer in training and teaching. My church - not so much. Dom't know what will come of this but I see it as an opportunity to at least raise it as a question. I think it would be very helpful for us to develop a vision statement.

Thanks for the encouragement

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