I used to write off guys I would hear talking about the need to develop Vision, Mission and Core Values for churches as corporate, market-driven sellouts. I had all kinds of snarky comments to make about how they needed to put down their copy of Entrepreneur Magazine and pick up their Bible.
The “How” Question
And then something crazy happened- I actually got into vocational ministry! When I became a senior pastor at age 25 and felt the burden of leadership for the first time, I began to realize that the majority of the Bible’s exhortations regarding the things the local church is to be built on are pretty general in nature. As a Calvary guy, I heartily and happily take Acts 2:42-47 as the foundation and blueprint for big picture local church practices. This passage encourages us to be devoted to fellowship but it doesn’t tell us how to do that in our particular culture or town. It encourages us to devote ourselves to the apostles teaching but it doesn’t address how we do that with new believers, home groups, evangelistic gatherings, or even our primary gatherings. In short, the Bible is surprisingly lacking on the “How” when it comes to implementing the foundational elements of local church life.
4 Words that Will Transform Your Church
That brings me back to the issue of Vision, Mission and Core Values. My journey of trying to figure out the “how” of implementing the New Testament blueprint for the local church has led me to a firm conviction: Prayerfully discerning and communicating your Vision, Mission and Core Values is essential to the health, efficiency and longevity of your church. I’d be so bold as to say that understanding these four words (Vision, Mission, Core Values) could be the key to transforming your church.
First, what in the world are Vision, Mission and Core Values?
Your Vision describes, as concisely as possible, the big picture of what your ministry will look like when it is fully established with all systems running. Vision starts with the end in mind. It describes what Jesus is leading you to create in as simple of terms as possible.
That is a huge vision that can be articulated in simple, memorable terms.
Your Mission is about what you are doing today. It describes the pillar areas you are focused on as you work to see your big picture vision become a reality by the grace of God. Your mission statement serves as an expansion of your vision statement.
Core Values are all about culture. They explain your philosophy of ministry, leadership and Christian living.
A starter set of Core Values for your leadership team might look like this:
Honesty: We will communicate both easy and hard truths to one-another in a spirit of honesty
Honor: We will honor the opinions, experiences, giftedness, and pastoral calling of each team member
Orthodoxy: We will pursue biblical orthodoxy in our structure, practice and goals
You get the point. Instead of stating your doctrinal positions, your Core Values describe the spirit and tone in which you will communicate your doctrine. Instead of explaining your church government model, they describe how you will interact in your relationships with other leaders in the context of serving as a team.
What is the Payoff?
Having defined what I mean by the terms Vision, Mission and Core Values, here are four potential payoffs for taking the time to discern and communicate yours:
1. They help you evaluate new ministry opportunities
Churches without a good sense of their Vision, Mission and Core Values can mistakenly interpret every good idea for a God idea. So, almost every time someone has a good idea, church leaders empower them and are quick to start calling the new idea an official ministry of the church. The end result is that church life becomes cluttered with disjointed ministries, many of which overlap in purpose and demographic.
One way out of the woods on this issue is to distinguish between ministry ideas that are our thing and ministry ideas that are your thing. A helpful way to do that is to consult your Vision, Mission and Core Values to serve as an objective measuring stick. If a suggested idea fits within what God has communicated to you in terms of Vision, maybe it needs to become “our thing” as a church. But if it doesn’t fit the Vision you need to encourage the person with the idea to see this as “your thing” that God is leading you to do for Him.
2. It helps your team fly in formation
If you’ve been on a ministry team for five minutes, you know that leaders don’t always agree on ministry decisions. Again, rather than leaving decisions to the mere subjective whims of a particular leader, having an objective document that articulates your church’s Vision, Mission and Core Values can defuse many unnecessary conflicts by reminding you of the original marching orders God gave you.
3. It helps you know what ministries need to be put on the chopping block
I believe there is a lot of wisdom in conducting an annual inventory and evaluation of every ministry in your church. The place each ministry is supposed to play in fulfilling the overall Vision Jesus has for your church should be routinely considered. Ministries that are thriving and executing the Vision should be supported and celebrated. Ministries that are struggling need to be revamped or shut down completely. Why? If you fail to change things up or shut things down they will consume human resources, financial resources, blood, sweat and tears that need to be utilized to do what Jesus has actually called your church to accomplish.
4. It helps you reproduce the right church culture
If your leadership embodies your Vision, Mission and Core Values in their interactions with the church it will all go viral and that is a good thing. The goal is reproduction and multiplication. As that occurs within your leadership team and spreads out to the congregation more effective ministry becomes not only possible, but likely.
So how about you?
If you had to describe the Vision Jesus’ vision for your church how would you put it in a nutshell? What are the pillar areas of Mission you need to develop in order to see His Vision become a reality? What non-negotiable Core Values will you model and encourage on the journey? Identify them. Write them. Communicate them. Repeat.
You just might transform your church and see some people efficiently served to the glory of God along the way.
Originally Published on January 29, 2015