A vision statement provides direction and a target for the church. It is a tool to help the organization fulfill what God has called it to do. It is the bullseye!
The value of a church vision statement is that it gives church leadership, employees and congregants a shared goal. Every organization needs to understand where it is going before it can develop a strategic plan and map out steps for how to get there.
A church vision statement is typically two to three sentences that describe what the church hopes to become or achieve.
Some organizations write paragraphs describing their vision, but I’m of the opinion that the shorter the statement, the more likely employees, volunteers and members will be able to absorb it, memorize it, and explain it to others.
It is important for the entire congregation to have a good understanding of what the church is trying to accomplish so that everyone can buy into and support the vision.
1. Gather church leadership.
Writing the church’s vision, mission and values statement should be an exercise that is done by the church board and some senior church members or staff.
Ideally, this would be a done in a retreat setting, such as a private room in a restaurant, a hotel conference room, or someone’s home. It just needs to be a place without interruptions and distractions.
2. Solicit help from an objective facilitator.
The beauty of the church is that God blesses churches with members who have a wide variety of gifts, and a church congregation may have professionals available who are gifted at facilitation and may be interested in facilitating a vision, mission and values session.
If there is no one on the board or in the congregation who has this skill set, it may be worth investing in a couple of hours with a professional who can help. Regardless, the facilitator should drive the process and not the vision. An experienced facilitator will know how to do this.
“Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established.” Proverbs 16:3
3. Dream out loud.
A visioning session is the “writing-on-tablet” process and should be prayed through before the session begins. The goal is to articulate God’s will for the church. Once the session begins, I like working with whiteboards or flip-charts because I think a visual helps spark thoughts and ideas.
“Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it.” Habakkuk 2:2
Depending on the number of people in the session, have the group break down into units of 3-4 people, provide each group with a flip chart, and have them discuss and answer the following questions:
- Who are we?
- Where does God want to use us to do?
- What do we want this church to look like?
- Where do we want to be 1, 5, 10 years from now?
- As a group, create a newspaper headline about something the church has done/accomplished at some future point. This helps the group visualize the future.
4. Combine ideas, and at the end of this session:
- Have all the units come back together and tell the group the thoughts and ideas they came up with.
- Use the entire group to pick the best and most consistent thoughts and ideas from each of the smaller groups and simply write the common words on a flipchart.
- Go around the room and allow all the participants to begin to add/subtract and formalize the sentence structure of the statement. Have a laptop available to use a thesaurus, dictionary and encyclopedia/search engine as references.
5. Test the statement.
Once a couple of sentences have been written, read them out loud to the group again and determine if the entire group agrees that the statement reflects a common direction and describes a picture of an ideal future state of the church. Following are some example vision statements:
Caterpillar: Be the global leader in customer value.
DuPont: The vision of DuPont is to be the world’s most dynamic science company, creating sustainable solutions essential to a better, safer and healthier life for people everywhere.
Heinz: Our Vision, quite simply is to be the world’s premier food company, offering nutritious, superior tasting foods to people everywhere.
Sears: To be the preferred and most trusted resource for the products and services that enhance home and family life.
Avon: To be the company that best understands and satisfies the product, service and self-fulfillment needs of women globally.
The Mission Statement
Once the vision statement is written, do a similar exercise to come up with a mission statement. Remember a mission statement is a short description of why the organization exists.
Vision and mission statements are the cornerstone for decision- making. I used to work for a pediatric hospital, and the mission was We will do what is right for kids. It is simply stated, but it is very powerful in the boardroom.
When challenged with difficult questions, senior leadership would ask: Is this decision in the best interest of the kids we serve? This tool helps keep the organization focused on its priorities. A great book that can help teach your group how to simplify a message is Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath.
- While in the same units, spend 20-30 minutes writing down descriptive words for why the church exists.
- After all the units have written their ideas on the flip chart, have each unit present its ideas to the whole group.
- Using one flip chart, combine ideas and begin wordsmithing the ideas until the group creates a short phrase that reflects all ideas.
- Have all the units read the final statements and come to an agreement that the phrase truly reflects the mission of the church and why it exists.
The Values Statement
Once there is a vision and mission statement, break the group into units again and allow them 20 minutes or so to list values (value = a principle, standard, or quality considered worthwhile or desirable) of the organization. Remember, these will become shared values or principles that the organization operates by.
- Once each unit has its list, have them present it to the entire group. Combine ideas and refine them into one list. There are usually a lot of ideas that overlap (which is a good thing).
- Ideally, a list of values should be 5-10 words. The goal is for people who align themselves with the organization to be able to simply memorize the vision, mission and values. The more concise the better.
Once the vision, mission and values statement is finalized. Think through a communication plan to share it with members, volunteers and employees. Invest in some frames and display the statement in visible areas of the building, on the church website and other printed materials.
That wasn’t so difficult, was it? Many churches and nonprofit organizations fail to come up with a vision, mission and values statement because the process scares them, but with the right people in the room, it can be done in a few hours. Once a Vision, Mission and Values statement is written, the strategic planning process can begin!
You can access an editable Board Retreat Agenda for writing a Mission, Vision and Values Statement here.
This is a great example of a Pastor’s understanding of vision casting.
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photo by: TreyRatcliff
Article originally published December, 2011. Updated July, 2014.