Whenever I write about vision statements, I tend to get some visceral reactions. Some people simply abhor the idea of a church having a vision statement. For them, it’s total compromise with the secular culture. It’s treating the church like a business instead of the body of Christ.
Another group responds with intense enthusiasm. They absolutely love the clarity and energy a vision statement can bring. They can’t imagine a church without one.
I tend to see more positives than negatives with a vision statement. For certain, it can be used for the wrong reasons. But it also can bring focus and clarity to what a church should be doing. It can be a healthy and biblical guide to keep a church on track.
Many church leaders will admit the vision statement they use was adapted from another church. They often wonder if it is lazy and unethical to do so. I don’t think so. Indeed, it is really a common practice for many common-sense reasons. Here are five of them.
- Churches have similar purposes; they, therefore often have similar vision statements. The biblical purposes of a church are consistent: prayer, evangelism, corporate worship, discipleship, fellowship, and ministry in the community and beyond. It only makes sense that those purposes become common language in many church’s vision statements.
- Churches contextualize their vision statements for their specific situations. So, even if vision statements sound similar, their application is different for every congregation. A statement borrowed freely from another church often is very different when it is specifically applied in another context.
- Too many church leaders spend inordinate amounts of time wording a vision statement when a borrowed statement will suffice. Not every leader is a clever wordsmith. I have seen pastors and other leaders agonize over minutia in a vision statement when they don’t have to do so.
- The application of a vision statement is more important than its wording. I am not concerned about borrowed vision statements. I am concerned about ineffective and unapplied vision statements. Too many times, church leaders will spend countless hours wording a statement and then doing nothing with it. The vision statement becomes nothing more than a cute saying on the church website and publications.
- Some of the most powerful vision statements are the result of taking the best from other vision statements. I did a consultation with a church where the vision was known and applied by most members. That reality does not often take place. When I asked the pastor how he derived the vision, he shared that the statement was really the combination of the best of several other church vision statements. He was able to take those parts he felt best fit the context of his church.
To be clear, I am not advocating plagiarism. I would certainly get permission before using a vision statement of another church in its identical or near identical form. But neither would I fret if I researched other vision statements to derive the vision statement for my church.
There is really nothing new under the sun.
Posted on May 1, 2019
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
More from Thom
Words are like leaves.
And where they most abound,
little fruit of sense is there often found.
Actions speak louder than words.
Where do we get the idea that Christ intended His churches to have a vision statement? Didn’t He give us a commission? How is that not enough?
I think of a couple of really good vision statements that might be familiar to yourself and those reading your blog:
“To seek and save the lost.”
“To become all things to all men so that some might be saved.”
Clearly these are presented a little tongue in cheek and are paraphrased, but they served the same purpose for the men that spoke them that a vision statement serves for a church, it guided everything that these two men did in their ministries.
I once heard the venerable Herschel Hobbs say, “If you have only one source, it’s plagiarism. If you have two sources, it’s research.” He was being facetious, but his point was valid. Most of us borrow ideas to some extent. In this case, I would say #2 is key. It’s okay to borrow another church’s vision statement, but make enough changes in it to make it your own.
Our mission statement:
“To lead people into a real and life-changing relationship with Jesus that’s contagious!”. Most of our members can recite this without stumbling. We slip it in wherever we can whenever we can. We say it, we pray it, we live it. Our church maintains incredible synergy because of it. We have a very healthy and unified culture and we’re seeing many come to Christ as a result. There’s a clear and compelling reason for us to exist.
Vision statements are just that..a statement. What shouts the loudest is the church’s culture. I have witnessed some the best worded vision statements and even saw some of the most eloquent displays of the vision statement on church walls…but the culture of the church did not reflect the vision.
True. Application is more important than verbiage.
I know the Church must have a vision . 1. We don’t need to adapt to todays culture as It is tailored after todays corrupt society. Jesus has the greatest vision and it is proven by His offering of himself n the cross to make it possible to all men.
Paul said he became all things to all men to win them to Christ. We need to follow God’s word as Paul did. He didn’t compromise God’s plan to win the lost. Stick to God’s word it is his perfect plan. We live in a corrupted society and therefore
mans plan will fail but God’s will not . We are to be a light not a lamp without oil. The church that will succeed is one that the leadership will adhere to the one laid out in God’s word. Not man’s philosophy. Pastors need to lay before the alter and weep for the situation of today and cry out to the master for His leadership. After all is he not the head of his church? We need to hear from Heaven, not from man’s vision.
This vision plan of man, is always inadequate. A lot of what is wrong today is trying to win souls by compromise with worldly intelligence, concern of finances, growth,( success is not measured by growth and wealth, but by the results of following God’s prefect plan as laid out in the Bible and Jesus who is the head of the church.
Isn’t he the head shepherd and head of the church? Let’s get back to the proven way! Ask and you shall receive. “If my people who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and PRAY, AND SEEK MY FACE, AND TURN FROM THIER WICKED WAYS, THEN, I will hear from heaven and heal their land.”
Following is what I believe should be the vision, mission & goals of all churches:
To please our Father in Heaven by giving Him our total selves –
our lives, our time, our talent, our money, our material possessions, and our total commitment – ALWAYS.
To reach out in love and respect to every person in Austin, Travis County, Texas,
the United States, and the world with the truth that God loves them and that He wants them.
God desires that they accept and confess Him as Lord, and that they will be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins, and to receive the gift of His Holy Spirit to live within them to help them live a full, loving and happy life on this earth and in the life to come.
• To take the gospel to every person, every day, every hour and every way.
• To pray God will open doors and provide opportunities for us to reach every person.
• To enlist all Christians in the army of the Lord.
• To seek every means and media to share the Good News.
• To never stop teaching the gospel and bringing people to Christ.
• To continually begin new churches everywhere there is a number of new believers.
• To remember we are the image of Christ, and that it is up to us to carry out his commission to make disciples.
• And to ALWAYS remember the people God so loved . . . the lost.
“God desires that they accept and confess Him as Lord, and that they will be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins, and to receive the gift of His Holy Spirit to live within them to help them live a full, loving and happy life on this earth and in the life to come.”
That’s not the gospel and should never be in any church’s mission statement that is patterned after Paul’s epistles.
Dr. Thom…churches that don’t like vision statements are those that also try to be all things to all people…lack focus (which gives permission to say NO)…and who have not identified their Target Market (a term I use that often receives visceral responses as well.
My 2 cents…preach on!