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.
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