Mission 101 Series
About a year ago, I was talking to a dear friend on the phone.
He was serving as a staff pastor at a local church where he lived. The church had recently gone through some difficult financial times, and some big changes needed to happen.
Apart from the typical budget cuts – use less space, downsize to one building, cut weekday programs – the conversation turned to looking for a different, more affordable location.
The church building was simply too large for their current congregation.
As we spoke, I could sense his frustration with the people. Despite their dire need, nobody wanted to entertain the thought of going somewhere else.
This was to be expected in some capacity, but the urgency in which the congregation refused was alarming.
“I just don’t understand. Why are they so attached to this place anyway?”, he said.
I admit I was puzzled too. We discussed the topic further, and I began to ask more probing questions:
- Have any significant events happened in this space?
- Do the people have all the financial details to be informed?
- Do you have any mission or vision statements?
No significant events, and all the financial details had been laid bare in a recent all-hands church meeting.
“What’s your mission statement? Does your church have one?”, I asked.
“We do. Let me find it…. Ok, it is ‘A place where…'”, he said.
I immediately stopped him. “What was that again?”
“A place where…”
“Aha!”, I exclaimed. It was a moment of insight that could shed light on the situation.
I went on, “Your mission statement explicitly mentions a place, and I’m willing to bet the mission statement was made in this building. Your people are binding their emotion to a place because that’s what you’ve told them is important.“
There was a moment of silence on the other line.
“Wow – you are absolutely right. That explains so much!”
Mission Statements Are Important
You may be tempted to think this is an isolated event. Don’t.
It is far more prevalent than you realize, and if you are not careful, you may fall into the strong grip of a poor mission statement too.
Mission statements define your purpose. They bring clarity to your actions. They create culture.
Because they create culture, they also subconsciously direct thoughts, intentions, motivations and other critical pieces of your organization.
I cannot overstate its importance. A great mission statement is foundational to any successful organization, and great leaders know this.
Words Are More Important
Great leaders also know that words are the most important piece of the puzzle.
Recall the story. “A place where…”
Do you see the emphasis word? It is place. Place is a poor word choice for an organization like a church. Churches survive with engaged people, not buildings.
The same goes for your organization. Your words give life and direction, or they spread death and destruction.
They move people forward, or they leave them stuck.
In this case, the legacy mission of the church left their people stuck in a past achievement: a building.
Instead of “A place where…”, a better word choice should have been made: “A people who…”
Now the focus is on the people, not the place. And while the conversation would still be difficult, the tone would be receptive.
Why? Because the people aren’t being left behind – the building is.
Mission Statements Should Inspire
A mission statement should inspire. If for an organization, it should inspire your people.
If for you, it should actually inspire you.
This means that in order to inspire, your mission statement must flow from core beliefs that you treasure. Otherwise, your mission statement will lack depth of character – the WHY.
Let me give you a personal example.
My mission statement is this: to help leaders flourish.
This is derived from 3 of my personal core beliefs:
- I believe the best of you is ahead of you.
- I believe you are capable of far more than you realize.
- I believe you get better when we do things together.
Because I believe the best version of yourself is yet to be, and that it is realized in community with others, my mission statement completes the WHY of my beliefs.
In order to live out those convictions, you need help, and you need to grow.
Hence my mission statement: to help leaders flourish. I want to help you flourish into the leader you are becoming.
It is simple and powerful, motivating and inspiring.
Your mission statement should do the same. It should be the fulfillment of the WHY of your beliefs.
When your beliefs and mission statement are in alignment, you create a rock-solid foundation for you and your organization to flourish in the future.
Great question – what now?
It should be clear that you either need a mission statement or need to rewrite your existing one.
In the next few articles in this series, we are going to take a deep dive into mission statements:
- What is a Mission Statement? It’s critical to understand why mission statements are so important and how they impact everything in your organization, from morale to motivation to retention.
- Mission Statement vs. Vision Statement: What’s the Difference? Hint: there is a difference, and you need to be able to understand it. Great mission statements are not great vision statements. The work together, but they are different in principle and impact.
- 17 Mission Statement Examples From World-Class Organizations We will take a deeper look into mission statements from 17 different organizations and uncover the WHY behind them. I’ll give you some additional ideas that you can take when working on your own mission statement.
- How to Write a Mission Statement (and Make It Compelling) Then, we will go through an exercise to write out your mission statement. I’ll include some helpful templates to give you a starting point, and by the end, you should have all the tools you need to write a compelling mission statement.
- How to Maximize the Impact of Your Mission Statement (7 Ideas) If nobody listens, you’ve wasted your time. Once your mission statement is ready, your work has just begun. We now need to explore the work required to elevate the impact of your mission statement.
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See you in the next article,