In an earlier blog I discussed the process of creating a vision from the stories shared within a leadership team through being asked a powerful, grounded question. Grounded questions are best answered by a story. Hearing these stories and reflecting on their values, their feelings and experiences provides the bedrock for creating the vision and mission statements for your community, group, or organisation. In this blog post I want to focus on the mission statement.
- What is the point of a mission statement and how does it differ from our vision statement?
- Do we need both if they are basically about the same thing?
- Can the mission change, as people and priorities change along with technology and culture?
These are important questions rarely asked by those trying to get the job done. So, what are our priorities when coming to create our mission statement? Of course, having a coach work with you through this process can be an enormous help.
1. What is a Mission Statement? It is often not fully appreciated that the mission statement is about action. It is what your mission, organisation, church, or group does to fulfil your vision. Remember the vision statement is a descriptive, adjective oriented, sentence describing what your desired future will look like. The mission statement outlines what needs to be done to get there. Now, how you do this is not the work of the mission statement; the mission, simply put, states what you ‘do’ the ‘how’ comes later i.e., in the strategic plan. For example: Scripture Union UK’s vision and mission are:
Our vision – A new generation of children and young people who have a vibrant, personal faith in Jesus.
Our mission – We create opportunities for children and young people to explore the Bible, respond to Jesus and grow in faith.
Notice how the vision describes their desired future and the mission outlines what they will do to get there i.e., create opportunities for children and young people… It didn’t say how they would do this.
2. How STORY can help us arrive at the mission? I discussed the S.W.O.T. analysis in my previous blog post and a list of dot points derived from it by brainstorming different ideas. In brainstorming, no idea is a bad idea. The goal is lots of ideas and we whittle them down to find what, we hope, will work best and that people will rally behind. Here I’m suggesting a different process, one that uses the same stories our vision came from that reflect the passions and experiences from our group’s history and incorporating these into the new mission statement. Using grounded questions that draw out your leader’s or team’s stories on why they continue to be a part of the organisation or when they have felt most proud of the community or even, when they felt most gutted or distraught. These powerful questions open the door to real issues that affect your members engagement and commitment. Everyone can see what they are prepared to get behind and support. Having a vision people understand and relate to prepares the way for them to see what they are committed to ‘do’ to get there. The stories become the motivation to create the mission statement and the end result doesn’t need to be sold to the group. They identify with it and want to get involved.
3. Can the mission statement change? This is an important question and goes to the heart of a successful vision and mission statement. Visions and missions can come and go, along with retired CEO’s and board members, nothing lasts forever. However, if the vision and mission statements reflect the values, stories, and passions of the founders, and are written in broad brush statements, then there is no reason for them to ever change for the life of the movement or organisation. Of course, the methods used to achieve the mission are always fluid and will work best when they reflect the culture, technology, and values of the day. Finding new ways to do useful things is about being human. Adaption through creative invention, new discoveries and critical thought helps us to get better and thrive, but the needs and mission remain. We’re not in heaven yet.
4. Creating the Mission Statement. A good mission statement is simple, in as few words as possible state what you ‘do’ to accomplish your vision. This can also reflect one to three common elements that come out of the many stories told in response to the grounded questions. Have another look at Scripture Union’s simple Mission Statement above, or even the photo, as examples. Remember from my earlier blog on vision casting, holding a day to hear the stories of your leaders prompted by powerful grounded questions helps to establish the bedrock for your organisation, group, or church. It is from this bedrock that the path is realised for your mission; a mission that will remain a motivating guide giving direction and clarity to what you do for the life of the movement.
A clear mission statement can also provide a filter to test new initiatives and ideas that come to the organisation. If they don’t fit the mission, then let them go. These can appear initially attractive but ultimately can divide and weaken your missional clarity and success. No group can do everything. It’s better to let ideas, and even those committed to them, go. They can start a new work and you can be their advocate while remaining faithful to your own mission.