VISION STATEMENTS & How I have seen them underused, overemphasized & mostly ineffective. Here is the alternative…

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 4/13/18.

Yearly a handful of missional coach candidates shadow me on my consultations (more info here if you are interested in being considered for next year’s cohort).

Recently, the missional coach candidates and I were discussing the use, misuse and impact of mission and vision statements.  First, I will share my personal conclusions from having worked with hundreds of churches on their mission and vision statements.  Then (below my comments) you will find the discussion that inaugurated these conclusions.

I wrote:

If you have read my books, you probably know I am not a fan of Vision Statements (though I discuss them and the differences with Mission Statements in most of my books).

Here is why.
I agree with everything said (below, by the missional coach candidates I am training).
  • Vision Statements help visualize a preferred future,
  • create metrics for goal attainment,
  • etc.
But, I have seen them generate little use in these areas, despite pleas and pushing from the leaders.
They often consume too much time, because I suspect, Christians like philosophizing and theologizing more than practicing something.

So, I have come to conclude that John Kotter has the answers.  He states that visions (created by a collation) are temporary and elastic things.  In other words, they are tied to a project.

  • Now, I’m not saying that vision statements aren’t needed.
  • They are, but they should be more flexible, temporal and more quickly created.
 Yet, mission statements are different. They deal with unchangeable values (and for Christians, our theology).  They shouldn’t change.  But, the local church usually doesn’t need to craft them, because the denomination or network has usually done that for them.
So, my recommendations to clients based upon my experiences over 25+ years.
  1. Have a Mission Statement that defines your theology, history and polity.
  2. Create multiple Vision Statements as time and projects dictate.

(Below is the conversation among my 2018 Missional Coaches candidates on this issue):

On Apr 13, 2018, at 11:10 AM, Tim W. wrote:

I did my graduate degree in business in the days when the competitive edge of Corporation, Inc. rested in these kinds of organizational tools. The church world then adopted the language and approach. My bias is still towards using these. I see them as critical pieces in organizational design BUT I also do not want to spend copious amounts of time/energy/money generating these statements. More to the point, if a congregation does have them, then they need to embed them deeply into the heart of the church. AND, if they are not authentic and missionally-driven statements, then it’s pointless anyway. :))

On Apr 13, 2018, at 9:01 AM, Mark C. wrote:

I would agree on many of your points. The fact that what the local church does is actually their vision is truer that what we or they want to believe.
In most cases the Great Commission Vision has been neglected in place of a Great Coffee Dream.
Here to surV
Mark
 
On Wednesday, April 11, 2018 9:19 AM, Tim W wrote:
Hi all … I want to chime in on some of the mission/vision statement comments in this string from my experience as a denominational exec.
I agree that churches can spend too much time on massaging vision and mission statement(if they even understand the difference/function of these two tools), but I also thinkmany churches spend too LITTLE time on them as well. There must be a balance. When properly formed and used, these statements provide a great deal of agenda harmony, synergy in the organizational system, clarity of priority in budgeting, effectiveness in staffing right, and a host of other things. Most importantly, it removes the fuzziness in the minds of the congregation as to congregational direction. In fact, when done well, the very process of drafting a statement together reveals gaps, relational deficiencies (both personal and organizational), and then creates energy, excitement, optimism, and makes strategic planning more robust. Of course, these statements in themselves can’t do anything for the church; it’s all in the way they are employed into the organizational system.
The truth be told, though, most churches already operate from vision, but it’s usually informal, imprecise, and carried by a few power brokers in the church. A couple of great questions to ask when conducting a first consult with the congregation is this: if your church was at its very best, what would this look like? where would she spend her time and resources? These questions do not directly address the vision question because if you ask “what is your vision?” most people will either recite what they read on the bulletin cover or will look dumbfounded. When asked outcome oriented questions, however, a picture emerges and this picture is the imperfectly constructed vision.
Ultimately, the vision statement is a tool to help organize for mission—no more and no less. It’s power is in its simplicity to direct and excite and it’s contribution to the real-world ministry of the church.
Just my thoughts…
Tim
 Read more of the ideas about mission and vision statements that I’ve come to embrace after seeing them in practice here.