Vision

Does your congregation have a vision/mission/purpose statement?  Do you know what it is?  Do you know how it applies to you, personally?  Do you characterize your involvement in your congregation utilizing this statement?  How well are the dots connected?

Vision/mission/purpose statements have become fairly ubiquitous in the past 30 years.  One of many imports from the corporate/business world, it seems that every congregation has one, or wants to have one, or has one they don’t like.  In my admittedly limited experience, I’ve yet to run into a congregation where members talk  about the vision statement, or where it seems to make any difference beyond taking up a certain amount of space in the bulletins or on strategically placed bulletin boards.
I’m not against vision – vision is necessary.  But the process of finding a vision is not one that comes easily to congregations.  A corporation has it a little easier, or at least they seem to.  You produce a product that you hope has particular outcomes in a consumer’s life, thereby providing some sort of sustainability to your business.  The larger a company is, the more all-encompassing the vision statement needs to be, which tends to make it a lot more general.  Small businesses can have very focused vision statements.  At the coffee shop where I get iced tea sometimes, they sell packaged cookies that have the mission statement of Our goal is to make the best tasting cookies in the whole world.  That’s pretty focused.
Most congregations are all too familiar with the process of seeking out a vision.  They’ve been through it more than once.  Oftentimes whenever a new pastor arrives.  A lot of time can go into the process.  Time in terms of hours invested by members reading books, attending discussion meetings, being trained by outside consultants.  Time spent by pastors praying and struggling over a direction that will unify their congregations and provide tangible footholds into…into…hmmm.
The Church universal, and therefore theoretically every congregational instance thereof, has been given a Commission.  Go.  Make disciples.  Baptize.  Teach to obey what Christ has commanded.  Matthew 28:18-20 is the go-to verse for congregations and probably has been since the beginning.  Yet congregations – and pastors – still seem forever to be spending time on how to either restate this or contextualize it in meaningful ways.  With the goal of?  That’s a good question.
What if we just don’t like the commission we’ve been given?  What if it confuses us, or frightens us?  What if the process of finding a vision is a process of making the Commission simpler, less threatening, or even no longer the focus?  Can visions cloud as well as clarify?  How do you know which it’s doing in your particular situation?  Are vision statements even necessary?  Just because corporations use them do congregations need to?  
I ask a lot of questions.  I try not to make assumptions.  Sometimes this causes consternation.  Other times it causes confusion.  But I think that it’s still worthwhile to ask questions, to probe, to poke.  How is it that after decades of working on vision statement after vision statement, many congregations continue to decline in membership and increase in their congregants’ median age?  How do we make sure that our vision is something relevant to the life of each member of the congregation, as well as to visitors that pass through our doors?  Is accountability as appropriate for a congregational vision statement as it is for a corporate one?  
I dunno.  But I’m wondering.  And wrestling.  

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