How to Draft a Mission Statement

When I was a teenager I was drafted by my dad to mop the kitchen floor. He handed me one of those mops professionals use with the long strings at the end. I started swiping the floor back and forth with the wet mop head. This went on for a few minutes until he walked into the room and saw what I was doing. He kindly notified me that the proper way to mop was like “this”. In about two minutes I was mopping the floor like a pro. I was also pretty sure my dad knew what he was talking about as he was the Facility Director at the local hospital.

The thing is, I have very rarely seen anyone mop the floor this way. Sure, I’ve seen some pro’s do it, but rarely have I seen the average janitor at local schools or churches use this kind of mop properly. This shocks me almost every time because it’s actually easier and more effective to mop the floor the right way rather than the wrong way. Since I learned what to do so long ago, I just assumed everyone knew how to do it.

The same is true for drafting a mission statement. It can seem intimidating and hard at first, but once you’ve walked through the process most people discover it wasn’t as difficult as they thought it would be. Don’t misunderstand, it’s still work (so is mopping the floor), but it doesn’t have to be an ineffective use of your time.

How to Draft a Mission Statement

  • Pray. The Bible states very clearly that church leaders must “keep watch over you {believers} as those who must give an account” – Hebrews 13: 17. We hold a holy responsibility that should never be held lightly. Make sure you have submitted all of your conversations and ideas to the Lord regularly and first.
  • Start from Scratch. You may have a mission statement already. I suggest you consider setting it aside and begin afresh. The process of revisiting why you do what you do will bring clarity to your church and either confirm or clarify if your current statement is relevant or not.
  • Ask Yourself, “Why are we here?”. One question. Why are we here? This is the question your mission statement will eventually answer. Why does your church exist? 
  • Set aside Assumptions. It’s so easy to make assumptions and hold conversations without addressing those assumptions. Assumptions can create a lot of confusion. I recommend you ask yourself the question, “Is there anything we think about church that we take for granted or just assume?”
  • Brainstorm and Refine. You’ll want to do a lot of brainstorming, and then a lot of refining. Develop lists of ideas, words, sentences on white-boards – and then categorize them, refine them, and update them. You may go through this process several times.
  • Identify Key Words. There will likely be key words that resonate with you and your team. Note them and set them aside for future consideration. You may not use them all, but you will want to consider them when you get to the final stages of your statement construction.
  • Get Feedback. Sometimes teams can get so focused that they get tunnel vision and will miss the obvious. Draft two or three statements you are considering and run them by a few key people for input and feedback to bring back to the team. In fact – email them to me and I’ll give you my thoughts!
  • Benchmark. Check out some other churches mission statements. Be careful though! A lot of churches have missions that mean nothing to them, but sit proudly three layers into their website for anyone to find and copy. Perhaps I will post a few great mission statement examples sometime in the future.
  • Don’t confuse Values with Mission. Don’t confuse your core values with your mission statement. For instance, you hopefully have a core value of being bible-based. That shouldn’t be part of your mission statement. You probably have a value of being caring or generational, etc. Those should be summarized on a different document rather than in the mission statement. 
  • Keep it Biblical. This may seem obvious – perhaps too obvious. Remember Paul’s exhortation to Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
  • Keep it Broad. You’re mission statement will need to be very broad. You can’t write out everything the church DOES. You need to boil down all of the concepts and Scriptures down to the very basics of ‘why you exist’ as a church in your community. For example, your statement should encompass every ministry and person in your church that you know reflects the heartbeat of your church.
  • Keep it Specific. OK. That sounds like the opposite of broad . . . almost. It’s not. You don’t want to be vague in your terminology. “Providing food and clothes to the homeless.” is both a broad and specific statement.  
  • Keep it Brief. This is the perhaps the hardest part (well, the second hardest). Allen Cox defined a mission as ‘an organization’s brief, compelling statement of purpose.’ I recommend your mission statement be one sentence and no more than two sentences – and if possible short ones. 
  • Keep it Simple. Don’t use a lot of adjectives, christianeze, and run-on sentences. Also, if it requires an extra paragraph explaining the reasoning behind it, it’s too complicated. 
  • Evaluate EVERY Word. That’s right. When you near the end of the process you should ask yourselves if every word accurately reflects what you want to say and why. You will also evaluate whether every word is necessary or not.
  • Make it Memorable. I said above that making the statement brief is the second hardest part. This is probably the hardest for most of us. It needs to be memorable. Something that almost rolls off your tongue. Easy to remember. There’s no point in having a mission statement if your congregation can’t remember it. 
  • Don’t Give Up. Sometimes this process can be overwhelming and tedious. Don’t give up. It will be worth it in the end. If you’re getting stuck, consider taking a break for a few minutes, hours, or days. Try approaching the conversation from a different angle. Split into small groups of 3 and have the small groups tackle the problem and return to discuss what happened. Press through.
  • Don’t Lose Your Sense of Humor. Last but not least, have some fun. Make a few jokes. Laugh a little. It’s OK.

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