Church Mission Statement, Vision, Values…What’s the Difference?
If you walk into any bookstore today, pick up a handful of leadership books, and see how each one defines a mission statement or vision statement, chances are the definitions seem interchangeable. But one thing all the books will agree on is clear church mission and vision statements along with concise core values are pivotal to any leader, ministry, or organization.
For our purposes, we’ll say:
- A mission statement is what you intend to do as an organization
- A vision statement is how you intend to accomplish your mission
- Core values are the attitudes and habits that allow you to accomplish your mission
Your mission, vision, and core values are not part of your Strategic Messaging. They are elements of internal language that help you define “who you are,” which is the first leg of the Communication Triangle.
We find churches that have established their Mission, Vision, and Core Values have a much easier time crafting their message to those they want to reach. (We offer mission, vision, and core values consultation, as does our strategic partner, Replicate, whom we can’t recommend highly enough!)
What is a Church Mission Statement?
A church mission statement is the unchangeable calling or pursuit that we are on as a church. Many church mission statements sound like the Great Commision, and they should!
Your mission statement is at the very core of who you are. If it feels high and lofty, that’s okay. The Great Commission is, too. This is the statement that compels us. It defines WHAT we do.
To get started, it might help to ask yourself certain questions. What specific purpose makes your heart ache with desire? What is your heartbeat as a church or a ministry? Jot down your thoughts. Get everything on the page. Then look for your core themes and craft one statement. This statement should be something that your members can easily remember and recite.
Your mission statement should be clear and compelling. As a church or ministry, your purpose is ordained by God. That should automatically make your mission statement big and motivating.
As you begin to craft your mission statement, we found a list of examples to get you started.
Vision Statement vs. Mission Statement: What’s the Difference?
While your mission is a large statement that compels you, a vision statement is more specific. Imagine a long road leading to a specific destination. Your mission is to reach the destination. But there are some obstacles in the way—some twists and turns to navigate. Your vision statement will help you navigate those twists and turns to accomplish your mission.
A vision statement defines HOW your ministry or church operates. It takes you from where you are to where you want to go.
Your vision statement should be specific and tangible. This is the sum of your goals boiled down to one statement. But to get there, brainstorm through more questions. Start with these examples inspired by Rick Warren’s excellent book, The Purpose Driven Church.
- How do you go about evangelism?
- What does pastoral care look like?
- How do you disciple your members?
- How do you encourage and equip people to serve?
- What does worship look like?
Your church most likely covers each of these topics in some regard. Use your key strategies to help form a statement that casts vision for how to accomplish your mission. Less is more. Focus on your major vision here and what you specifically do best.
Let’s look at the Church of the Highlands vision statement. They exist to help people:
- Know God (evangelism)
- Find Freedom (pastoral care)
- Discover Their Purpose (discipleship)
- Make a Difference (service)
You might ask, “What about worship?” In this case—and in many others—worship doesn’t have a specific mention in the vision statement because it is expressed throughout the other four points of the vision statement.
Crafting Your Core Values
During your brainstorming, you’ll most likely notice patterns and recurring themes. Go back through your notes and look for repeated words or phrases. Talk to team members and walk them through everything you’ve thought through so far. Ask what they’re hearing again and again. These recurring themes are most likely your core values.
Like the definitions of mission and vision statements, the definition of core values may change depending on who you ask. For the purposes of this article, we are going to define core values as “principles that are active and obvious in your culture.” Meaning, people inside and outside of your church could probably tell you what your core values are because they see and experience them every time they walk in the doors of your church or ministry.
We want these words and values to be language that people who haven’t visited can clearly understand.
When we walk churches through defining their Core Values, we go through a lengthy conversation where we ask for their story. Then we go through what we refer to as our expansion and contraction process. We write down everything we hear. Then, we contract this list down to piles and groups in order to hone in on specific key words for your church or ministry.
But ultimately, your Core Values need to lean into language your people already understand and resonate with. For example, one church plant had a weekly remote set-up and teardown. The drummer was always the last person to leave because it took a long time for him to take down his drum kit and load it in the truck.
His kit was on a platform. One week, the audio engineer said, “Let’s just put wheels on the drum platform. Then, we can roll it on the truck without taking down the drum kit.”
“Put wheels on it” became one of their core values. For all practical purposes, it meant “Innovation.” But “innovation” didn’t feel as viscerally part of the church as “put wheels on it” did. It stuck because it was part of who they already had become.
These key words drive everything. They drive environment. They drive culture. They drive your staff. And they drive your members.
It’s important to note that Core Values are not aspirational. We need aspirational values and goals, especially since we always want to be growing and improving as believers in Christ. However, your ministry’s core values are definitive. They currently exist. We’ll go back to our definition for a moment:they are active and known.
Putting it All Together
If you were to sit down with a focus group of people from your community who are familiar with your church but don’t attend there, what would they say about you? If you were to share your mission, vision, and core values, would the words be in a language they understand?
Would someone on the street be able to give you a positive definition of the word “evangelism,” or even know what you mean? Probably not. But if you told people you want them to know God, that’s language they would understand. Your mission, vision, and core values help people know what to expect and what you hope to accomplish as a church or ministry.
However, your mission, vision, and core values language are not typically how you invite people to church (that’s what our Branding process is for). But when people seek to understand who you are as a church, you’ll want to make sure your mission, vision, and core values make sense to people who don’t yet speak “church.”
Does Your Church Need Help Defining Your Mission, Vision, and Core Values?
As ministry leaders, we want our words to mean something and be understood by people both inside and outside our ministry. We want our mission statement, vision statement, and core values to energize and motivate our teams and our members.
Above all, we want the gospel spread and our churches to be effective at reaching people with the good news of Jesus Christ. The more we clarify our mission, vision, and core values, the more effective and unified we will be at accomplishing the Great Commission.
If you need help solidifying your mission, vision, and core values, we’d love to help. You can schedule a 30-minute consultation by filling out the form below.