Over the past several months I have had the opportunity to review a lot of mission statements for churches. As their coach and consultant my role is to help them identify where God is leading them as a church or as an individual developing their professional ministry. I have noticed more mission statements that read more like mottos, slogans, or tag lines. I have also noticed that many church members can recite these statements, just like they would an advertising slogan. I typically communicate this to my clients this way:  “Your mission statement resonates more with people as a motto for your church rather than describing your mission. Many people remember it, it’s catchy, but when asked about what it means or how your church carries out ministry, people struggle connecting the mission statement with the work of their church.” Since we’re always looking to affirm and build on the positives in a church, I try not to make this evaluation sound too harsh of course.

A motto is defined this way: A maxim adopted as an expression of the guiding principle of a person, organization, or city. A sentence, phrase, or word expressing the spirit or purpose of a person, organization, city, and often inscribed on a badge, banner, etc.

The word mission is defined this way: An assigned or self-imposed duty or task; calling; vocation. A sending or being sent for some duty or purpose. Those sent.

See the difference? A motto is an expression. A mission is an assignment. We were given a mission, an assignment, by Christ to go and make disciples. Certainly there are expressions of how this happens in churches all over the world. But mission statements should not just be an expression, effective mission statements communicate the assignment, the calling, the task, and duty.

To change a mission statement is unsettling to some, given the amount of work many churches put in to creating mission statements, printing them on materials, and making banners to hang in their church. But the tension really comes when church members have a catchy mission statement, that is really a motto. They know the words, as an expression, but they don’t know their assignments and how that mission statement is carried out. They don’t clearly see they are sent, with an assignment, on a mission. So just like the image here, the words on the page become fuzzy, it’s not really clear what to do with them.

Read through your current mission statement. Is it a catchy phrase, that everyone knows and looks good on banners and signs in your church? Does is accurately define your assignment? Your duty? Your purpose?

Is your mission statement an expression or an assignment for your church?