Friday, November 13, 2009

A Mission Statement

Jerry McGuire created one, it got him fired.  His was controversial and meaningful enough that people cared not only enough to read it, but to respond. 

I recently read a great article about mission statements.  In it, the author talked about how lame most mission statements are.  They are huge, unwieldy and communicate nothing to people who are not already in “the club.”  Will Mancini in his blog, talks about how this affects churches.  It seems like every church wants to communicate Rick Warren’s 5 Purposes of the Purpose Driven Church into their mission statement.  So churches either have all of these huge statements about Fellowship, Discipleship, Worship, Ministry and Mission all sounding to the unchurched the way that a big corporate mission statement talking about the “integrating of infrastructures, and the synergy of economically incorporated networks” sound to me. 

It’s all “blah blah blah”.  So the question is, how can our mission statement mean anything to us and to the people that we are in the midst of?  How can it set the tone of what we are doing and the way that people experience it?  How can it inspire us to do what is originally important to us and not get distracted to try and do everything and be everything to everyone? 

It makes me imagine that while every church seems to have a mission statement that they communicate.  Every church also has a functional Mission Understanding.  By this I mean that for many churches that I have seen, the mission statement really changes little to nothing of what they are doing, it doesn’t inspire the creation of anything new and it doesn’t limit the distractions, it just is.  However, each of these churches do have a Philosophical Functional Mission Understanding, a usually unspoken set of priorities that they live by.  So while their mission statement might include the 5 purposes, their understanding is summed up better by: “we continue to do the programs that got us to where we are and strive to do better.”  Nobody would every say this out loud, but it ends up being the theme by how visions are cast.  This is why, to me, making a mission statement is usually a waste of time. 

I have been in tons of meetings talking about statements and the semantics of how we can communicate what we are about.  I have spoken up often to say: “it is a waste of time to do this if we don’t allow this statement to change or modify who we are.”  It makes no sense to me to change your mission statement so that you can continue to do what you are doing anyway. 

This is why the 5 purposes are so popular.  ANYTHING that a church does can be jammed under one of those headings.  It is also a way of trying to define and rationalize what you are already doing as important.  Then you can say: this massive children’s program that we threw together fulfills the role of worship and fellowship.  So it is worth doing. 

Over 15 years ago, the term BHAG or Big Hairy Audacious Goal was coined by Collins and Porras.  Their intention was to stop making weak, all-inclusive mission statements and to have a goal that people would work toward.  They theorized that people work harder and more effectively when the goal is big, but also quantifiable. 

Lublin in her article says: Microsoft came up with probably the most well-known BHAG, "A computer on every desk and in every home, all running Microsoft software." Amazon has a great one for its Kindle, too: "Every book ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds."

Google’s Mission Statement is: “to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

These goals are all huge.  They are all unbelievably big.  I imagine that they were all suggested and they laughed at a bit due to the size and scope of the ambition. 

Of course I don’t know the inside stories of these huge companies, but I imagine that you write software differently and market it differently if you believe that potentially it could be on every computer in the world.  I imagine that you design and work with the kindle differently if you know that you need to get the rights to digitize every book, and translate them to any language. 

The Kindle statement and the Google one both mean more to me in the church world.  Both of those companies are dealing with information that doesn’t belong to them, that they did not create, but they are trying to make it accessible to everyone everywhere.  I am not fooled into believing that either of these companies is doing this because of the information, or for the  people who will receive the information, they are doing it for power and profit. 

Hillside Church does not own the Gospel, but we can communicate it any way that we want to.  Our business will be helping people make their own relationship with Jesus through the communication of the Gospel.  Obviously quantifying the statement is difficult.  I don’t like to be a numbers guy. 

But here is what I need to do:  I need to create a BHAG that states a goal that is… Big, Quantifiable, inspirational, it needs to be a goal that will inspire me, and one that I can lead with.  It doesn’t need to say how, but it needs to communicate what we need to accomplish.

Let me try this one out:

“The Gospel of Jesus communicated through Action to every person in the Maryville/Lake Stevens Area.”

I’m going to think about that one for a bit and get back to it.

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