Here are a few considerations for developing the three major strategic statements I’ve previously described (values, mission, vision) and some suggestions for how you can discern them in a God-honouring way that is faithful to your Christian identity. (Here are the CCCC strategic statements.)
Values should be assessed on two levels. First there are the biblical values that should be present in every Christian ministry and then there are the other values held by the people called to serve together in one particular ministry.
As an example of biblical values that might apply to your ministry, in The Church At Work I developed four biblical values related to relationships between ministries (the book’s subject):
- Love – In John 13:34-35 Jesus commanded his followers to love one another and Paul affirms it in Romans 12:10;
- Order – From Genesis to Revelation, we see that God is a God of order, not confusion. Paul’s instruction in 1 Corinthians 14:40 and 12:16 is that “Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way….Live in harmony with one another;”
- Unity – Our God is one, and he is Lord of all. Christ is not divided and neither should his church be divided (Ephesians 4:4-6 and 1 Corinthians 1:13); and
- Voluntary mutual submission – We see voluntary mutual submission modeled in the life of Jesus in John 13:5-10 (who made himself a servant to his own followers) and made explicit by Paul in Ephesians 5:21.
These values suggest a strategy of collaboration, consultation, and coordination with other ministries. Your Bible study could lead to a different set of values that are significant to your ministry. All biblical values apply to your ministry, but some are especially significant to your ministry’s work and should become your organizational values. Whatever you do, don’t try to make every value an organizational value or you’ll just have a list of platitudes. Every ministry is expected to be honest, so unless lack of honesty has been a problem for your ministry, don’t include it.
Your particular corporate values can be developed by asking people associated with your ministry (past and present) what they think the corporate values are. You might ask staff what would cause them to raise or lower their pride in being associated with your ministry as a way of discovering the ministry’s key values. Here’s how I’ve asked about our CCCC values in the current survey:
We believe that before God has called CCCC to do something, he has called us first to be a Christian ministry. How we do our work is arguably more important in God’s eyes than the actual work we do. So before we get to God’s purpose for CCCC, we’re going to explore the Christian values that we live by. As an example, I believe that we must demonstrate just as much care for the smallest ministry as we do for the largest. Jesus paid attention to everyone, and so must we.
This is one question, but I will ask it several different ways to help you think about values from different angles:
– What values or aspects of CCCC would you NOT be willing to sacrifice for the sake of our mission and identity?
– What would you not give up regardless of what changes in society?
– What would you not give up even if we were penalized for holding those values, or were put at a disadvantage because of them?
– Which corporate values would you keep even if they produced no tangible benefit for CCCC?
Here’s how we developed our values for CCCC in the current strategic review.
Vision and mission come out of your understanding of God’s purpose for your ministry. The starting place for discerning that purpose is to ask how people came to be associated with your ministry, since God calls people, not organizations. Ask them how your ministry fits their own personal call to ministry and their answers will provide clues to God’s intentions for the ministry. This information provides insight and context as you develop the strategic statements.
But be careful how you ask about a personal call because not everyone has had that experience. You don’t want them to feel devalued or second-class. They are faithfully serving the Lord as much as someone who has experienced a specific call. Here’s how I asked it in the survey given to staff, directors and corporate members:
For most people, their association with CCCC began because they felt they had gifts to contribute to a Christian ministry that they cared about. Some may have felt that their association fit well with a pre-existing call of God on their lives, or a call that was discerned when they discovered CCCC. If you have a story to tell related to a sense of personal call to the ministry of CCCC, please share it.
I asked this question of the four senior leaders: myself (CEO since 2003), my predecessor Frank Luellau (the first employee and executive director from 1983 – 2003), Ken Dick, board chair from 1978 – 1985 (when it was mostly a working board), and our founder Ian Stanley (board chair 1972 – 1978). I also asked all current staff, board and corporate members, and as many former board members as I could locate.
Here’s how we developed our Statement of Call.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Vision or mission? Normally we expect to start with a goal (the vision) and then develop a means of achieving that goal (the mission). But when God calls people in the Bible, he calls them either to do a task (Paul to proclaim Christ to the gentiles – Acts 9:15) or to fulfill a role (eg. Jeremiah as a prophet Jer 1:5). I can’t think of anyone called to fulfill a vision. I do know that when strategic planning starts, the priority at that point is the vision – the ultimate good you want to make real.
In practice, however, developing your mission and vision statements will likely be an iterative process. You may start with one, which will shape the other. But then you start working on the other, and you start to refine whichever you started with. It’s a back and forth process. Don’t get hung up on the order – just get it done!
I asked the mission question this way in our survey:
Here we get to the heart of what we are to do. To fulfill God’s vision and purpose for CCCC, what is our specific mission? The following questions (from What to Ask the Person in the Mirror) will help us discern our mission:
– Why do you work or volunteer with CCCC? When you could invest your time elsewhere, why do you invest it here? What do you love about CCCC?
– What would you like to tell your grandchildren or extended family about why you served at CCCC for such a long period of your life?
– What would you like CCCC to look like in ten years? What would you hope to say that it accomplished?
– What are the distinctive competencies of CCCC? What would the world lose if it did not exist?
– Do you think God had any specific intentions for how we would operate, or any conditions that he has set as boundaries? If so, please let us know what you think they are.
– We would like to know what your hopes and dreams are for the future of CCCC. What are your aspirations for CCCC? What hopes and dreams do you have for it?
Here’s the history of how a mission statement was drafted for CCCC.
A vision statement always propels us towards the ideal. It should be aspirational, evocative and highly emotional. Upon reading it, people should be inspired to join your cause (or at least say “That’s a great mission!”). A good vision statement will prevent the mission from being watered down to something “more achievable.” It helps people not settle for anything less than the way it should be.
The vision needs to align both with whatever Scripture says that relates to your mission and vision, and also to your core values. It needs to align with the activity of the Holy Spirit in this world.
In our survey, we asked about vision this way:
We believe that the Lord led Ian Stanley and his six friends to found CCCC for God’s own purposes. That means that we exist as part of the Christian ministry community in Canada and that there is some particular way the Lord intends us to help the church fulfill its mission.
Given that we are a support to frontline ministries, can you describe the difference that you think God created us to make? Another way to think about this is, What is God’s vision for the state of Christian ministries in Canada that we will help him achieve?
What are you seeing that God is up to that affects CCCC? What shifts or trends do you see in Christian ministry that might affect our strategy?
Again, you can read about how we developed our vision statement.
Written in stone?
While your strategic statements should serve you well for many years at a time, your ministry is a like a living organism that responds to the continuing work and leadership of the Holy Spirit. Over time, aspects of your mission may be accomplished, so you move on to something else. Also over time, your staff and board gain more insight into the possibilities for what might be, and the vision could become more detailed or more expansive. A new or revised vision could cause a review of the mission, and the mission might be redefined, tightened up, or expanded to better fit the vision.
So don’t change your strategic statements every year, but do be willing to change them as circumstances warrant.