As a senior leader, you’ve invested a lot of time and effort in crafting your ministry’s strategic statement, but are you getting the maximum value from it? Strategic statements can do so much more than simply define what you do. They can enhance every aspect of your organization and transform it into a finely tuned ministry that is perfectly designed to be exactly what your mission needs it to be.
I’d like to share how you can unpack your ministry’s strategic statement and tap into its power for the benefit of your ministry. By unpacking, I mean plumbing the depths of the statement and exploring its implications, nuances, and the subcomponents that are necessary for mission fulfillment.
- If your ministry uses a policy governance model, as CCCC does, then your strategic statement is your End Statement.
- If you use another governance model, then you likely have two strategic statements: a vision statement that depicts the desired future you want to create and a mission statement that describes what your ministry will do to make the vision a reality.
For convenience, in this post, I will just call your strategic statement a mission statement.
Mission Statements: More Than Just a Catchphrase
Since June 2012, our End Statement has been CCCC members will be exemplary, healthy, and effective Christian ministries. This statement has guided us well over the years. As the senior leader, I have reflected long and hard on what it means. It has been a roadmap as I’ve written my blog Christian Leadership Reflections and as I’ve laid out ideas for program development.
But when I began two years ago to formally document what our End Statement means, I realized its true potential went well beyond our programs and services. As I unpacked its meaning, it became more and more exciting, inspiring, and even beautiful to me.
It was like a two-dimensional black-and-white photograph had suddenly become a three-dimensional full-colour sculpture!
Our End Statement grabbed hold of me and the CCCC staff in a new way as we engaged with it. We experienced a burst of creativity that resulted in the renewed organization we are today. New staff positions were created. Our infrastructure is being overhauled. Our branding changed, and so did our name. The changes were all shaped by our reflections on our End Statement. You can download our presentation CCCC End Statement Unpacked.
The Power of Mission Statements
Your mission statement is a rich resource, and unleashing its potential by unpacking it is really a matter of good stewardship. Here’s what your mission statement can do for your ministry.
The primary purpose of a mission statement is to give overall direction to the work of your ministry. You have almost certainly used your mission statement quite well for this purpose. It helps you make choices about what to do or not to do, and it defines what you are responsible for (that is, what you need to do to claim progress towards mission fulfillment).
For example, CCCC’s End Statement reminds us that we are not just a purveyor of information. Our responsibility does not end when we publish an article. Our responsibility extends to how members use what we publish. The onus is on us to produce content that is relevant, persuasive, and actionable. If members choose not to use our information, then that’s our fault and we need to fix what we produce to make it more relevant, persuasive, and actionable so our members will voluntarily choose to act on it.
Perhaps your mission statement says you will disciple Christians to become mature believers. But what exactly does discipling look like, and how can you tell when someone has a mature faith? A single statement cannot capture everything that is meant by it, so unpacking the statement will add clarity by defining its breadth and depth. The mission statement should be thought of as a shorthand way of expressing a much more complex description of the ministry’s purpose.
Our unpacked End Statement is a treasure trove of ideas for new content and new program development. Because it is so specific at a detailed level, it is easily actionable. It makes abstract words such as exemplary concrete. Having a full definition means we don’t start with a blank canvas on which to paint a picture of how we help Christian ministries. With the unpacked End Statement, the canvas already has a sketch on it. We can immediately grab a brush and some paint and get to work filling in the sketch.
The clearer your mission statement is, the more unity your staff and volunteers can have because everyone is being drawn to a shared understanding of the ministry’s high-level purpose and also, to a shared understanding of its detailed workings. Before you unpack the mission statement, your staff may be aligned at the 50,000-foot level on the overall mission and yet not be aligned on lower-level details. Unpacking your mission statement should bring alignment right down to street level.
Allow For Better Delegation
When all ministry personnel have a deep understanding of the mission, you can delegate responsibility with more confidence because they understand how their work fits in with everything else being done, and they can therefore make better decisions than they could if they didn’t have that awareness.
All mission statements should be motivational, especially in mission-driven organizations such as Christian ministries. But the statements will be far more motivational as people come to understand the details of the change your ministry wants to accomplish and how all the parts of your ministry work together to achieve the mission. Sometimes people read the mission statement but don’t recognize its implications and the magnitude or significance of what is to be accomplished. Unpacking the mission statement may impress people with the benefits attached to mission fulfillment that they had not thought of.
Protect from Mission Creep
When the words in your mission statement are not clearly defined, there is a good possibility that people may interpret them differently. Some interpretations may be quite narrow while others may be quite broad and expansive. Over time, the ministry’s understanding of its mission may begin to move away from its original focus. Changing your mission in response to changing times or circumstances is fine because it is an intentional change. But mission creep is unintentional. At some point the ministry will end up with a hodgepodge of programs, a loss of focus, and a dilution of resources.
A clearly defined mission statement will make it easy to determine how a new program idea does or does not fit the mission. Remember, the mission statement must accurately reflect and stay within the parameters of your ministry’s charitable purpose, objects, and activities.
Set the Stage for Branding
Your mission statement connects with your brand because both are closely connected with your ministry’s identity. As you understand more about the change you want to make in the world outside your organization, you will need to think about how you want outsiders to experience your ministry. What brand persona would be most helpful to your mission? Based on your mission, what is your brand story?
A deep dive into our End Statement crystallized for us the relationship we want to have with our members. We had previously seen ourselves as supporters of our members, but now we see ourselves more specifically as a guide and ally in a caring relationship with them. “Caring” became one of our brand pillars, and our Brand Story features our supportive role as a guide. The brand story was converted into a short video called How We Fit into Your Story, which you can view here.
The deeper knowledge you gain about your mission will be very useful in your marketing and fundraising messaging. It will help you tell a compelling story about the impactful work your ministry does.
CCCC took its deeper understanding of its End Statement and used it to make a short video to help our members and prospective members understand the role we play in their ministry and see that our programs and services are not just a collection of independent resources but are connected by a clear logic that will help them become an ever more successful ministry. You can view the video Our Journey Together here.
I must add that developing the content and courses that will help our members become ever more exemplary, heatlthy, and effective Christian ministries is a process that we are just beginning to develop. Over time, members will find resources being released that will help them on their journey.
Identify Topics to Research
When you have defined the success factors behind each of your mission statement elements, you will have a list of topics to research so your ministry can become expert in how best to pursue these aspects of its mission.
An example from our End Statement is that a healthy Christian ministry needs great Christian leadership, which means that its leaders must model Christian spirituality in the workplace. CCCC therefore researched and reflected on Christian spirituality in the context of both leadership and organizational life so we could help ministry leaders develop their spirituality in the workplace.
When you document what you’ve discovered about your mission, you can more easily and quickly orient new staff and directors to the richness of your mission. The documentation can help staff more quickly identify opportunities to fill gaps between what the mission needs and what the ministry is currently doing.
CCCC has worked our unpacked End Statement into both our board and staff orientation programs.
Redesign the Organization and Its Infrastructure
Every part of your organization can take the unpacked mission statement and determine what changes, if any, should be made to better support the mission.
Some of the changes made by CCCC related to our unpacked End Statement were mentioned above.
How to Release Your Mission Statement’s Power
The way CCCC unpacked its End Statement worked very well for us, and you are welcome to use it. If you download the presentation CCCC End Statement Unpacked, you will be able to follow along as we go through the steps.
The steps are as follows:
1. Identify Component Parts
Break the statement into its component parts, isolating each word or phrase that contains a single idea. The meaning of some parts may seem self-evident and not worth exploring any further. We had some like that: “CCCC members” seems clear at face value, as does “will be.” But we unpacked those terms anyway and found, despite their apparent obviousness, that they still contained more nuances than we thought and led to some rich insights for our strategy.
We broke our End Statement into six components:
- CCCC members
- will be
- Christian (ministries)
2. Define the Components
Write out what the components mean to your ministry. We researched the literature on how these terms relate to organizational life. For example, What makes an organization healthy? There’s a lot of research into that question to help us understand the term more deeply and design CCCC and our programs accordingly. Even a simple term like “CCCC members” brought to our attention in a fresh way that our influence extends well beyond our paid membership with implications for marketing and the need for some à la carte products and services.
As examples, here’s how we define two of our components:
- Will be: We expect members to steadily progress towards becoming exemplary, healthy, and effective Christian ministries. This definition means we are not expecting a ministry to fulfill our End Statement in an instant. We expect a gradual process to move the ministry forward at a steady pace.
- Exemplary: The organization provides a compelling witness to the Christian way of being, which means they exhibit commendable conduct and deliberately act as a model to be imitated. Our definition means that merely doing things well is not good enough for being exemplary as a Christian ministry. Ministries should show the world that Christians do things very well and that our way of life works in real-life situations. If the world is going to criticize us, it should only be because of our faith, not any sloppy practices.
3. State the Success Factors
These describe what must be true for the component to be achieved. Research and reflect on each component so the success factors add further definition to what the component means in practice.
For the same two components I used as examples above, here are the success factors:
Will be. This component has two parts: 1) when our End Statement will be achieved; and 2) how long that achievement will endure.
- When? There will be progressive thresholds for each term in the End Statement based on how long a ministry has been a member since our Organizational Tune-Up program has been launched (a future event at this time), with attention paid to the pace and comprehensiveness of the changes a ministry takes as it proceeds through the “becoming” process.
- How long? A member’s achievement must not be momentary in time but endure in spite of board/staff turnover and external circumstances. The member’s ability to meet the elements of our End Statement must become part of the organization’s DNA so that the condition of being an exemplary, healthy, and effective Christian ministry is independent of people and circumstances.
Exemplary. This component has four success factors.
- An impeccable way of being. There should be no basis for criticizing the ministry based on its operations.
- Follows best practices. Christian ministries should be at least as good as their secular counterparts and be up to date in their field of work.
- Is intellectually creative. Good stewardship demands that we not just “do” but that we think about what we do so we can do it better.
- Is a trailblazer in its field. If the ministry is growing in resources (that is, becoming healthier), has researched its field of ministry, and is intellectually creative in applying its knowledge, then our hope is that it will not feel the pressure to do what everyone else is doing but will take the risk of forging its own path to mission fulfillment.
4. Establish Indicators of Success
List the indicators for each success factor. Here are the indicators for two of the success factors for being an exemplary ministry:
Impeccable way of being:
- Integrity aligns throughout the organization. The entire organization is designed to work together in unity to fulfill the ministry’s mission.
- Excellence permeates everything the organization is and does. No part of the organization should damage the reputation of the ministry. We are working for Jesus Christ and giving him our very best.
- Clear, underpinning logic connects the ministry’s activities to its mission. The ministry should weed out anything it does that does not contribute to achieving the ministry’s mission or keeping the organization healthy so it can continue to fulfill its mission.
- Rigorous organizational and program evaluation. Good stewardship requires evaluation as part of our accountability to God and our supporters.
- Public accountability for impact. As stewards of an organization and its mission, leaders must be willing to demonstrate that the ministry is able to make changes for the better in the world outside the organization.
- Theoretical and evidence-based research. Rather than working on assumptions, ministries should ensure their activities are based on a solid understanding of their field of work.
- Exploratory and experimental mindset. Ministries can become irrelevant, and then obsolete, if they do not stay open to changes in methodology. They should have an intentional plan for becoming aware of ways of conducting their ministry and then trying them out.
- Thought leaders advancing their fields of knowledge and practice. If a ministry is researching its field and experimenting with new ways of fulfilling its mission, then it should have expertise to share with others. Being a true thought leader is relatively rare, but if leaders hold it as an aspiration, they and their ministries will be better off than otherwise because they will be thinking deeply about their mission.
5. Define the Success Indicators
For each success indicator, dig deeper to define how it can be observed. Here is one sample definition from the “Impeccable way of being” factor in Step 4:
“Integrity aligns throughout” means the organization is above reproach and every facet of the organization is precisely tuned to achieve mission results.
And here is another sample definition from the other success factor in Step 4 (Intellectually creative):
“Theoretical and evidence-based research” means the staff are up to date in their fields and are engaged in continuous learning.
6. Set Measurements
Finding a way to measure your progress on each of the success indicators is essential to knowing how well you are accomplishing your mission; however, measurement is beyond the scope of this already lengthy post. I will write about measurement in a later post, but I have partially addressed the topic in The Measure of Our Success and What to do with hard to measure mission statements.
When You’re Done Unpacking
Once you are done unpacking your mission statement, compare the new and more detailed definition of your mission with your current programs and services and identify opportunities to close programs that don’t fit the mission, add new ones that do, and tweak existing programs that need to more closely align with your mission.
Finally, have every part of your organization, from human resources to administration to IT, develop proposals for how they could better support the mission.
Unpacking your mission statement is one of the best investments of time a leader can make. It will be a gift to the organization and to your staff and volunteers and create the conditions in which you can move forward on mission fulfillment faster than you might think.
CCCC members can discuss this post here.