the untapped power of your  mission  statement
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash PD: Someone holding an electrical cord with the plug near, but not in, the wall power outlet.
This entry is part 13 of 18 in the series Faithful Strategy Development.

I refer to mission statements throughout this post, but I’m not referring to the traditional mission statement that describes how your ministry will fulfill its purpose; in other words, a statement that describes a ministry’s activities. That is ‘mission’ in its narrow sense. ‘Mission’ in its broad sense is about what a ministry exists to accomplish, and the vision (or end statement) is the better description of what that is. Think of the vision (or end statement in a policy governance environment) as a top-level mission statement. If a ministry has only a traditional mission statement, they would greatly benefit by creating either a vision statement or an end statement.

Mission Statements Are Packed with Benefits

As a senior leader, you’ve invested a lot of time and effort in crafting your ministry’s top-level mission statement, but are you getting the maximum value from it? A top-level mission statement can do so much more than simply define what you aim to achieve. It 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 top-level mission 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 to make the end goal a reality. Understanding your mission at such a deep level is immensely helpful when doing a strategic review of your ministry

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 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 (below) to see what we did. Please note: as of May 2023 we are still working on refining how we define the meaning of our End Statement, so this isn’t the final version.

Download presentation

The Power of Mission Statements

Your ministry’s top-level strategic statement is a rich resource, and unleashing its potential by unpacking it is really a matter of good stewardship. Here’s what your super-charged mission statement can do for your ministry.

Give Direction

The primary purpose of a strategic statement is to give overall direction to the work of your ministry. You have almost certainly used your strategic 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 vision 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. It’s our fault if members choose not to use our information. If that were the case, we would need to fix what we produce to make it more relevant, persuasive, and actionable so our members will decide to act on it.

Add Clarity

Perhaps your strategic 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 statement should be thought of as a shorthand way of expressing a much more complex description of the ministry’s purpose.

CCCC’s 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.

Foster Unity

The clearer, more detailed, your strategic 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 its detailed workings. Before you unpack the statement, your staff may be aligned at the 50,000-foot level on the overall goal to be achieved and yet not be aligned on lower-level details. Unpacking your strategic statement should bring alignment right down to ground level.

Allow For Better Delegation

When all ministry personnel have a deep understanding of the strategic statement’s goal and its nuances, you can delegate responsibility with more confidence because they understand how their work fits in with everything else being done, and they can make better decisions than they could if they didn’t have that awareness.

Increase Motivation

All strategic 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 fulfill the ministry’s purpose. Sometimes people read the strategic statement but don’t recognize its implications and the magnitude or significance of what is to be accomplished. Unpacking the statement may impress people with benefits attached to fulfilling the strategic goal they had not thought of.

Protect from Mission Creep

When the words in your top-level strategic 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 purpose may begin to move away from its original focus. Changing your purpose 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 strategic statement will make it easy to determine how a new program idea does or does not fit the ministry’s purpose. However, when you change a strategic statement you must remember to stay within the parameters of your ministry’s charitable purpose and objects that the Charities Directorate has approved.

Set the Stage for Branding

Your strategic 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 CCCC’s 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 persona pillars, and our brand story features our supportive role as a guide. The detailed, written brand story was converted into a short video called How We Fit into Your Story, which you can view here.

Clarify Messaging

The deeper knowledge you gain about your purpose 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 that our programs and services are not just a collection of independent resources but are connected to something much bigger, helping them develop a thriving organization that is a great platform for their ministry to operate from. We have a clear logic to everything we do that will help our members become an ever more successful ministry. We want our members to think big about their organizations. 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, healthy, 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 core attributes related to each of your mission statement elements (see below for how to do this), 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 CCCC’s 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.

Save Time

When you document what you’ve discovered about your purpose, you can more easily and quickly orient new staff and directors to the richness of your work. This documentation can help staff 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.

Download discussion guide


For detailed guidance with examples for how to unpack your mission statement, see the post How To Release Your Mission Statement’s Power.

CCCC members can discuss this post here.

Series Navigation<< How Far Out Is Your Planning Horizon?How to Release Your Mission Statement’s Power >>

Sign up for Christian Leadership Reflections today!

An exploration of Christian ministry leadership led by CCCC's CEO John Pellowe