As a senior leader, you’ve invested a lot of time and effort in crafting your ministry’s mission statement (or End statement, if you use policy governance), but are you getting the maximum value from it? Mission 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 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 for mission fulfillment.

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:

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The Power of Mission Statements

Your ministry’s 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.

Give Direction

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. It’s our fault if members choose not to use our information and 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 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.

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 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 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 ground 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.

Increase Motivation

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 benefits attached to mission fulfillment 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, though, the mission statement must accurately reflect and stay within the parameters of your ministry’s charitable purpose and objects.

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 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 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 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. We show that our programs and services are not just a collection of independent resources but are connected by a clear logic that will help our members 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, 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 mission, you can more easily and quickly orient new staff and directors to the richness of your mission. 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.

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 the same process. If you download the presentation CCCC End Statement Unpacked, you will be able to follow along as I review the steps, which are:

1. Identify the Component Parts of the Mission

Break the mission 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 component parts:

  1. CCCC members
  2. will be
  3. exemplary
  4. healthy
  5. effective
  6. Christian (ministries)

CCCC calls the last four of these components the Pillars of a well-run organization. We want these Pillars to be true of CCCC just as much as we want them to be true of members.

  • Exemplary, Healthy, and Effective were derived from literature related to leadership, management, and organizational success and failure.
  • The fourth Pillar, Christian, is a necessary Pillar given the Christian identity of our members.

2. Define the Components

Write out what the components mean to your ministry. If your ministry is a church and your mission statement says you will evangelize or be a community that, define those terms so there is no misunderstanding as to what they mean. For example, Who will evangelize – pastors, or everyone in the congregation? If everyone, what does everyone mean – every adult, or kids too? Does your community include members only or does it include regular attendees who are adherents but not members? What about repeat but irregular attendees who have no church home? The definitions you give to your mission statement are extremely helpful for guiding how your ministry will operate.

CCCC researched the literature on how our components relate to organizational life and work, whether of a secular or a religious organization. For example, What makes an organization healthy? There’s a lot of research into that question to help us understand more specifically what we want our members to have more of. 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 three of our components:

  • Will be: We expect members to steadily progress towards becoming ever more exemplary, healthy, and effective Christian ministries. This definition means we are not expecting a ministry to fulfill our End statement in an instant. Our End statement is not a standard to comply with but an aspiration to be achieved over time.
  • Exemplary: An exemplary ministry provides a compelling example of an organization operating with excellence in its life and work. This definition says that a ministry should not just be exemplary in how it runs its programs but should also be exemplary in how it operates as an organization. In fact, it should be so exemplary that anyone observing the ministry would be persuaded that they should operate in the same way.
  • Healthy: A healthy ministry is well-resourced with an ongoing flow of people, money, and strategy so it is indefinitely sustainable and primed for growth. There are many other factors that make an organization healthy, but these are what CCCC considers the top-level ones. Organizational culture, for example, is extremely important, but we placed it under the People category of organizational health.

3. State the Core Attributes of Each Component

Reflect on the work you’ve done on your mission statement and identify the core attributes of each component. An attribute is a quality, feature, or characteristic that is an important part of a person or thing.1 This step is about describing the effects that each component of your mission statement will have outside of your organization.

If part of your mission is to prepare young adults to serve the church and the world, then the attributes will describe what that preparation needs to build in young adults. The attributes of an adult who serves the church and the world could include volunteerism, other-centredness, and generosity.

Here are the core attributes CCCC defined for the Exemplary part of our End statement:

  1. Impeccable. The ministry has an impeccable way of being. Every part of the ministry’s organization is precisely designed to fulfill the ministry’s mission with excellence.
  2. Best Practices. A ministry’s organizational life and work are models for best practices.
  3. Intellectual Creativity. The ministry researches, experiments, innovates, and advances its field of knowledge for the good of the Christian cause.
  4. Trailblazing. The ministry is visionary, bold, and innovative, confidently finding its own way to be relevant and practical in pursuing its mission.

4. Establish and Define Observable Indicators for Each Attribute

List and define the indicators that demonstrate each core attribute is present. These indicators will likely be what you measure to prove how well your mission is progressing.

Here are the indicators CCCC developed for two of the core attributes of an exemplary ministry:


  • Core Logic. A defined core logic model governs all activities of the ministry. Every activity clearly advances the mission and is designed based on the best mission-related research and wisdom.
  • Integrity. Integrity aligns every aspect of the organization with its identity and purpose. It is above reproach. Every facet of the organization is precisely tuned to achieve mission results
  • Excellence. Excellence permeates the organization. The ministry consistently achieves superior performance in all aspects of organizational life and work. It is highly regarded for pursuing its mission with the best knowledge and practices available.
  • Accountability. There is public accountability for impact. The ministry welcomes scrutiny and makes scrutiny easy.

Intellectual Creativity

  • Research-Based. The ministry uses theoretical and evidence-based research. It is up to date in its field and is continuously learning.
  • Exploratory & Experimental. The ministry is exploratory and experimental in its mindset. It is willing to accept risks, is creative and curious, and finds inspiration in multidisciplinary areas across industries and sectors.
  • Thought Leader. The ministry is a thought leader advancing its fields of knowledge and practice. It shares what it knows with other ministries to allow testing and perfecting of its ideas for the good of all.

5. 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 have addressed aspects of 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. 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.

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