April 20, 2015—I have been surveying children’s ministry missions statements in preparation for some new courses (the majority of congregations surveyed don’t have one). I have been intrigued by the use of “mission statements” by children’s ministry programs in congregations. I’ve got mixed feelings about mission statements in general. As someone who has been involved in creating them in the corporate business setting and in congregational settings I’m skeptical that they are ever much more than an end product of the few who happened to participate in their creation. Soon the “mission statement” intended to be a guiding or defining force reflective of the entire organization becomes not much more than a pretty framed plaque or poster on the church foyer wall.
Congregations have a penchant for modeling corporate structures, processes, and products, so no self-respecting congregation will be without its mission statement today. But ask a group of randomly picked church members in those very congregations and I’m willing wager that most will not be able to tell you what the mission is or the statement says (and not a few will respond, “What mission statement? We have a mission statement?”).
Guy Kawasaki recommends that any organization seeking to create a mission statement will do as well as to use a Mission Statement Generator or here, as pay big bucks for a consultant to help your organization develop one. In the case of congregations, I concur: developing “mission statements” may not only be ineffective, but ultimately contrary to the nature of congregations as communities of faith. As a former seminary professor colleague is fond of saying, “The Church has only one mission, and that is God’s mission for the Church.” Communities are bound by covenants and by trust, not by contracts, dictates, or corporate mission statements. And, unlike corporations, communities are evolutionary and developmental. Unlike corporations, where what you get at the beginning is what you always get, communities must change (develop, adapt) or die. Therefore no mission statement will ever have much of a shelf life in a community of faith.
That said, the process of drafting your own congregational children’s ministry mission statement can be a fruitful exercise if it is done as a way to cultivate corporate values among those involved in the ministry. That is, done well, there may be more value in the process of creating the mission statement than in the final product.
Conduct your own online survey of congregations children’s ministry missions statements. Below are links to the samples from church websites. As you read through the mission statements you discover ask yourself:
*Can my congregation endorse that mission statement?
*Can I embrace the values in the mission statement?
*Is there a discernible theology that informs the mission statement?
*Does the mission statement seem unique to the congregation as a particular community of faith?
*Is the mission statement so generic as to be universal to any congregation and context?
*Does the mission statement hint at a particular educational philosophy?
Sample Mission Statements
Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning at Columbia Theological Seminary. Formerly, he was Dean at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. He is the author of the bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Leadership (Educational Consultants), and A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer and Don Reagan.
His books on Christian education include The Craft of Christian Teaching (Judson), How to be the Best Christian Study Group Leader (Judson), Planning for Christian Education Formation (Chalice), and A Christian Educator’s Book of Lists (S&H).