In this episode of  “101 Questions Church Planters Ask”, host Danny Parmelee asks the question, “How do I write a mission and vision statement?” and “What should be included in core values or culture statements?”

Many church planters are required to have a mission statement, vision statement and core values list as part of a prospectus or ministry plan.  Or if you’ve taken classes in Church Planting, this was probably one of the early assignments.  For churches and businesses this is so routine that oftentimes it becomes some words in a business plan or a plaque on the wall.  

The process and use of these can really help guide the church plant, so my hope is that for you it becomes more than just an exercise of empty platitudes.

Having clearly defined mission, vision, and values is especially important as a young church start up because people want to know what you are all about and if that aligns with who they are and what they want to contribute to.  

Even as you’re raising financial support, supporters want to know what you’re all about.  I want to start out with a few definitions, as many times I hear planters using some of these terms interchangeably. While there is crossover, they are different. Knowing these differences will also help you in the writing process.

A Mission statement is all about what you DO.  Who you serve and how you do it.  

Think about your mission statement as the here and now.  

If for example you are an after school tutoring program your mission statement could be something like “We serve underprivileged children by providing high quality teaching and tutoring.”

My example identifies who we are serving and what we do.

A Vision statement is all about the future and a preferred reality.  

 This is what you hope to accomplish. You should never really accomplish your vision statement…or if you do, then write a new or larger one. So lets take a different example and say that you are a nonprofit or ministry that installs wells and water purification.  Your mission statement might be “We provide high quality wells and water purification systems to rural villages in Ethiopia.” Your vision statement could be, “Bring pure and accessible drinking water to every family in Ethiopia.”  

So you see that is pretty audacious of a vision statement, but let’s just say that your ministry reaches that vision: then you just expand it to more countries or add something like “Bring pure water and affordable housing.”

The main thing I’m wanting you to differentiate is to understand that mission is the here and now and what you actually do and the vision statement is what it COULD  look like if you lived out our mission to its highest degree. 

So now let’s get more specific to your church plants mission statement.  Well I have some excellent news for you….your mission statement has already been given to you.  Not just pulling a Jesus Juke here but sincerely your mission should be the same as every church around the world and the same as your great great great grandfather’s mission statement from his church.   I really want to emphasize this only because I have seen so many planters and churches get this wrong.  The mission is the same.  In Matthew 28:18 Jesus said “Go Make Disciples of all Nations”.   So there you have it.  When your mission statement diverts from this is where I believe you can get into trouble.

So for example, if your church’s mission statement is “We will love the people of xyz city,”  I think that it falls short of the great commission.  I think its really important to love people and is even a key ingredient in making disciples, but in my opinion falls short.  Here’s an actual mission statement that I pulled from the web.  I won’t give the churches name but here is what it says:  “To create a radically inclusive, just and loving community mobilized to alleviate suffering and break the cycles of poverty and marginalization” 

Some great stuff in this mission statement but it misses the mark of having people come to faith in Christ and be discipled. 

Now I’m not saying that you have to use the exact words from Matthew 28:18-20: Not at all.  I think there are creative ways to communicate or “repackage”, if you will, the great commission.  I think the easiest way to start this process is to understand that the great commission has two main components to it.  Evangelism and Discipleship.  The church has the responsibility to proclaim the gospel.  That is our “Go”  and the “Make disciples” or “teaching them to obey”  That life long process of sanctification.  

I posted on Facebook and Instagram inviting followers to send in their examples. 

One of the submissions I received was from  Christian Fellowship Free Church in Chicago, IL.  There’s a couple things I really appreciate about their Mission Statement.  First, they actually put Matthew 28:18-20 right under their statement.  Cleary they align with my stance that all churches have been given their marching orders.  Their mission statement captured both the Evangelism and Discipleship components of the great commission.  Their mission statement is Becoming Christlike…Proclaiming Christ.   (Personally I would reverse the order but I totally get that evangelism and discipleship is kind of a chicken egg argument.)  Anyway I digress…. I’m talking about what I like about their statement.  Becoming like Christ is the discipleship, teaching them to obey, sanctification.    But beyond capturing the 2 important elements of evangelism and discipleship, it is simple and easy to memorize. 

 My guess is that if you ask people who are in their church plant “What’s the mission of this church.”  I’m willing to bet that a majority of people will be able to recite it back to you.  Listen to me right now.   Its one thing for a mission statement to be on a plaque on the wall….but when you get to the point that the congregation is reciting it…more of chance that they are living it out.  I know PLENTY of church planters who when I ask them the mission statement of their church they pause….their eyes scroll up and they are trying to remember a flowery paragraph they put together and can barely get it out.   Don’t make that mistake.  If it doesn’t roll off your tongue, and you can barely get it out then it will also be difficult for your people to remember and embrace.   

Here are some other examples of mission statements that are creative and unique but still capture the great commission and evangelism and discipleship mandate of Jesus:

 “To lead people to become fully devoted followers of Christ” LifeChurch

“Know Jesus and Make Jesus Known” City on Hill, Australia

“To lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ” NorthPoint 

One of our Brasilian subscribers submitted his: ”lead people to know and to be like Jesus.”

You get the idea.  Short, clear, maybe catchy.  But absolutely about the proclamation of the gospel and raising up people who live like Jesus.

On to Vision statement, this is where it’s game on.  I hope that I hammered in that every church’s mission should essentially be the same. I’d argue that vision is all about the unique call of each church.  How that mission is accomplished can look totally different from church to church.  Without going on too much of a tangent, the very essence of church planting and having multiple churches is based on the reality that it takes many churches and different types of churches to reach many people. 

If you remember as I laid out the definitions in the beginning, the mission is what you do and the vision is what you hope to accomplish.  

So your vision statement should be all about what you forsee the church accomplishing.  Dream for a moment if the church you plant really did reach people for Christ and they started living for Jesus. What would that look like in your context: Marriages strengthening, Addictions overcome, Social Equality, Eradicating homelessness, Violence disappearing, Churches being planted… You get the idea.

Greg McKinney from Glory Church in Kansas City has a vision statement, “we see a city changed by homes that are changed.”  I love this because you see from the small to the big.  Change the city.  Go big or go home type language.  

 And your vision can contain quantitative and qualitative elements to it.  So qualitative vision components would be like “bring peace and prosperity to the city”.  Whereas quantitative would have some hard measurable numbers to them.

For example, New Song church in California has a vision to plant 100 churches and teach 100 other churches to plant 100 churches.  So they will say that 100 x 100 is essentially planting 10,000 churches.  

Perry Noble, which disclaimer: I don’t think is a model pastor and planter I encourage you to emulate, would cast vision to directly reach 100,000 in his city. 

Both of those examples have clear numbers AND what both of them have is a WOW factor.  That is what vision is about.  If God has birthed a dream in your heart, its your job to cast that vision and invite people into it.  That bold vision should grab some attention and force people to recognize that it cant be accomplished without God showing up in a miraculous way. 

Let’s move on to core values. Core values get less attention but they shouldn’t. Core values are the statements that drive your culture and decision making. There are two types of core values: those that are your true core values and those that are aspirational.  Meaning that every church, pastor, planter, leader, person has core values even if they aren’t written down.  But they show up through our actions and behaviors.  Then there are aspirational values meaning these are things that you write down because you want them to be true or you will do everything you can to strive towards this goal.   Like it or not, as the lead planter, the core values of the church will reflect your own personal core values and passions.  If you are passionate about global missions, I guarantee that its going to be reflected in your budget and the activities that you do as a church.  If you have strong convictions about meeting the needs of marginalized people, its going to be reflected in your ministries, facilities, spending, everything.  So just know that going in.

It is not uncommon that as a church plant you come up with your list of core values and they change and evolve over the years OR maybe better yet, they are discovered.  Maybe this even relieves some stress that you don’t have to get it perfect out of the gate.  You might even lean more on your aspirational goals and hope that others step up and live out what you desire.

What’s great about core values is that it gives you a platform to call the church to live them out.  I go to a church plant in Gallatin Tennessee called Renovation Church.  One of their core values is “Generosity is our Privilege.”  Of course lots of churches put that in their core values but to live it out on a regular basis is another story.  From the start of the plant, the lead pastor Kody Woodard started what he terms “Love One” offering.  Basically asking those in the church plant to chip in 1 extra dollar and that the church would find a way to bless someone in the community.  I don’t remember exactly, but I want to say we were only 2-3 months into the plant and they took the love one offering and people contributed their extra $1…but someone in the congregation stepped up and donated an entire car.  Not an old junker but a super nice car, only a couple years old, and gave it away to a young man who recently had car repairs that he couldn’t afford.  It was this moment that just energized the church and because the whole thing was captured on video and the shocked look on his face when Kody tossed him the keys the church said “Yep that is who we are.”  It spurred even more generosity all around.  

I don’t think every core value has to be super spiritual either.  I follow on instagram a church plant called Factory Church that is in North Carolina.  They have some of the most hilarious posts.  I have never seen their core values, and maybe they don’t even have values listed out, but they absolutely have a core value of being fun and unconventional.  And going back to my first point, I’m guessing this is a reflection of the lead pastor.  

Where you will get in trouble is if you list core values that mismatch your actions.  This is why you shouldn’t just copy other churches or write down some things that sound nice.

I’ve seen too many churches list in their core values “Excellence”: and their website barely works, their church is falling apart, the worship service seems like nobody put any thought into the experience, and worst of all, they are brewing Folgers coffee. Hear me clearly.  I actually think all of those things are ok for a church. Honestly, you could suck at all those things and still have a very God glorifying and fruitful church….just don’t say that your church values excellence.  Especially when the outside world is quick to point out hypocrisy.    

Or if you say your core value is about reaching the marginalized, and your parking lot is filled only with German imports and Teslas, you have a $200,0000 LED wall screen but don’t have a ministry for the homeless, widows, orphans or the like.

So Here are some Core Values Taken from other churches:

See Beauty in Brokenness

Servant Leadership is our Calling

People matter to God therefore they matter to us.

Grounded In Grace

Authentic In Our Walk

If you just google “church core values” it might give you a starting point.  Then you can start to make a list and widdle it down and then word it to match who you really are.  

Here’s a quick summary of what we’ve discussed:

  1.  Your Mission has already been given to you by Jesus.  Therefore your mission statement should reflect the Great Commission of Evangelism and Discipleship.  Gospel Proclamation and Sanctification.  
  2. You Vision is the future you are trusting God to do in and through the church.  Ask God to give you a big vision and then call people to it.
  3. Core Values are those top anchors that will guide your decision making and what you are all about.  While it’s ok to start with some aspirational values, the more honest you articulate your true values the better.

Here are the links to a few churches’ vision and value pages that may give you a head start:

Thanks so much for listening (and reading!), and remember if you have a question about church planting, leave us a message or direct message us on Facebook or Instagram: we’d love to hear from you. And until next time, Keep asking those questions.