Let’s Lose Church Vision Statements

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Lets lose our vision statements in church.  Yes, I have said it.  I am convinced we should lose our vision statements and replace them with something else.

If you are not sure what a vision statement in a church is, it is the thing that starts with “We want to glorify God by…” and then there will be something about outreach, loving people and making disciples.  (So I might sound a bit cynical here!).  Most churches have one which was worked out over time and the process was really helpful, but now it is sitting in someone’s desk drawer or on a wall that no-one looks at… (yes, my cynicism is increasing!).

Before I get to the replacement, lets talk about why you should and shouldn’t have a vision statement in a church. One of the answers I have heard given as to why a church should have a vision statement is that you need to know what the church’s core business is.  This is why you do what you do, this is why you put money into this and not that.  This is a good reason as to why we should have a vision statement, it defines what we do.

The other side of the argument is that for almost two millennia, churches did not need vision statements.  Churches knew precisely what they were and what they did.  A soccer team doesn’t need a vision statement.  People who join a soccer team know what the team does: play soccer and try and score more goals than the other team.  A soccer team that needs a vision statement probably needs some major help.  Does that mean the same thing for a church?  (Cynical me: especially when it doesn’t get used anyway!).  However, churches are more complex than soccer teams and people can assume incorrectly what a church is and for, so there may be some room for a vision-something.

I was sharing my cynicism with a colleague who, while he had my cynicism, also had some wisdom I lacked and asked a question that changed my thinking completely:

“Instead of a church vision statement, why not have a church prayer?”

Genius!

Firstly, this, rightly, drives us to prayer.  We actually want God to glorify himself through us.  The assumption about a vision statement is that it is what we have decided to do and how we will do it.  But as the people of God we want God to be working through us.  We need to be praying that He will do this.  And what do we want Him to do through us?  Whatever our church prayer is!  It needs to be big, bold, and specific; Not because that is what a vision statement is, but because this reflects the character of the God we pray to.

Second, such a thing cannot be not ignored.  If we have a church prayer then we should be praying this prayer as a church every week.  No matter our liturgy, something like this can be plugged in easily.  People will see what we are seeking to do as we pray for it.  And when we see this prayer being answered, we will actually be able to glorify God because of it.

So, why not have a church prayer rather than a church vision statement?

That’s a genuine question.

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Peter Hughes
Pete has been working in ministry professionally for about 15 years. He has worked in churches and university campuses all over Sydney. He has both a Bachelor and Masters degrees from Moore Theological College, and a Science degree from Macquarie University. He is married to Audrey and they have three kids: Calvin, Kia and Evie.Before going into ministry some of Pete’s other jobs were: working with librarians to help them source books they needed (and dealing with their personality quirks), being one of those people who are in the background of Home and Away pretending to have a conversation, and working with a company which measured emission outputs from factories (convincing other people in the factory that he was measuring ‘nuclear’). He loves watching and analysing movies, reading books, and telling jokes. His family doesn’t like him doing any one of those things.
  • Daniel Abou-zeid

    Hi Peter,

    Excellent blog post in my opinion but then again we may just share some cynical inclinations 🙂 I think that Vision statement or no Vision statement is secondary to what are our underlying motivations? Are we doing all that we do to glorify God? Are we as a Church still passionate about the Mission of God being accomplished both in us and through us. I really loved the concept of a clarifying Church Prayer, would you have an example for what that would look like?

    Cheers,

    Daniel