A LEADER WITH A VISION
When people think of vision statements, there are usually two related but different things they picture. One is a vision statement, and one is a mission statement. These documents are related and most people end up combining them, but for the purpose of discussion, we’ll treat them separately. The difference is that a vision statement describes how you and God see your society. It focuses on the personality of the society and leadership. A mission statement describes what actions will result from your vision. As you work on your vision statement, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Remember, this is your vision, it’s the way the world sees you. If your vision is small, your society will be small. That’s why you need to dream big. Your vision statement needs to be bold enough that you never finish fulfilling it, while also being realistic enough to let you see progress and not become discouraged.
A good vision statement focuses your team members on fulfilling it. That means your team members have to be able to memorize it. Ideally, you want to shoot for one sentence. It doesn’t have to be a short sentence, but it should be one sentence, because a sentence—no matter how long it is—must contain one thought and that thought must follow a logical progression. Even if your statement is a hundred words long, if you make it follow a logical progression, your members can internalize the message.
I’ll also let you in on a little secret among writers: Brevity begins with long drafts. If you can make your first draft concise and to the point, great; But, don’t feel guilty if your first attempt is three pages long. It’s just a draft. If you try to do a perfect statement the first time around, you’ll be paralyzed by fear and never finish. But, if you give yourself permission to make the first draft long and horrible, you won’t have trouble doing it. Then, you can cut and mold at your leisure. Just keep drafting until your vision statement is where it needs to be.
Since your vision statement exists to inspire your society and team members, you need to make it reward meditation. Chose your words carefully, so the more attention someone pays the more they get out of it. The way you do this is by pondering the meaning of the words you pick so every word carries its weight. Are you to be a light to the nations, or a beacon? There are differences in each of those options, and every one of them needs to be done by someone. By making your words precise, you convey volumes of information in the smallest space possible, making your vision memorable.
Your team members need to be unified in their vision and united in their goals. But, they shouldn’t have the same vision statement. Your vision statement is about what God has called you to be and how he sees you. If there is nothing in your vision statement that couldn’t apply to the society down the road, you need to ask why your communities are separated. There should be some point of difference that makes you special. We should be united in our purpose, but we should be no more united in our functions than a heart and a lung are. They have the same purpose (giving oxygen to your cells), but that purpose won’t be fulfilled unless they do different functions.
TAKE YOUR TIME
Keep in mind that the purpose of your vision statement is to direct the course of your leadership. This is a big deal, so don’t feel you have to rush. Take your time; let the committee meet five or six times. Talk to other leaders and friends. Take time to revise and rewrite until you have what you want. And, don’t feel guilty about spending a lot of time. It’s not easy, but it is worth the effort.
HOW TO WRITE A LEADERSHIP MISSION STATEMENT
When people think of leadership mission statements, there are usually two related but separate things they imagine. One is a mission statement, and one is a vision statement. The difference between these is that a mission statement is very practical in its scope. It focuses on what you will accomplish and how you will do it. A vision statement is designed to be more abstract. It focuses on the personality of the leader and how the world sees your local community fitting into the larger context of the government. The distinction is subtle, and many leaders end up combining the two, but for the purposes of discussion we’ll just address the mission statement here.
SET PRACTICAL GOALS
The main purpose of a mission statement is to focus the efforts of your leadership on unified goals, so every program builds off the others and the effect expands. It’s like when you push your kid on the swing set. If you always push at the moment when they begin their swing forward, you can build more and more energy into the system and they go very high with minimal effort. But, if you push at random intervals, you usually cancel out most of your work.
If you want to unite your program efforts so they build off one another, you have to outline practical steps so there’s unity. It would be nice to eradicate poverty, but there’s nothing there for your members to focus on. It’s too vague for a mission statement. You want to outline concrete steps, such as giving away groceries in the inner city. This is a practical step your members and managers can focus on.
SET MEASURABLE GOALS
This is really just an extension of making your goals practical, but it’s so important that it deserves its own heading. If you don’t want your team members to be burned out after years of pursuing the same mission, you need to give them some way of knowing their efforts make a difference. Using the above example, you might track how many boxes of food you’re able to provide year to year. As that number grows, your members see the progress.
And, be selective in your goals. Not every action is measurable. That doesn’t mean you can’t do things that can’t be measured, but you should either combine them with something measurable, or acknowledge that people can get burned out faster in that program and structure accordingly.
SET GOALS THAT GROW WITH YOU
You don’t want your mission statement changing every two years, so plan ahead. Find goals that can be practical and measurable, and never finished. Providing nutritious food in the city is a good example. When you start, you could do it just once a week, when you grow as an institution you may find yourself with the funds to buy a five story building and set up a school and a grocery store and other things you can’t dream of starting now. But, even if New York, Rome, and Paris aren’t big enough to accommodate program, the mission you set out for yourself still won’t be finished. You can always take it one step further and serve one more person. Goals like this are very practical, but will grow with you.
MAP EVERYTHING TO YOUR VISION STATEMENT AND VICE VERSA
Even though I started this chapter by trying to separate ways people approach their mission statement and their vision statement, I still argue that the two are linked. They may be separate, but they work together. That’s why you need to evaluate your mission statement in light of your vision statement. Remember, your vision statement is how you believe society sees your leadership. It describes the personality of the leadership. Your actions (represented by your mission statement) should grow out of your personality (represented by your vision statement).
The ideas are measurable, but not something others can go off and put into practice. It just defines who the leader is and helps those under him know what distinguishes his other leaders or anyone else’s.
As you work on your own mission and vision statements, keep this unity of purpose in mind. Ask whether everything your mission statement says you’ll do stems from your personality as a leader. Will your personality be fully expressed by the actions your mission statement has outlined? If not, add to the statement. Make sure all the actions you outline for yourself work toward the common goal outlined in your vision statement. And, keep your mission statement measurable, or your members will burn out for lack of seeing any progress.
For many years leaders and their institutions had a “purpose” statement and that was that. Then, somewhere in the early ’90s, a great distinction was raised between mission and vision (along with a fair amount of confusion – OK, a lot of confusion). Books were written to sort it all out. Some were helpful; others added to the confusion. I can just hear Jesus asking the Father, “Now Father, did you send me on a mission, or was that your vision?!” Leaders often ask: “Which idea is the mission?”, “And if that is the mission what is the vision?”, “Can you say it all in one phrase?”, “Does the leader declare the mission?”, “Does the leader declare the vision?”, “What if he or she leaves, does the institution start over?” And the list goes on.
I don’t pretend to have the answer, but I will do a good job making a clear distinction between the two terms. We know that there are institutions without a mission or vision statement that possess more clarity and focus than institutions with either a mission or vision statement (sometimes both) and do little to live them out. Let’s start with the difference between the two.
The Difference between Mission and Vision
Vision: The vision is the dream of the leader and the institution; usually birthed in the leader, but ultimately owned by the institution as a whole. It’s the fire, flavor and fuel that drive your unique expression of the Great Commission (the mission).
The significance of a vision:
1. A vision creates tremendous enthusiasm and energy in the present about the desired future of your institution and leadership.
2. A vision captures and maximizes the special uniqueness about your institution and leadership.
3. A vision draws people in and calls them to commitment and involvement.
The bottom line is that vision is leadership. No true leader is without vision. The vision may be for a new building, it may be for children’s service, it may be for constructing hospitals, it may be for the down and out…but it always drives your mission – the Great Commission.
Mission: The mission is the key program objective of the institution. It is a comprehensive directive about who the institution wants to reach and what the institution desires to accomplish.
The significance of a mission:
1. A mission provides long-term direction and stability for the institution.
2. A mission declares the institution’s core constitutional philosophy.
3. A mission captures the heart of your institution’s service.
The best kept secret about your institution’s Vision/Mission – is that it can be combined into one statement. And that is usually a good idea. The vision is the fire and the mission is the focus. Communicate your mission in one sentence. You can have two written statements, but my collective experience and observation would advise you to go for one. Some churches prefer a long, comprehensive vision statement and a shorter mission – but I find that most churches must work hard to get the congregation to digest, personalize, own and act on one thing, let alone two!
This next thought may be controversial for you. While the mission never changes (it can’t by nature because it’s your expression of a fixed mandate), the vision can change. It doesn’t change often and I certainly don’t want to give you a license for the flavor of the month when it comes to direction in your institution, but sometimes God can take you through different seasons of leadership. Perhaps you are in a season of building, or a season to build schools, or a season of in-depth training. Each of these would take years but nonetheless have a time of beginning and a time of ending. It’s not uncommon for a new leader to arrive at an older established/declining institution and have a vision for a turn-around or complete re-vitalization. The mission is the same, but the vision reshapes the immediate future of the institution. Again, it’s the fire, flavor and fuel that drive the mission.
Please don’t misunderstand; I’m not saying that your vision will change, only that it may. I can point to some leaders who while their mission remains the same, for example, they had a season (10 years) in which their vision was all about building and establishing the institution they started. They are now sensing the possibility of moving toward a season of expansion and multi-ethnic service. But the mission always remains the same.
It’s also important not to make this complex. It can be as simple as a well-worded mission statement with your vision simply being a zealous passion to win your society for prosperity.
So, let’s say you are in agreement to have one written statement, and allow the vision to be the communication tool or focus that drives the mission. Why bother writing the mission statement down?
Like a small business, in a small institution there is less need for a written mission statement. The operation is simple, the number of people is small, and everyone knows what they need to do. The smaller the institution, the less of a need for this; The leader can personally “remind” everyone what they are called to do on a regular basis.
However, as the institution grows, it becomes more complex, good communication requires more effort and the necessary administration can cause the institution to lose the cutting edge. The mission statement is one of the best tools to help keep everyone on track and moving in the same direction.
The benefits of a good mission statement:
1. It clarifies the focus. (What you do and why you do it.)
2. It fosters a sense of unity. (“We’re all going in the same direction.”)
3. It enhances creativity. (People begin to think with an expanded perspective, and outside their own personal area or department.)
4. It streamlines your effort and energy.
5. It simplifies decision making.
6. It serves as a solid promotional platform. (Advertising in and outside the organization)
7. It bolsters team spirit. (Everyone knows they are part of something big and special!)
A good mission statement is:
1. Short and to the point (One sentence is best.)
2. Easy to understand
3. Easy to memorize
4. Printed and referred to often
5. Something that matters to the people of the institution
Seven tests of a great mission:
1. Does the constitution affirm it?
2. Does your budget reveal it?
3. Does your team members reflect it?
4. Do your services match it?
5. Does your institution live it?
6. Does the leader stick to it?
7. Are your plans to build in alignment with it?