In the UUA’s Mid-South District, many lay led congregations are participating in a program developed by Education Director Connie Goodbread and MSD Board member Norman Horofker called UP! (Unlimited Potential). This program is seeking to offer skills and expertise to small congregations under 70 members to enable them to have excellence in an area enabling them to thrive as a congregation. The recent discussion has been focusing on mission statements. This is an area of church development that I find of great interest. Norman presented the group with the UUA tag line “Nurture your Spirit. Help Heal our World.” This tag line was recently used in UUA’s advertizing campaign in Times Magazine. It can be made into a powerful mission statement…
IE: We are a congregation where we nurture our spirits empowering each other to help heal the world.
Mission Statements or Statements of Purpose need to be this powerful and this simple. They are a concise sentence that answers these three questions: Why do we exist? What do we do? What is important/ essential for us as a congregation?
Mission and vision statements are sometimes confused. A vision statement builds on the mission statement and answers these questions: What are we going to be as a church? Who are we going to reach? How are we going to do this?
So using the community in which I live only as a reference point, a vision statement could be the following:
IE: Our presence in Tuscaloosa creates a community of open minds, open hands and warm hearts through our diverse spiritual practices and by our seeking to do social justice work and community service.
Vision statements are to be visual. You can see diverse spiritual practices being done. You can see social justice work being done and you can see community services being done. You can also see open minds, open hands and warm hearts in the interactions of the people within the congregation and as this vision begins to take hold, it will also be seen in the larger community in which the congregation lives.
Mission and vision statements then become the ground on which you build your strategic plans for the next several years. This is the ‘how to’s’ of these words. How do we nurture our spirits? How do we heal our world? How do we express ourselves as having open minds? What kinds of activities over the next several years would help us accomplish this?
Every activity done within the congregation and in the community is linked to these statements–From the board meetings to the Children’s RE program to the worship services to community projects to developing the budget. Everything.
Missions are living entities that might evolve over time. So it is good to review the mission of the congregation from time to time to see how the congregation has grown and evolved. The community in which the congregation lives may also have changed over time requiring a different focus of interaction.
There is the legendary story of the congregation which located itself in an affluent part of the city and over the decades the neighborhood became run down. Homeless men would be found sleeping in the doorways and people had to step over them to enter the church. The church decided to refocus their mission to meet the needs of the community and they established a soup kitchen and a homeless shelter. From there they went on to develop transitional housing services to help get people back on their feet to employment and self-determination of their lives. This story is repeated again and again as an example of a church redefining who they were going to be in the world. It is a common story happening in many cities across our country.
I am looking forward to seeing what these congregations come up with in redefining their mission in the rural south in which they live, breathe, and have their being. Blessings,