A memorable mission?

Today’s challenge: go around your school or church and ask people if they can state the mission/tag line of your institution. How many can say it without pause? If not, why can’t they? Is your mission simply not compelling or easily enough understood? Does it say why your institution exists? How does your mission/tag line indicate your priorities? What is it saying about what you value?

Next challenge: How will you know when you have reached your mission? Does your staff understand what they need to do to reach it? What is their understanding of the mission? What are their thoughts about reaching it?

My two suggestions about mission/tag lines:

  • Make it memorable and easy to remember by keeping it short
  • Involve all who will be participating in meeting the mission to help determine what the statement/phrase should be – the process is as valuable as the end product and should be repeated periodically.

In a comment to a previous post, Kevin Visscher at Duncan Christian School is asking for some advice (see comment #5 under About this blog) on developing a mission. What have you found to be helpful in mission development?


Filed under distinctively Christian, mission development

6 responses to “A memorable mission?

  1. I agree with Dan’s 2 criteria for mission statements–easy to remember and involve stakeholders.

    Be sure to establish the criteria that will be used to develop the mission. Possible mission statement criteria include:
    * Identification the organization, customer, and purpose
    * 25 words or less
    * Precise
    * Jargon free
    * Easy to memorize
    * Easy say

    The goal is not to have a mission statement. The goal is to use the mission statement. Mission statements must be usable.

  2. I love this topic. I deal with it with almost every group I speak with.

    I’ve actually been moving away from mission statements all together. I ask companies and churches everywhere I go; “What is your mission statement?” Not only can they not remember it but when you listen to most of them they sound like Hallmark cards. That’s the challenge.

    A mission is something specific, time based a destiny from point “a” to point “b.”

    So I have to ask these organizations – “why a mission statement?” What do you want to accomplish with it? At this point most leaders begin to explain a host of purposes that cover “value statement,” “purpose statements,” “vision statements” and some mission related statements. Each of these have different purposes.

    But again – the problem – the idea of a mission statement is relatively new. It is a modern means of boiling down the complex essence of an organization into a linear abstract concept statement. Once it goes through this kind of strainer the vitality of almost any organization is drained out. Hard to get excited about anything like that.

    We used to use story as the primary means of telling who we were and gaining direction on our purpose, destiny, character and mission. Our epic stories.

    I address that to some degree in “The Millennium Matrix” on pages 210-211. I find people can remember stories, not anecdotes, but epic tales of our journey.

    I think the exercise of developing vision, purpose, value and mission statements is a great way to get to the core of who YOU (collectively)are. But I would also urge to take it further into the epic story – that is what people will carry with them and take inspiration from.

    Rex Miller

  3. Thank you all for your suggestions and comments to developing a mission statement.

    I like the idea of using story to articulate who we are (mission) and who we hope to be (vision). How can you share a story that everyone can articulate in a few statements? Ideally we’re looking for something that everyone can grab hold of and share it. We were thinking of a symbol, image or object that might help us communicate our mission and vision. Have other schools or organizations used images or object to tell a story of their mission and vision?

  4. What would happen if 100% of your staff could recite the mission, explain 5 things the mission means and doesn’t mean, and tell one story of what the mission looks like in action? And what if they could do this effectively and in 90 seconds or less?

    If your staff could do this effectively and in 90 seconds or less, how would this impact staff focus and unity? How would this impact the achievement of your mission?

    What would the 90-second (or less) talk look like? Here’s an example from Kim Essenburg, a 10th grade English teacher at Christian Academy in Japan:

    Christian Academy in Japan, a school for the children of evangelical missionaries in Japan, equips students to impact the world for Christ.
    This means we emphasize:
    (1) Equipping students to impact the world for Christ, not equipping students for college and career (although we do this)
    (2) Students applying a biblical perspective to course content they have mastered, not students mastering course content
    (3) Students using knowledge, not students having knowledge
    (4) Using real-world and classroom assessments, not using just classroom assessments
    (5) Being student-centered, not teacher-centered
    I get excited when students get equipped to impact the world for Christ. Recently, I was looking at student essays on Cry, the Beloved Country. I was excited to read, “Arthur’s goal is for black people and white people to treat each other fairly, which is exactly what God requires of us: ‘…to act justly and to love mercy…’ (Micah 6:8) [NIV].”

    Writing and learning to present a talk like this is challenging, but no more challenging that the assignments we give our students. Christian school staff can master this. Try it today.

  5. Peter Boonstra

    The mission of each of our schools is extremely complex, and I am troubled and uneasy whenever I am challenged to distill it. I understand the need to develop focus or concensus, but I think it would be unwise to conclude that our mission can be captured or even adequately summarized in a few pithy sentences. I have a little mission statement for my school just like most others, but I am also anxious about the myopia that this approach to educational philosophy seems to nurture.

    We have been called to shape culture and hearts and minds and communities according to Christ. Let’s keep in perspective then that the popular call for a memorable mission statement is a simplification of our calling which does not fit neatly into any box.

    I just want to provide some comfort and assurance to those of you that do not have handy mission statements that everyone has memorized. You can still be a vibrant and faithful God-honoring school even if your mission is as long the gospels themselves. Is your school adrift? Then a clarification of your mission will be a big help. But there may be parts of your school’s service which are bound in ambiguity, that cannot be resolved or clarified. Maybe you are called to academic excellence and yet do not have the financial resources to be the excellent school you would like. You could do your school a lot of harm by being so focused on your mission for academic excellence that you unjustly burden your families with unbearable tuition to prop up your overzealous sense of mission.

    Mission statements are inherently inspirational. I like that about them. Having a clear sense of mission throughout an organization is great. But there are good schools where the mission is neither clear nor simple, where teachers, parents, and students all have different agendas on many matters. There may be disagreement about the age of the earth or the dress code or expelling covenant kids, and yet this can still be a deeply God-honoring school serving families well with love and scholarship. Our true mission, the one that fills our being, the one that ignites our passion as Christian educators, is probably a patchwork of poems, profound statements, pithy sentences, epic stories, sweet memories, even some dry history. Perhaps this blog can become a collection of such things rather than a place to park a few phrases.

  6. A thought on mission statements:

    At Rehoboth, we have a short, pithy mission statement, but we also have what we call our Amplified Statement of Mission. In fact, our amplified statement is about 30 pages long, but it reviews much of what has shaped Rehoboth, speaking to our unique history and culture.

    Actually, I got the idea when serving on the Calvin Board of Trustees, which adopted an Expanded Mission Statement in the 90’s. It is about 70 pages as I recall–very well done. It was divided into two parts:

    Shaping the Mission

    Enacting the Mission

    That division served us well at Rehoboth–it allows you to draw in crucial issues from our tradition that deserve to be expressed.

    Incidentally, we also did an expanded mission statement at Lynden Christian now a decade ago or more–that one was about 5 or 6 pages.

    But it enables a school to address the point that Peter made above–there is so much more that needs to be said than can be captured in 25 words.

    Ron Polinder

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