Mission statement

Mission statement: Giving a clear focus to ministry

This story will give you, a pastor, inspiration for your mission to your church and family members.

Bob Haslam, MDiv, is a retired pastor residing in Hermitage, Tennessee, United States.

Jim Swanson graduated from seminary and began his pastoral ministry in a medium-size church. He was excited and motivated to lead his congregation effectively. Swanson became well acquainted with his congregation, learning the names of the members and sensing some of their needs.

For a year and a half, Jim preached, prayed, and ministered in a variety of ways. But he had a growing awareness that he lacked a clear focus for his ministry. He struggled to understand his fundamental role in the various facets of his overall ministry.

Finding a mentor

I need help, thought Jim, a mentor to guide my development. As he thoughtabout this over a period of days, heasked the Lord to lead him.

At a pastors’ meeting, he met JohnWhitaker, a well-seasoned pastor in his fifties.“How are you doing?” asked Whitaker.“I see you’re in your second year as pastor.How are things shaping up for you?”

“To tell you the truth, I’m struggling a bit,” said Jim. “I was eager to begin my ministry, but as I reflect on it now, I need a better grasp of the various parts of my overall role as pastor. I think I need a mentor, someone like you who has plenty of experience.”

“Believe me, Jim. I went through the same experience you are having. Maybe I can help you. I’d be glad to spend an hour a week with you for a while to help you get through this transitional period.”

“That would be great. My day off is Friday. Could you work that in?”

“Certainly, Jim.”

Beginning at the beginning

At their first meeting, Jim and Pastor Whitaker discussed the experiences of Jim’s first year and a half and various aspects of his pastoral ministry. Pastor Whitaker grew silent, then said to Jim with a grin, “I have an assignment for you. I want you this next week to read the Gospels of Matthew and John. Write down every statement Jesus made as to why He came to our world. We can call them mission statements. Jesus expressed these on numerous occasions. When I discovered them, I was surprised at how many there were.”

During the following week, Jim read the two Gospels and wrote down every mission statement Jesus made.

Why Jesus made mission statements

“Have you completed your assignment?” Pastor Whitaker asked with a smile.

“Sure have,” replied Jim. “It was an eye-opener.”

“Jesus made His assertions without any hesitation as to why He came to Earth. He wanted both friend and foe to understand what He was about and why He had come,” said Pastor Whitaker.

“For example, Jesus said in John 10:10, ‘“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” ’* Then in Matthew 5:17, He said, ‘“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”’”

After pausing a moment, Pastor Whitaker continued. “Jesus spoke of His mission repeatedly not only to keep His focus on His mission but also to use the mission statement as a blueprint for His ministry, much like a blueprint for a house. Jesus lived out the principles and purposes He articulated in His statements.

“For example, Jesus summarized the totality of His mission in His statement to Pilate: ‘ “For this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth” ’ ” (John 18:37).

“I’m impressed,” said Jim. “As I wrote down the various mission statements of Jesus, I realized that they were all guideposts to His daily life and ministry.”

“That’s right,” responded Pastor Whitaker. “Another statement of Jesus speaks volumes to me in my daily living: ‘“I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” ’ ” (John 6:38).

“Yes,” said Jim. “Isn’t that the pur­pose of every Christian, every moment of life?”

Building a list

After discussing various other statements Jesus made regarding His mission, the two men charted out their future discussion. “For our next session,” the senior pastor said, “I’d like you to make a list of the various aspects of your ministry. Once we’ve nailed those down, we can begin work on your mission statements. I suggest you list number one as the overarching mission statement covering your entire ministry. Then list individual areas of your ministry to the congregation.”

During the week, Jim worked on his list. As he thought through the various aspects of his leadership, he realized that his pastoral role was more complex and wide ranging than he had earlier realized.

With the list in his hand, Jim sat down in Pastor Whitaker’s office. “First,” he began somewhat timidly, “let me say that I had not been as aware of the breadth of my ministry as I now am. Making this list has enlightened my thinking about the range of roles I am trying to fulfill. In a way, it’s a bit scary, but I know the Lord will help me succeed in all of them.

“Of course, first on my list is my overall mission statement. I have some thoughts on that.

“Like most pastors, I need to develop a mission statement for my pulpit ministry. That’s where I relate to my con­gregation as a whole, and it is important that I fully understand what my purposes are in the pulpit. That way, I can better evaluate how well I’ve succeeded or missed the mark on a given weekend. When I have a clearer understanding of my mission in the pulpit, I will have a clear focus in my sermon preparation.”

“Good,” responded Whitaker. “By setting out realistic goals for ourselves, we can measure our progress, or lack thereof, as we go along.”

“Then I’ve tried to think through what I want to accomplish with different age groups. I’ve listed six categories in this regard: ministry to children, youth, young adults, families who are raising children, middle adults, and senior citizens. All of these segments of my congregation have their own unique needs.

“I know I cannot be all things to all people, so I realize that part of my mission as pastor is to enlist qualified people to relate to and help meet the needs of these groups. I need a mission statement for each group to guide both my efforts and those of others in effective ministry.”

“I’m very pleased, Jim. Are there any more items on your list?”

“Yes, one of them is counseling those who come to me regarding various situations. Although I’m not a clinical psychologist, I’ve had training in both college and seminary in psychol­ogy and counseling. I know my limits, so I have gathered a list of consultants I can refer people to when the problems they are dealing with go beyond my expertise. However, I have been able to counsel successfully some who are grateful for my assistance.”

“Any others?”

“Yes, my visitation ministry. When people are hospitalized or there is sickness in their homes, I try to be there for them.”

“Very good. Any more areas on your list?”

“No, this is as far as I’ve gotten, though I’m sure I have overlooked one or more things. Do you have any suggestions?”

“Yes, Jim, an important one. What about your family? Too many pastors become so busy with their pastoral duties that they neglect their families.”

“I’m ashamed I missed that one. I haven’t told you, but Joyce is expecting our second child. Nate just turned two, and our next one is going to be a girl. I certainly must draw up a mission statement regarding my family.”

Getting started

“Jim, the most effective mission statements are one sentence long, but it’s better not to try that at the begin­ning. I suggest that for every statement, you begin with a paragraph and then summarize it down to a single sentence. I suggest you work on only two mission statements this week. Begin with your overarching statement for your total ministry as well as the one relating to your family. Let’s put first things first.

“Approach this project prayerfully. Remember the words of Paul in Romans 8:16: ‘The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.’ The Holy Spirit witnesses to us not only concerning our relationship with God but also concerning other things as well. Invite the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts through His indwelling presence. Write from your heart as well as from your mind. Convey important goals with an economy of words. If you need help completing them, I’ll be glad to work with you. But remember, these statements are to be uniquely your own.”

Off to the library

To prepare for this unique task, Jim decided to go to the library, where he would not be interrupted. When he arrived, he found an empty table in an isolated area among stacks of books. Prayer, inviting the Holy Spirit to guide him, was his first task. Then he picked up the list of Jesus’ mission statements and reviewed them. He had read the other two Gospels and compiled a rather complete list of Jesus’ statements.

One that stood out to him was Mark 10:45: “‘For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ ” Jim silently prayed: Oh, God, may that be the purpose of my life, to serve You and others.

At first, Jim’s thoughts were scattered. He thought of various elements for his overarching statement. Then his mind cleared, and he began writing and soon had a rather long paragraph. To arrive at a single sentence, he would need to be very concise. As he went over his paragraph again and again, certain parts of it began to stand out. He crossed out words, even sentences. Then he realized he need not edit the paragraph but write its essence in a single sentence.

Jim began to write. My mission aspastor of Eagledale Church is to be ledby the Holy Spirit, be sensitive to theneeds of individuals and the body ofbelievers, and be a servant of Christ andmy congregation, leading God’s peopleby following the example and teachingsof Christ.

“Whew!” whispered Jim. “I wonder what Pastor Whitaker will think of this statement.”

Two days later, he was back at the library table, ready for another challenge. Again, he opened his heart and mind to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Jim had already put a lot of thought into his family statement. Soon he began writing, and before long he had completed another rather lengthy paragraph. At that point, he realized the hardest part of his work lay ahead.

Repeatedly, Jim read the paragraph to drink in the essence of it to be able to write a condensed version. He liked the paragraph so well that he decided he would keep it for future reference after writing a single sentence.

Gradually, his mind began to form a sentence. My mission to my family is to be a loving and supportive husband and father and spiritual leader for my children, giving my family top priority in my life.

The refining process

Jim felt optimistic as he met with Pastor Whitaker again. He wondered how his mentor would respond to his first two mission statements. He handed Pastor Whitaker a sheet with the two statements, double-spaced so that they could be edited.

“You’re off to an excellent beginning,” Whitaker said. “I can see that you have put hours of thought and prayer into these statements. I’m sure you’ll want to tweak them a little here and there before you consider them final, but you have included the essentials. Regarding your family mission statement, do you consider your children the only members of your family who need your spiritual nurture? You left out your wife in that regard.”

Silently, Jim began writing a revision of his family mission statement. My mission to my family is to be a loving and supportive husband and father, provide spiritual nurture for all, and give my family top priority in my life.

Pastor Whitaker looked it over andsaid, “That’s better. Probably beforeyou are finished it will be better still.For our next meeting, write two more mission statements from your list.”

Tears came to Jim’s eyes. “Thank you for serving as my mentor. I can already sense that I’m beginning to better realize the vital importance ofevery aspect of my ministry. Before we’re through, I’m sure I’ll have a much clearer comprehension of what my ministry is all about.”

* All Scripture is taken from the New International Version of the Bible

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Bob Haslam, MDiv, is a retired pastor residing in Hermitage, Tennessee, United States.

July 2014

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