Let’s Lose Church Vision Statements

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 be 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 should and why you shouldn’t have a vision statement in a church.  The reason I have been given to have a vision statement is that you need to know what your core business is as a church.  This is why you do what you do, this is why you put money into this and not that.  This is a good reason to have a vision statement, it defines you.

The other side of the argument is that for almost 2 millennia churches did not need vision statements.  Churches knew what they were and what they did.  For example, 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 points 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 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, theologically this 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 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 this is what a vision statement is, but because of the character of the God we pray to.

Second, practically this can be used and not ignored.  If we have a church prayer then we should be praying this prayer as a church every week.  No matter what 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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4 thoughts on “Let’s Lose Church Vision Statements

  1. RevRon says:

    Our “Church/denomination” had a common prayer for over ten years.
    It was linked to the vision statement of the denomination; but I don’t remember it ever being used in our church in all that time.
    Call me cynical too if you want, but a church prayer won’t be used every week, and it will soon fall into desuetude.
    It seems to me that the Lords’ Prayer does not get used every week anymore – and the Apostles Creed has disappeared from our services altogether.
    The whole vision statement thing raises another issue, in that we have fallen into the trap of using commercial terms and practices even if we could put a biblical spin on them to prove their validity.
    In other words, we’ve been using “worldy” concepts that have a measure of “success” as you rightly point out.
    We seem to want to grow our churches in admirable ways for admirable purposes couched in biblical terms; but (again, somewhat cynically), may we even subconsciously be looking for accolades from those whose accolades we covet? After all, we all want to be “successful”?
    And lastly, we have for about forty years adopted American or British models of ministry (which at times may actually have been very good!), but we dismiss them after a few years and move on to the next “flavour of the month”.
    (I do hope I win the “cynic award” of the month!)

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    1. Pete Hughes says:

      Well RevRon, I think we will be competing for cynic of the month! Firstly, I think you are right, just having a church prayer does not mean it needs to be used. And, yes, it could (cynic: probably will) fall into disuse. But I think I want to try for a bit.

      The Lord’s Prayer and Apostles Creed disappearing. I have been thinking about that more and the work of James K.A. Smith has got me thinking that this could be an unhelpful direction for us to go in. I will leave it to you to follow that up.

      Thanks for your comments!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Pete Hughes says:

        I have been working through “Imagining the Kingdom” (has a nice summary of Desiring the Kingdom so that saved me some time and money!)

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