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Vision in Ministry: Developing a Vision Statement

Vision statements are organized statements outlining an organization’s vision for itself. Many organizations (both secular and religious) prominently display vision statements, so many congregations feel they must too. Developing these vision statements can become empty rituals, resulting in a paragraph that is printed on a poster in the pastor’s office but that doesn’t actual enter into the life and ritual of the community.

But vision statements can be more than that. Vision statements can prod conversations: who are we? where are we going? what do we care about as a congregation? what is our reason for being?

Begin by considering what the community spends time doing. Perhaps your congregation is focused on the familial feeling shared throughout the community, actively caring and supporting each other. Alternatively, maybe your congregation is focused on activism within the community, advocating on behalf of those who are powerless or voiceless.

Then, consider what the congregation aspires to do more of. Perhaps your congregation wants to do more outreach into the neighborhood, or more work with local children and youth. But don’t just write this into the vision statement, clarify ways to make that vision a reality within the congregation. Create a line item in the budget to fulfill those needs, or assign a small task force to take on those responsibilities.

What are the characteristics of a “good” vision statement? (adapted from Studying Congregations, p. 183-4)

  1. The vision statement is faithful to the congregation’s best understanding  of its religious heritage.
  2. The vision statement is oriented to the future.
  3. The vision is appropriate to this congregation.
  4. The vision statement is realistic in terms of the congregation’s social context.
  5. The vision statement contains both judgment and promise, good news and bad news.
  6. The vision is, in so far as is possible, a shared image of the desired future.
  7. The vision statement is specific enough to provide direction for the congregation’s life but broad enough to encompass multiple but complementary visions important to groups within the congregation.

When you are done crafting your vision statement, consider how to ensure that the vision is clearly articulated to the congregation and lived out throughout the year. How can you make sure that this document didn’t just result from an empty ritual, but is something that is embraced and supported by the community?

Consider other online resources about how to create vision statements including these examples.

Ellen Childs
About the Author
Dr. Ellen Childs holds a Ph.D. in sociology from University of Notre Dame. She is Website Director at StudyingCongregations.org