When asked to write an article on vision, mission and core values, I immediately said yes, I would be happy to do this. The reason being is that I am a proponent of every ministry having a vision, mission and core values that they embody. Embody is the operative word here—it is one thing to have them written somewhere; it is another for the ministry to live them.
When I began in ministry 20 years ago, the wisdom at the time was the minister cast the vision for the community. They were the spiritual leaders and it was their role to have a vision for where the ministry was going. I can remember so many times thinking of Proverbs 29:18, “where there is no vision, the people perish.” What a heavy load that was to carry.
In the late ‘90s and early 2000s, when Rev Dr Gary Simmons brought peacemaking (or peace skills) on the scene, the culture began to shift to where the community took an active part in creating the vision and mission for the ministry. When I came to Unity of Greater Portland, Windham, Maine, in 2011, they had a vision statement, however it had not been updated in a very long time. They did not have a mission statement or core values.
In the fall of 2012 we invited Rev Toni Boehm to come and facilitate the Vision, Mission and Core Values module of the Ministry Skills Institute which is designed to create a new vision, mission and core values for the ministry. We did this and have been living into them ever since.
What Does It Look Like?
If you were to visit Unity of Greater Portland, on a Sunday morning, you would join in with us as we say together our vision, mission and core values. After each one I say something that would express what it would look like if we were demonstrating these in our day-to-day life.
Here is an example of what I mean. Our vision is: “Centered in Divine Love we celebrate a spiritually transformed world.” I am most likely to say something like this: “Use your power of imagination and see a world where everyone treated each other with love and kindness, where respecting each other and honoring them for who they are were the norm. This would be a spiritually transformed world.”
Our mission is “Unity of Greater Portland reaches in to reach out through education, service and creation of community.” I would say something like, “Everything begins with prayer and then we take the guidance we receive and put it into action, either through classes, service in this community and the greater community, and as we gather for lunch after this service we are creating community.”
We then go through our core values and these are who we say we are both as a community and individually. Each of our core values has a behavior that we as a community agree to exhibit and individual behaviors that we agree to demonstrate. I believe when we are having difficulty in the community or our personal lives, we are not living out of our core values.
Vision/Mission/Values Help Focus Planning
We begin our board meetings, team leader meetings and community meetings by saying our vision, mission and core values. This instills in each of us where our focus needs to be in making decisions for the ministry and how we will treat each other during our interactions. Does what we are planning fall within the parameters of our vision and mission?
When teaching classes and workshops, our teachers are always looking for opportunities to align the teaching to our vision and mission. On Sunday mornings when I am sharing the message, I too will often connect the point I am making to either the vision, mission or core values. I do a series on our core values every 18 to 24 months. In the seat pockets of the chairs in the sanctuary are laminated copies of our vision, mission and core values with the behaviors so folks can review them.
As the Church Consultant for the Eastern Region, one of the questions I ask boards when we meet is, “What is your spiritual community’s vision, mission and core values?” Quite often they cannot tell me it unless they find it on a bulletin or on some other document. I share with the leadership of ministries that I am working with that having a vision, mission and core values helps in determining what programs and projects the ministry takes on.
The question to ask before even deciding what would be needed to make this happen is, “Does this support who we say we are? Does this support our vision and mission?” This eliminates hurt feelings if someone brings an idea forward that is not in alignment with the ministries direction. It is much easier to say, “This is a great idea however it doesn’t align with our mission.” When a ministry is mission-driven, the likelihood of conflict is less because it is more about making a difference in the world and less about personalities.
Minister Must Be in Alignment
It is my belief that the minister must be aligned with the vision and mission and core values of the ministry, and this becomes very important when a ministry is selecting a new minister. When a ministry has a clear vision, mission and core values, this becomes an important conversation to have with a candidate. What is their vision, mission and core values for ministry and does it align with the ministry’s vision, mission and core values? The goal is to have a good fit where both the ministry and the candidate are wanting to achieve the same end.
Lastly I will say that whenever I am having difficulty in my life, whether in the ministry or personally, if I take time to review my actions and feelings and what my own core values are, I will see where I may not be demonstrating one or more of them. Actually I am probably demonstrating just the opposite of the core value that would create the shift needed in the situation. Once I recognize it and make the shift, there is a good chance that I will have smoother sailing going forward.