An inadequate sense of mission is not only a symptom of poor congregational functioning but also can be a symptom of anemic spiritual awareness. Two major spiritual questions are: Who do you think you are, and what do you think you are doing? In other words why are we born and what is the purpose of our lives?
Unitarian Universalism draws upon six sources and states as one of its principles of covenantal community to promote and affirm the free and responsible search for truth and meaning, but these guiding frames of reference may be way too broad for most individuals and church organizations. Pastor Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life sold millions of copies indicating the thirst that people have to be helped to develop a sense of meaning in their lives.
One UU church used this statement as its mission statement in its incorporation papers:
The purpose of this Church is to create a supportive, caring community in which to pursue religious, ethical and spiritual growth through worship, education and service to others. Members covenant together to affirm and promote:
• The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
• Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
• Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.
• A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
• The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
• The goal of a world community with peace, liberty and justice for all;
• Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
The pastor of this same congregation led the congregation through an exercise she obtained from a district office representative of the UUA, and she and a hastily formed committee came up with this mission statement which the congregation has been promoting in its newsletter:
Our Mission Statement
The ____________________ congregation,
A diverse and supportive spiritual community,
Seeking truth and transformation through,
Respect and compassion for each other and our world.
A member of the same congregation suggested this as a mission statement:
The mission of ________ is provide spiritual support to individuals and families, improve the quality of life in our community and the world, and work across systems and cultures for positive change.
A useful, effective mission statement should possess three characteristics: it should be memorable, create a boundary which allows people to discern whether organizational activities are valid and appropriate for organizational implementation, and be a basis for developing indicators to measure and evaluate organizational effectiveness.
The failure to develop a viable mission statement that fulfills these three functions leaves the organizational identity and purpose ambiguous and lays the foundation for conflict and organizational failure.
A good mission statement tells people who members of this organization are, what they are about, and what they intend as consequences of organizational activity. A good mission statement is the tiller of the boat, it allows the leadership and membership to steer the vessel in an intentional and deliberate way towards a destination. Without the tiller, the boat is adrift, and if you don’t know where you’re going any wind will take you there.
To be continued