To get the back story on this post click here and then here.
After yesterday’s post I’m feeling the opening line of Eminem’s Love the Way You Lie, “I can’t tell you what it really is, I can only tell you what it feels like…” So maybe sharing some of my experiences with mission statements and statements created out of a Lifestyle Centric Understanding of church will help get my thoughts across.
Building and Using a Mission Statement
While on staff at one church a few years back I was commissioned to redesign the church’s small group system. The church had a small group system already. The groups were creeping along, but they were clunky and unfocused (I had helped create that system as well, so this attempt was a redo). We, the staff team, were frustrated by the current Purpose Driven system we had been living and needed a change. Recently we had stumbled upon North Point’s foyer, living room, kitchen model and felt it was a perfect fit. Our Sunday morning worship service was rocking awesome – fantastic worship, strong-relevant-personal messages, solid setting; but we needed a good living rooms and kitchen’s to back it up.
So I called together a bunch of leaders and potential leaders and we got to work. We combed through scripture together. We looked at other models else where. We brainstormed at 6am over coffee and donuts. We debated, white boarded ideas, laughed, and argued some more until finally we landed on a system of discipleship that we believed would begin to build intimacy and empower group members to grow. At the center of the system was a great mission statement – We will provide opportunities for discipleship through environments that foster accountability, community, and time with God (A.C.T).
Once the theoretical system had passed through the staff team for tweaking, we were off to the races of implementation. We began training the existing groups in how to practice ACT. We did a huge sign up campaign and launched new groups. We developed a new tracking and reporting system (a very cool excel sheet that took in weekly ACT scores, attendance, and visitors from each group and pumped out an estimation of group health…that was a cool toy built by Ben Piccone, the Excel Ninja). We recruited coaches that would continuously provide the small group leaders with support. And finally we trimmed the fat. Everything not focused on ACT either had to change or it was allowed to die off. The by product of all this effort was a great growing small group system that involved over 85% of the congregation.
Every mission statement / system redesign I’ve been a part of, whether it was at a ministry level or a whole church level, has followed this pattern – build the statement, implement in the activities, people practice.
Building and Using a Lifestyle Centric Understanding Statement
As I said before, this is very new for me. I’m only on round two right now with Valley (my first go was with the Thingy) and the Thingy is only a year and a half into practice; but I can already see some core stuff that distinguishes this practice from the formation and application of a mission statement.
With the Thingy, again, as with it was with building a mission statement, a team of leaders and potential leaders were assembled. (All Thingy members reading this are now wondering if they were a leader or a potential leader and that makes me laugh.) We too combed through scripture. We too looked at existing models. We tpp brainstormed, white boarded, debated, compromised, etc… But what we landed on was not a system of discipleship. Rather it was a pattern of life.
Of course the statement defining that lifestyle looked very much like a mission statement, “We will love God and love people by living in a way defined by humility, forgiveness, service, worship wonder, and surrender.” And if we were planning to use it as a mission statement, at this point we would have then built activity around it. Conversations like, “A, B, and C activities help us practice humility and give us an opportunity to serve so they are cool. Activities D and E don’t encourage any part of the mission statement so they are out…” We then would have taken the good activities and figured out how to work them into a cohesive flow so that they harmonized rather than compete with one another.
By accident, we weren’t smart enough to do this on purpose, we went a different route. Instead of focusing on activities that encouraged the lifestyle, we started living it out in our communities. Each one of us took the lifestyle statement and translated it into our existing world. How one person lived it at their restaurant was completely different than how Wendy and I lived it at our school. The statement was open sourced. We gave it to one another to struggle with.
Activities came. We do gather. But the content and structure of those activities are not built off the Lifestyle statement. Rather we constantly ask each other, what do you need right now to keep yourself refreshed and keep the lifestyle going. Sometimes the answer has been worship. Sometimes it has been teaching. Right now it seems to be prayer and scripture discovery. Living as missionaries in our communities, struggling with this common style is what hold us together. Not the stuff we do.
So is living out of a lifestyle centric understanding of church the same is centering what we do around a mission statement? I don’t think so.
Some of you have been on teams with me that both built a mission statement and are now are part of the Thingy. What do you think?