The Church’s (Clear?) Mission

Over the past four years, in my current and previous jobs and in my volunteer work with the local synod, I have had the joy of talking with dozens – hundreds, perhaps – of pastors, church professionals, and volunteers from Lutheran congregations throughout the northeast United States. I have talked with leaders of congregations that struggle and with leaders of congregations that thrive. Some have asked me, "Chris, you travel around the church. What do you see? What are the (successful, big, growing, etc.) congregations doing? What’s hot?"

Sure, there are trends – such as the Purpose Driven phenomenon, "contemporary" worship, or a return to traditions shed during the last half-century – but there is not one single program that successful/big/growing churches are all doing. There is no silver bullet. There is no magic formula. I’ve seen growing churches with contemporary worship and without. Some use multimedia, some don’t. Some of these successful/big/growing churches have extensive youth programs, some don’t.

What they have in common is this – all of these successful/big/growing churches have a clear sense of identity. They know who they are, they know whose they are, and they know what they’re about. From semi-active lay workers to church council leaders to pastoral staff, everyone in these congregations knows their mission. From worship to education to fellowship to service, all church activities are shaped by that mission. These churches – some small, some large, most growing but all dynamic and healthy – have a clear, concise and focused sense of ministry and mission.

This is just my observation.  This does not mean that a clear, concise, well-articulated sense of ministry and mission is the answer to your struggling church woes.  But it is perhaps the most important step.  Conversely, many struggling churches may have a clear sense of mission but have other factors – some in their control and some not – that keep them from carrying it out.  Nonetheless, the one characteristic that healthy, dynamic and growing churches have is a clear sense of mission.  This mission guides, informs and directs all that they do, supporting their identify and clarifying their role in the community, church, world, etc..

Published by C. Duckworth

Spouse. Parent. Lutheran Pastor. National Guardsman. Political Junkie. Baseball Fan.

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