Now that we have our dual starting points for children’s ministry (parents AND outreach), the next step is to set the mission. This essential part of the process is more than just writing a mission statement that goes on your website and letterhead. Setting the mission is all about establishing the foundation of the ministry and seeking only to build on that groundwork. By analogy, it’s like letting concrete “set up” so that the structure can be properly attached, to ensure stability and longevity. With that image in mind, let’s launch into our next lesson:
Lesson Three: Set the Mission
In my early days in children’s ministry, I wasn’t a big fan of getting a team together to compose a mission statement. It seemed like a pointless exercise that would just end up in a dusty filing cabinet. But then I realized that my real problem with mission statements was that many companies, organizations, groups, and even families (yes, I recommend a family mission statement now) easily get off-course by ignoring their mission. So I guess this is my backhanded way of saying that it is a MUST that you establish a clear mission and that you allow the mission to “SET,” so you end up sticking to it.
Setting a mission is also more than creating a singular mission statement. In order to establish a solid foundation, a more robust approach includes these four overlapping statements:
- A purpose statement
- A vision statement
- Mission distinctives
- Mission outcomes
Let’s briefly break these down…
Your Purpose Statement should align with your church’s purpose statement, assuming it has one. Here’s our church’s purpose statement: “We live to demonstrate the magnificent beauty of Jesus Christ and the power of His life-transforming presence.” And here’s the purpose statement our children’s ministry team developed ten years ago:
“We live to demonstrate to children the magnificent beauty of Jesus Christ and the power of His life-transforming presence.”
I know, you are amazed by our originality. But that’s just the point: it shouldn’t be original. Your children’s ministry must be totally in line with the mission of your church. It’s not to be a stand-alone entity.
Flowing out of your one-sentence purpose statement is your Vision Statement. This is the forward-looking plan that seeks to fulfill the purpose statement in a meaningful way. Typically, your vision statement will begin with the words “so that” or “in order to.” Just to get you thinking, here’s the vision statement of our children’s ministry:
So that children may see Christ in us and come to love and trust Him, we will by grace: (1) Assist parents in the Christian nurture of their children; (2) Proclaim the gospel to children, both converted and unconverted; (3) Equip covenant parents in the teaching, training, and nurturing of children; (4) Love children with the love of Christ; and (5) Reach out to children outside of the covenant community.
These are the the sorts of vision standards that become the platform for all of your ministry components, programs, and activities. Your vision statement is meant to keep everything in perspective, so you don’t lose your focus.
From there, you establish your Mission Distinctives. What are thing thing that you do which fulfill your purpose and vision, setting you apart in your mission? These distinctives also encompass your overall philosophy of children’s ministry, which we will discuss in future lessons. So, to keep consistent, here is our “distinctives” statement as an example:
What sets us apart in our mission: (1) A serious commitment to our baptismal vows; (2) Sunday School curriculum that systematically teaches the entirety of Scripture; (3) Relationship-building and disciple-making opportunities for our covenant children; (4) Parenting instruction and individualized counseling; (5) Prayer and love for our children and their families.
To round out your “setting of the mission,” it’s helpful to have a brief statement of Mission Outcomes. Yet again, this keeps you forward-looking and long-term, rather than short-sighted and reactive in your approach, This statement answers the question: What do we hope to accomplish in the lives of children by the time they move on from children’s ministry? Here;s our Mission Outcome statement as a guide:
What a “Graduate” of our children’s ministry should look like: By the time our children graduate to the Youth Ministry, our desire is for them to know “the Holy Scriptures which are able to make one wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ” (II Timothy 3:14-17). As our children place their faith in Christ alone for salvation, we seek to help them begin a lifetime process of LEARNING, LOVING, and LIVING God’s Word. By the work of God’s Spirit through God’s Word, our children should be growing in the fruit of the Spirit, experiencing the beginnings of Spiritual gifts, and forming some lifelong covenant relationships within the Body of Christ.
That completes the Mission Setting process. Once that is established, everything else you do must fit into your mission, If a program or activity doesn’t fit into the mission, then you don’t engage in it or you discard it if it already exists (which is easier said than done). Then, you can move on to setting the core!