It’s legitimate to ask the question, “Why does a congregation need to define its mission?” After all, shouldn’t a congregation’s mission be “to live the word of Torah/Scripture in the world?” On a basic level, that’s true. But if the mission of the congregation is so amorphous, it will resemble an amoeba trying to move in different directions at the same time.
I like the definition that Rabbi David Teutsch uses in his book, Making a Difference. A Guide to Jewish Leadership and Not-for-Profit Management. He writes, “…a strong organization articulates both articulates a picture of the world it is attempting to create and its own particular role in creating it (p.81). Any mission answers the question, why do you exist as an organization? You can also think of a mission statement as a tombstone. If your congregation was to leave this world, what epitaph would people write about it?
The skepticism about the need for a clear mission may be related to bad experiences in trying to craft one. Or, it may reflect the reality that once the work of defining the congregation’s mission is complete, no one really seems to use it. However, defining and periodically refining your mission can be incredibly powerful for your congregation.
How many times has someone approached congregational leaders with a “good idea,” and was even willing to back it with resources? If you don’t have a clearly defined mission, you may be tempted to agree to it because of the allure of funding. But that’s a scenario which you will wind up regretting. Why? Because no major organizational decision should be taken unless it is aligned with your organization’s mission. One of the essential tasks of senior professional and volunteer leaders is to exist in a way that is always faithful to its mission. With that kind of consistency, your mission will become a driving force for maximizing the impact that you are congregation will have in the world.
Here are some examples of mission statements that can really serve as clear guides to organizational purpose:
- Congregational innovation and leadership development (the mission statement of STAR when it existed)
- To create a more perfect world through the pursuit of Torah
- Using Scripture to work out answers to life’s large and small questions
- Preparing today’s leaders for tomorrow’s organizations™ (full disclosure—that is the mission of my new company, Herring Consulting Network).
What has your experience been with congregational mission statements? Also—I’d love you to submit what you think is an exemplary organizational mission statement. Can’t wait to hear from you!
Rabbi Hayim Herring, President, Herring Consulting Network