How to Stay Focused on Your Mission


Barry Winders says having a mission statement isn’t enough to keep your church focused and fruitful. Churches need to develop a mission filter — a question or statement designed to evaluate decisions and activities to determine their alignment with the mission.

As a leader, have you found yourself comparing your mission and vision to what is happening in your organization? When you look honestly, do you see a gap between what you say your organization is about and what is actually taking place? When faced with a difficult decision or hiring choice, do you ever consider the mission and vision of the organization? Or do you just find the person that fits the job description instead of finding the person who best fits the mission and vision?

In many organizations, there is a huge gap or a great divide between who we say we are and how we do business, between the overarching mission of the church and the activities the church promotes. How many of your teams or committees look at the mission and vision when planning activities?

What if your church had a filter for planning and decision-making? What if your leaders had a question to ask their teams to keep the brainstorming process focused on the “why”? What if, when tensions rise and ideas compete, leaders could utilize a mission filter to redirect the attention of the group?

A mission filter

A mission statement is not enough. Churches need a honing process so that core ideas, core initiatives, and core activities embrace the mission. Utilizing a mission filter question or statement can consistently focus everyone’s attention and energy on where they are going and why. For a church or faith-based organization, a mission filter is a self-monitoring tool that gives leaders the ability to test their systems for engaging and serving people beyond their walls. It connects and brings clarity between mission, vision, and action steps.

The mission filter statement or question is not a slogan or tagline. A slogan or tagline is useful for marketing and external purposes. The mission filter is for internal purposes by the leaders of the organization. That is a huge difference. The mission filter statement or question is designed to internally filter decisions and activities to be aligned with the mission.

How to frame a mission filter statement or question

The mission filter statement or question should be crafted in positive language, not negative, and should be brief. Brevity works best. For this reason, it becomes portable, easy to transfer with intentionality and communicate to others. The brevity, the portability, and the intentionality of the statement or question make it convenient to memorize, which is even better.

For example, if your church’s mission is “Connecting people to Jesus and one another,” your mission filters might be “Are we intentionally connecting people to Jesus?” and “Are we intentionally connecting people to one another?” Or, if your mission is “To present the Gospel of Jesus Christ in such a way that turns non-Christians into converts, converts into disciples, and disciples into mature, fruitful leaders, who will, in turn, go into the world and reach others for Christ,” your mission filters might be “Are we intentionally turning non-Christian into converts?” “Are we intentionally turning converts into disciples?” “Are we intentionally turning disciples into mature, fruitful leaders?” and “Are we intentionally going into the world to reach others for Christ?”

Creating collective commitment

The compounding result of using the mission filter is that leaders share a common commitment to the mission. There is less opportunity for “siloed” thinking. The mission filter statement or question creates a common “mission” thread that is woven throughout the organization. When every member of a group believes in the mission and vision and sees how the group’s work contributes to that end, members become invested in the work. That personal investment in the work and one another is what drives the motivation to work hard and behave in ways that support success.

Barry E. Winders is author of The Mission Filter: Raising Mission Consciousness Amid a Crisis (West Bow Press, 2021).

Related Resources


About Author

Barry Winders

Barry Winders is a retired elder of the Missouri Conference and serves part time as Pastor of Adult Discipleship and Care at Centenary United Methodist Church in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

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Discovering God’s Future for Your Church

Discovering God’s Future for Your Church is a turn-key tool kit to help your congregation discern and implement God’s vision for its future. The resource guides your church in discovering clues to your vision in your history and culture, your current congregational strengths and weaknesses, and the needs of your surrounding community. The tool kit features videos, leader’s guides, discussion exercises, planning tools, handouts, diagrams, worksheets, and more. Learn more and watch an introductory video now.