Your Organization’s Mission is Question Zero

Remember the last time you sat down to do a jigsaw puzzle? The work proceeds in two basic steps. First, you put the edges together. Finding all of the little pieces with straight edges is the easiest way to begin. As you piece together the top and bottom and sides, the puzzle is framed up within a relatively short period of time.

The second part of the process is now ready to begin, because you have defined the basic shape and outline of the puzzle. Before building the frame, it would have been exceedingly difficult to put many of the middle pieces together. But now, all of those elusive jigsaw shapes and unclear image fragments have perspective and boundaries.

Even though the frame makes the puzzle-building project easier, more work remains. You pick up awkward shape after awkward shape, twisting and turning them and turning again, until you get just the right fit and-snap-the image develops, one piece at a time. After a long journey that may take days or even months, the final image emerges.

Articulating your church’s vision is like working on a jigsaw puzzle.

Auxano co-founder Will Mancini developed the Vision Frame concept to show you how to articulate your vision the same way you would build a puzzle: in two basic steps.

Here is the first of four parts introducing the Vision Frame, guiding you to first think about the four outer edges – the components of your church’s identity that frame everything else you do. These edges anchor the second part of the process (a future SUMS Remix), which involves the direction of living and articulating the dynamic vision of your Church Unique through the daily work of turning and twisting the pieces of the organization. The edges of the frame are definitive, but the middle of the puzzle is dynamic. The fixed nature of step one, building the frame, anchors the fluid nature of step two, where your vision picture slowly develops into the better intermediate future God has entrusted to you. 

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and Churches by Peter Greer and Chris Horst

Without careful attention, faith-based organizations drift from their founding mission. It’s that simple. It will happen. 

Why do so many organizations wander from their mission, while others remain Mission True? Can drift be prevented? In Mission Drift, HOPE International executives Peter Greer and Chris Horst show how to determine whether your organization is in danger of drift, and they share the results of their research into Mission True and Mission Untrue organizations.

Even if your organization is on course, it’s wise to look for ways to inoculate yourself against drift. You’ll discover what you can do to prevent drift or get back on track and how to protect what matters most.


The first side to Auxano’s Vision Frame is the missional mandate, defined as a clear and concise statement that defines what the church is ultimately supposed to be doing. The Mission answers “question zero” – the question before all other questions. Why do we exist? What is our raison d’etre? The Mission is your church’s compass and guiding North Star. As such, it provides direction and points everyone in that direction. The mission is like the heartbeat of the organization. It should touch members on an emotional level and act like a cohesive force and binding agent. 

Without careful attention, faith-based organizations will inevitably drift from their founding mission. Slowly, silently, and with little fanfare, organizations routinely drift from their original purpose, and most will never return to their original intent.

In its simplest form, true organizations know why they exist and protect their core at all costs. They remain faithful to what they believe God has entrusted them to do. They define what is immutable: their values and purposes, their DNA, their heart and soul.

That doesn’t mean Mission True organizations don’t change. And it doesn’t mean they aren’t striving for excellence. In fact, they understand their core identity will demand they change. And their understanding of Scripture will demand they strive for the very highest levels of excellence. But growth and professionalism are subordinate values. To remain Mission True is to adapt and grow, so long as that adaptation and growth does not alter the core identity.

Mission True organizations decide that their identity matters and then become fanatically focused on remaining faithful to this core.

The pressures of Mission Drift are guaranteed. It is the default, the auto-fill. It will happen unless we are focused and actively preventing it.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the very thing our world so desperately needs. And the infusion of the Gospel in our organization is what we most need to protect.

Peter Greer and Chris Horst, Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and Churches


Mission Defined

The mission is the guiding compass of the church. The mission answers the question, “What are we ultimately supposed to be doing?” It makes the overall direction of the church unquestionable and points everyone in that direction. The mission is also like a golden thread that weaves through every activity of the church. Therefore, it brings greater meaning to the most menial functions of ministry.         

Mission Icon as a Compass

The average guy, Joe, will encounter the mission first by hearing it everywhere by many different people. So we say that mission is “what Joe hears” at the church.

Mission Reminders

  • Aim for clear, concise, compelling, catalytic and contextual
  • Remind people that the church exists for those outside of it
  • Reflect your Kingdom Concept
  • Don’t think “billboard marketing” but “military mission” – it’s internal, not external language
  • Promote “be the church” not “go to church”
  • Create the big world of ministry with the best, few words (words create worlds)

Gather the team and ask this question: How does our current mission measure up to the bullets above? What is missing from our mission?

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 115-1, released March 2019.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<




Mission is What You Measure

Following up from yesterday’s post, here’s a simple question for you:

What types of “film” would you watch to improve the effectiveness of your church?

Keeping in mind that I’m using “film” in a figurative sense – there are many ways to observe, measure, and evaluate activities in your organization for possible improvement.

What most established churches measure is harmony, stability, and privilege. That is what occupies the agenda of most staff meetings, congregational gatherings, and denominational processes.

  • Churches go to great lengths to measure harmony – they mark every single, conceivable, and even half-baked complaint, anxiety, or hurt feeling.
  • Churches go to great lengths to measure stability. They chart the financial and membership trends. They have mastered the art of risk management.
  • Churches go to great length to measure privilege. They maintain elaborate by-laws and exacting processes for consensus management

Often the problem is that a watching and seeking world sees the disconnect between the stated (or at least assumed) mission of the church and the reality.

Is it possible to consider other activities that the church should be doing? How about “watching the film” in these areas for starters?

  • Do you have a red carpet? – What is your guest experience like? How do you welcome people to your campus? What makes your guests say, “Wow – I didn’t expect that!”
  • How do you handle frequent fliers? – Welcoming every guest is important. Welcoming guests for the second and third time is extremely important!
  • Who’s on your team? – Team matters – if you’re going to be in the game, you’ve got to have a team. There are probably dozens of opportunities in your church for people to be involved. How do you move them from attending to participating?
  • What’s my draft like? – Sports teams don’t just randomly pick their players; they spend lots of money and effort to know the potential of each player. Recruiting leaders in your church ought to operate the same way.
  • How many teams are in your league? Your church probably worships in a large group or two, but it will only thrive and grow by creating small groups. How do you create them, what do you expect them to do, and how do they reproduce?
  • How do you define a win? In sports, you look at the scoreboard. What’s a win look like for your church as individuals, groups, and the church as a whole?

I’ve only scratched the surface – you can probably add a dozen more activities to this list – things you ought to be “watching the film” on. Understanding what is important, and then taking steps to continually improve it, will produce results.

Mission is what you measure.

My favorite post from June, 2012