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Discover how core competencies will empower your mission and vision

| by Bob Whitesel

A layperson in a client church once said, 

“Every new pastor thinks they must redo our vision statement. But it just comes out to be a different version of the previous one, and we waste a lot of time.” (paraphrased)

And, a student observed,

"… a church does not need a mission statement, the church is the mission. Every church’s mission statement is a re-stating of the Great Commission, and it should be. I absolutely love the mission of the Wesleyan Church ‘Fulfilling the Great Commission in the Spirit of the Great Commandment.’ (So) I would argue that you must carefully wordsmith your vision statement for your setting, however, turn to Matthew 28:16-20 as your starting point."

If the student was right and the Church has a life-changing mission, why do so many lay leaders roll their eyes when a new pastor wants to re-edit the mission and/or vision statement?

A waste of time?

The wrong purpose can make crafting mission and vision statements feel like a waste of time.

As a consultant, I’ve observed a common purpose for re-writing such statements is because the leader is trying to “teach the people” and that crafting this is a learning exercise.  Now, there is nothing wrong with crafting a vision or a mission statement as a learning exercise. Often congregants get frustrated if they are already well versed in biblical, historical and theological roots of these statements because of many years of church attendance. One lay leader said to me (a paraphrase), Every new pastor thinks they must redo our vision statement. But it just comes out to be a different version of the previous one, and we waste a lot of time.

I would argue that working on mission and vision statements is not a waste of time if congregants are unaware of the biblical, historical and theological foundation on which the church stands. This may be the case in a church that has been recently planted or newly revived. In many of our ministries with long histories, we have dear leaders with long histories in the local church’s view of the Bible, history and theology.1

Start by discovering your core competencies.

While many pastors spend a lot of time working on mission and vision statements (often to the exasperation of the lay leaders), many leaders never take the time to figure out the role "core competencies" play in crafting good vision statements.2

Core competencies are:

  • Things a ministry does so effortlessly, and is known for in the community. They are easy to discover; just ask around.
  • In the business world, you would never lead an organization without first discovering the core competencies that sets your business apart.
  • Most churches have core competencies, they just don’t know them. (Outsiders know them, for good or ill).

Most ministries never capitalize upon their core competencies because they never discover them.

Here are some examples of core competencies my students have described:

• Anointed music,

• Small group discipleship,

• Multi-ethnicity,

• Social action,

• Prayer ministry,

• Great preaching,

• Work with blue-collar needy, etc.

In each of these examples, students discovered that their ministry had something God had empowered them to do well, and for which they had become known in the community.  Now that they knew this, they could capitalize on what God had empowered them to do.

Core competencies tell what God has equipped you to do, and point the way forward.

The problem is that when a ministry does not take the time to figure out its core competencies, then that ministry often goes in multiple directions with programming. As a result, a church will not see how their core competencies make it better suited to use certain programming rather than other programming.

Discovering your core competencies (CCs) is not just part of organizational analysis, but also the basis for your vision statement.

A good vision statement is based upon your non-negotiables (from the Bible, history and theology). Your vision statement is also based upon the core competencies (CCs) God has given you.3

Therefore, always consult your core competencies before you create your vision statements.  Remember, a vision statement should emphasize to congregants and non-churchgoers the gifts God has given you (core competencies). CCs are important for helping you define your vision, but too often they are sadly overlooked.



1. Let me add another caveat here. If a church has had a historical, aberrant view of theology, history or Scripture, then focusing on a mission and value statement is a good starting place.

2. Core competencies (CCs) are a church’s strongest and most well-known strengths. These strengths are usually the result of people with certain complementary gifts in the congregation. The Scriptures describe a variety of God-given gifts. Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 along with secondary lists in 1 Corinthians 7, 13–14, Ephesians 3 and 1 Peter 4 describe many of the “gifts of the (Holy) Spirit” that God uses to empower people for service and ministry.

3. Understanding the gifts God has given your church will help you see how you can participate in God’s Mission (the missio Dei). A vision statement thus paints a picture of how your church will use its gifts to participate more fully in the missio Dei.

Bob Whitesel

Bob Whitesel (D.Min., Ph.D.) is a sought after speaker, church health consultant and award-winning writer of 13 books on missional leadership, church change and church growth. He is founding professor and former professor of missional leadership of Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University. He also holds two earned doctorates (D.Min. and Ph.D.) from Fuller Theological Seminary where he was awarded “The Donald McGavran Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Church Growth.” His website is

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