annual conference leadership

Mission and Vision: Local Church + Annual Conference + Denomination = ? (3 of 3)


It is important for organizations to have mission and vision statements to guide the future of the organization. I currently am serving as part of an organization that has three different mission statements.
What is the best way to navigate these differences? What takes precedence in ministry? Who best decides how differing mission statements are integrated, adjusted or ignored? Why do these statements need to be different (or the same)?

7 replies on “Mission and Vision: Local Church + Annual Conference + Denomination = ? (3 of 3)”

Are they different? Or all they all slightly different ways of describing the same thing? I read them as more alike than different.

Andrew –

I think you raise a valid point here. Let me give it my best shot. It’s confusing at best, but to put it simply, I think the UMC sets the mission, the local church carries out the mission, and the conference is there to help the local church.

The overall mission of the UMC is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world (MDOJCFTTOTW) – everything in the organization (annual conferences, local churches, agencies) must and should be working towards this mission.

Local churches are where disciples are made (see discipline para. 201), according to the UMC, therefore, I think it is proper for each local church to have its own vision to carry out the overall mission of the UMC in its local setting, so long as the local church remembers its purpose for being in the UMC as well as its overall mission.

The conference is a different bag altogether. In one sense, the conference’s job is not to make disciples in the literal sense, but to equip and connect local churches so the disciple-making process can take place at the local church level. For a conference to have its own vision for its setting I think works, again, as long as the conference remembers its purpose for being in the UMC and the overall mission.

Clear as mud, right?

I agree with John that they are similar. The mission statement as adapted at General Conference is a rallying cry, I think, for the denomination as a whole, with the hope that those words would be adopted and applied within the local church. It is more concise than the annual conference statement, and thus, a little more helpful.

As long as there is clarity and grounding in Scripture, I think we’re in good shape.

If we could just walk back the addition of “For The Transformation of the World” which I think has questionable theological justification, I would be happy with the statement. The rhetorical emphasis of this formulation suggests that the end is the transformation of the world, rather than discipleship.

Certainly discipleship should produce some world transformation, but it is less than clear that the scriptures suggest it will be significant outside of the consummation of all things. Adding the secondary clause puts us in the strange position of wondering why other things weren’t included. The notion that the goal of the Christian life is world transformation is simply not one that is shared by even perhaps a majority of the catholic consensus. I would be happier with something like ….for the Glory of God, which seems clearly more aligned with the concluding narrative of the scriptures….Holy, Holy, Holy and all that. Might seem like a little thing but words do matter.

I tend to wonder, however, at least at the denominational level why we need to re-invent the words of Jesus – Go therefore into all the world…… pretty good mission statement right there.

I’d agree with Chuck about the questionable justification for the addition of ‘For the Transformation of the World.’ (I would probably go further and say that ‘questionable’ is too generous.)

In and of itself the phrase ‘transformation of the world’ is fairly benign; it’s the conjunction ‘for’ which has the effect of subsuming discipleship under the auspices of ‘world transformation.’ Instead of discipleship being the purpose of the church within the context of the great commission, with the corollary of those who are made disciples ‘obeying everything I have commanded you,’ the trajectory of discipleship is inverted.

The most troubling thing to me about the addition of that phrase is that discipleship then becomes subservient to whatever one then defines as ‘transformation of the world,’ which is hardly self-evident. It also feels like a sort of bait-and-switch, in that instead of creating disciples for the purpose of creating disciples the purpose of the church then becomes to create disciples so they can then participate in whatever is currently defined as ‘world transformation.’

I think that ‘world transformation’ is actually a fairly vacuous phrase, as to really be almost meaningless, especially as it applies to our role within society since it doesn’t translate into any concrete description of what is need of transformation. Certainly there is no lack of things in our world in need of transformation; at the same time, there are transformations presently occurring within society and the world that are utterly repugnant to the Christian ethic.

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