Living in-line with our purpose through organizational clarity

By John and Joan Beck | Feb 13, 2019

Many organizations, and especially churches (and other religious groups), are unclear about their focus and direction. This happens in spite of the intention to follow the God who is revealed in Jesus of Nazareth.

Without clarity of purpose, groups are significantly more vulnerable to any number of challenges, including financial struggles, governing board infighting and interpersonal conflicts.

In the Christian denomination to which Pointe of Grace Lutheran belongs, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, research shows that when there is clarity of purpose and leaders who are willing to do what it takes to accomplish that purpose, the sky is the limit.

One caveat is that this purpose must be memorable, articulated, and practiced by adherents. Further, it is divided into an aspirational vision, a memorable mission (purpose) statement, and specific and measurable values.

Our aspirational vision, something we strive to be: “We are called to be ministers for the God of Grace in the world – everyone a Pointe of Grace.”

Wow! That is quite a vision, but is it doable? That points to the second part of our organizational description.

To put it another way: Can we say, in a few words, who we are (at our core) as an organization?  For Pointe of Grace, that meant a year-long discernment and review process that led to this shorthand version of our mission: “Grounded in God; growing in community with Christ; giving of ourselves.”

In some ways, this phrase functions like branding in advertising. It is visible in our publications, sermons, worship folders, and reports. It is memorable enough to be prayed by members on a regular basis.

But most importantly, that mission (purpose) flows out and is measured against a framework of five values that further express who we are as a community: inspired, open-hearted, hospitable, generous, outgoing. To see the whole structure, see:

This whole configuration comes into play when an idea surfaces about a new area of ministry or a project that someone wants to explore.

Unlike many other organizations, where the loudest voice or the largest check can set direction, we go through a process of simple questions: How does this activity (or possibility) fit with our values? Does this direction seem congruent with our purpose? Will this engagement help us to achieve our aspirational direction?

We don’t do this all perfectly! (That is part of being Lutheran, acknowledging our brokenness and getting to start over each day.)

Does it take getting used to? (Big time struggle to get used to thinking and acting this way.)

Will it make a difference in our life together and our organizational functioning? (It already has influenced how we have developed as a newly recognized ELCA congregation since Aug. 5, 2018.)

We would be glad to talk more with anyone who might be curious if this pattern for clarity of purpose could strengthen your organization.

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