While “A Compelling Mission & Vision” is just one of seven vital signs identified by our Diocese [as areas that contribute to a healthy, growing church], I would argue that it’s the most important. A compelling mission and vision are the roots from which all the other vital signs grow.
The Diocesan Vital Signs resources suggest that a parish’s mission and vision are “vital” when they are stated clearly, when all of a parish’s ministries are aligned to that mission and vision, and when the mission and vision are supported by all levels of ministry leadership.
The way we’ve approached this work at St. Margaret’s is by articulating a clear, concise, and relatively permanent purpose statement, and a longer, specific, and measurable five-year vision statement. Both were a result of a strategic planning process, which we undertook in 2019 through engagement with the Unstuck Group.
Our purpose statement is in essence our mission: an articulation of why we exist. For us, it was useful to articulate this through the lens of our neighborhood’s demographics and the new people we hoped to reach. Of course, it also is informed by and resonates with those who are already part of our faith community.
St. Margaret’s purpose statement is:
St. Margaret’s is a warm place to renew faith in God, care for one another, and thrive in a diverse, LGBTQIA-affirming, and inclusive community.
Our vision statement is future-oriented–an articulation of where we’re going. And we’re not talking about 100 years from now–just five. After five years have passed, the intention is to repeat the process, recasting a new vision for the next five years. Year by year, the vision statement serves as a roadmap for our ministries and a filter for our priorities.
To discern our vision, we prayed, asking the question, “What is God’s preferred future for St. Margaret’s?” The resulting statement is our faithful answer.
St. Margaret’s vision statement begins: “Drawing on the diversity of our people and their gifts, with God’s help we will grow spiritually and numerically over the next five years by…”
We then list three overall “buckets,” each of which are action-oriented. In other words, they’re gerund verbs–each an articulation of how we aim to grow.
St. Margaret’s vision states that we seek to grow by:
- Inspiring every person to experience the love of God in Christ;
- Educating disciples of Christ and equipping people to put their faith in action;
- Growing generosity and neighborliness.
Under each of these three areas, we then list three specific objectives we hope to accomplish. Under the first, “Inspiring every person to experience the love of God in Christ,” we list goals related to worship; hospitality and newcomers; and sacramental commitments. We also track various metrics related to each objective. For example, under the second, “Educating disciples and equipping them to put their faith in action,” we measure parish engagement. That is, what percentage of our active members are engaged in formation programs, are serving regularly as worship leaders, or are volunteering through our outreach programs. By 2026, we’re shooting for the lofty goal of 100% engagement.
Similar to the process the Diocese is following with its strategic plan, St. Margaret’s Vestry meets annually to set three priorities for the year, informed by our self-assessment of the gaps between our vision’s objectives and where we currently are. Setting these priorities has arguably been one of the most challenging aspects of this work. Now that we have an energizing vision of where we want to go, it’s hard to slow down and acknowledge that we can’t accomplish everything in just one year. We’re constantly reminding one another, “This is a five-year vision–not a one-year sprint.”
You can check out St. Margaret’s full Purpose and Vision here.
For any parish considering the work of strategic planning and visioning, I highly commend you to make it a priority. For us at St. Margaret’s, it has been a vital, clarifying, and energizing tool, which has helped us align our purpose and calling with our day-to-day, year-by-year activities and resources. To God be the glory.
The Rev. Richard Weiberg
Rector, St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, DC
In the coming months, we will continue to highlight parishes in the Diocese that exemplify each of the Parish Vital Signs through a story they share about their ministry. Read the series launch article