The Divorce of Mission

There is a common issue that arises when programs become a deeply ingrained part of a church or organization’s culture. I call it, “The Divorce of Mission.” The divorce of mission occurs when a program becomes more important than the mission it was created to fulfill. This is a very real seduction in the life of a church. The mission drives people to create a program or a strategy that will produce measurable progress toward the mission. But over time, people divorce the mission because they are having an emotional affair with the program. And that is what makes the struggle so difficult. People become emotionally tied to methods more than mission. And when you try to change the methods because they are no longer fulfilling the mission, it feels like you’ve walked into an organizational divorce court.

So how do you respond to the divorce of mission. Here’s a few thoughts to consider:

1. Build Regular Evaluations Into Your Organizational Calendar – When evaluation is an expected part of a program’s life, it lowers the threat-factor. The key is to insure the evaluation process is done with integrity and respect.

2. Conduct a One-On-One and a Team-Based Approach to Evaluation – A one-on-one approach involves meeting with key leaders to discuss the program’s health and effectiveness in fulfilling the mission. Then a team-based approach should be utilized for a broader evaluation process and will usually include the key leaders and a segment of those involved in the program.

3. Always Start with Mission and History – Begin the evaluation process by reviewing why the program was started in the first place. In other words, what mission was it designed to fulfill. Then unpack the history and evolution of the program.

4. Gather Subjective and Objective Data – Subjective opinion usually reveals the depth of the emotional affair which can be valuable for understanding change dynamics. But don’t stop with the subjective. There should be a process of gathering valuable hard data to assess the health of the program. You may need to conduct surveys or a S.W.O.T. Analysis–brainstorming Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats will help you gain objective data.

5. Process Data Against the Backdrop of the Mission – The key question is, “Does that data show clear evidence that the program is still effectively fulfilling the mission for which it was originally created.”

6. Determine Next Steps – The evaluation process should culminate in a plan of action that can be implemented by the team. If major change is necessary, it will be essential for the team to learn about change dynamics and create a healthy change strategy.

Questions: What programs in your church or organized have gravitated toward “The Divorce of Mission.” What will you do to address it?