Does your church have a vision statement? Do you use it? If you don't really use it, you may just "lose it" -- or at least lose its power and effectiveness.

Our Indiana Conference has a newly-adopted statement of our "Vision and Values," which you can find on our website (http://inumc.org/pages/detail/40) by clicking on "About Us" and reading it or even downloading it as a PDF file. This statement was drafted out of the work of the Bishop's Operational Team, which was coached by SLI (Spiritual Leadership, Inc.). The team worked on a draft, I shared it in an E-pistle last summer, then it was posted on the web site for comment, and various individuals and groups looked at it and offered edits. The team drafted a new version to include many of those suggestions, it went back through the Cabinet and Directors and various other conference groups, was posted again, and finally was tweaked by the Leadership Table of the Conference who voted on the revised version through an e-mail ballot just last week.

So our "Vision and Values" statement has been up and down and in and around our connection, and I think it is evident that the wisdom of the body has prevailed.

But now if it is just a statement on a web site, it will lose all of its power. Such statements have to be used, and one of the members of the Leadership Table has even suggested we develop it into a kind of litany to be read at every meeting of the Table. Such statements must be used to guide decision-making, to ask penetrating questions about any new proposals (such as, "Where does this fit into our values?" or "How will doing that new proposal help us to accomplish our mission?"). For the truth is that we as a church and as individual Christians can do many, many good things -- where we need help is it discerning what are the best or most excellent things we should do?

So I hope you will read the "Vision and Values" statement of our Indiana Conference. I hope it will prompt your congregation to develop such a statement (if you don't have one already). And then, I hope you will use it and not lose it.

P.S. The consultants from SLI have conducted an informal study of local church web sites and have noticed the following trend: Local churches with a clear statement of their beliefs or vision or values tend also to be vibrant and growing churches, but churches whose websites simply list activities tend not to be growing or vibrant. The SLI consultants propose that when a church is clear about its beliefs/vision/values/mission, then it tends to attract persons who are looking for relevant, vital, and directed ministries. When a church simply engages in "activities" (even good ones) without any sense of direction, that church flounders and is not attractive to persons looking for a place to make a difference in the world. Take a look at your church's website and see if it clearly identifies a direction and purpose.