It’s very easy for any organization, church, or ministry to get off-track and lose sight of its mission. But it is possible to avoid it, and possible to recover from it when it happens. A book I just finished reading, “Mission Drift”, by Peter Greer & Chris Horst, takes a good look at some of the causes of that drift, and they give some prescriptions for how to avoid it. I found it very helpful, and insightful while I’ve been traveling. Here’s a synopsis from the book…..

Without careful attention, faith-based organizations will inevitably drift from their founding mission. It’s that simple. It will happen. Slowly, silently, and with little fanfare, organizations routinely drift from their original purpose, and most will never return to their original intent. It has happened repeatedly throughout history. 

What is a Mission True organization? In its simplest form, Mission True organizations know why they exist and protect their core at all costs. They remain faithful to what they believe God has entrusted them to do. They define what is immutable: their values and purposes, their DNA, their heart and soul. 

This doesn’t mean Mission True organizations don’t change and it doesn’t mean they aren’t striving for excellence. In fact, their understanding of their core identity will demand they change, and their understanding of Scripture will demand they strive for the very highest levels of excellence. But growth and professionalism are subordinate values. To remain Mission True is to adapt and grow, so long as that adaptation and growth does not alter the core identity. 

Our initial research into Mission True organizations surprised us. In the interviews
we conducted, the first response we heard was almost always “Mission Drift is a daily battle.” As we heard the stories, we developed a simple framework. On a grid, we plotted two variables: Clarity of Christian mission and intentionality of safeguarding it. In other words: Do you know who you are? Are you protecting your identity? 

Again and again in our research, we saw how the second law of thermodynamics plays out within faith-based organization’s mission. Without generous doses of prayer and management, the gravitational current of secularization will have an unstoppable tug. Expansion, professionalization, and corporatization don’t always dampen an organization’s mission vibrancy, but they often do. To avoid it, we must keep our eyes focused on protecting what matters most. 

“The single greatest reason for Mission Drift is the lack of a clear mission and vision,” reflected David Wills, president of National Christian Foundation. “Crystal clear vision is the starting point for avoiding Mission Drift. If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”Your company could bring in the greatest inventors to produce ideas and many of these ideas could be very good. But you continually ask yourself if the ideas align with your purpose. Mission True organizations distinguish between guarding the mission and guarding the means. Knowing who you are is the first line of defense against drift; it allows you to determine if adjustments are equipping you to better accomplish your mission or slowly moving you away from your foundation. 

“It’s the board,” stated Al Mueller without hesitation. “It’s all about the board. Everything hinges on them.” As CEO at Excellence in Giving, a philanthropic advisory firm, Mueller advises high-capacity donors and organizations they support. For him, Mission Drift starts and ends with the men and women sitting on the board. They set policy, guide strategy, and manage the senior executive. They govern the organization. But even more, they protect the mission. Board members are guardians.“Boards of faith-based organizations are often filled with well-meaning people,” shared Lowell Haines, a lawyer, board member at Taylor University, and consultant to many other boards. “But most boards don’t realize it is their fiduciary duty to remain loyal to the mission of their organizations. This is the law.” 

To prevent Mission Drift, organizations require as much process, rigor, and intentionality in recruiting board members as they do in recruiting key executives. Yet often the process lacks consistency or even a clear method. If a high-powered person expresses an interest in the mission, we sidestep the process and move forward at full speed. Slack board recruitment is one of the primary causes of Mission Drift. If the board isn’t composed of folks who live out the values of the organization they lead, the organization will drift into secularization. 

Mission True organizations are obsessed with issues of the heart. They believe everything they do is downstream from who they are. Without attention to personal faith, they are without an anchor and left to drift. Through words, actions, and behaviors, leaders either undermine or reinforce the mission. 

To remain on mission, people need a deeper definition of success and a more thoughtful approach to metrics. But they must start by recognizing that there is no perfect tool and that all measurement is imperfect. When drafting assessments, organizations should measure ways to best advance the mission, as well as identify issues that could threaten it. 

As a starting point, organizations should begin with the following yes-or-no questions as a self-analysis: 

1.  Have we translated our mission into specific and measurable goals?

2  Are we asking those we serve whether programs are effective and having impact? 

3. Are we measuring program outcomes against benchmarks or averages?

4. Have we completed independent evaluations of program out-comes?

5. Do we use an internal scorecard to track key performance indicators?

Mission True organizations move beyond the paralysis of perfection and get to work measuring what matters most. 

Today, you have the privilege of choosing which path your organization, church, and ministry will take. Will you follow the path toward Mission Drift or will you have the intentionality, courage, and resolve to follow a path of faithfulness? Imagine the potential impact of a generation choosing to remain Mission True! 

Interested in reading the book in its entirety? You can purchase it here: https://goo.gl/kddp6M