Departmental Missions: Do they complement or compete?

Recently, I was talking to a friend and fellow ministry student about the role departmental mission statements (DMS’s) play within an organization. (I define a DMS as the mission statement held by a specific area or division of an organization seeking to fulfill or support a given component of that organization’s mission.) My friend remarked that he did not see the need for departmental mission statements in churches but that instead, every department should share the overall mission of the church. While I found myself disagreeing with him, I completely understand what has caused him to feel this way. Listening to the examples he gave in illustrating his problem with DMS’s, I noticed that all of his examples were of churches with conflicting DMS’s. He has seen many churches with superfluous programs, spending money in multiple areas that are essentially doing the same things.

Unfortunately, this is a problem in many churches. They develop organizational mission statements and then ask each department (i.e. Youth Ministries, Music Ministries, etc.) to develop mission statements of their own. Each DSM is then evaluated for its own merit, not with the consideration of the organizational mission statement or those of other departments. Departmental mission statements must fulfill or support the organizational mission statement and be unique to the missions of other departments.

Departmental missions either complement or compete. They either work together to fulfill or support the organization’s mission or they compete for its limited resources. When departments complement each other, they can easily identify their differing yet necessary roles in the organization. When departments compete, they find themselves with similar roles, seeking the same goals in different ways. I find that this departmental overlap results in redundant uses of God-given resources.

I’ve heard churches brag about the extremely high number of ministries they have in their organizations (sometimes exceeding 100). Every time I hear statements like these, I can’t help but wonder if they would be better off cutting or combining ministries with similar purposes, better focusing their resources to produce greater results. If two departments share a mission, one is unnecessary.

Do the missions of your organization’s departments complement or compete? If they compete, one of three things should happen: 1. Organizational leadership should help those departments redefine their missions so they seek or support different yet necessary components of the organization’s mission; 2. The departments should be merged; 3. One of the departments should be terminated. While each of these options can be difficult and time consuming, we must do all we can to streamline our ministry efforts, making the best use of the resources God has provided to do His work.

A few extra notes:

*In response to the idea that all departments would be complementary if they shared one organizational mission statement, nothing could be further from the truth. If all departments shared the OMS, they would then all have the same DMS, placing them in full competition.

*Just as organizations often have departments with competing missions, individual departments often have multiple programs with competing purposes. In these cases, the same options should be considered, ensuring that all programs are complementary to one another and in alignment with the overarching DMS.

*Many churches do not think in terms of “departments” but instead in terms of “programs.” If this is the case in your organization, I would encourage you to evaluate the various programs throughout your ministry and take the steps necessary to remove any competition between them. You may even find that small programs within separate departments are fulfilling similar needs.

*Some departments, though different in mission, have missions that call for similar resources. In such cases, work should be done to share resources between those departments as much as possible. A common example where this is possible is churches that have separate middle school and high school ministries, with separate missions for specific age groups, but similar resource needs.

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Ryan Stigile

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