My last post talked about developing strategic alignment within your organization. The first step in accomplishing this is to develop a clear, agreed-upon vision and strategy. The essential task of any leader is to discuss and determine with your boards and with your staff what the “main thing” is for your school.
I often find that there is some confusion between mission and vision. For the purpose of this series of articles, vision is aspirational. It should be a short statement describing the clear and inspirational long-term desired change resulting from an organization’s or program’s work.
While vision statements are future looking, mission statements ground a company in the present. Joel Klein, a business and marketing consultant and producer of BizTank, a SharkTank-style platform, delineates between the two statements:
“A mission statement illustrates the purpose of the company, what it does and what it intends on achieving. Its main function is to provide direction to the company and highlight what it needs to do to achieve its vision. Meanwhile, a vision statement illustrates where the company would like to see itself further down the line, what it hopes to achieve and what its goals are.” A mission statement answers the question, “Why does my business exist?” A vision statement answers the question, “Where do I see my business going?”
What is your vision for your organization?
If you are a Christian school, maybe the better question is, What is God’s vision for your organization? God’s vision for us is very aspirational. Paul says in Philippians 3:13–14 “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Dr. Richard Edlin, in his wonderful book, The Cause of Christian Education, makes a statement that will help to frame your discussion on the vision of your Christian school.
“To choose Christian schooling is to deliberately intend for one’s children to be consciously different and other-centered in how they understand the world and their places and task in it. It is to take the Bible seriously as the articulated touchstone for every aspect of life, where fulfillment is found by honoring God in accordance with the gospel story reflected in the Cultural Mandate, the Great Commandment, and the Great Commission. It is to equip one’s children for a radical, lifetime perspective that is ridiculed in contemporary society. It is, using the definition I love most, to challenge students with the celebration of the lordship of Christ over all of creation.”
It is important to affirm that our goals for our students are not the same goals that exist in secular public education. The Christian school’s goals, Dr. Edlin states, are radically different; “…our aim is to help students learn that you cannot properly understand anything, including yourself, mathematics, language, science, and history, without understanding God’s world God’s way. The Christian school studies every subject and relationship in the light that God provides. It is truly radical and countercultural.”
I conducted an internet search of schools looking for vision statements.
I looked broadly, not just CSI schools, not just North American schools, and not just Christian schools. I picked a few vision statements from that search, presented below.
- To provide a dynamic learning community that is committed to fostering each child’s personal best within a caring and friendly environment.
- To advance a Christian school of excellence through Kingdom education so that the generations to come will know the truth of God’s Word and not forget his works, nor be taken captive by the vain philosophies of their day.
- To create a caring, co-operative learning environment that develops outstanding skills, attitudes, and feelings that will prepare students for their future.
- XX school desires to be distinguished as a premier Christian school where every student recognizes their leadership potential and their ability to contribute to the world.
- XX Christian School will be a leader in distinctive Christian education by providing an excellent educational environment that honors Christ, nurtures people, and instills within our students a biblical worldview, a love for learning, and a heart to know God and fulfill his plan for their life.
Two vision statements are from public institutions, three from Christian schools. It is clear to me that the desired outcome of a Christian education is decidedly different, as is the vision for the “product” of a Christian school.
Strategic alignment can only happen when vision and mission are aligned. Take time to reflect on your school’s vision and mission. All of your day-to-day operations, curriculum and pedagogy, strategic goals, daily effort, and finances must be in support of accomplishing your mission and making your school’s vision a reality. How are you doing?
– Joel Westa