Mission statement

20 June 2014 — Blasé Auto Dealership — National Productivity Day 

It was going to be a long wait. I needed something to do. I opened the glove compartment of the car and dug out the owner’s manual. Most men don’t read owner’s manuals. We want to figure things out on our own. It’s a “guy thing.” 

I didn’t even have to take the manual from the envelope. Printed on the flap was my inspiration for today’s column. In big bold blue letters was the “mission statement” of the auto manufacturer (which happened to be Ford Motor Company.) Let me hasten to add, dear readers, that I am not now nor have I ever been an agent or representative of the Ford Motor Company or any of its franchises or subsidiaries. 

The statement read: “Our mission is to continuously exceed the expectations of our customers and sales associates. Our goal is to be the benchmark for excellence in every respect of our business. We are dedicated to delivering exceptional service and value. Our promise is to create an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect; to promote personal and professional growth; to foster teamwork and sales associate involvement; and to demand the highest ethical standards from ourselves. Our commitment to this mission makes our company a place where people want to work and do business.” 

I’m sure Ford spent a whole bunch of money developing this mission statement, so I might as well see what I might glean from it.

Everyone knows Ford makes cars. Whoop-de-do; lots of companies make cars. Just because Ford makes cars doesn’t inspire me to rush out and get one. Ford says it provides service and value. Big deal; I expect service and value. 

Then the statement moves beyond the boring fact that Ford makes cars to how Ford makes cars. According to Ford, they encourage trust and respect. They foster teamwork and involvement. They maintain high ethical standards. They foster personal and professional growth. These “hows” result in the car I want, they conclude. I’m vaguely interested, but not convinced. Why does Ford manufacture cars in the first place? Is it not to make money for the company?

No, no, Ford assures me. The company has a higher calling — a vocation, if you please. They’re invested in me. They believe in exceeding my expectations. They’d love to surprise me. They want me to feel good driving around in a Ford. They long to provide me with the car of my dreams. 

I don’t dream about cars, dear readers. I just want a car with four tires and a functioning engine. “Ah,” says Ford, “but you do have a dream. We at Ford share that dream with you. You really need a Ford, don’t you?” 

Simon Sinek, ethnographer, adjunct of the Rand Corporation, and author of “Start with Why,” says it’s never about what we do, how we do it, and then why we do it in that order. Turn it around. Begin instead with why we do what we do. He calls this “the world’s simplest idea.” People consider the “what” and the “how” with their intellect, but they invest their hearts in the “why.” According to him, the importance of “why” is actually reflected in the physical structure of the human brain. The outer brain deals with the rational. The inner brain deals with intuition and feelings. 

This applies to a parish “mission statement.” Our parish finance councils and parish pastoral councils, it seems to me, spend way too much time and energy on what we do and how we do it. Much more important is why we do what we do. Faith is more than a syllogism. Faith is a matter of the heart. If we keep the flame of faith alive in our hearts, it will attract those with similar faith; heart to heart. Our faith will also attract those who are searching for a Church family to call their own. It’s a matter of being on fire with faith. People who share the same faith are called Church. Faith is the bond of unity. 

It’s difficult (if not impossible) to transfer the strategy of a mission statement from the corporate world to the Church. The model doesn’t fit very well. The Church is not a business. The Church is the Body of Christ. Priests are not professionals. Priests are servant-leaders. 

The surface of Church is what we do. The next layer is how we do it. These things change. The third layer is why we do it. Answers will vary. Go deeper. There’s a still center, a core. The core is a “Who.” The core of the Church is the Person of Jesus Christ. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end of all ministries.

You know me, dear readers. I get my inspirations from the most unlikely places. This I found on the envelope of my car’s operating manual. Maybe someday I will actually read the manual, though it’s unlikely.

Well, don’t you know, I now drive a shiny-new Ford. But I don’t own it. It’s a lease.

Anchor columnist Father Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth.

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