This post is part of a mini-series on organizational vocation. In a previous post, I defined organizational vocation and described its importance. In this post, I discuss the relationship between mission and vocation and provide a couple of examples. In future posts, I will describe a couple processes for discerning an organization’s vocation.
An organization’s mission is the essential reason that the organization exists. A statement of mission defines the goods or services the organization provides to fulfill this purpose. On the other hand, an organization’s vocation is a path of service to God, the particular way the organization promotes harmony within creation.
The primary difference between mission and vocation is its orientation. A mission is oriented primarily toward people or some other aspect of creation, while a vocation is fundamentally oriented toward God. A vocation comes out of love for God, first and foremost, while a mission may not recognize God or love at all.
For the organizations that recognize God and vocation, some of them have missions and vocations that are synonymous. Others have missions and vocations that are different. Whether they are synonymous or different, the mission should not contradict or be in opposition to the vocation.
A vocation comes out of love for God, first and foremost, while a mission may not recognize God or love at all.
If there is some contradiction or opposition, either the mission or the statement of vocation is out of alignment with divine purposes. To determine which one is out of alignment with God’s desire, leaders can conduct a test. They can ask which one inhibits the development of love or disrupts harmony within creation.
During my interviews with leaders, I found a couple examples of vocation. One was synonymous its mission, while the other was different from its mission. In the case of TriHealth, a non-profit ministry, the vocation and the mission are synonymous. In the case of 3z.net, the vocation and the mission are different. However, in both cases, the mission and the vocation are consistent with love of God and promotion of harmony within creation.
If there is some contradiction or opposition, either the mission or the statement of vocation is out of alignment with divine purposes.
TriHealth, a ministry made up of full service hospitals and other healthcare related services in the Greater Cincinnati area, is an example of an organization whose vocation and mission are synonymous. TriHealth’s initial founders were Catholic nuns and Methodist deaconesses. Their vocation was to participate in the healing ministry of Jesus as they cared for the disadvantaged in Cincinnati. The vocation of these religious women is still alive today. TriHealth’s vocation to serve the healthcare needs of the community, with a special provision for the poor and disenfranchised, is carried out through TriHealth’s mission–to “improve the health status of the people we serve.”
3z.net, introduced in a previous post, is an example of an organization whose vocation and mission are different. Its owners were led to locate their business in a tower on the southern bank of the Ohio River. As a result, their conference room is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows that bring the Cincinnati cityscape into constant view. While their mission is to provide comprehensive, scalable, and application hosting solutions for their clients, their vocation is to pray for the city of Cincinnati–a reality that is reinforced by placement of their offices. Their vocation is more associated with creating a space for prayer and possibility, rather than carrying out a previously established means of manifesting Dad’s love in the world. While they serve cities by maintaining servers that keep both for profit and nonprofit organizations connected to the Internet, they serve God by caring for the spiritual connections between the city and God.
As these examples demonstrate, the vocation and mission of faith-based organizations are more likely to be synonymous compared to those of a secular organization. Faith-based organizations are, by definition, more oriented toward contributing to higher spiritual purposes, so their vocation and mission should be similar. However, all organizations exist within the Love-Life of God, so whether their vocation and mission are similar or not, they all have both a vocation and a mission.
Do you believe that every organization has a vocation? Why or why not? Do you know any organizations that have both a statement of vocation and a statement of mission? Are the statements similar or different? Why?