Sadly, many faith-based organizations today are experiencing mission drift, meaning they no longer hold onto their founding principles. As leaders, how can we adjust our priorities and make change happen without drifting away from the original purpose for the ministry? HOPE International’s President and CEO Peter Greer has investigated the phenomenon of mission drift.

“The way that we did the research was trying to identify industry experts, people that understand their particular sector, and then say what are the stories? What are the organizations that have scaled, professionalized, and stayed on mission?”

“Then we tried to find a counterfactual; another organization that had a similar story, founded around the same time, and yet today is doing something very different than they were created to be.”

“When we looked at the stories of drift, and when we compared them to the stories of organizations that stayed on mission, we were trying to figure out what did they do differently.”

Peter highlights a few of the indicators and predictable stages of mission drift based off his research and real-life examples.

“Something as silly as the way that you recruit board members, the way that you vet them, and the way that you on-board them. They’re the ones that set to the overall direction for the organization, so it comes down to people. It comes down to your recruiting of staff, so much relates to people.”

“Then it comes to metrics, what is it that you’re celebrating? If you’re only looking at growth; if you’re only measuring how many people you’re serving, and if there’s growth in the overall budget, you are perhaps unknowingly sowing the seeds of drift.”

“It has to do with the culture that you’re creating, what are those regular habits? It has to do with how do you keep the founding stories current? Is there any way to keep telling them and remembering, ‘Here’s who we are.’”

“It has to do with money, where does our money come from? Are we making sure that the funds that we receive are in line with our mission?”

If your organization is experiencing a mission drift, Peter says it’s not too late to get anchored. It’s important to figure out what the next steps might be for your company or organization to move in the right direction.

“How can we act? How can we lead? How can we serve differently? If those are the seeds of drift, then what can we do to fight against them?”

Every organization is susceptible to mission drift, but it doesn’t have to be our story. There are preventative measures that we can take to stay focused and grounded in the overall mission God has called us to.  

Peter Greer is president and CEO of HOPE International, a global, Christ-centered microfinance organization serving throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. Peter is the author or coauthor of several books including   and 

How to avoid "mission drift"
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