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The Power of Many

Vision can't come from only a few.

I have consulted with hundreds of churches around the country regarding vision, teambuilding, and organizational development. I am typically called in when a church is about to embark on a building project, or to deal with the aftermath of a project gone awry. Over the years, I've observed aspects that distinguish successful projects from failures. Successful projects have two common threads: a shared vision for the future, and a strong team. Failed projects occur for exactly the opposite reasons: no shared vision, and an ineffective team.

Hundreds of thousands, even millions, of dollars are at stake, as is the church's future vitality. In today's economy, your church cannot afford to make a mistake. A little extra investment on the front end produces huge returns on the back end.

Let's look at how to develop a shared vision for the future in your church.

Where vision comes from

Clarifying your vision is the first step in a building project. A myth about vision persists in the American church, though. Vision is not the purview of the senior pastor, as many assume. Solomon never said, "Where there is no vision, the pastor perishes." Vision must be a shared responsibility. It may come from the youth pastor or the senior citizen who sits in the third row. It may come from a group of people. But it cannot remain in the hands of one, or even a few. Vision must be shared by the whole congregation. Here's a three-step process for building a coalition for your church's vision:

  1. Assess your situation
    Research your local community to find out what the future trends will be and what needs exist in your community. Survey your entire congregation (at least open up participation to everyone, not just a few). Conduct a series of focus groups within the congregation. Talk to newcomers, long-term members, young adults, parents of toddlers, and so forth. Gather as much information as possible. The assessment process begins building a sense of collaboration between the congregation and leadership.
  2. Discern your DNA
    Churches tend to jump too quickly to solutions and changes. In a retreat or two, take time with your leaders to reflect on what emerged from the assessment. Look back at the history of the church, and the positive decisions made by your church, and ask: "What does this tell us about who we are?" Make sure you have a clear sense of what needs to be preserved before you begin changing too many things.
  3. Discover your vision
    Based on the assessment, you should have a sense of what emerging opportunities are present, and how ministry in the future will be different than it is today. Through a series of retreats with your leaders, clarify your mission, vision, and strategies.

    • Mission. The best mission statements help us say 'no' to certain things. As you look at your mission, does it help your leaders say 'no' to anything? If not, you need to work on it. In this recession, focus is more important than ever.
    • Strategies. Very few churches can effectively be all things to all people. Strategies are simply priorities. Most organizations can focus effectively on about five different things at one time, regardless of how large the organization is. Strategies tell us how we will prioritize our resources in order to most effectively fulfill our mission.
    • Vision. Vision is the last step of the process. It is quite simply a picture of the future that assumes successful implementation of the strategies. It should be quantifiable to some extent. For example, a church with a strategy of developing community and spiritual growth through small groups could make "every member in a small group," one component of the vision.

The process of assessment, discernment, and discovery cannot be done by a few people in an ivory tower. Even when the leadership is meeting in retreats, there must be constant interaction and feedback with the congregation.

I have never believed in consensus decision-making. Leaders must make decisions. But the congregation must be involved in the process each step of the way.

Join the conversation atBuildingForMinistry.com.

Kevin G. Ford is the chief visionary officer and managing partner of TAG Consulting. For more, visit www.transformingchurch.net or www.tagconsulting.org.

May/June
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