by Bob D’Ambrosio
“Where there is no vision, the people perish…” Proverbs 29:18 (KJV)
If your vision for your ministry’s future is cloudy, you’re not alone. Many ministry leaders charge forward with great ideas but lack a clear vision to see where they’re going.
For any organization, or any team for that matter, having a clearly defined vision provides the “destination on the map”—the place everyone heads toward. The mission is the vehicle by which an organization navigates from present reality to God’s desired future. The mission is why the organization exists, and it rarely changes. Vision, however, changes as the organization grows. Tony Morgan of the Unstuck Group, a consulting organization that helps churches grow, recommends that vision be refreshed every few years.
A clear and compelling vision is simply a mental picture of what tomorrow will look like. Vision provides a snapshot or painting of the church’s future and all its possibilities. When you close your eyes and imagine your church in 5, 10, 20 years, what do you see? Without a clear vision, we tend to see the church only though a historic lens: all we can see is what was, not what can be. Vision expresses our highest ideals and aspirations and gives focus to our energies.
In their book How to Change Your Church Without Killing It, Alan Nelson and Gene Appel suggest why a vision may fail. If your vision is cloudy, perhaps it’s because one of the following reasons has blurred the focus.
- The vision isn’t really a vision. It’s easy to confuse goals and strategic plans with visions. A goal to open a day care in the fall is different from a vision to reach families in your community. The day care may be one plan to move the vision forward, but it’s not the focus for why you want this program. Vision speaks to the big picture and motivates people to the actions required.
- The vision is too small. People today, especially the millennials, want to be part of something big; something that requires God’s power to be successful. Would you really get excited about a vision to change the carpet color in the nursery? Let’s face it: if it isn’t exciting, it won’t draw a crowd’s support.
- The vision is unclear. Have you heard the expression “If it’s cloudy in the pulpit, it’s muddy in the pew”? An unclear vision generates vague plans, random actions, and usually a lot of frustration that nothing’s happening. Vision needs a clear focus to drive change.
- The vision isn’t compelling. Often leaders make the mistake of assuming people will be interested in where they’re headed. Enthusiasm isn’t automatic; sometimes leaders have to inspire it, build it, and model the dream before others will embrace the idea. Share your vision with some people who are not aware of your passion, and see if it’s something they can get excited about as well.
- The vision is too improbable. Thinking big is one thing, but if a vision lacks real possibility, people just won’t get on board. Pie-in-the-sky ideas are usually eaten by the naysayers. Determine the feasibility of the actions necessary to make the vision a reality. If they’re not achievable, refine the vision so you don’t start something you can’t finish.
Aristotle once said, “The soul never thinks without a picture.” What vision is your inner being giving you for your church and your ministry?