Today’s post is from Transforming Church’s John Holm, a Senior Consultant with TAG Consulting and an experienced pastor.
Just the day to day responsibilities of pastoral leadership are nearly all-consuming. With everything that’s on your plate it can be hard to focus on the big picture, even though you know that to do so is necessary for your church’s long-term health.
Every now and then at a church conference you will hear fragments of phrases like ‘long-range planning’, ‘vision’, ‘strategic planning’, and you think “That stuff is great for people who have a lot of time but I am neck deep and treading water just keeping up with the day to day functions of my job”.
The fact is that a collaborative and thoughtful visioning process will help your church in the areas where you are most burdened – time management, priorities, responsibilities and leadership challenges. Developing a strategic plan, looking at the organizational structures and processes, and addressing some of the actions and practices of the culture at your church will maximize the effectiveness of the church’s mission and take the church from good to great.
So, how do you know when your church should invest the precious time, effort and money it takes to do a visioning process? Here are 6 clues:
- Lack of Excitement: If there is no excitement in the church around what God is going to do in and through the congregation in the next 3-5 years you need a visioning process. Lack of excitement about tomorrow is a clue that people either do not like the vision or the church simply does not have a vision to get excited about! The latter is often the case. Visioning, including compelling goals that make a difference in people’s lives can ignite a fire in the people.
- Same Stuff with Different Dates: If the reality is that you simply repeat programs from year to year with simple updates, then you need a visioning process to break through the barrier that is holding the church back from increasing its impact. Routine is fine and not throwing out what is working is important, but churches often get in the rut of pulling out the same program and not asking if the world has changed in meantime. Having clarity about your purpose and what kind of a difference you are trying to make in the world will bring energy and creativity to your ministry.
- Too Busy Putting out Fires: If the church is spending too much time navigating conflict around the essentials or often things that are not essential, then a visioning process is a must. Conflict is really about competing values that need to be navigated. The competing values can either be around the essentials of mission or they can be around people’s self-interest. Either way, a visioning process can clarify and solidify identity, purpose and direction – and in the end – reduce conflict!
- The Pastor Just Resigned or Retired: If the church is in a time of pastoral transition a visioning process can identify and articulate core ideology for the call process. God has created your church uniquely. The identity, purpose and direction are all given to you by God and can be seen in and through the unique giftedness of the gathered community of faith. Calling the right lead pastor cannot happen unless you can clearly articulate who you are, why you exist and what your strategic priorities are moving forward. Once you know that you are ready to do your pastoral search process.
- Running Low on Members and Servants: If the church is plateaued or declining in attendance, involvement, and community impact then some transformational change is needed. The reality is that too many congregations live in this reality for way too long before engaging in a visioning process. Don’t wait! The sooner the better. Feeling stagnant? Numbers the same for the last few years? God has brought you together for a powerful reason to make a godly difference in the world. Get busy visioning!
- Everything is Great!: If the church is growing quickly and all things seem to be humming then you need a visioning process. Really? Yes! Growing churches that are in the zone need to keep their missional and strategic priorities focused so as not to become a mile wide and an inch deep. In fact, this is the best time to engage in a visioning process! Visioning doesn’t always need to be about fixing what is broken. It can provide continued tools and processes for ongoing creative faithfulness. It can assure the leadership that it is keeping up with a changing world. It is the best way continue to honor God.
Have you found a clue that describes your church? Get visioning! It will multiply your effectiveness and passion for ministry.