The King James translation of Proverbs declares, ‘Without vision, the people perish’ which is a verse that has sometimes been used out of context by leaders to highlight the importance of vision in the church; invariably to justify a particular direction of travel that they feel others are slow to sign up to. Certainly, much has been written about the importance of vision over the years; however, some are now beginning to wonder if vision is, in fact, overrated and questioning if it has a place in God’s church. I am not sure that the problem lies solely with vision; too often I have observed leaders who have spent time and energy on communicating the vision to a passive congregation and a sea of blank faces. The problem is perhaps that the very same leaders while passionate about the vision, have invested little time on taking others with them on the journey or implementation of the vision; it has simply been “here’s the vision, let’s do it.” If our vision remains just a compelling idea or an alluring dream, we have failed. Vision is about creating a preferable future and taking people with you.
Perhaps one of the problems with implementing vision is when we as leaders think, “If I didn't invent it, it's not worth considering”, so we rule it out. I would advise that we should never pretend that we have it all worked out already; one of the best ways to get others on board is to collaborate with them, ask for their advice, perhaps beginning with something like, “this is what I see, these are the challenges, and these are the benefits, what do you see and what have I missed?”
Less is more
Sometimes we can use too many words; if we speak for an extended period, we may find that the vision gets lost. People won’t get on board unless they understand. I still remember a presentation of a visionary budget by a church treasurer back in the 1990s, who offered a very brief vision coupled with the largest chocolate cake I had seen for a while. While he spoke, he cut up slices and began to hand them around. There was not enough for everyone, which was his point. Unless we as a church gave more, we could not give to all the different initiatives that we were planning to support.
Deal with their concerns
When we as leaders begin to share a vision, we need to prepare ourselves for four areas of concerns that people often have. The first is ‘can I ask questions?’, in other words, is this a fait accompli or do you want to hear from me? The second concern is ‘will I fit with this, and what am I going to lose?’ People are invariably bothered about the potential loss, so we may need to spend time reassuring them that they still matter. The third concern is ‘How is this going to be done?’ People might need to see some form of an action plan so that they can begin to understand how the dream might become a reality. The fourth concern is, ‘what is the benefit?’ Invariably it is not until the first three concerns are answered do people care about the benefits. That means a leader cannot announce a change and explain its advantages and expect people to support the change. When we ask people to do something different, they regularly focus on what they have to give up, not on what they are going to gain.
Have an action plan
Finally, a well communicated, and widely owned vision statement is a ‘bridge to nowhere’ without an action plan. An action plan converts dreams into decisions and reallocates the resources of your church to undergird the new vision. A key pitfall to avoid is creating a bold vision and then continuing with the church the same as always. A fresh vision calls for new activity. Consider putting together an action team. Ideally, the same people that helped develop the vision in the first place is an excellent place to start, but consider adding to it with key volunteers who will help live out the vision action plan.
If you would like to learn more on the topic shaping and sharing a vision, then do book into our Leadership development conference in April. We think that vision is such a crucial topic in church leadership, that we have extended the early bird discount until the end of February, which offers you a saving of £25 per person. Why not join the many who have already signed up, and let's learn together how to be people of vision who take others with us?