If you don’t already have one, we encourage you to form a vision for your church or ministry. It is incredibly difficult (not to mention discouraging) to follow somebody who is leading blindly – or with no vision. It is easy to see how vision quickly encourages unity and creates energy. So our desire is to equip you with some useful insight and practical tips to first create a vision and then to make it a reality.
Who Are You and Where Are You Going?
Having a vision is honestly more about who you want to be than it is what you want to do. As Christians, we believe that action stems from identity. We don’t serve others and preach the gospel so that we may receive salvation. Rather, since we have been made new in Christ, adopted as sons of God, and transformed into the very righteousness of God, such actions as servanthood and evangelism become natural fruit due to our identity in Christ.
The same truth applies when creating a vision. We have made it clear that at Dream City, we want to be “The Church with a Heart.” Knowing who we are has empowered us to start such programs as the Dream Centers, Bus Ministry, Adopt- A-Block, Rescue Project, Foster Care ministries, and so much more.
When planning a vision for your church or ministry, ask yourself, “What is our part in the Great Commission? What do we want to be known for and what do we want to accomplish?” Try to make it as simple as possible, yet something that inspires you.
If your vision doesn’t excite you, it probably won’t excite your people much either.
Here are some helpful guidelines that can be used in order to create your own vision:
1. As we mentioned in the very first section of this book, always start with prayer. Reading countless books on vision can never replace hearing God’s own thoughts about your ministry. Don’t even write the date on your brainstorming scratch paper before spending time asking God to show you what He has called you to accomplish.
2. After hearing from God, decide what is important to you and your team. Determine your top priorities as a church. Different organizations and ministries have different emphases, specific to them. Some churches focus on changing their community, others on glorifying God through art and media, some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and others on studying the Word. While each of these might be important to us all, each church clearly has certain things they give most of their time, teaching, and talent to whether they realize it or not. What are the top priorities of your church?
3. Consult with your team/staff (also known as “Cast and Collect”). Nothing would lower staff morale more than shoving a completely finished and finalized vision in their face, of which they had no say in creating. You want to have something put together before you meet with them, otherwise, it may appear that you can’t think for yourself. But after you have a pretty clear picture of the vision God has given you for the church, consult with your team. By including your staff to dream alongside you, not only do you show them how much you value their opinion, but you instantly gain new insight and creativity. (Check out Proverbs 15:22 – “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers, they succeed.”)
4. Avoid vague terms. Phrases such as “blessed,” “anointed,” and “spiritually moving” are all very general. Though there is obviously nothing wrong with these terms, when defining a vision, it helps to be as specific as possible.
5. Understand that church visions or vision statements can come in all shapes and sizes. Don’t feel pressured to create an ultra-catchy one liner. Your church vision might consist of bullet points. You could list regional areas you desire to impact through outreach. You might even make it rhyme so people can remember it with ease. However you choose to create it, simply make it unique to who you are as a church.
Vision Comes Before Provision
Most people (and some churches for that matter) focus on provision more than they do vision. When bills are piling high, mouths need to be fed, and creditors come knocking, it’s easy to do. But when we focus on provision itself, our needs barely seem to be met.
That is one of the reasons it is essential to focus on vision instead. Once you have a vision for your life and ministry, God can now provide the provision needed to make it happen. Otherwise, besides our own comfort, there isn’t much need for the provision.
Understand that lack of provision is never the real problem. Churches of all sizes (and resources) complain about not having enough funding. Instead, focus on what you do have.
Remember the widow at Zarephath (1 Kings 17)? She focused on what she didn’t have and told Elijah that she was planning to cook one last meal and die with her son. But Elijah boldly stated that it was enough to make him a cake of bread. When she did so, God blessed her jars of flour and oil, day after day, and provided enough for her entire household.
Focus on what you do have; pray for what could be, and allow the provision to follow the vision.
Share the Vision, or Suffer the Consequences
One of the best ways to see a vision crumble in front of you is to assume your people can read your mind. When your vision is not clearly communicated and explained to your leaders, church body, volunteers, support staff, etc., you instantly limit your chances of success.
Your people, especially those who pour their heart and soul into the ministry, want to know what is going on and where your church is headed. If people are confused about what is going on – specifically in times of transition – they will automatically fear and assume the worst. If you don’t want this to happen, clearly explain the vision and next steps of your church in order to gain their full trust and support.
Imagine if you were in their shoes. How would it feel to be led by someone who never shared his or her thoughts or desires for the ministry? How much more confidence would you instantly place in them as soon as they shared what was going on.
People want to be included. Humans naturally crave to be “in the know.” (That’s why gossip is addicting.) So, understanding this desire, don’t neglect to share information with your followers, otherwise, they’ll make up their own information.
They’ll appreciate you opening up, and you’ll inevitably have a much larger amount of people cheering you on toward the vision.