Saturday, May 07, 2016

Seminary PL7: Vision Statements

This is the seventh post in the Pastoral Leadership stretch of my Seminary in a Nutshell series. The

first six were:
1. Let's say that the whole church has come together for a brainstorm. What is our mission? Perhaps the pastor began the process with a sermon on the mission of the Church. Or perhaps there were two meetings, at the first of which the pastor made a presentation on the mission of the Church. Perhaps the pastor had someone else give that presentation to secure buy-in, someone the church deeply respects. Maybe the pastor even asked a key informal or formal influencer give a presentation on the history of that local church.

The goal is not to manipulate the congregation but for everyone to own the process and the goals of strategic planning, the church moving forward on the mission of God. The goal is to get buy-in and to minimize frivolous opposition to what is a significant and meaningful process leading to a good and important goal.

Then let's say that a strategic planning committee has formulated a mission statement that has gone through the appropriate channels and has been adopted. Perhaps it went to the church board and they were given time to weigh in before voting on it. Or perhaps they were given time to give feedback prior to a vote of the whole congregation. Perhaps the church as a whole was given time to put in feedback. Then let's say finally that the church as a whole adopted the mission statement.

2. By the end of this whole process of strategic planning, you want the church or organization to have a clear sense of what goals it is moving toward. Often associated with this process is a vision statement and a statement of the church's core values. [1]

A statement of vision is often thought to follow next. Perhaps. If the pastor or the strategic planning team has a clear vision, then it is appropriate to introduce it after the church or organization has agreed on the mission. The vision has to do with the next five to ten years, where does the leader or leadership team want to see the church or organization go. Aubrey Malphurs has emphasized that a vision statement is about seeing where the church is going. [2]

At other times, there may not be a clear vision for the future. In that case, the church may want to spend some time reflecting on what its core values are, which can clarify a sense of direction. Similarly, a church may want to do a self-evaluation, such as a "SWOT analysis," to identify its greatest strengths. These also provide a natural sense of direction.

In the next post, we will talk about the idea of God's mission. The idea of a church being missional prioritizes what God is doing in your community and getting on board with his mission. Before you set a vision for your church, you might take some time to identify what the needs of your community are and what God is already doing to meet them.

It is common to think that the vision for your church will come as a mandate from God. [3] You may think that you need to "pray down" the vision God has specifically for your church. Certainly prayer should be involved in this whole process. Perhaps God does have a specific path he wants your church to take. We used to speak of getting a "burden" for someone or something. This is a strong sense of concern that draws you in a certain direction.

But God does not plan everything for us. Sometimes he works together with and even inside our wills. If a pastor or leadership team has a peace about a certain vision, move forward with it, even if there is not a overwhelming sense of urgency and "tugging." On the other hand, if there is a "check," a gut feeling of reservation, you might spend a little longer in prayer. [4]

3. A vision statement can be fairly succinct, like the mission statement, or it can be a little more involved. The previous president of my university had a vision for Indiana Wesleyan University to become a premier university. The current president adopted a vision statement that simply says, "Indiana Wesleyan University: A truly great Christian university serving the world." Can you see it? It is where we are moving. We want to be a truly great Christian university.

Of course both of these dicta are somewhat undefined. That's where the specific strategic goals that follow come in. My home church, College Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana, has three components to its vision. It wants to transform its community, develop leaders, and resource the church. The former president of Indiana Wesleyan University used to summarize the vision of Wesley Seminary as to provide "practical, accessible, and affordable" ministerial education.

4. A vision statement is meant to motivate and communicate general direction. Malphurs defines a vision statement in this way: A vision is a clear, challenging picture of the future of the ministry, as you believe that it can and must be. [5]

What is it that your church really wants to focus on in the next ten years?

Next Week: Pastor as Leader 8: Thinking Missionally

[1] It is probably worth reiterating that the process we are unfolding here--mission, vision, core values, goal-setting--particularly suits a particular, methodical personality. Churches have personalities and pastors have personalities. Many churches and pastors, however, have intuitive personalities. It is possible that a church or organization has an assumed mission, vision, and set of core values on which pretty much everyone agrees.

In such cases, this slow, methodical process may seem like a waste of time to many. In such cases, it might be more efficient simply to focus on what the primary goals of the church or ministry should be for the next five years, short-cutting months of time in the process. Or, in such cases, the pastor or leadership team might simply submit a mission, vision, and core values statement with which they are fairly certain the church will agree.

[2] Aubrey Malphurs, Advanced Strategic Planning: A 21st Century Model for Church and Ministry Leaders, 3rd ed (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013), 132.

[3] E.g., Andy Stanley, Visioneering: God's Blueprint for Developing and Maintaining Vision (Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 1999), 14, says, "You were tailor-made, carefully crafted, minutely detailed for a selected divine agenda." This is not the perspective of my tradition, the Wesleyan tradition, which believes that God empowers us to cooperate in the planning.

[4] It is wonderful when everyone feels the same way about a course of direction. There are times, however, when most feel good about movement forward and there is still one or two in leadership who do not want to move forward. The leader will have to weigh and carefully evaluate this situation. Are you wanting to press ahead for personal reasons or is this really a case where you need to agree to disagree and continue to move forward?

[5] Malphurs, Strategic Planning, 134.

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