This week, another driver ran a red light and crashed into my car. My mind immediately jumped to worst case scenarios: “My insurance rates are going to skyrocket. There may be a lawsuit. Murphy’s law is attacking me again.”
In this age of anxiety, it is natural to expect the worst case scenario to be true.
After several calls with “Jake from State Farm”, everything is much better. Eyewitness accounts and video surveillance confirm that I wasn’t at fault. The vehicle is in the shop, and before you know it, I will be back on the road. My initial anxiety-filled reaction appears to be unwarranted.
As we work with churches, we regularly hear, “Our vision is NOT clear. We have no idea where we are heading.”
While hearing phrases like “our vision is not clear” can cause leaders to jump to worst-case scenarios, DO NOT hit the panic button and attack the messenger. Instead, PAUSE and ask these five discerning questions.
1. Is our strategy for reaching the vision clear?
Vision and strategy are regularly confused in church leadership. Vision answers the “where are we heading?” question. Strategy answers questions like “how are we going to get there?” and “what big projects are we attacking in the coming months and years?” Teams are often unclear on the cross-ministry, big projects that you are implementing to reach the vision, and they categorize that as vision ambiguity.
Are people asking for strategy clarity instead of vision clarity?
2. Are we connecting our weekly activity to our vision?
The weekly rhythm of church work is brutal. Content must be created. Volunteers must be recruited. Services must be planned. And when you are finished, it is less than seven days until you must do it again. With that pressure, it is easy to drift into “let’s just get it done” mode. As a leader, it is critical that you routinely connect your team’s weekly activity to the vision.
One way to solve this problem is to drop “SO THAT” into your meetings. We are doing _____________ (your weekly ministry activity) SO THAT ___________ (how it connects to your vision or Biblical fundamentals).
3. Do we creatively and constantly declare our TRUE NORTH?
TRUE NORTH is your team’s aligned clear picture of the future. (If your team does not have a TRUE NORTH, you must invest time together dreaming about the impact your Church could have in the next five years.) If you have an aligned TRUE NORTH, use it as the standard for evaluation, celebration, and improvement every chance you get.
4. Is “our vision is unclear” a smokescreen for an alternative agenda?
Each team member has unique experiences, perspectives, and desires. When these mix with a church’s vision and strategy, it can create tension, and some people struggle to discern and state what they are feeling. Because the emotions and motives can be disjointed, the key is to LISTEN. As a leader, you may want to cast vision and strategy again, but this will not solve the problem. LISTEN. LISTEN. LISTEN to discern the real issue.
5. Are we ambiguous on how individual stories connect to the church’s bigger story? (We think this is the best question.)
Ultimately a church is full of individuals. Are you asking questions like:
- If someone started following Jesus today, how would their life be different in five years?
- What will a church full of Jesus’ apprentices look like in 5 years?
- What impact would that make in our neighborhood, town, country, and world?
Your vision may be unclear, but our work with hundreds of churches has taught us this is not always the case. So before you call an offsite to rework your entire vision, pause and ask some questions. The problem may not be as big as you originally thought.
Our ChurchOS Assessment is a fantastic tool to get a baseline on your team’s perspective. It takes less than three minutes to complete, and you will receive a summary of things to celebrate and improve. It will lead to next step conversations in Great Commission accomplishment for you and your team.