The visioning process receives high priority when it comes to turning around any organization, including a church. In the world, visions are created; in God’s realm, visions are revealed. This crucial difference can determine whether your turnaround leadership succeeds or fails.
Too many churches confuse visioning with strategic planning. They leap to discern obstacles and opportunities, deploy innovative tactics, and define in fine detail the desirable future. Then they bog down in conflict, staff confusion, and bureaucracy. The problem is that God’s visions aren’t created by a board’s brainstorming process. Visions emerge from the spiritual formation of the adult members of the church. True visioning is a spiritual formation process. Only when the members go deep, deep, deep into their spiritual lives, waiting upon God’s grace, are authentic visions revealed.
The biblical experience of visioning always follows the same spiritual growth process of building clarity and consensus among God’s people:
- Clarify the core values. These positive, predictable behavior patterns help church members hold one another accountable in daily living and daring outreach.
- Clarify the bedrock beliefs. In times of trouble church members will spontaneously turn to these core faith convictions for strength.
- Open up to biblical vision. Encourage people to wait upon God through prayer, Bible study, passionate conversation among believers, and urgent listening to the culture.
- Focus the strategic mission. Identify the big, bold, heart-burst necessary for a particular microculture to experience Christ.
Vision always emerges from the ferment of adult spiritual growth, which leaders stoke at the heart of the church. Leaders don’t invent a vision and “lay it on” the people; they lead people to go deep into their spiritual lives, and when the vision is revealed they rigorously and urgently align every budget, program, staff person, and outreach to deliver that vision and nothing else. A successful visioning process also builds high trust. You have to be able to trust your teams to seize unexpected opportunities as soon as they arise. Align your teams to the vision, and trust them to live within clear boundaries of core values and bedrock beliefs. Now they can initiate radical tactics without self-destructive conflict, staff confusion, or burdensome bureaucracy.