In talking to pastors, one of the frustrations I often hear is - how do I determine vision for my church? We go to conferences and hear the importance of vision, we read the tomes of successful pastors who tell us how important vision is and we look at our church and say, "what do I do about that here?"
The good news is that all of us can have and communicate vision. But, we need to be clear about what vision is. Vision is primarily about what we want our church to be - missional, healthy, a place where we grow people into fully devoted followers of Jesus and where we are releasing people into active, meaningful ministry.
In fact, I would argue, that is 80% of what vision is all about. It is NOT the spectacular plans we have for the future - it IS about leading our church in a way that produces healthy Christ followers who are making an impact for Him in their neighborhoods, schools, places of work and community. The church is about transformation of lives into the image of Christ and when lives are transformed it starts to impact our communities.
How do we determine and put into practice this 80% of our vision for our congregations? There are four areas we need to define, articulate and constantly monitor. If you can clearly articulate these four areas, you can then work on annual plan to ensure that the congregation is growing in all four - and you will be moving intentionally toward greater health and spiritual vitality.
Mission - Why are we here?
We often underestimate the importance of a clear mission statement that articulates why we exist. It is critical because we often wrongly assume that the folks in our church are clear as to why the church exists. I can tell you with certainty that many are not. In fact, many church attenders have never even thought about it, they just enjoy being part of a good church. Yet everything about the church is missional if we take the great commission seriously.
If a mission statement cannot fit on the back of a t-shirt it is probably too long. 80% of your people ought to be able to tell you what the mission statement is and explain it. If they cannot, whatever you have as a mission statement is not going to make much difference in what actually happens.
Mission statements are not about a line to put into the bulletin but a commitment on the part of all of our people to be lived. Don't underestimate the power of a well crafted, constantly articulated and leader championed mission. It is a powerful tool to help point the whole congregation in the same direction of "more believers and better believers."
Guiding Principles - what are the core principles by which we will all live?
These are the principles by which we agree to do ministry, relate to one another and conduct ourselves as believers. These principles ought to actually guide behavior and in guiding behavior it actually shapes the kind of culture you want to create in your church . A carefully crafted set of guiding principles, if constantly championed by leaders and intentionally lived out allows you to intentionally create a healthy culture rather than simply settling for what is.
With guiding principles, one can intentionally create a culture of relationships, practices, spiritual dependency and commitments that are God honoring and designed to maximize the ministry opportunity your church has. They are powerful teaching opportunities to help your people understand how He wants us to relate to one another, to Him, to unbelievers and to the world. If we got that right in the church we would be an amazing transformational force in our communities.
Central Ministry Focus - what do we need to do all the time to maximize our spiritual impact as a church?
The central ministry focus is the one thing that your church needs to do day in and day out in order to maximize your ministry effectiveness. For the church I believe Scripture has already given us that focus - in Ephesians 4:12. The job of leaders is to equip people for works of ministry so that individuals become mature, the body is built up and the Kingdom is expanded.
The very reason the church has so little impact in our world is precisely because not enough believers are serious about using their spiritual gifts for the advancement of the kingdom. And not enough church leaders are truly serious in helping their people understand their God given gifting and then releasing them in meaningful ministry - not simply in the church but in the community at large that the church has been called to influence and transform.
Ephesians four is clear on three counts. One that the job of leaders is not simply to do the work of ministry but to equip everyone to be involved in meaningful ministry. Two, that no Christ follower is mature who is not actively using their gifting for the cause of Christ and three, that our congregations will only be mature to the extent that the whole body is involved in using their gifts. Those three truths explain why most churches have so little impact and why some churches have enormous impact. Our impact is directly related to the seriousness with which we develop, empower and release our people in meaningful ministry.
Culture - Developing a culture of spiritual vitality The culture we must grow in the church is a culture of spiritual vitality.
Wise leaders take the time to determine what a mature believer looks like and then they create intentional teaching, experiences and opportunities for people who want to grow into Christ's likeness to do so. Rather than simply hoping people mature they are deeply intentional about seeing transformation happen.
The church I attend identifies five marks of spiritual vitality:
Grace: Understanding God's grace to us and extending it to others
Growth: Having an intentional plan to grow our relationship with Christ
Gifts: Using our gifts for the advancement of His kingdom
Generosity: Being generous with God as he has been generous with us
Gathering: Growing and ministering in community with others
Those five marks of spiritual maturity or vitality become the target we have for all in the church. Lived out, these five practices will, through the work of the Holy Spirit bring transformation to our lives.
How does one communicate these four areas to the congregation and keep them in front of them all the time? I use a SANDBOX (hence the title of this blog site) to illustrate the four sides of our ministry - mission (top side), guiding principles (left side), central ministry focus (bottom side) and culture of spiritual vitality (left side). Thus in one picture I am able to illustrate these four areas which make up 80% of the vision for our churches or ministry organizations. Then we ask people to play inside the sandbox and use the sandbox as a teaching tool throughout the ministry.
If you are interested in more information on crafting these four key areas for your church or ministry organization - and therefore defining the key elements of your vision, the book, Leading from the Sandbox: Develop, Empower and Release High Impact Ministry Teams provides a road map for you. If you click on the book to the right of this posting you can order the book.