Seven Ways to Develop a Church Vision

How does a pastor develop a vision for/by a church? [MORE]


Anonymous said...

Well, it says that without a vision the people perish. So, vision has to be important. Maybe it would be best to define what you mean by vision before you ask us how we would go about getting one!

I guess too that it really doesn't matter how you got your vision as long as it is God's vision. And I guess that having a vision is useless if you don't obey the vision.

In the workplace, visions come and go and can be modified. With God, rarely does His vision come and go and rarely is it ever modified and when it is, the modification is usually a result of sin and usually that of the leader(s) (e.g., Adam, Moses, Saul).

And, I guess I need to ask, why do you need a new vision, God gave marching orders and a vision already. Was that one not good enough?

lawyer&layman said...

As a layman I've always wondered why each new pastor we get goes up to the mountain and brings down God's vision for our church. yet each vision is different than the one God gave the previous pastor. I have come to the conclusion these are not really God-given visions at all--but human dreams, maybe even career dreams. I have loved and respected each of my pastors but I think they forget that we laymen might have a vision already and the current pastor is the third "Moses" we have had in the last ten years.

kathy said...

Ok...I have no training or education here on this subject but I do have an opinion. I am a homemaker and I consider myself a lay person though my husband is a pastor. I think if you bring it to the congregation you should come with about 20 statements that seem to be true about your church and have them discuss and maybe add a few more in a congregational meeting format then have everyone check off their top 5 for example. I think you'd get a pretty good idea of the heartbeat of the church if the church was a healthy church. People I think come to church for the way the church makes them feel and I bet it would be the same reasons for alot of people. I think the congregation would be impressed that the pastor cared what they thought about the direction of the church yet contolling it enough as to not open a can on worms.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps a pastor who is being interviewed by a search committee or LBA should ask the committee/board, "What vision do you have for your church?" or "What vision have you been pursuing in recent years?" The committee/board should ask the candidating pastor,"What vision do you have for the church you want to pastor?" Then ultimately the pastor's vision and the church's vision should be significantly identical such that this "common goal" becomes one tht both can pursue if the board should extend a call to the pastor, and the pastor responds positively to the church's call.

Anonymous said...

When your in a church where pastors leave every 2-3 years for the past 90 years, it doesn't work for the pastor to be the one bringing the vision. But unfortunately the people have no clue either.

As a small church pastor in the Ind. North district I've been in this process with the leadership of this particular church. You get blank stares from them whenever you ask them why are they here, what does God want of them or the church, what is the vision of the church.

Responses vary from the ridiculous [we need to go back to a sunday school combined opening with all classes -- from a former pastors wife who isn't even that old] to 'that is your job to decide pastor.'

Anonymous said...

I believe the "Moses coming from the mountain" phase (and farce) in the church is nearing its final days. The whole "Jethro Principle" was completely mis-interpreted by boomer leadership consultants anyway (the whole Hebrew structure thing was developed to allow people more of a voice, not less of one!)

I'm an advocate of what I've called "Open Source Leadership" where the "code" of the church, like wiki-based programs, is completely open and "user-writable." I don't see this as frozen in time and happening in one moment--like a retreat or church conference... but intead the vision, mission and values of a church are constantly shifting and being truly "edited" by the users. Remember, in the church the users are in reality the "content-generators" of Kingdom living.

I know this is a radical concept and one many will blow off at first pass. But just remember that the people in your churches blow off your nifty missions statements in the same measure that you blow off their vision and values for the Kingdom!


Scott said...

Couple thoughts for you and your class from another layman.

1) I think there is one option missing.

8. Hybels/Warren/Cymbala/_______(insert name here) Book-O-Vision. This might be considered a variation on the denominational vision for those who just can't bring themselves to--ughhh--accept anything coming from their own denominational leaders, who lack the polish and panache of the evangelical jet-set.

2) Recently I had a moment of clarity while moving furniture with my pastor. He called me earlier that morning and explained that someone new to the church, a older single woman, was moving to a new apartment and asked if I would help him move her furniture. When I arrived, I realized this was not some great church ministry project--the church men pitching in to help some poor little woman--just me and the pastor moving some lady's furniture. We did most of it but ran out of time. She was moderately appreciative. We left and nothing more was said. Later I realized he probably went back and finished--maybe he got another assistant--maybe not because we had done most of the heavy stuff. My view of pastors changed a little that day because I realized that I really appreciated a pastor who was willing to go move some lady's furniture more than one who provides visionary leadership. Don't get me wrong. My current pastor sees himself as bringing vision to our church, however, his willingness to just take a couple hours and move furniture made me want to listen a lot more. My previous pastor talked a great vision game but for a variety of reasons (some acceptable, some not) he did very little serving of the moving furniture kind. It makes a difference.

3) Most all swim vision activities I have been involved in are really the pastor trying to get buy-in on his Moses-on-the-Mountain vision. This said, most of the vision swimmers wanted/expected the pastor to fill in the vision blanks. The attitude was, "This is what we pay you for."

4) Virtually all valuable ministry activities I have been personally involved in during the past 10 years have been spontaneous "just minister" things. Most often they came out of of the shipwrecks of other visionary ministries that launched and foundered or had nothing to do with vision. More broadly, it seems that most successful ministries rarely followed the visionary path charted for them. From this perspective, the question I have now is how significant launching visionary failures is to real ministry. If we didn't launch the visionary failure, would the real ministry have happened?

Jason Denniston said...

I haven't really formulated a over arching opinion on the visionering process, but I would caution the all swim approach. God's Vision and Man's opinion often times are confused for each other. That can be true on the pastoral level as well as the lay level. But if we are honestly seeking God's vision there must be a considerable amount of prayer and fasting in the process. I'm afraid that the all swim- sunday night meeting opens the visioneering process to those who may have not purposely allowed God to mold their opinions to His vision. My suggestion, if you are moving down the all swim route, is to ask those who want to be involved in it to fast an pray for a certain amount of time. Possibly give them a list of areas to pray about. Really, this would be a good idea no matter how many people from what ever group are involved in the process.

Anonymous said...

By the way, the reality is that God never gives folks a vision until they are fully surrendered and obeying His every desire and direction for/to them and not just His 10 commandments + tithing + church attendance!

Anonymous said...

As a former youth pastor who subscribed zealously to the Stanley / Barna / Hybels / Warren vision approaches (coupled with some charismatic belief), I look back on that time regretfully as I did not lead those under me very well and did not lead them to the Word.

I would tout Prov. 29:18 about people perishing without vision. And I, along with many books and articles, made that verse to be something it was not. We must examine the passage more closely and the Word in general to realize that "revelation" or "prophetic vision" is something that does not come from us, it comes from God. It is God revealing Himself. In the same way we cannot conjure up the audible voice of God or more pages in the Bible, we cannot create "revelation", it must be given. The second half of that verse also began to present trouble to my desired interpretation of the verse. Do I create law, also? Is my vision the equivalent of law? Not unless I'm willing to deny sola scriptura. I regret forming such a broad, wide-sweeping, all-encompassing doctrine from one verse in a book of wisdom.

And on that note, God has chosen to reveal Himself primarily and concretely in His Word. Humbly so, I regret that I spent so much time forcing the pursuit of a vision that would glorify God and give me joy, when all that time, my affections and joy and focus were not content with the Gospel and were not interested in diving deeper into it. I needed "new", I needed "unique", and I needed "specific to me". The Word truly is sufficient and the Gospel truly more vision that we'll ever be able to fully exhaust.

Anonymous said...

With respect to #1, vision STATEMENTS are well over-rated. It was predictable that Proverbs 29:18 would be inappropriately quoted with respect to vision. A quick web search will be reveal how many times it's used in the secular arena as well. I appreciate Luke's comments above on the matter. In summary, I would not say, "forget vision," but I would say that secular visioning applied to church leadership is well over-rated.

With respect to #4, our church council, with pastor and my fellow laypersons, recently expended a lot of energy on vision/mission/core values statements and documents, and I venture to say six months later no one could recall much about it. I think it did serve to remind our church leadership of what should NOT be left out. i.e. Does your document, if you choose to create one, address missions? evangelism? worship? fellowship? etc... the scriptural components of a body of believers.

With respect to #6, apparently there are some pastors who have been told to take a Moses approach to the New Testament church. I find it hard to reconcile this with Paul's teachings on the qualifications for elders and deacons, and Christ's example of shepherding leadership. While these teachings I refer to do not indicate "all swim", I don't think God intended for churches to be "run" by prophets.

matthew said...

I think 'vision' (at least the way I most often hear of it being spoken about) is over-rated. I believe the passage 'where there is no vision the people perish' is actually being mis-interpreted. To me, it means 'where there is no word from God (revelation) the people perish.'

Developing an individual 'vision' for each church might help the church focus a bit (though, they may develop a poor focus, or a distorted one, or one that is too small), but I'd guess the healthiest churches don't concern themselves with vision statements on a day to day basis.

Pastoral leadership, it seems to me, comes from preaching God's Word (revelation) which leads people into a life of service. And, in the kingdom, servanthood is what leads you places.

Pete Vecchi said...

OK. I'm a small church pastor, and I'm in the midst of trying to get the congregation have a "vision." So I'm going to address each of the "suggestions" individually, hoping to be honest and forthright:

1. Forget vision—just minister.

Pastor does not work with a vision for the future but "takes it as it comes" responding a week at a time waiting to "see what happens." Vision is overrated.

RESPONSE: People often get tired after years of trying to start one new program after another, and when a new pastor comes in, they view it simply as someone else with just another bunch of programs (or sometimes a new pastor with some of the same programs). Yes, vision can be overrated, and yes, it is important to just minister. But my word of caution would be that after people have experienced program after program, unless one or more of the programs has had great success (and in reality, generally the programs are sound, but it's the people lacking the stamina or the will to properly work with the program in long-term ways), "just ministering" can lead to a pastor becoming more of a "chaplain", trying to maintain the status quo because the people are tired and/or comfortable just maintaining.

2. Keep on Keeping on.

On arrival the new pastor finds out what the pre-existing vision of the church was before arrival and goes with that.

RESPONSE: What pre-existing vision? Especially in smaller churches, the vision is survival and paying the bills.

3. All swim.

Pastor gathers the entire church to develop a vision statement.

RESPONSE: This sounds great--if you can get enough of the congregation together at one time and then get them to honsetly participate in discussions. The reality is that too many people in many congregations simply show up out of habit or convenience. If it's inconvenient, they often don't even show up.

4. Board dreams & casts.

Pastor meets with the board developing a vision, then they cast it to the whole church.

RESPONSE: See my response to number 1.

5. Pastoral staff dream & cast.

Pastor meets with pastoral staff developing the vision then together they cast it to the board and church.

RESPONSE: What staff? In a small church such as the one I pastor, I am the only staff.

6. Moses-on-the-mountain.

Pastor "goes up the mountain" and seeks the vision, then returns to cast it to board and members.

RESPONSE: And then the board responds to the pastor as to why it doesn't want to change things, or why changing such and such might leave so and so out of the picture because of schedule conflicts or some other excuse. Often, the church board is made up of long-time members who have worked hard in the church for years throughout the tenures of sevaral pastors, and these board members simply get to the point of wanting things done the traditional way, especially in small congregations.

7. Denomination’s choice.

Pastor and church adopts the District Superintendent's vision (and denomination’s) for the church.

RESPONSE: See my responses to numbers 1 and 6, and substitute "District Superintendent" or "Denomination" for the Pastor.

In all, I think that some of the students in this class would do well to read their professor's article "In Praise of Mediocrity", because while many of the ideas cited regardin vision have wonderful potential, they often require enough people to put feet to the vision. In smaller churches -- and we have a membership of about 30 -- there is limited "people-power" from which to draw in order to put feet to a vision. And whether we like it or not, some people who complete college and/or seminary may find God calling them to small churches without staff.

Just something to think about.

Anonymous said...

Wow! This may have generated discussion as quickly as the post about moral failure did a few weeks back. As a pastor, I really appreciate the comments by the laypeople here.

Here's my take on the process. Everybody who has posted here is correct without exclusion to any of the other posts. That's because vision-realization is situational. What good is vision casting if it never comes to pass? Any of the methods described here, even David's open-source method is valid, depending on where you are. I'll let your class determine the parameters under which each method applies.

Anon #1 advocates for God's original marching orders. I'm going to assume he means the Great Commission. What is missing from this discussion so far is the contextual piece which David hints at. The vision of every church should be make disciples of every nation. That will look very different in every context. Perhaps we should a different word - "Missional Direction" maybe.

In my own context, I came in and the church literally asked me to lead them into some type of vision. This was after I asked them what their vision was for the church during the interview process. I did not set any specific goals, etc. I just wanted to see us a church become more effective at making our current folks better disciples and to reach more unchurched people. A fairly generic vision really.

To determine our "missional direction", I chose method #4. In my context, the board is well respected and the church will follow. The church is healthy and there are no power struggles, no "we've always done it this way" mentality, etc. So, together we went up the mountain. And while up there, we didn't get anything radically new. We came down seeking to disciple our current folks and desiring to reach more unchurched people.

What we did come down with was a set of core values that accurately describe our context and push ourselves into what we may not be just yet. This was last fall. Next month, we will go back up the mountain to set goals for our direction. It's not enough to say we are going to go West. Is there any particular place we want to go?

You may call that vision in the way it's being used today, but it's really goal setting. What I foresee happening is the continual editing in Wiki mode as we discover the various things that don't keep us on our missional course or reacting to the things that come along that would help us do a better job of the ultimate task of the church to make disciples.

Which I why believe in vision-realization. Lots of people cast visions and then sit around waiting for it happen. If you do nothing with it, then it doesn't matter what method you use.

Anonymous said...

One quick question. I'd be curious how the gentleman in the back left corner of the picture may view the process in comparison with the rest of the class.

Anonymous said...

Are there no female students in that picture?

Darrin Gowan

Anonymous said...

I think David is on the right track. The pastor MUST be a real leader, but that doesn't look like ________________ (insert name of large-profile "leader" here).

Sometimes leading is voicing the consensus of the group. Sometimes leading is articulating the thoughts and feelings of the followers that they can't identify yet. Sometimes it is saying, "Trust me on this one." Sometimes it is admitting that you have no plan and calling people to depend upon God for direction.

True leadership is much more demanding than any book or seminar implies. I like the term "Open Source Leadership." A related concept might be called "Naked Leadership." True leadership is more about being an example and model than it is about giving orders and announcing a strategic plan.


Keith.Drury said...

Darrin, there is only one this semester--a whole flock last semester. All CM majors are required to take the course as are all youth and worship majors. The youth major has the most women, then worship, then CM (wonder why?) We have maybe 75-100 women majors over all but I ought to know that number better than that... I should check and report more accurately.

(that will be my homework)

Keith.Drury said...

OK did my homework... we have 191 women in the religion division now.... that's a bit less than half of our total students...

Tim Hawk said...

I am going to advocate for a modified #1.
Jesus said to make disciples. In the context in which he spoke, that means be a Rabbi to a group of students. They learned by spending time with him, hearing his teaching and observing his life. Formalized vision usually focuses on belief statements and programs to "fit" these statements. Reality: if you are spending time with the people, you will hear their vision, hopes, dreams, ideas, and program possibilities will come out of that. The man who mentioned his pastor asking him to help a lady move - that is a ministry, a program, and a Rabbi-student teaching moment!
I pastored for 16 years and bucked against what I am now sharing. I should have "hung out" with my people more. Then I could have impacted them more and taught them more. Vision? You have one! Disciple them! How? Hang out with them. Someone I know who stimulated this discussion once said, "More is caught than taught!"

Glen Robinson said...

Just remember, don't think you're going to copy a large-urban church vision you received from a book, conference, or visit and plug it into your less than 100-size congregation that lives in rural America.

Your vision for the church should first come from who God has called you to be. For me, it developed from the experiences I've been through and the people I've encountered along the way. It also came through seeing my city through their eyes, not what I want it to be. This means researching and getting to know a local cultural group and pull your church together to target them with the Gospel.

For me, once I had a vision for the Gospel and could weep over my own city, I began to introduce missional ministries to our congregation where we could all work together and grow the vision into a reality.

Visions are fuzzy until you start putting flesh on them. They should be adaptable and led by the Spirit if you want God to run your church.

Just don't let your dreams of ministry success get in the way. Stay in the flow of God and take the adventure. It will take you into both dangerous rapids and smooth waters. Lead your people, but let God be the one to put people where they need to be. Be patient, pray, and go at the Spirit's pace.

Anonymous said...

Lately, I have had to rethink and earnestly seek the Lord concerning His vision for our church. I have had to ask myself is the vision I have for this church what God really wants for this church. Or, is my vision simply just good for my career. I have learned in my ministry that often time God has more to teach me in casting my vision then I have in teaching others. Often times I learn what God wants to change in myself as I seek to change our church. Tony Evans says that unless we can change ourselves we can't change others. The power to change ourselves is in the power of the Holy Spirit. Gods vision is always concerned with spiritual growth and people accepting Him. If our earthly vision fulfills that quota then we've got Gods power.

Anonymous said...

I just find it remarkable that you took a multi-million dollar business made of hundreds of books, tapes, seminars and lectures and condensed it into seven points! Now what are we going to read for the next 10 years of minsitry?

Seriously, you condensed several books into a few sentences, nice work.

For the record, I perfer the method of catching a vision with leaders who then share it with those they influence. Didn't Jesus do this when he called out the disciples, trained them and then sent them back out in pairs of two? And while I like David Drury's "wiki" idea, in the end even that infamous resource is partly regulated. All opinions are not equal no matter how much we'd like them to be for any number of reasons.

And "Lawyer & Layman's" comment was very insightful, one I'm going to take to heart.

bumble said...

I prefer the term "direction" rather than vision. Vision sounds too encompassing - as if I really see it all.

As leader/shepherd, I should lead the flock to somewhere (whereever there are grazing grasses). The problem is I may not know where to go next. Sometimes the Chief Shepherd send a voicemail. Sometimes my fellow shepherds (especially the older wiser and more-traveled one) told me. Sometimes my scouting trips work out. Sometimes the sheep gravitate to it.

At any rate, I need directions. Or else the flock finish grazing here and start starving.

James Petticrew said...

I see a sea change around "vision" among younger people, us "oldies" were inspired by a church or strong leader who had a clear vision which could inspire our involvement, I am sensing much more that the contemporary generation of young adults is looking for a church which will encourage them to have vision for their lives and ministry in the church and then help facilitate those dreams becoming reality.
I wonder if core leadership in the future will move from defining vision (a church of 1000 in 2 months etc) to setting out core values and then working with people to see their visions which are compatiable with the core values come to pass.
Dee Hock's chaordic leadership ideas may be coming to a church near you as opposed to chaotic leadership which is probably already at a church near you. I sense this is the direction that Eddie Gibbs is heading in his LeadershipNext book.

Tom Kinnan said...

Vision is the ability to see. We are mistaken if we assume that people can see miles down they road: they may only be able to see a few feet in front of themselves. God has the big overarching vision and He allows us to have bits and pieces of it as we move ahead in life. Pastors sometimes have what appears to be different visions for the same church. It would be good if those "visions" were overlaid and perhaps a bigger picture would come into play. They are only giving (assuming they are in tune with God) what God has revealed at the time. We call our direction at BreakPointe our "Unfolding Vision." And...it doesn't all come from me. It's nice to not be the only one in touch with God.

JustKara said...

I am struck by the imprecision of the "vision" Jesus passed on to the Apostles. He promised he would build His church and commissioned them to make disciples, but He pretty much left it up to them to work out the how-to methods. Nevertheless, in larger churches the "all-swim" approach is unmanageable. The best we can do is get some "lay participation" in the process as Kathy mentioned above. The final refined vision can't be written by the congregation when you have more than a thousand people.

Anonymous said...

Vision? Is something that is always being adjusted. Therefore there must be a process of questions being asked. Of the individual, the staff and the congregation. Such as... (not mine)

1. What is our present reality?
2. What is our shared passion?
3. What is the divine directive?

So often we error because we don't hohestly answer the first question.

RobMcD said...

I don't see the pastor as the source of it but is a faciliator of it. Assessing the church, the history values and opportunities, bringing others together to evaluate, pray, confirm and adjust as you go.

Keith.Drury said...

I just "pruned" the comments by dropping out for the time being some anonymous comments or subsidiary comments not fully responsive to the subject of the style of leading visioning. The most helpful comments are on your preferences of the seven & why, or additional ways of visioning. Thanks for the first burst of comments already in these the first two days.

John Mark said...

I found myself thinking of Chuck Swindoll who has built two churches simply on the strength of his preaching/teaching, without any gimmicks, trendy music or slick marketing, as far as I know. If anyone knows more about him than I do, I would happily be enlightened. I don't know if many pastors, myself included, can build a church just on the appeal of our preaching or pulpit style, but I do wonder, how far can expositional preaching go in building church?

Jeff Brady said...

So much for brevity, Coach...

Call it vision, direction, goal-setting, or whatever term you like, without some thought towards the future, it’s difficult to get anywhere. A college student must look ahead to some final projects even in the beginning of the semester; otherwise he may look to next week’s calendar and see a 30 page research paper due…that he hasn’t started! If a person is driving to the grocery story, they are looking to the future in anticipation of the next turn or road to take; they can’t just randomly turn here and there and magically arrive. Likewise, a church must have some intentional intellectual and spiritual thought towards the future.

However, there is no singular formula that works. In the past five years I have been in three different churches as a lay person or staff member, and none of the three could have shared the same vision, nor could they have shared the same approach to seeking vision.

The smallest of the three adhered to the all-swim method, the first church that I youth-pastored gave the pastor a hiking staff and 3-foot-long beard and waited for him to find the stone tablets (figuratively speaking), and the church that I’m currently at used the “Board dreams and casts” method followed by the all-swim…and all three worked for that body.

Of course the Church universal shares the vision of the Great Commission, but I think that as pastors our primary objective isn’t to give a vision in stone tablets or do what everybody else is doing.

I believe that we are to help empower our people spiritually to seek, discover, and develop their own spiritual gifts so that working with and through the ministry of all believers, we can help guide the Body to identify God’s vision and the means to accomplish it for that church, as well as helping them discover how they (and their vision) fit in with the Church.

But what do I know? I’m just the student in the front row with the tatty hat.

Go with GOD,

Anonymous said...

Thoughts from the guy in the left corner of the picture.

#2: My short-term experience, 32 months at my first charge, tells me that this is a good initial approach. Nobody wants a pastor who will come in and and quickly flip the place inside out... Unless there are some real serious "issues". (You can fill in your concept of these "isuues" here.)

#3and#4: After some time spent in the pulpit, fellowship with the congregation and community, coupled with your new staff and prayer, a pastor cannot help but wonder how to help the church achieve the ultimate goal: Saving souls and making disciples for Christ. The question that one should ask is this: "Can this be done with the existing vision?" If not, then how does one effect change that Glorifies God

It seems that the vision of a church should be as corporate as our worship is. Guess you can say that 5,6,and 7 don't speak to this "wet behind the ears" pastor at all.

Comments for the "man in the left corner" can be directed to:

Anonymous said...

This is from the big kid in the back with the black shirt--Greg--
I beleive that all churches need to always look at what their vision is and continually look at if what they are doing is their visioin. If it is not then change what they are doing to get back on the path of their vision. Every year at the first meeting they should recap what their churches vision is and if the WHOLE CHURCH is doing it and not just the pastor of the church. It takes more than one person to make the church and it better take more than one to maintiain the vision inside of it.
Just my opinion--Greg

Anonymous said...

I have to go with a combination of #1 and just sticking to the Great Commission. I am a young pastor in a small church. I came to this church with grandiose ideas of 'vision casting.' Needless to say, nobody cared about vision; they wanted a shepherding pastor. Furthermore, I read nothing about pastoral vision casting in Scripture. That my two cents...for what its worth.

Kyle Irish said...

I like what the Lawyer Layman has to say about this matter. I think that there is so much truth to this. Us "newbies" think that we are going to come into a church and refocus it. That somehow everyone is just going to jump on board and forget the past and jump into the new. It cannot and will not work this way unless its a brand new church plant of course. People need to be led by a vision that captures them where they are at and leads them where they need to go. So many times we tell them without meaning to that their old vision was meaningless. So they feel as though what they were striving for had no purpose. This cannot be so. We have to understand where they are, their current situation, and lead them in the direction that God has. Not into our own vision.

Anonymous said...

My responses are under each point...

1. Forget vision - just minister.

Good luck with this one. People want to know where you're TAKING them. Sure, it's great to model servanthood in practical ways, but people want to hear VISIONARY statements coming from their pastor's mouth - even if they're not from him (or her) alone. I don't CARE if you don't like Maxwell; leadership is influence (nothing more, nothing less), so if you're going to lead, please influence your congregation with some vision!

2. Keep on keeping on.

I would agree, keep on keeping on... for about one year. You SHOULD find out what the pre-existing vision was before you arrived. Why? Because you shouldn't mess with it for the first six to twelve months unless something immoral or illegal is going on. Use the first season of ministry to simply let them know you're glad to be their new pastor, use the time to develop friendships, figure out who the leaders and influencers are (and BIG hint - they're not all on staff or on the board), and begin formulating a sense of who they are and where God wants to take them. As you nurture friendships, you'll earn change to bring change... just a little later.

3. All swim.

I don't want the whole church developing our vision statement, because our whole church doesn't have vision. I don't need Carnal Cal or Immature Ida messing it up, and I don't need Tangent Tom bringing up the need for 100% consensus. Honestly, this one's retarded... (in the spiritual sense, of course)

4. Board dreams & casts.

I like this one, as long as you include the staff and other ministry leaders. Some ministry leaders aren't paid, but there's a reason people follow them; they're invested. I think the greater amount of leaders you can involve in determining vision the better, but it can't be just anybody. This one's nice, since there are natural "funnels" in most healthy churches for getting to the staff, board, and ministry leader levels. As a result, these three circles of influence sense and carry the vision as well as anyone.

5. Pastoral staff dream & cast.

See my response to number 4, with one additional thought...

What do board members and ministry leaders see that staff don't see? Sometimes staff don't see things that board members and ministry leaders see, because staff haven't lived in an area long enough to understand the community's context, values, and needs.

Then again, sometimes staff bring fresh eyes and perspectives that long-termers don't see anymore. New staff who have just moved into the area can point out blind spots to those who no longer see (or refuse to see). Again, that's why I wrote what I did in response to number 4...

6. Moses-on-the-mountain.

Interesting... I've got a board member right now who expects me to do this, and is attempting to influence the rest of the board to feel the same way. But I don't want to be Moses, and I don't think I SHOULD be Moses. I think vision (and leadership, for that matter) should reflect an Acts 6 mentality: let leaders get together and determine (PRAYERFULLY) what should be done. Perhaps pastors CAN find vision on their own, but perhaps they SHOULDN'T so that vision can be a shared - and therefore more owned and appreciated - opportunity.

7. Denomination’s choice.

This one's loaded, Keith; thanks for including it. What if your denomination or DS has no vision? What if they have vision, but it's limited? And what if we're talking mission more than vision? I'm assuming your class is distinguishing between the two, with mission being what we're about, and vision being how we accomplish what we're about? I think mission can be universal to ALL churches, but vision is contextual, unique, developing, dynamic (Bob Whitesel might even say "organic"). I don't know that a pastor or church could follow a denomination's vision and call it unique, since I believe denominations and even DS's are called to keep the general mission before us. But what the mission LOOKS like - the VISION - seems required to come from the pastor, board, and ministry leaders.

Anonymous said...

I find it most interesting that no one even mentioned God's authority in this area of direction/vision. Seems to me they go hand-in-hand. And by the way, not all pastors or church leaders have the authority of God! (shock, shock).

Will Shelor said...

I don't know, I'm still young and idealistic about all this (I'm the tall guy in the picture), but isn't the purpose of the pastor and staff, beyond just keeping the church going every week, to cast a vision and move the church in a direction that, upon praying seriously about it, they feel God is calling the church to move.

... Maybe it's growing up with this whole Purpose-Driven Church model, but I feel that vision and direction are important- we can't just keep on existing the way we always have, the world changes all the time. We are ordained by our denomination to lead our church. Therefore, I think 5 is the most ideal- the pastoral staff together is ordained to lead the church in a direction that God would have them move. Maybe in 5 years I'll feel differently... I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone notice that ever since the church stressed/taught the purposed-driven vs. the Holy Spirit-driven church, there has been no power!

I guess in "reality", you get one or the other.

Keith.Drury said...

OK let me toss in a curve ball into the mix...

If you were on a team of five missionaries in Nigeria... would your answer be any different and why or why not?

Anonymous said...

I'll take a swing at the curve ball. NO, my answer would not be any different. The only modification would be as a team of missionaries we would determine the direction of how to best make as many converts as possible based on our contextual situation. Assuming there will be nationals who will are already Christians, they will help us modify (wiki) the approach over time.

I guess my answer would not change because I decided in seminary that I would major in cross-cultural missions despite my intention to stay in good ol' USA. I wanted to learn the methods because I thought they would be best. I still feel that way.

Anonymous said...

Just ran across this....."Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape".

Anonymous said...

Left corner guy replies...

That is a gret question. Let me answer it with another question.

1. Is our team a result of being sent by a church, some missionary program outside of our denomination?(assuming we are all from the same denom.) Or did God do a "Moses" on one of us and he or she gathered the other four.

Looking at your question, I assume that a church or a missionary program sent me and these four other cats. These "sending folk" obviously had a vision of some sort because they got us to Nigeria. I know it's Sunday afternoon, but your question seems rather vague to this bald-headed old man.

It's been intersting to see the responses so far, especially from my collegues from class. I still feel that you need a vision (read mission statement) that a large percentage of your staff and congregation have prayed about, sought God's wisdom, and can act upon. This is regardless of what the great authors and other folk who choose to "blaze their own trails" of how to build a church say.

A person who wonders if he will feel the flames of fire based on his above thoughts!

Anonymous said...

Do we have to pick just one?

I've seen each of these methods used effectively.

It could be that the method a pastor uses to arrive at a shared vision with the congregation is not so important as that they arrive there.

That seems to be the task of leadership--working effectively within the mish-mash of local church life rather than applying a rote forumla for casting vision.

Anonymous said...

I have been wondering where God is at in the picture of casting a vision. We are being taught the CEO methods of our business culture but rarely are we taught to spend time on our knees seeking the direction our Lord wants our churches to go. Too often we set the vision by our own knowledge and insights and only ask God to bless our Vision but do not seek His. Perhaps we should teach our young men and women going into the ministry how to seek God's heart more than just understanding the CEO mentality of our culture. Just a Thought

Anonymous said...

Two quick comments.

When we are younger, we hear God speak and lead us, we get a vision for what needs to happen, and we know it's of God. Later in life, we begin to fear, and later realize, that it was us speaking. Our vision, our dreams, our best solutions to what we see. We do good work, we do necessary things, but it is not necessarily God. This is a universal experience - check out books like "A Critical Journey" by Hagner and Guelich. My "dream is to find leaders who begin to factor this truth in. (The book discusses 6 stages of faith and spiritual growth, adn how most churches never get past the third stage ...)

A similar one is also practical. As a musician and a Christian, I have found that it's VERY hard for Christians to put together a music ministry group. Everyone has their own vision! And no two are alike!!! I despaired for yours, and finally began advising people to form "Mutual Backup Bands". I'll back you on your stuff, and you back me on mine! Otherwise no concerted effort was possible. Sounds just like a typical church problem to me.

God bless the Church and all who love her and hope to build her up.

Anonymous said...

Interesting you bring up the point of age-related visions. I find it most interesting that when young, folks are willing to wing it and trust God for all. As they age, they become more controlling, judgmental, less loving and trusting and less willing to let God work supernaturally. It is like they have to change folks themselves now that God taught them how to do it! Or maybe really, it is like they have risen to the status of gods themselves and no longer need God at all for their ministries and work.

It just boggles my mind! I thought is was only a few folks but this is happening all across the church!

And, now that we are talking focus ... does it concern anyone that the worship choruses sound like bedroom songs sometimes. It makes me wonder with all of this, "I love you, I love you, I love you...." stuff if God is one's spiritual sex partner or their Almighty God. Maybe it is just me but if you look at the worship hymns and songs from years ago, they were quite different, though often slow, and focused on all of the attributes of God and not just the ones that stroked our souls, egos and musical abilities.

Maybe I'm wrong but sometimes I just wonder if its really worship or if its just meeting our needs which vary on what the person really wants in life: a daddy, a partner, a money machine, a certain type of song that they have mastered singing, or whatever.

You know, babies are taught early on to say I love you and then they are expected to say more. Maybe it is me, but somewhere I think we are missing it cause there ain't no power. It is soothing and appears worshippie but I'm not sure it is.

And my last thought, older folks tend to gravitate towards what younger folks consider dry and dead churches. I wonder if that is not more relationship-driven vs. age or maturity-driven. Look at the marriage relationship between older folk vs. younger folk. Old folks act in their relationship like they do in their churches...they appear dead but are really deeply committed, no longer really outwardly flaunt their relationship with their mates and steadily plug along with the loves of their life regardless and in a loving way.

The younger generation however, has to be doing something to show or prove their relationship and love like outwardly showing their love for their mates and children, teaching the world what love in a marriage really is, modeling the perfect "love". But let something go wrong and they are at each other's throats behind closed doors and threaten divorce or pouting when things don't go their way.

I just wonder if the worship styles are not really more relective of the maturity in one's relationship with the Lord vs. anything else.

Please note, this is coming from someone with no worship leadership experience and if you asked me to lead it you would be in trouble because I have no idea how. I'm just sharing my personal observations from the pew/chair. (Note: maybe the old folks had it right, you can't snuggle/sit close to your your mate in the chairs but you sure can in the pews!)

Kyle Wood said...

To respond to the comment that James Petticrew made about the direction of the younger generation, I want to say that I completely agree. He said that instead of vision casting, we will see churches that develop strong core values and visions will arise. This is the way that I have seen my "church" going for some time. This is not to say churches now are without core values, but I do feel that churches now don't stick to their guns, so to speak. I feel that the importance of core values will help those in the church, those seeking a church, and those seeking Christ to see where we stand and stand together firmly.

Evan Nutter said...

Jesus has given us both a vision and purpose statement.

The purpose is to make disciples. The vision is that we be a people who love the Lord with all our hearts soul strength and mind and our neighbors as ourselves.

Jesus even supplied us with a model. Serve - meet the needs of the people. Share - after serving, while serving, use it as an opportunity to share the good news. i.e I am serving you because God loves you and wants you to know he values you. So much that he gave his son for you.

Now obviously this takes practical steps. That's where I think a church has to know the culture they are in, the needs of the culture and the gifts and abilities of the workers. Then the workers need to meet the needs...

So much of "Vision" sems to be numbers related in the church. Basically,"my vision is that we have a new sanctuary with multiple services and staff, adn that people inthe community see this as the church to go to." Of course no one ever says that, but what do we celebrate? What do we point to as success in the church? Numbers and buildings.

And so we "dream" and build buildings and plan programs and pat ourselves on the back.

Say what you will about Barna's revolution, but it does bring up a good point about the church needing to be the church, not just go to church. (of course one need not abandon the church to do so.)

Jesus has given us a vision and a purpose...he has given us a model in his own ministry...he has prayed for workers. To me a church needs to only seek out what field God has placed them in and then determine to work and meet the needs of those in that field.

We have the ultimate truth, but it's hard for people to hear us when their stomachs or souls are empty.

A church should be asking how can we serve those least like Christ.

The reason that pastors always have a different vision than the one before them, is because they are doing retreads of things they have done at other churches...or they are copying the latest trend and those change as often as pators do...

The church people don't change as often...the church location doesn't change as often...the culture around the church doesn't change as often...those are the things that should determine the direction a church moves in...

A church should know it's identity before hiring a Pastor. If a church were looking for a Pastor that shared it's "vision" instead of expecting a pastor to give some vision of his own, then the problem of competing visions or 3-5 turnover in vision would not exist...of course it might take longer to find a pastor who fits your church's identity and vision, but you will probably keep them longer too...

Evan Nutter
Pastor and 30 year old "old guy"
Faith Wesleyan Church
Fruitland, MD