A clear compelling vision is an essential foundation for every ministry to be effective for the long-term. For pastors and other church leaders, it requires seeing into the future your church’s Kingdom role. And for a season, the leaders will point the people toward the vision until it is reached or expanded. The church’s mission is the Great Commission, but a specific church’s vision will clarify and inspire their unique role as they live out their own Great Commission journey. The vision clarifies what the church should do or not do. It sets the agenda, priorities, and budget for the future. It guides the leaders during their season of leadership.
Aubrey Malphurs uses a list called Questioning the Dream as a means of providing clarity. I have relied on this list several times in my 21-year leadership journey at Midway Church.
Is the vision clear? Can others understand it?
In the process of crafting the vision have we used language that is clear and comprehensible? Are we using long words when short ones will do? If so, we need to edit.
Is it challenging? When other people hear it, are they inspired?
The purpose of crafting the vision will be in vain if, after hearing it, your people are unmoved. The end of the communication should be a “fire in the belly” of your church members (or organization members). They should be as passionate about it as are you.
Is it visual? Does it create mental images of a better future for the church and its community?
While I recommend graphics to support any printed material or sermon outlines, I mainly want to know, “Does it create a mental picture?” Stories of people facing crisis that tie-in to the vision are impacting. When people hear it, do they have an “a ha” moment? Does it click?
Is it future oriented?
A vision learns from the past but does not live in the past. Vision is about the future. The vision builds a bridge from the past to the future. It is a picture of a preferred future rather than whatever future happens to roll along. It’s a picture of what should be if you act, rather than what will be if you don’t. Most people do not look to the future, but to the past. They crave the stability and familiarity of the known. Your vision should give them a clear depiction of what the future should like for God to be honored.
Is it realistic yet stretching?
The vision must be big enough to inspire people but realistic enough so as to maintain credibility. If your church has 100 in attendance in a city of 5,000, your people probably will not see a goal of “1,000 More in a Year” as remotely realistic—especially if your facility’s seating capacity is only 200.
Does it inspire passion? After hearing it, do people feel energized to devote themselves to it?
When your people hear the vision they should think, “This is something I should be involved with, and I cannot imagine walking away from it.” They should not think, “I hope the preacher has fun with this.” And more important than what they think is what they feel! Your people’s emotions should be stirred.
Is it culturally relevant? Can it be understood and embraced by the people in the church?
It must be in terms the people in your church can grasp. Think about your church, your community, your people, your gifts, your leadership ability. You may apply some things you learned at your last conference, but don’t try to turn your church into a suburban “McChurch” if “Farmville” is your people’s language.
Aubrey Malphurs, Developing a Vision for Ministry in the 21st Century, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 1999, p. 75-76.