Would you like to have a vision for your church that brings meaning, momentum, fruit, and growth?
It’s possible – and likely – for you to see the fruit that comes when your church is united behind a compelling vision.
You may wonder what vision is, how to get it, and what to do with it once you find it. You may question how to find a God-driven vision, how to get your church onboard, and why it’s worth all the effort.
It’s worth figuring out your church vision because God has great plans for you.
Keep reading and I’ll unpack the how, the what, and the why. You’ll see how to be a leader with vision. I’ll tell you my story of finding and raising vision.
7 Key Questions about Church Vision
Let’s start by answering these key questions leaders ask about church vision.
1. What exactly is a church vision?
Your vision is different than your mission. Your mission should be closely tied to the Great Commission: making disciples, baptizing, and teaching.
Your vision is what the mission will look like when it is lived out in your church and your community. It is the desired change, or the end result.
But it’s more than the business world’s “picture of a preferable future.” Your vision, according to Rick Warren, is your faith dream for your church.
Church Relevance outlines key findings and gives examples of 30 church vision statements. Their article will give you some facts and examples of church vision statements.
Just to be clear, a church vision statement is not equal to your vision for your church. A vision statement is a memorable summary of the church vision.
2. Where do you get a vision for your church?
Some recommend that you schedule an off-site with your key leaders, bring in a facilitator if you can afford it or if your leaders are cantankerous, and use easel paper and post-it notes to come to consensus on a new vision statement.
I believe that the lead pastor gets the vision from God. Frankly, being the bearer of the vision is one of the most essential functions of the senior pastor. It can’t be done by committee.
Here’s how Rick Warren explains it:
“So you as a leader and as a pastor must have God’s vision for your church. The very first task of leadership is to set the vision for the organization. If you don’t set the vision, you’re not the leader. Whoever is establishing the vision in your church is the leader of that particular church. A church will never outgrow its vision and the vision of a church will never outgrow the vision of the pastor.”
The vision for the church must come out of the senior pastor’s heart, faith, and dream of what God wants to do through your church. It comes to life and is lived out in community, but the source of the vision is the calling of God on the senior pastor to lead your church.
3. Why do we need a vision for our church?
More pragmatically, what does a vision do for a church?
Aubrey Malpurs, in his classic book Advanced Strategic Planning, says that vision encourages unity, creates energy, provides purpose, fosters risk taking, enhances leadership, promotes excellence, and sustains ministry.
And I’ll add another reason why you need a vision for your church: vision creates confidence in the pastor and the congregation.
A pastor without vision feels the lack of direction and privately questions his ability to lead. And a lack of vision from the pastor opens a leadership void that others will be happy to rush into, creating a cacophony of vision which ultimately leads to division and dissension.
A pastor leading the charge on a church-wide vision builds confidence and brings momentum, fruit, and growth.
4. What if I don’t have a vision for my church in my heart?
You’re not alone if you don’t have a vision for your church. George Barna found that only 2% of pastors could articulate a vision for their churches.
A couple of things are possible if you are one of the 98% who doesn’t have a clear vision to communicate.
Either you are not called to lead this movement. If that’s the case, you should pray about stepping down as primary leader and volunteering to join someone else’s team.
Or you need to spend a season reading vision, studying vision-casters in the Bible like Joshua, Noah, David, Solomon, Josiah, Hezekiah, Paul, and Peter.
And sit at the feet of God listening to him for his vision for your church.
Study movements of the Bible and you’ll see that there is always only one vision carrier who gets alone with God and wrestles with him for a vision. Others will supplement or help refine the vision, but the leader must give birth to it so that he is fully committed to it.
5. How committed do I need to be to reaching my church’s vision?
No one will be as committed to the vision as the leader who receives it.
- Would you be willing to give your life for this? That’s a vision.
- Would you be willing to give your life savings? That’s a vision.
- Would you be willing to say, “Though none go with me, still I will follow”? That’s a vision.
If you don’t care much about it, it will sit as a vision statement in a binder on a shelf, or it may be a slogan on a wall, but it won’t make a difference in your church or your community.
If you want people to bleed for the vision, you must be willing to hemorrage for it.
6. What if my vision sounds like the visions other churches have?
It’s a good thing if your vision for your church is similar to other churches.
Vision doesn’t develop in a vacuum. Very few of us will create vision out of nothing. We are better at adapting and adopting than at creating from scratch.
“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.” – Ecclesiastes 1:9
We’re on safer ground if our vision looks similar to that of other dynamic, orthodox churches.
7. How can I make a vision more compelling?
A vision should have a wow and a how.
The wow compels people. It’s bigger than us. We must rely on God to fulfill it. The how describes how we accomplish our vision.
New Song’s vision is simple: we want to reach as many as possible come to Jesus in our neighborhoods and throughout the world. If possible, we would like see every New Songer, young and old, have the privilege of leading someone to Christ. And we’d like to help in a lot of elsewheres by planting 100 churches and teaching 100 other churches to plant 100 churches.
We express the vision this way: Each One Reach One, 100 x 100. “Each One Reach One” is the how. “100 x 100” is the wow. 100 x 100 = 10,000 new churches.
Ground your vision in a phrase that’s compelling to you and it will become captivating for your people.
Brothers Chip and Dan Heath, in Made to Stick, teach us how to communicate ideas in ways that make them memorable.
“…We’ve seen that a credible idea makes people believe. An emotional idea makes people care. And… we’ll see that the right stories make people act.”
It’s our responsibility to find the words and stories that make the vision compelling.
How to Spread a Vision for your Church
Have you ever tried to cast vision for something and no one joined in? That’s no bueno. Here are four ways to see your vision take root and spread.
1. Pray over everything.
You can’t make your church grab hold of a new vision, but God can. So pray. Daily. Constantly. Frequently. Fervently.
I pray about the fulfillment of our vision every day.
2. Introduce the vision in concentric circles.
How you introduce the vision has a big influence on its adoption.
Start by “shopping” the vision to your lay leaders, staff and Board members. Cast the vision tentatively.
- I’m thinking that God might want us to…
- Here are some of my reasons for thinking this…
- Here are some of the benefits if we pursue this….
- What part of this excites you?
They’ll tell you. They will help you refine the wording of your strategy. This “shopping” process will also let you know the objections you will need to overcome in order for the church to embrace your vision.
Visions are adopted in concentric circles. Start with your closest friends and most likely adopters.
With them on board, shop the vision to your next most likely adopters. Mention that John, Peter, and James are already on board and excited. Get their input. Refine the wording and presentation more.
Leak the potential vision to one larger circle at a time:
- Loyal friends
- Other opinion leaders
By the time you’ve presented to every level, your words will have changed some, and the scope and sequence of the vision’s implementation will have improved.
3. Now write it out and announce a Vision Sunday.
Preach the vision. Be compelling. Use Biblical examples of those who practiced this process.
With our “Each One Reach One” vision, I use John 1 to show how each one brought one to Jesus.
And I use Luke 15 to show how much God cares for the one. In a third message, I use the Six Styles of Evangelism to show how each one of us can reach one in ways that are natural to each of us.
When I explain where we want to plant those churches, I say “In Temecula, Tennessee, and Timbuktu.” We’ve learned from experience that daughter churches planted closer than 45 minutes away can get competitive with momma. Temecula is 45 minutes from us. Tennessee represents anywhere else in the United States, and Timbuktu represents anywhere in the world.
4. Once the vision is out there, embed the vision.
Discuss its implementation at every board meeting. Talk through how it can be featured in every worship service. Develop a logo or graphic for it. Post the logo on your walls.
Talk about the vision constantly. Reinforce it by telling stories about how the vision is being fulfilled.
Because vision leaks, you must reinforce it every month. Every week is better.
When you’re getting sick of talking about the vision, others are just starting to catch on.
- If you’re reading this because you don’t have a vision for your church, dig into the Bible and pray. Learn about vision and study other church’s visions.
- If you have some thoughts about what you believe God wants your church to do, start sharing what you’re thinking, getting feedback, and refining it.
- If you have some level of consensus, embed the vision in your church through preaching, at meetings, in prayer, and in your ministries. Start something new that embodies the vision for your church.
- And keep learning how to lead your congregation to go after the vision God has given your church.
- The Power of Vision: Discover and Apply God’s Plan for your Life and Ministry by George Barna
- The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner
- Developing Vision, compiled by David Goetz and Bob Moeller, published by Christianity Today.
- The Pastor’s Role in Vision-Based Leadership by Tim Nicols
Start Here to learn more about the resources available for you at PastorMentor.