You’ve heard me say it before. If you’ve got to herd cats, you’ll need a bigger mouse.
Your church cats will chase the biggest mouse in the room, and if your Big Mouse Vision is smaller than someone else’s, you’ll lose their attention every time. The wise and successful pastor stays on his/her knees until they’re sure where God’s leading. And God’s Big Mouse Vision is always the biggest mouse in the room.
But too often, church leaders find their Big Mouse Vision, but the combination of time and the friction of push back begins to erode the crisp edges of the vision. And a blurry vision is no vision at all. With no vision, the church does worse than just perish – if fails in its mission and that means some eternities are seriously jeopardized.
Therefore, it’s critical that you keep your Big Mouse Vision fresh, focused, and up-front.
Live the Nehemiah Principle
When Nehemiah returned from Babylon to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls, he cast a vision to the residents for a safe and secure Jerusalem. They got started on the project, but less than a month later obstacles arose and the vision took a back seat to fear, confusion, and distraction. That’s when Nehemiah stepped up to re-cast the vision in light of the circumstances. He helped them keep their eyes on the goal and as he did, the congregation refocused and redoubled their efforts. From start to finish, the rebuilding project took just fifty-two days. I’m not the first one, by any means, to infer the principle that vision is lost every month (every twenty-six days), but I’m an advocate that if you’re not re-emerging your church in the congregational mission and the vision at least once a month, the little bumps in the road will grow into vision-distracting obstacles.
Now, that doesn’t mean you have to preach a “Here’s the Vision” sermon every four weeks, though that’s not a totally horrible idea. On the other hand, you need to reach the widest audience possible with a regular reminder, so casting vision in worship regularly is a good idea. Work the vision into your regular worship pieces. One church we work with has a vision motto of being the bless-you church in their community. Their vision is to be the most talked about church in their community (in a positive way!) and they do that by abundantly blessing others. To keep that in front of the people, they work the bless-you motto into nearly every sermon, every offering meditation, into prayer, and of course it’s splashed all over their written materials. In addition, the pastor and staff slant their newsletter articles into calls for blessings. You literally can’t go anywhere in the church without being reminded what the church is all about.
To keep your vision fresh, keep your vision in front of the people. All the time. Live the Nehemiah Principle.
Embrace a Zero Tolerance Vision Drift
James reminded his readers that a ship without a rudder is subject to the wind and waves. Similarly, if you don’t have a firm hold on the vision-rudder of your congregation. When you launch out to pursue your vision, there will be congregants, culture, and circumstances all doing their best to shift the vision in different directions. Too often, we’ve seen church leaders subtly succumb to that drift. However, consider that if a ship leaving San Francisco and heading to Hawaii drifts just one degree, it will find itself over 467 miles to the north or the south of the islands – in other words, completely lost at sea.
At best, Vision Drift will take you into a future you’re unprepared for. At worst, Vision Drift will crash you and your congregation into the rocks. The key to reaching your vision will be to embrace a zero tolerance to a drifting vision. To do that, you’ll have to be prepared to constantly correct your navigation to account for congregants, culture, and circumstances.
Consider, it’s said that an airliner is “off course” as much as 98 percent of the time. However, the pilot (or autopilot) makes nearly constant course corrections to compensate for the forces that would send the plane into the middle of the Pacific. Similarly, church leaders must be ready, willing, and able to make course corrections to ensure the congregation is heading in the direction of the vision.
- When a congregant intentionally or unintentionally suggests a project, event, or ministry that doesn’t line up with the vision, church leaders must firmly decline the suggestion.
- When the culture makes a shift, whether it’s the congregational culture or the community culture, then the response must be to revisit the strategies and tactics in order to make adjustments to ensure the path to the vision is still viable.
- When circumstances change for the better or the worse, again the church’s leadership must make sure the church responds rather than reacts to the changes and the vision is kept firmly in sight.
In other words, no matter what happens, the church’s leadership must prioritize reaching the church’s vision above all else. The only way you’ll reach your vision is to adopt a zero-tolerance response to Vision Drift.
Revisit, Rehearse, ReCast, Repeat
Like I mentioned above, vision is lost every twenty-six days or so. If you’re going to be the leader who takes your church from Here the There, you’ll need to keep the vision fresh and in front of your congregation nearly constantly. The vision must be in your mind and on your lips nearly all of the time. Those who reach their preferred futures are those who never take their eye off of the ball … in Paul’s words, Keep your eye on the prize.
With that in mind, spend time every week revisiting the vision. Ask yourself what it looks like this week. If the path to the vision isn’t slightly different than it was last week, then you’re probably not paying attention to your congregants, your culture, or your circumstances. I can almost guarantee you, something needs to be adjusted because you’re probably off course just a smidge.
Once you’ve revisited the vision, take the time to rehearse the vision aloud. What can you say about it this week that’s fresh, motivating, and exciting. Zig Ziglar once said, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing; that’s why we recommend it daily.” If you’re going to keep your congregation motivated, you must keep the vision fresh, new, exciting, and motivating. You’ll want to share stories of how the vision is changing lives and how it will continue to change lives as the church makes the journey. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.
ReCast … of course, that’s what the rehearsal is all about! You’ve got to recast the vision with pretty much everyone you meet. Consider how you’ll slip it into conversation, into your worship, onto social media, and so on. Again, this is why rehearsing is so important!
Repeat … Yep. Every week. Every opportunity. And the more you revisit, rehearse, and recast, the more true you’ll stay to the vision.
Keep your vision clear and strong and you’ll keep it in focus. Don’t succumb to a weak and blurry vision … God’s visions are always big, hairy, and audacious. It’s your job to make it clear, motivational, and inspirational. Oh … and it’s your job to lead to that vision. You’ve got this!