God’s Chosen Weapon For Changing The World Is . . .
The church had a vision statement that covered all the bases. No one could take issue with the noble things it talked about and the statement contained something for everyone. The problem was the church was rapidly shrinking and nothing the pastor and lay leaders did could stop the loss of members.
But for a core of older committed members the church would have already been forced to face the reality that it could not bleed forever. Using up all the reserves to stay open is always a bad idea; eventually the money does run out and the task of correcting the problems and rebuilding the church becomes monumental, opportunities have been willfully squandered, buildings have been neglected and are run down and years of struggle lie ahead rebuilding what was needlessly wasted.
There can be many complicating factors which make it hard to address such situations but the reality of the church is that it is a simple organism under all the layers of human complexity. It all comes down to: Either we have heard from God or we have not. Either we have a compelling vision that drives our activities and behavior or we get lost in the fog of saying things that sound right but mean nothing. The evidence is in the health of the church.
Christians become skilled at explaining away zero growth and decline in churches, “We are going through a period of consolidation.” means “We are losing members and we don’t have a clue why so we don’t know how to fix it. We are having to stop things we used to do since we don’t have visionary members anymore.” If all else fails, we reorganize, hoping that in the process no one will notice that we are gutting effective ministries we can’t sustain anymore. The reality is that we are no longer riding the wave and have no idea how to catch the next one.
It is never healthy for a pastor to become obsessed with numbers and statistics since that leads straight into the entertainment model of the church were we do things to attract people but never do more than amuse them. However, every pastor needs to be focussed on growth: are the members healthy, are they growing personally, are they developing in ministry and gifting, are they reproducing? Healthy churches flourish, sick churches die.
We started this post with vision that sounds good, using all the right words and catch phrases yet lacks the grip to keep a church in health. Most churches can come up with some sort of vision statement (and for those that can’t, there are wonderful sites like dilbert.com where standard phrases can be copied to produce a statement that sounds right!.) Apparently having a vision statement isn’t the solution.
The statement only has value if it is derived from a healthy process which has to include some key elements:
Is it an expression of what we heard from God – not the general things God says but the specific things he is saying to us in our location?
Does it reflect the gifting of our members and the character of our church?
Does it address vital things that are happening in our community, right now?
Does it describe what we are doing and planning (specifically) to do?
Is it an “us” document derived from a participative process of listening to God corporately?
Does anybody take it seriously? Does anybody plan to do anything about what it says?
Are we willing to commit our time and resources to actually doing what it says?
How much of the church budget and staff time is specifically devoted to achieving what the vision statement says is important?
Let’s take an example.
Most church vision statements mention the importance of making disciples. Our questioning minds can immediately take that section and begin to see if it is our vision or our political correctness which is being addressed.
What discipleship is happening now? Specifically who is being discipled and specifically what is being done, how is it better than what we did last year, and how many members of the congregation are involved. We can also check how much of the church budget is devoted specifically to discipleship, how much staff time is devoted exclusively to equipping the members to disciple others, . . . by now you are getting the idea. Many times our bold vision statement lacks any arms and legs, there is no specific plan, it is a statement of wishful thinking.
So let’s apply the alien test.
This can be done to most things we do but here we will apply it to the church vision. It goes like this: Suppose you arrived in your community and had no idea of what a church is supposed to do. You can’t read a vision statement but you can observe what happens.
- You look around the community for evidence of what is happening and why it is happening. You are particularly interested to find what drives the community, what makes it a better place, how the community helps itself, which people make significant impact and how they do it, what needs exist and who is addressing those needs. Which people and groups influence what happens in the community.
- You visit a church and observe what happens both on-site and in the lives of the members. You are particularly interested in working out what the church does and why it does it.
- After your report is written, someone hands you a vision statement for the church. You read it and compare it with your observations. Does it match what you observed in the community? Does it match what you observed in the church?
The point is that if we described our church by what it does, most times our description would not match what it says it does.
We become what we plan to become, so what are we planning to become?
. . .
- Vision Statement (missionalview.wordpress.com)
- Are Small Groups the Mini-Me Church or the Real Thing? (citesimon.com)
- FORMING PEOPLE IN CHRISTLIKENESS: Insight into ministry by the Reverend Josh Kilbourne (religiousjourney.com)
- Why Church, Inc. is a Bad Idea (citesimon.com)
Posted on May 26, 2012, in Leadership, vision and tagged budget and spending, Christianity, church, discipleship, hearing from God, life-focus, Strategic planning, vision statement. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off.