How to Sustain Your "20/20 Vision" Past January
I’ve been amused to see how many folks have been begging their friends to refrain from using something to do with having 20/20 Vision in 2020 on social media. Yet, to their dismay, it’s happening anyway! It seems that church leaders are always looking for some catchy phrase that will capture the attention of people in their community.
I believe one of the culprits for this is found in the “ideas” that churches use for signage in front of their buildings. Here are a few of my favorites:
“DON’T LET WORRIES KILL YOU,
LET THE CHURCH HELP.”
“DO YOU KNOW WHAT HELL IS?
COME HEAR OUR PREACHER.”
And one of my all-time favorites,
“WE LOVE HURTING PEOPLE.”
I understand why we do this. It’s derived from the hope that we can somehow come up with a way to help those we lead stay focused on what we are trying to communicate. So we assume that a catchy phrase or slogan will cement in their memories the awesome vision God has given us for the coming year. However, this seldom happens. Andy Stanley best described what causes the loss of vision when he said, “Vision leaks. So you have to keep casting it.”
At the beginning of this new year, it’s possible that you are in the midst of your annual vision-casting series if you are like most leaders. Not only are you at the beginning of a new year, you are also at the start of a new decade. I’m sure that thousands of leaders will go through the passionate process of pouring their hearts into a great series of messages designed to convey the importance and urgency of reaching the surrounding community with the message of the Gospel. Tears will be shed. Energy will be depleted. And hope will be embraced with the desire to see our congregations consistently embark on the vision of sharing Jesus with a lost and dying world.
However, after a period of time passes, it becomes quite clear that the majority of the people don't remember what you said. This can be so discouraging. I remember how deflated I often felt each spring when I realized that my congregation had forgotten everything that I had shared with them during the annual vision-casting series. I was amazed at how they could so easily forget the passion and purpose that I had displayed while communicating the vision. As the years went by, the lack of success in accomplishing the vision caused me to become less confident in my ability to lead.
Try a Different Approach
We’ve all heard that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. With this in mind, allow me to offer a different approach to casting vision. I want to share some proven principles for casting vision more effectively with you that worked for me. Honestly, I wish I had discovered them much earlier in my ministry. Put them to the test and watch your vision become reality with more frequency.
Principle #1 - Make Sure You Fully Understand the Vision.
Have you ever had the opportunity to observe someone trying to explain something they really didn’t understand. It can be both entertaining and uncomfortable.
Communicating in this way can be a blindspot for pastors. Nothing hurts your credibility as a leader more than when you attempt to instruct others about things that you don’t fully understand. This is why it’s imperative that you have clarity around what you believe your vision to be for the coming year.
There is always going to be push back whenever you try to implement any form of change in your church. Church people really don’t like change. Therefore, you must display confidence and understanding of the benefits of being a part of the vision to your detractors. If you don’t have clarity, neither will those you are trying to lead.
Principle #2 - Communicate the Difference Between the Mission and Vision.
At 95Network, we believe your mission explains why you exist and your vision is what it looks like in the future as you implement it. Everyone in your church from the youngest to the oldest should be able to convey the mission of your church. Nothing creates community better than having everyone on the same page as to why your church exists and what Jesus has raised you up to accomplish in this time.
You will find is difficult to create momentum for your annual vision if there isn’t clarity as to why you are ultimately attempting to do it. A clear mission is the foundation for the various aspects of your vision to be implemented. Failing to help the people to understand why we exist as a ministry will always lead to lost momentum when it comes to accomplishing goals.
Principle #3 - Make it Plain and Be Patient.
In the original version of The Living Bible, we read in Habakkuk 2:2-3, “And the Lord said to me, ‘Write my answer on a billboard, large and clear, so that anyone can read it at a glance and rush to tell others. But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day!’”
It’s impossible to see a vision come into fruition without these two elements. It is up to me as the leader to make sure that the intended outcome of the vision is simple and sustainable.
One of the mistakes that I have observed over the years is the habit of trying to over-explain things. Once I worked with a church that had a 5-page, single-spaced, typed mission statement! In their attempt to bring clarity, they actually created confusion due to over-explanation. Honestly, I find it’s much harder to provide a simplified and easy-to-understand message than it is to communicate excessively. Being effective at communicating in a simplistic way takes a lot of work.
The sustainable aspect is realized by the example you set as the leader when you display patience through the successes and setbacks you will surely encounter. The good news is that you have a clear vision from Jesus as to what He wants to accomplish through you this year. However, the bad news is that you have an enemy who plans on opposing you throughout the entire process. Only through patient and determined leadership will your congregation realize it’s God-given vision and potential.
Principle #4 - Learn the Value of Often vs. Annual.
Remember what Andy Stanley taught us. Vision leaks! Therefore, the vision has to be communicated with simple clarity on a continuous basis. With this in mind, consider including a portion of the annual vision in your weekly messages. This doesn’t mean that you need to cover every aspect of the vision each week. However, it is extremely helpful to highlight different aspects of the vision as you cover various topics in your messages week to week.
Hopefully, you have developed a vision that will help your church reach the community. If so, then your preaching series should also be developed out of a desire to accomplish this goal. It really makes no sense at all to start the year with a specific goal in mind but fail to reinforce the goal on a weekly basis. The absolute best way to clearly communicate vision annually is to plan out the entire year’s messages around the goals of the vision.
(Are you a 95Network Member? Check out the video by Michael Fletcher on Sermon Series Planning that addresses this perfectly!)
I can hear some saying, “But what if the Lord gives me a different message later than what I’ve planned.” No worries. You should obviously always follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in sermon preparation. However, even in this case, you can still offer a reminder of the vision as you communicate the message that’s burning within you.
You will find the path to accomplishing your vision will be much easier if you communicate it on a weekly basis. Mention it in your sermons. Make sure it’s clearly communicated in the printed materials you hand out. Provide a place of prominence for the annual vision goals on your website. Communicate various aspects of it in social media. Remember the goal of the vision is to make it plain!
I hope you will take to heart the importance of casting vision on a continual basis instead of once a year. By implementing these four principles, I believe you will look back at the end of the year with a sense of satisfaction and amazement at what Jesus accomplished through your ministry over the past year. I’m believing with you for the greatest year of ministry harvest that you have ever seen as you implement the vision that Jesus has placed in your heart.
Should you need greater clarity about this topic, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear how you are progressing along this year in implementing the vision that Jesus has placed in your heart.