Saturday, June 11, 2005

Vision Leaks

I had the opportunity to hear Andy Stanley present on this a couple of years ago, and much of what he said has stuck with me. Part of leading others is casting a vision they can follow, and casting it often. I've been part of a number of organizations where we made a concentrated effort on being vision focused, and it definately works.

The article below was taken from Christianity Today.

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How do you keep the church's passion for ministry from deflating?
Andy Stanley

Vision doesn't stick; it doesn't have natural adhesive. Instead, vision leaks. You've repeated the vision for your church a hundred times. Then someone will ask a question that makes you think, What happened? Didn't they hear what we've said over and over? Don't they know what this church is all about?

You can spot leakage by listening for three things:

1. Prayer requests. What people pray for will tell you more than anything else whether they are locked into the vision and priorities of the church. When you are in a leadership meeting, are the only prayer requests for sick people? When I'm in such a meeting, I say, "Whoa, is anybody in this group burdened for an unchurched or unsaved friend? Yes, let's pray for the sick people. Now, what else can we pray for?"

2. Stories of great things happening in people's lives. If there are no stories, then maybe the vision for life transformation has leaked.

3. What people complain about. If people are complaining about the wrong stuff, then vision is leaking. When they complain about the music, or the parking, or that the church is too big, or there are too many people they don't know, you can respond, "I know. God is blessing us." But it's a sign of vision leakage.

I am often tempted to get frustrated with the people who don't understand the vision, but I have to ask myself some important questions. What do I need to do to assure that we have a compelling vision as an organization, and what must I do to make sure it doesn't leak? If the vision is not communicated in a compelling way, then the organization is going to be unfocused. Wherever focus is lacking, only random activity is left. That's when you wake up and find you don't like the organization you're leading.

It's our job as leaders to get everyone oriented and focused on our main purpose.

What causes leaks?
There are three reasons vision seeps away: success, failure, and everything in between.

Success means your options multiply. Size increases complexity, and complexity can confuse vision.

Our church was at its most efficient when there were just six of us sitting around the table. Everybody knew and understood everything. It was as smart and efficient as the organization has ever been. This efficiency leads to success, and success gives birth to complexity, the enemy of efficiency and vision. Many churches become successful organizations where everyone is busy, but they've lost connection with the vision.

Failure will also knock a hole in your vision, if you let it. When a plan or strategy fails, people are tempted to assume it was the wrong vision. Plans and strategies can always be changed and improved. But vision doesn't change. Visions are simply refined with time.

Our first fundraising campaign was a total failure. No money came in, and I didn't follow up or follow through. One day a wonderful lady in our church came up and asked, "Andy, how's it going with the fundraising?" I answered, "It's not going very well at all." She said, "Do you think God's trying to tell us something?"

She clearly was implying that since the plan wasn't working, then the vision for this church must be wrong.

But I knew the vision was right, so I said, "Yes, I think God is trying to tell us something. He's trying to tell us it was a terrible fundraising idea."

We don't have to change the vision because a plan doesn't work out.

You know what else is tough on vision? Life. Every single day of my life works against the vision. Vision is about what could be and should be; life is about right-this-minute. Life is about the kids and the laundry and the doctor and the house payment.

No wonder vision leaks. Monday comes along and rips it off the wall. The urgent and legitimate needs of today can cause us to lose our vision.

In church life, nothing unfocuses us faster than haphazard, "y'all come" programing. Everybody has a favorite program. But adding too many programs to the church schedule will de-focus your church like nothing else.

Read the rest of the article on Christianity Today's website HERE.

Andy Stanley is pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia.

1 comment:

Paul Schafer said...

Chris,

I find I need vision for my marriage, for my parenting, for my involvement at Living Hope Church, for my spare time especially blogging, and for my involvement with the lost. The vision I need for these five areas does leak.
I am reminded again by best vision verses in the Bible, Matt. 6:33 Seek ye first His kingdom and His righteousness and everything will be added unto you. And Psalm 37:1-8.
1 Do not fret because of evil men
or be envious of those who do wrong;
2 for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.

3 Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

4 Delight yourself in the LORD
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will do this:

6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when men succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.

8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret—it leads only to evil.