The Barrier of Vision: A Breakthrough of Clarity
Cindi has been a committed volunteer at her church for the past five years. In fact, she tends to be a favorite around the church office with her uncompromising work ethic and ability to make things happen. Cindi is a model lay leader in many respects: hardworking, supportive of the church’s mission and direction, and outreach oriented. She directs the early childhood education at the church, coordinates some outreach sports teams, and occasionally plays flute with the praise team.
After a challenging Christmas season, Cindi made some changes to her priorities and scheduling to better balance family and ministry demands. But no matter what she did, she could not come up with a creative solution to the problems that plagued early childhood ministries for the last 8 months. The elementary-age ministry for children was thriving and creating unique solutions to the issues facing them on a weekly basis, but when it came to early childhood classes, Cindy was continually banging her head against the wall. How should the department cope with the space issues, and increase in attendance throughout the weeks, and the multiple problems that success in church ministry causes? No matter how much harder she worked, the solutions weren’t coming. She was stymied. She loved the challenges, but wanted more solutions.
What Cindy sought, and what many church leaders seek, is clarity. The reality of day to day ministry in the trenches – outreach, equipping, education, counsel, and crises – create multiple demands for church leaders on a daily basis. If the church at large is unclear on the ultimate goals and objectives of the local church ministry, the church will not reach those goals corporately. Likewise, if Cindy doesn’t start to work together with her team to find creative solutions to the problems plaguing her ministry, it will plateau and decline over time. She needs what all of us need: a clear vision for her sub-ministry, flowing directly from the church vision that can help her move in the right direction. Harder work will get things done, but it won’t automatically lead to the vision being accomplished. Clarity is needed.
If it is true that everything rises and falls on the issue of leadership, it is also true that the leadership in place must have a clear vision of where it is going. Obviously, if you do not know where you are going, you will never know when you get there! A church’s vision must be clear if the church desires to be a vital church, taking new ground in the battle for people’s souls. And if the vision is not clearly spelled out and outreach oriented, your church is already facing a substantial leadership barrier.
Vision starts with you. Many teenagers struggle during these difficult transition years as they wrestle with the question, “Why am I here?” But this wrestling match is not just reserved for teens! Many adults wrestle with this million-dollar question as well – finding our purpose on this earth is critical to our ability to find a “zone” of ministry and impact lives forever. Clear vision starts with the question, “Why did God create me and put me in this place at this time?” As you search and find that answer, you will also find more clarity in how your own leadership impacts the vision of your church or ministry organization.
Growing Churches have a heart for reaching people for Jesus Christ. If your vision is to care for the contented, then you will not produce passion in your people to reach those outside the boundaries of the church family. Walt Kallestad's book,Turn Your Church Inside Out, is an easy read and compelling reference for helping you and your church make clear its vision to reach unchurched people. Clarity of vision must answer the question, “Who does my church exist for?”
For example, one of the exciting dynamics of having a clear outreach-oriented vision is recognizing the need to be present in the community. Rather than waiting for the community to show up on the church’s doorstep, church’s that break growth barriers practice what some call, “Presence Evangelism”; being present in the normal network of society, being present in the ministry to physical needs of people, and being present in the spiritual battle for people’s souls. This idea will be discussed more when we cover the Barrier of Community. Consider this quotation:
“Churches that are effective reaching people for Christ see the needs of the unchurched, establish ministries that allow the church to be present in the community, and have a process by which they are able to draw these unchurched people into the safety of Christ and a local church” (Mcintosh & Martin, Finding Them, Keeping Them, 22).
Leaders of growing churches know who they are, why they are, and where they are. They have learned to operate out of their strengths and to mitigate against their weaknesses. They know what their key role is and how to parlay that role into motivated ministry. Finally, leaders in growing churches know where they are going and where they are now. Leaders in growing churches build bridges to the future while they are walking there.
Growing churches have an outreach focus. Reaching people for Christ is the motivating mission of every growing church.
Growing churches operate in their strengths to do outreach in their communities through presence evangelism.
The best way to achieve clarity where none exists is to take a vision retreat for a few hours or even a few days. Pray, read scripture, unwind, and participate in hobbies that you enjoy. As you journal through questions, try to discover why you exist and why your organization exists.
Who are you? Why did God put you on the earth? What unique teaching, perspective and passions to you bring to the table? Develop a one-sentence life purpose statement.
Script out the next 10 years, based on what you believe God is calling you to do, what you want from the desire of your own heart, and what your family wants for all of you.
Find one person in your life to pray the above events you describe into your life. Watch for open and closed doors, and follow God’s lead.
What is the purpose of your ministry? Why does it exist? Can your key leaders articulate in 3 sentences what you are about? Test them.
Write out the five largest barriers to moving forward in your ministry. Set goals for each.
Interview three business people in your church. Ask them about the top two barriers their company has faced in the last 12 months. Make parallels, if possible, to your situation and write down ideas.
Meet with another pastor in your area. Ask the pastor barrier-related questions and seek to discern effective strategies from that context that would apply to your own. Ask questions like the following:
- Where have you felt “stuck” in leadership of the church?
- Is the church “stuck” in any area?
- Which things in your ministry would you cancel if you were able to cancel them today?
- Where have you experienced attendance plateaus in the past few years? Did you break through them?
Prayer Project: Get away for four hours, praying and/or journaling through growth barriers you face in your life in the following areas: family, friendships, business, ministry, recreation. Are there any patterns? What is God showing you about the barriers you face?
Additional suggestion: Get a group together of like-minded members of your church or ministry. Fast and pray for growth and to overcome barriers.