Culture Change, Mission, Vision

When Vision Takes a Back Seat on the Church Bus

 

lightstock_368415_small_byrene_haney

In the first post, we painted the picture of what it looks like when vision and relationships are driving the direction of the church.  Now let’s reverse the drivers.  Appearing now in the front seat are structures and ministry.  More about these two elements.  I don’t want you to misunderstand me.  These two components of the church are vital, but they need to be seated in the right place on the bus.  When I talk about ministries, I am referring to ministries that focus on outreach and structures that anchor accountability.  These are talented players but when structures are driving the church bus and ministry is in the front seat here is what a typical meeting agenda looks like.

 

Call to Order

Opening Prayer

Review of Agenda  

  •  Reading of the Minutes from the last meeting

Treasurers Report –

Pastor’s Report –

Committee Reports –

Old (Unfinished) Business

(Items that have been postponed from or not finished from previous meetings are handled here.)

New Business

Adjournment

 This meeting may take two to three hours to complete this agenda and somewhere along the way the meeting gets derailed by older members of the church who go into a church version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days.”  This is how the song goes.

It was the time in their congregation’s history that every single program and event seemed to work. Whether it was the Ladies’ Aid sewing circle or the men’s workday. They were never at a loss for volunteers, and the building was abuzz with activity. The Sunday School classrooms were standing room only.  The former pastor was a ministry rock star.  And you, being the new pastor will never live up to that legend.  The church had money to burn, and there were multiple services because they could not fit all the people into the building in just one.  Everyone was happy, and the church was growing.  But now your meetings are dull, dry, and long.  Nowhere in the agenda above can you find vision or a plan to build relationships with unchurched people.  You entire meeting revolves around taking care of the people who are already connected to Christ and maintaining the building that houses the already converted.  A vision that could add energy and direction and relationship with those outside the walls have taken a backseat to ministry to the already heaven bound.

It is time to Flip the Drivers.

 To be clear about this point, vision is from God. Vision may seem far beyond our reach and, if so, that may be an indicator that we are heading in the right direction. If the vision is comfortably within our capabilities, God does not receive the glory. But if the vision is “God-sized” in scope, meaning impossible without God’s intervention, then God receives the Glory and Him alone!

So, what do you need to do? You need to start with asking the right questions. At your next leadership meeting flip your agenda.  Put new business first.  Start exploring these type of questions: Do you have a good vision statement that points you clearly to your reason for existence? Who are the people God has called you to connect within your community? Once you figure out if your vision statement is pointing toward those outside your walls you will know it is from God. These are the fundamental questions a compelling and inspiring vision statement will answer:
 What are the end results you will see when this vision is accomplished? (End results being who are the people, stories, events or works of the Holy Spirit that are on full display in your ministry?)
• Who in the community is being impacted by this vision?
• How are you developing a discipleship culture? That is a culture of equipping the saints, multiplying and sending the saints of God into the mission field. 
• How are the members living out the vision and what impact does it have on them and the community we are called to serve?

The first post in this series:

https://revheadpin.org/2017/09/12/how-to-identify-who-is-driving-the-church-bus/

 

SaveSave

Advertisements
Congregational Life and Ministry, Vision

How to Identify Who is Driving the Church Bus?

 

lightstock_88429_small_byrene_haney

In my work with congregations for over twenty years and before that studying to become a systems analyst I had to learn to identify and pinpoint the reasons why institutions are stuck. For congregations to examine themselves, ask yourself and your leaders this simple question, “Who or what is driving the church bus?” Now I know some of the more sarcastic readers are squealing, “God is!” I would anticipate that any parish has God as the focus of the ministry and reason for existing.

However, God is not driving congregations. God is their Shepherd. He is guiding them, and the Holy Spirit keeps pointing them back to the Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus is the one who gave His life to redeem the Church. And through the ministry of the Church, our message is your sins are forgiven, and Jesus offers you life everlasting through faith. That is our foundation, but that is not how our church operates. Leadership and direction come from those placed in authority by the churches’ proper order. Beyond that, there are other factors that influence who is setting the ministry direction and overall effectiveness of the congregation’s ministry. Those four factors are vision, relationships, ministries, and structure. In this post, we will look at the first two components: vision and relationships.

 

  1. Vision

 

There is a place for vision in the church because vision comes from God.

And the Lord answered me:

“Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so he may run who reads it.
For still the vision awaits its appointed time;
it hastens to the end—it will not lie.
If it seems slow, wait for it;
it will surely come; it will not delay.

“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him,
but the righteous shall live by his faith.
Habakkuk 2:2-4

 We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about. – Charles Kingsley, Bits & Pieces, December 9, 1993, p. 16.

Vision is often misunderstood. How do you define the concept? Vision is defined by a ministry focus that is geared to share the gospel with those souls who are outside God’s grace. I love this deeper explanation. “What is a vision? Where do they come from? Visions are born in the soul of a man or woman who is consumed with the tension between what is and what could be. Anyone who is emotionally involved – frustrated, brokenhearted, maybe even angry – about the way things are in light of the way they believe things could be, is a candidate for a vision. Visions form in the hearts of those who are dissatisfied with the status quo…Vision carries with it a sense of conviction. Anyone with a vision will tell you this is not merely something that could be done. This is something that should be done.” (From Visioneering) When vision is in the front seat driving the ministry direction, it can create energy and deeper engagement from members.

 

  1. Relationships

  “ For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,” Ephesians 5:29.

The principal second seat on the bus is reserved for relationships. Jesus was all about relationships. For a church to have a ministry that reaches those far from God it all begins with creating space in our lives to develop relationships that embrace new people. Relationships are the lifeblood of a church and essential for life itself.  In Ephesians, Paul compares the intimacy we have with Christ like a husband has for his wife.  In the Old Testament God describes His relationship with Israel with that same type of intense intimacy.  Relationships are the secret to life.

We can live only in relationships. We need each other. A rather crude and cruel experiment was carried out by Emperor Frederick, who ruled the Roman Empire in the thirteenth century. He wanted to know what man’s original language was: Hebrew, Greek, or Latin? He decided to isolate a few infants from the sound of the human voice. He reasoned that they would eventually speak the natural tongue of man. Wet nurses who were sworn to absolute silence were obtained, and though it was difficult for them, they abided by the rule. The infants never heard a word — not a sound from a human voice. Within several months they were all dead. – Joe E. Trull.

When vision and relationships are in the front seat driving the direction of the church’s ministry, then a congregation is in the early stages of its life cycle.

Part two:

https://revheadpin.org/2017/09/19/when-vision-takes-a-back-seat-on-the-church-bus

Vision

How Your Core Values Impact Your Mission?

Clarity

Values Vintage Letterpress Type in Drawer

Often there is a big disconnect between who you image yourselves to be and the way you behave. Have you ever wondered why you struggle to lose weight no matter how determined you are to change this time? If you remove the physical reasons dieting isn’t working. Maybe just perhaps, the issue has more to do with your core values. Let me give you a precise definition of core values. “Core values … the things so important to we that they shape how we think and how you do all that we do. Our core values reflect our heart, what we care about deep down. They overflow to shape the words of our mouth (our narrative) and the actions of our hands (our behaviors).”1 Todd Wilkins

Organizations often struggle to define their core values clearly.  When the core values are unclear, you put the mission at risk. When core values are ambiguous groups will waste valuable time and human resources on ministry plans destined to fail. Those plans fail because those well-developed strategies. And those God-inspired mission statements. And big God-sized vision statements are contrary to the core values of your organization.

Two key elements to help shape your organization’s core values, those elements are your narrative and your behaviors.

How Are You Sharing Your Story (Narrative)?

What stories you highlight in your public assemblies (worship) communicate what you value.  What do you talk most frequently about with your people? What is the metrics you commonly measure? Do worship attendance, the dollars collected toward the budget or the numbers of people in Bible study define who you are? These things are important indicators of church health. Do you want those to be measurements of success? If you want to change your focus, change your stories. You control the narrative. What you celebrate determines what is most important to you. Your story should inspire others to embrace your values. It should move people to join in the mission God has called you to carry out.

What are You Doing (Behaviors)?

I remember growing up hearing this saying, “Talk is Cheap.” We can have the best intentions, but in the end, people judge you by your actions. How are you investing your time? That’s what determines your values. If I you want to lose weight, but never change my eating habits how serious am I? If I just pass by the gym on the way to Kristy Kreme donuts, then I can’t expect to lose weight. My behavior reveals my real core values. Where you invest your time, talents and treasure express to the organization what you value.

If you want to change the direction of your ministry, carefully examine your core values. Before you waste valuable time and energy looking for the magical mission bullet. What is the message you are communicating to your tribe? The stories you are highlighting are necessary. Shifting to missions may be as simple as telling different stories. Try modeling the behavior you want to be emulated.

Resources:

1″ Multiplication Matters” by Todd Wilkins

 

Vision

Hitting the Wall

Unknown

Maybe the following scenario sounds familiar. Christ Lutheran Church saw significant growth in the late 1970’s. The older members remember those glory days and often dream of recapturing that glory. It was the time in their congregation’s history that every single program and event seemed to work. Whether is was the Ladies’ Aid sewing circle or the men’s work day. They were never at a loss for volunteers and the building was abuzz with activity. Now things are different. The Ladies sewing circle is down to a faithful few and younger women are too occupied with work, their careers and trying to keep up with busy sports schedules to have time to sew. You schedule a work day and only Hank and Fred, who are in their late 70’s show up with their trusty hammer and toolbox. The church is struggling now.

They have survived many changes over the years, including watching as visitors, friends, members and pastors have come and gone. Now your ministry has hit a wall. The growth has stopped the good ole days are so far in the rear view mirror only the really seasoned members can recall  them. Now the pastor who helped usher in those glory days is closer to glory himself and has announced is retirement. Now the faithful remnant is looking for a new hero to ride in on his white horse and save the day.

This group has exhausted all their ministry ideas and unfortunately nothing has seem  reverse the trends. You have had your pastor scrap the robes and abandoned the traditional service and replaced it with a contemporary service. The problem is your praise band is closer to retirement age than the K-Love age bands you see on television and only knows music their youth, the ones you sang at summer camp. The nearly retired pastor is now wearing Dockers and a stripped shirt with Penney loafers. However, young people still are not coming and you are starting to lose hope. Now as the pastor who was there during your heyday has announced his retirement date you are putting all your hopes, dreams, and resources on finding a new pastor who you pray will come in and bring new life to your struggling congregation. Most of the members believe that if they can get some young Phenom he will attract young people in droves to join their congregation that will save their church.

There usually is not a realistic plan in place to make that happen. There has been no real time for prayer and reflection. All that you have to work with is this vague dream of becoming that fresh, young, happening church, which is unrealistic. Not, to mention the older, wiser members really don’t want the noise associated with young families and a hard rock worship experience that many believe the community is seeking. The real issue is not worship styles or forms it has much more to do with is the vision and ministry plan of the congregation one that is focused on building relationships with those in the community. It is not what this congregation needs is a fresh vision that fits the unique gifts and talents God has already blessed this group of believers with.

What is Vision?

“What is a vision? Where do they come from? Visions are born in the soul of a man or woman who is consumed with the tension between what is and what could be. Anyone who is emotionally involved – frustrated, brokenhearted, and maybe even angry – about the way things are in light of the way they believe things could be, is a candidate for a vision. Visions form in the hearts of those who are dissatisfied with the status quo…Vision carries with it a sense of conviction. Anyone with a vision will tell you this is not merely something that could be done. This is something that should be done.” (Visioneering: God’s Blueprint for Developing and Maintaining Vision, By Andy Stanley)

Visions that are given to us by God are always bigger than us and can only be accomplished with His strength and direction. Will Mancini, in his book, “Church Unique”, makes this critical point about vision, “God is the chief visionary who leads us to push forward, not with arrogance but with confidence, because we know we are a part of His divine chain reaction.” We must be clear about this point; vision is from God. Vision may seem far beyond our reach and, if so, that may be an indicator that we are heading in the right direction. If the vision is comfortably within our capabilities, God does not receive the glory. But if the vision is “God-sized” in scope, meaning impossible without God’s intervention, then God receives the Glory and Him alone!

Why Does Vision Matter?

“But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for the many acts out their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible…”– T.E. Lawrence. When our vision is clearly from God, it reflects God’s passionate love for people. It aligns our hearts with the heart of God and refreshes our desire to reach the community in which God has placed us. It is compelling and motivates us to action. Things get done because the vision is integrated into the life of the congregation. It becomes the driving force in all decisions. We will take all of our resources of money, people, time, and talents and focus on this one thing God would have us do. Leaders and laity have a clear picture of what role they can play in carrying out God’s mission. This becomes the first item discussed at the council meeting or voter’s meeting even before we get to the news about the finances. The vision becomes the thing that must be done!

Christ Church, Anywhere, USA needed to discover God’s vision to give energy to a congregation that had become stagnant and aimless. Maybe you can relate to their situation. Maybe you are looking for answers. It is possible you look around you and you see the writing on the wall. Like a line in my favorite Christmas novel by Charles Dickens, “I see a vacant seat,” replied the Ghost, “in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.” So many congregations see the very grim reminder every Sunday of the fate that awaits if the images remain unchanged. Continue dwindling attendance, shrinking income, and eventual death.

So what do you need to do? You need to start with asking the right questions. Do you have a good vision statement that points you clearly to your reason for existence? Who are the people God has called you to connect within your community? Once you figure out if your vision statement is pointing toward those outside your walls as is this vision and from God? These are the key questions a compelling and inspiring vision statement will answer:
What are the end results you seeing when this vision is accomplished?
• Who in the community is being impacted by this vision?
• How are you developing a discipleship culture? That is a culture of equipping the saints, multiplying and sending the saints of God into the mission field.
• How are the members living out the vision and what impact is it having on them and the community we are called to serve?

The power of a “God-sized” vision is that it gives energy and direction to the church. It unites and inspires people around God’s plan. As we hear from the wisdom of Solomon, “Where there is no prophetic vision the people perish,” Proverbs 29:18. If you need help with that process, let me know and I can point you in the right direction. Blessings.

Vision

Vision

The Power of Vision

images-21

“Vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is simply passing the time. Action with Vision is making a positive difference.”Joel Barker 
What a powerful quote. As we approach the Rev Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr holiday I am reminded that if Dr. King had stopped with just having a dream about a better America but did not move that dream to action none of the changes that I am benefiting from today would have been possible. As Churches seek to discern God’s will for their ministry it may begin with a dream or a vision of what could be.  However in order to see fruits from that dream or  vision  it requires hard work, action and a moving of the Holy Spirit to become a reality.  What a privilege I have in my current vocation to come alongside dreamers and visionaries to see the amazing work of our Awesome God come to fruition. If God has placed on your heart a dream or a vision for ministry don’t just stop with the dream.  Don’t let fear of failure or success derail you.  Pray that the Holy Spirit will move you to act on the dream God has placed on your heart because it can have a kingdom impact.