Andy Stanley wrote that the end of a God ordained vision is God. So if you are heading towards a vision then you want to make sure that it is God ordained. You want to make sure that you are doing what God created you to do with your life, in order that you can come closer to God. The reverse would be true as well; the end of your vision is you, because it is you that set the direction and it is you that chose what was important.
In ministry we can often get lost in a minefield of vision, which is ironic because vision should be crystal clear. The reason that we get lost is because we don’t know whose vision to follow:
- Senior Minister – any Senior Minister has their own reason for being in ministry and they have the greatest say over what is seen as important in your church.
- Elder’s board or church Council – are the church leadership team really discerning God’s ordained vision for your church or is it vision by consensus? Sometimes church boards are made up of people who are just “helping out” and have no clue what God wants for their church, other times a church board is filled with the most gifted people.
- Finance Committee – a good finance committee works out how to achieve the vision that God has ordained, yet in some churches the Finance committee determines what vision the church can afford. If God ordains the vision then God will provide, don’t settle only for what you can afford.
- The Ministry – we often are look for the new vision for our ministry as though it is separate from the vision that God has for our Church. Don’t let your ministry be heading in a different direction from the rest of your Church.
So how do you know which vision to follow? We know from scripture that people without a vision will perish so which one do we pick? It is important to reflect on these key things:
- Branding is not vision – sometimes we rush into a vision statement because we need to brand our ministry. A good vision can take at least six months to discern, most likely it will take around 12 months. A vision is going to set you heading in a particular direction for the next ten years where as your branding will only last 2-3 years at best. If you like a particular style of marketing or branding then run with it but don’t confuse branding for vision.
- You are not your ministry – it is important for you to separate your own personal vision from that of your ministry. God wants you to do something with your life that may be different to what God wants from the ministry you serve in. In reality the ministry should keep going long after you have left the position but God still wants you to build the Kingdom even though you move onto the next position. Don’t confuse what you want to do with your life with where God is calling the ministry to go.
- Ministry has its season – perhaps you don’t know where your ministry is going for the next ten years but you can discern where you are heading for the next season. In youth ministry it is sometimes difficult to have a vision beyond five years. In University ministry students move on every 3 years so a vision must accommodate each season being quite short. If you are called to lead for a season then pursue the vision as best you can and leave God to work out the next season.
- Ideas come with a strong vision – when you have a strong vision of where you are heading over the next 10 years then usually you are full of ideas. People who run out of ideas are either run out of vision or are heading in the wrong direction. One church used the phrase “no rowing ministry” to describe when the wind has changed direction but we row the boat where we want to go. If your vision is God ordained then the ideas will come.
A practical example
There was a Church that started a youth ministry by asking the young people what they wanted. The answers that the young people gave were passionate and exciting but they were all ideas of things they could do rather than a vision of where they were heading. The leaders called me after six months to say they had run out of ideas. When I asked them about their vision they clearly didn’t have one; they only had a list of ideas for fun youth nights.
After focusing them on discerning a vision and asking them to think about where they were heading they came up with a list of what they wanted young people in their ministry to be like. In the end they clarified a vision around helping young people to know Christ. Over a year later they were still going strong and they were developing more leaders and they were full of ideas. Where there was no leadership towards a vision the group almost collapsed but when the leaders had a strong vision of where they were heading then the group thrived.
So where are you heading?
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