David Fletcher often receives “Hey Fletch” questions. Church leaders have questions and Fletch’s 35 years as a pastor brings plenty of experience to each one. The following is a common question about the creation of vision in churches.
"Hey Fletch … I would love to know if you have any further comments on the Elder Job Description on XPastor. I’m interested in your ideas on the role of discerning and setting vision. Is this with the Senior Pastor who then shares with the elders, or is it with all the Elders?"
Fletch—There isn’t one-size fits all. There are lots of approaches to this issue. The conclusions are not necessarily based on the size of church. The process is driven by the culture and polity of the church. For example, congregational-led churches many times have a different approach than Senior Pastor-led churches.
Vision is More than One Short Statement
The vision statement is the tip of the iceberg. Vision statements set out far reaching goals and values. They should be relevant and challenging for the next ten to twenty years. The vision can be three or four key words or terms, or a short and memorable statement. Long vision statements are hard for church leaders and congregations to remember!
Under the vision statement should be a series of strategy statements of how the vision will be implemented. These break down the vision into bite-sized pieces. The action items are the one and two year goals for the church. Getting even deeper come tactics—things to be done in this and the coming quarter.
An easy way to remember the difference between vision, strategy and tactics is to consider the Second World War. The Allied vision of the war was to overcome the Axis powers and bring freedom to the subjugated.
Two immense strategies were to launch D-Day in the European Theater of Operation and island hop in the Pacific arena. The tactics were driven by those strategies—moving troops into place for significant battles each quarter, such as in North Africa and Guadalcanal.
Creating Vision in Churches
Congregational-led churches may create a team of people that includes key staff and board members—elders, deacons or trustees. The Senior Pastor often leads this team to create a new vision statement for the church.
Churches that are led by the Senior Pastor generally have that leader create and cast the vision. When a Senior Pastor is also the founding pastor, then the vision is generally baked into the creation of the church.
Board-led churches are those that have either elected or appointed groups of elders, deacons or trustees. This is a shared style of creating vision. The style of creating a new vision statement varies. Some will form a team to create the new vision, while others will ask the Senior Pastor to submit his vision statement to the governing board. The board then votes on the statement and the Senior Pastor casts the vision. The key here is that the leadership community shares in the process and buys into it with their approval vote.
Some churches have other leaders, such as the Executive Pastor, create the vision. This is less common but does happen. The Senior Pastor may not feel gifted in this area and so looks to a key leader to run the vision development process. In these cases, it is generally the Senior Pastor who regularly shares the vision from the pulpit.
Culture, Culture, Culture
Currently, I’m coaching a church leader on this process. Part of our time over the next several months will be talking through how to do it best in their church. Many people want an instant vision statement, like driving through a fast food restaurant. The results are often greasy and less than filling. It takes time to thoroughly understand where a church is, so that you can discern where it needs to go!
Each church and circumstance is unique. It is essential to know the culture of the church and its history of how major decisions are made.
I worked with one church for several months. The process was with a small team, including the Senior and Executive Pastors. The interesting finding here was that the team had several of the elements of a good vision statement in their minds, but were unable to get the words in print. As we discussed many options, a clear path came forward. They crafted a vision statement that fit their culture, was in their own words, honored their church's decades-long tradition, and set the stage for many years to come.
Take time in crafting your vision statement, no matter who does the actual work. Get outside help as needed to help ask pertinent questions and bring in fresh viewpoints. The future of your church and the excitement of your people for God’s ministry will depend on it!