by Clarence Bradbury
The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to revisit organizational vision. The relentless wear and tear of busy ministries inevitably leads to vision leak. Perspective gets foggy and activities become ends in themselves. A re-visioning experience ensures that the statement on the wall makes its way down the hall and into our world.
Salvationists everywhere share one common vision – the world for God. William Booth’s book called Visions records his vision of the church as a rescue station surrounded by a sea of humanity in need of salvation. Once in a while I like to go back to an original copy of the book that my mother owned. She often impressed upon my three siblings and I the necessity of keeping God-inspired visions alive. Booth’s compelling vision propelled his followers into a form of spiritual entrepreneurship unparalleled in their day, and less evident in ours. Many variations of the rescue station vision are available in different formats. Here is one example on line: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aTqk5YGiRo
Organizational vision is far more than a statement. It is a guide for daily decision making on every level. In Hamilton, Ontario, a prolonged, debilitating strike in the 1960’s left the Dafasco steel company weakened and demoralized. An advertising company was invited to help the company make a new start, with a new vision. This was captured in a slogan for the rejuvenated company – Our Product is Steel, Our Strength is People. The idea inspired and the vision stuck.
Thriving corporations and churches realize that mission and vision statements remain effective only if certain actions are pursued with intentionality. In order to make vision stick in your ministry, here are three leadership strategies to share with your team.
1. GET IT!
If vision is lost, get it back. The reason many ministries fail is because mission and vision lose the velcro stick. We drift so far from our founding vision that we come to believe it’s all about us. Vision for lost people gets replaced with self-centeredness, fault-finding and in-fighting over what’s best – for us. The primary (and perilous) role of leaders in this scenario is to re-vision the ministry. If vision is lost, when the focus shifts from the world without Christ to the members with their needs and preferences, then we know we have only one source for getting it back. It’s time to refocus on God and rediscover our vision in His missional activity beyond our comfortable routine.
When we pray and seek the Lord, we hear from Him. He reminds us of where we have come from; He quickens our analysis of the present situation and inspires our imagination toward His chosen destiny for us. Finding renewed vision empowers us to embrace new behaviors that will keep us on track.
2. LIVE IT!
Model the vision. When leaders lead the way, pointing to the why behind all that we do, followers are inspired to follow. I read recently that when you know the why, you can live with any how. The why of vision is rooted in core values. Values are formed out of the experiences of life and the lessons we have learned, especially those forged through difficulty, pain and failure. For example, after the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, His followers finally got it. They embraced the Kingdom values that Jesus had tried to teach them. These values became the core behaviors that identified them as followers of Jesus. Values are the engine of our day-to-day behaviors.
Leaders may have great visions for the future but if they and their followers don’t behave according to a shared code of behavior they will be unable to achieve the future God intends for them. When followers witness integrity between what leaders teach and what they live, they are more prepared to listen and follow.
Are you able to identify the defining behaviors (values) of your ministry?
How well do your leaders model these values?
What would it take to ensure that all leaders model the shared values of the group?
3. TELL IT!
Effective communication of organizational vision probably takes us half way to seeing it accomplished. When God places something within us, and we nurture it, God ignites within us a flame we can’t help sharing. It permeates preaching as well as dialogue at the water cooler and in the board room.
Here are some proven strategies for leaders to communicate a clearly owned vision rooted in non-negotiable core values.
a. Invite others to embrace a bold challenge. Repeat it with key individuals and small groups. Build a visioneering coalition. Show how it moves the ministry from where it is to where it needs to be. People will not embrace new vision if they think it can be achieved by maintaining business as usual. A vision of what could be always transforms people, process and programs. Let’s build dreams larger than our memories. Not everyone will get it. But if the coalition is strong and united around the new vision, God will bless it.
b. Make it plain and passionate. Drop the corporate code words. IKEA does this well with their vision statement – Affordable solutions for better living. Several years ago I heard of a church that embarked on this bold vision statement, To make it impossible for anyone in our town to go to hell. It doesn’t get more plain and passionate than that!
c. Make it relevant to the every-day life of your people. If our soldiers, employees and supporters are to embrace the vision, they need to see how their role fits into the big picture. When people are clear about the meaning in what they are doing, they are more prepared to pursue a renewed vision.
d. Leverage your influence. Share your burden and passion with other influence makers. Leaders come in different styles and personalities, yet their distinct gifts can enhance their influence among people, for the sake of group vision. Our credibility, character, competence and courage work together to influence others to catch and hold the vision. Not only that – leaders with a clear dream of a better future, and demonstrated obedience to the God who inspired their dreams, learn that God provides resources one step at a time. Godly influence attracts resources equal to the dreams. May God lead us to His new visions for our day and may we have the grace to follow the vision and the visionaries.
Obedience is the key that releases vision. I am always inspired by the passionate witness of Keith Green. Having read the vision of William Booth, he spoke about it often, produced a pamphlet entitled Who Cares? and wrote this powerful song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yJd0JMzq7k
Read these verses as you consider God’s vision for you and your ministry:
Joel 2: 29-20; Acts 2: 15-21.