Communicating Vision Effectively
By Ashley Myers
Change in churches can be challenging. I have served in several different churches of varying size, and one thing I have learned is that every situation and environment is different. I have not done it from a lead pastor standpoint, but I believe many of the principles I have learned apply across multiple leadership positions and ministries.
Have a clear God-led Vision
Honestly, anything else will be very challenging if your vision is not God-ordained, and not clear. If God has given you the vision or affirmed the vision, then He will help make it possible. There are no amount of blogs, books or leadership talks that trump what God can do. Keep in mind what this is ultimately for, and who ultimately leads the vision. Don’t play the god card if it really isn’t from God and it is more self-proclaiming/promoting. Be honest with yourself and be honest with what God is calling you to do in your context.
As we clarify our vision, we need to be vastly aware of our context. How does this vision mix with my current context? Is my leadership ready for this vision? What is the goal of this vision at its start, in 2 years, 5 years, 10 years? How will this vision affect various ministries of the church such as students, kids, families, the well seasoned? In this phase of visioning and planning I encourage you to talk to others and involve others. Talk to your staff, trusted leaders such as deacons, committee leaders, key leaders that this vision will effect. Hear what they would like to see, and invite them into praying for what the vision is/can be.
One of the quickest ways to kill a vision is to not involve anyone else in the process. I have seen this happen and done it myself. Ministry is not meant to be done alone. The church is not one person. You need others to support and affirm the vision. As a person who has been a support staff member, there is nothing more deflating than getting excited about a staff planning/visioning retreat getting there and being told “this is our vision and get on board.” You will have far more success when your team dreams with you. You will likely get more excitement, traction, and ultimately success.
Not only does involving others help in your communication and excitement, but it helps in clarifying the vision. Others (who are different from you) will be able to point out areas of issue or concern that you likely won’t see. They’ll protect your blind spots. They’ll help you refine and clarify what the vision is.
Create a plan to achieve your vision
Once you have a clear vision and goal in mind, how are you going to get there? What are the steps that need to take place? Most of our visions and goals can’t happen overnight, so we need to make certain steps to make them happen. Before you can get too far in your communication, I encourage you to create a well thought out plan. Think about when you want to announce the vision? When will you launch it? What do you need to prepare for those moments? Do you need to get new branding? Order new signage? Those things take time.
Be smart with the calendar of when you launch things. The start of a new school year is a great time to relaunch. Families are resetting their calendars and making new plans. Post Easter is a great time to encourage follow up post Easter worship. The new year can be a good time as well. Be strategic in your planning and your timing to have the most effectiveness. Creating this plan with key leaders will help you to mitigate problems that will arise. Have your end goal, but have the steps to get there. Write it out, put together a scope and sequence of the next year, two, three years. Putting concepts on paper will help people visualize, process and understand your vision.
Communicate the vision & the plan
One of the most beautiful and challenging things about not only the Baptist church, but a lot of churches, is that they are committee or congregation led. All have a little bit of different structures in place for making change, and there are also different levels of change and the process through which they go through. Typically most churches have key players and key leaders. Side note here to anyone not in ministry but hoping to be: when interviewing for a ministry position, be sure to ask about the process for making changes. Ask about specific change scenarios because not all things are the same.
By this point in the planning phase, you likely have some leaders that are already semi-aware of changes and new ideas. Now is the time to fully lean into your key leaders and influencers. Whether we like it or not, or whether it’s right or not, churches have key influencers. Talk to those people, present your ideas to them, walk them through your ideas and the way to make it happen. LISTEN to their feedback, make sure they know you heard them. This is key, see what their resistance is and why! It may not be that your plan is bad, it just may mean you need to change the terminology you use, or you need to make a minor tweak. But their feedback will help you get a pulse on the rest of the church. Also – just because a key leader opposes your vision doesn’t mean to stop. The devil will use church people to try to stop God’s work. Use discernment from the spirit to know if it’s constructive or hurtful feedback.
Once you have taken the time to fully share that vision and plan with key leaders it is time to share with the church as a whole. We might even call this a launch, or announcing a launch depending on the change. If you are a senior pastor and one of your other leaders is presenting a big change, stand in their corner. Your opinion can carry a lot. The key to effectively communicating a vision and plan is taking the appropriate time to plan and create that vision, and then have lots of conversation planting seeds, and casting the vision.
Don’t just take one Sunday to talk about it, talk about it on Wednesdays, on your social media, through emails and mailers. Be excited! God has given you an idea! He is using you to do what He called you there to do! Be excited about that! Excitement from God is contagious! Present with that excitement and with the power of the Holy Spirit and you will be amazed what God can do!
Branding that Vision
Lastly, what do we do after we present that vision? How do we make sure that vision goes on, how do we communicate it to visitors who show up two months after the “big launch.” How do they know the vision? I encourage you to look into branding and posting that vision. Come up with clear, concise statements that you can communicate quickly and easily. Create quick simple handouts you can have available. Have it on signs as a part of your decoration throughout your church. Have it clearly stated on your website. For the first time in my life, my husband and I did our first search for a church that I either wasn’t born into or was on staff with. It was a very different experience for me. But, before we ever visited a church we looked at everyone’s website and social media. We wanted to see what they were about, what they “said” they were about and if that aligned with what we saw when we walked through the doors. Did their greeters match what they said about their community? Did the pastor’s message support those key ideas? Did their kids’ ministry reflect that they were for families? Communicating vision goes past one day. It’s a process, it takes making sure our leaders in all areas are supporting and reflecting that vision.
Leading change and vision in a church setting can be quite challenging. We are working with people we see maybe once a week, who are volunteers, and they typically aren’t thinking about it 24/7 like you are. Give them grace and patience. Give time for new ideas and visions to simmer in their hearts and minds. Put a lot of thought, time and planning into your vision and how the Lord has led you to achieve it. Most important to the success of communicating and achieving a vision is for it to come from the Lord and be led by the Spirit.
*The views expressed are those solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pastor’s Common