This past Saturday I finished teaching the course "Personal and Family Health" for our Church Leadership Institute. This course examines how clergy and lay leaders can maintain balance in their personal and ministerial lives, enjoy a healthy family life, set and achieve goals, and live their lives and fulfill their ministries according to God's vision for both. A significant portion of one class session was spent exploring the value of that vision and how to determine what that might be.
Anyone who has read my books knows the importance I place on vision. In my workshops and classes I explain that a church without a common, unifying vision is like an octopus on roller skates. There may be a lot of activity, but it's not likely you will go anywhere. What's true of a church is true of any organization, family, or individual.
I am currently reading John Maxwell's latest book Good Leaders Ask Great Questions: Your Foundation for Successful Leadership. I recently came across what he has to say about vision in this book. He writes:
Leaders without vision will fail. Leaders who lack vision cannot inspire teams, motivate performance, or create sustainable value. Poor vision, tunnel vision, vision that is fickle, or a non-existent vision will cause leaders to fail. A leader's job is to align with the organization around a clear and achievable vision. This cannot occur when the blind leads the blind.
That's about as straightforward as you can get. Without a vision leaders will fail. There's no maybe. There's no perhaps. Leaders will fail without a vision. There may be some sporadic successes, some temporal gains, but in the long run a leader with no clear vision will not be successful.
Yet, I find few churches that have any vision that informs their ministry. When I've asked a church if they have a vision some will produce a vision statement that some committee created in the past, but if I ask how that statement influences the ministries and programs they provide the vast majority of churches admit the vision is never considered when ministries and programs are discussed. A vision statement is not a vision.
This lack of a clear, God-given vision that directs the decisions made in the church is one of the primary reasons why so many churches are struggling. They may have full calendars and lots of activities, but at the end of the year there is little to show for all that activity. Without vision there is a lack of focus, and without focus a church is just drifting along hoping something good comes out of all their activity.
If your church does not have such a vision I urge you to begin to discern what that might look like before you make your plans for 2015. Having a vision is not a guarantee that your ministry will be successful in 2015, but not having one almost assures you that it will not be. You may need to bring in outside help to lead your church in that discernment process, but do what you have to do to identify God's vision for your church.