Earlier this week I had the privilege of working with a larger church on its vision for ministry. I met with many of the leadership in this church for a conversation around the importance of vision. This church has a good vision statement. My challenge to them was to live into that vision rather than just let it lie on a shelf gathering dust. On my way home after the meeting it dawned on me that this is a good time for all churches to have this conversation.
Many churches will soon be preparing their 2016 budget and planning their ministry calendars for the new year. The budget and calendar will always reflect the true vision of the church. Regardless of what a church claims its vision to be, its vision will always be found in its budget and calendar. We will spend money and time on those things we consider most important.
As your church begins developing its budget and ministry calendar I would encourage you to do so with a copy of your church's vision before each individual involved in these discussions. What would happen if you asked how each line item in your budget enables you to better accomplish your God-given vision? What if every calendar item went through the same filter?
My concern is that many smaller churches basically look at their budget, add a few dollars in some categories to adjust for increased costs, and submit it to the church for approval. There is very little discussion about whether or not this budget reflects the church's vision for ministry. Believe me, I've sat in many of those kinds of budget meetings, and I've seen it happen time and again. My guess is that it happens in some larger churches as well.
The same concern exists for the church's calendar. Many churches have done the same things for so many years that they are just expected. No one ever asks if these things are actually effective or if they do anything to help the church achieve its vision.
Of course, all this assumes that the church has a vision for ministry, and for many of our smaller churches that would be a false assumption. The closest thing some of them have for a vision is to survive another year. That is not a vision that honors God.
In fact, I've told several churches and pastor gatherings that God really isn't concerned if your church survives or not. He is very concerned about whether your church is doing effective ministry that makes a difference in people's lives. If it is, He'll take care of the survival. If not, He will raise up another church in your community to provide such ministry.
As you begin your planning for 2016 I encourage you to do so with your vision in mind. Make sure your budget and calendar reflects that vision. If you do, you'll find that 2016 will be an exciting year of ministry for your church.