A few days ago I was talking with a friend about the church he attends. His church is in a different denomination than the one in which I serve, but the problems he mentioned sounded very familiar. Their church has struggled for the past few years meeting its budget. They find it difficult to bring in new members or to attract younger people.
When I questioned him about his church's vision he admitted the church had never, to his knowledge, pursued a vision for ministry. In fact, he said he had been waiting for the pastor to present a vision for ministry. We began to talk about vision and how vision discernment isn't just the work of the pastor but should involve others within the church.
Earlier in the same week I was talking to an associate minister in another church about some of the challenges that church is facing. This church does have a vision statement, but it is a very generic statement. It certainly is not one that would be specific to that church. I pointed out that such a generic statement really doesn't give much guidance to ministry in the church, and it's impossible to ever know if and when that vision is achieved.
Both of these churches, one smaller and the other much larger, are both struggling because they have no clear vision that actually influences what the church is doing. When I talk about vision I am referring to a statement that lends itself to easily identifiable goals and steps that will lead to reaching those goals which in turn achieves the vision.
Here's an example I often use in workshops I lead. Let's assume a church has discerned a God-given vision of reaching one percent of its unchurched community over the next five years. Further, let's assume the population of that community is 20,000 and we've determined that half of those people, 10,000, is unchurched. That means our vision is to reach 100 new people for Christ over the next five years.
From that we can begin to set certain goals that we need to achieve that will enable us to fulfill that vision. Some of those goals may include developing small groups to reach out into the community, starting new Sunday school classes, identifying and training people to lead these small groups and classes, developing better ways to greet first-time guests and creating an effective follow-up system to ensure that those guests do not fall through the cracks. A church might need to check as to whether it has sufficient space to handle a hundred new people and sufficient parking, and some goals might have to be set to address these space issues. As these various goals are established, Key Result Areas (KRAs) can be identified that will break each of these goals down into manageable actions. As the church intentionally works through these KRAs it is working towards the achievement of each goal and eventually to the fulfillment of the vision.
The key word here is intentional. No longer is the church drifting from week to week hoping that someday something good will happen. It is now actively pursuing a God-given dream, and such intentional ministry will always beat drifting if a church wants to impact its community.
As I prepare to retire from my current ministry one of my prayers is that I will be able to help churches ready to become more intentional in its ministry to those outside the church. If I can of service to you, please do not hesitate to contact me.