This past Saturday I led the church in which I am serving as Transitional Pastor through an exercise to help discern God's vision for the church. This is an important step for any church to take when seeking new pastoral leadership, and it's one every church should do every 5-6 years anyway. Knowing God's vision for a church is key to that church enjoying maximum ministry effectiveness. Pursuing God's vision is always going to be more effective than merely drifting along hoping something good happens.
An important part of the process I use has each participant spend about 30 minutes answering a series of questions I give them. This is done three times during the course of the day. Sometimes they are given Scriptures to read and reflect on prior to answering the questions. After the 30 minutes they come back to their small groups and discuss among themselves what they have heard God say to them in the process. Then they report to the larger group.
It's always rewarding to me to hear them go around their tables talking about the future of their church. Every time I lead a church through this process I wonder how long it has been since they have had such discussions. I get excited as I listen to them talk about their dreams and hopes for their church over the next five years because this is not a conversation that happens to many churches.
As the day comes to a close we begin to talk about we have sensed God is leading the church to become and do in the next five years. Sometimes, that is very clear to the participants and a vision statement can be formed. Other times, it's still not clear, but the church now has something to work on. At the least, they have had important conversations that may not have occurred in the church in many years.
I'm glad to announce that in the recent event the participants were able to develop a vision statement. We actually went beyond our time limit as we worked on the wording, but no one seemed to care. It was exciting to watch as they continually sought out the best way to word their vision statement so it would be clear.
Now, when the pastor search team begins interviewing candidates they can be very clear to that individual what the church's vision is for future ministry. They can look for the person who will best be able to lead them in pursuit of that vision. That will be a big benefit to the church as it calls a new pastor.
Now we begin more work as church leadership begins to determine the best ways to achieve this vision. With a clear God-given vision we can now begin to do strategic planning to help us develop goals that will enable us to achieve that vision. This will help the church better focus its resources and efforts. If the church can maintain this focus I believe it has exciting days ahead of it.
Your church doesn't have to go through a formal visioning process although it would be a good thing if it did. Any church can gather to talk about what they would like to see be and do in the next five years. Who are the people your church is most likely to serve five years from now? What ministries would you like to see in your church five years from now? Who are the people groups your church might need to target? What has to change to allow these things to happen? Answering these questions, and more, would greatly benefit any church serious about its ministry and its impact on its community. How long has it been since your congregation has had this kind of conversation? Do you think it might be time?