Martin W. Bender
So after a few weeks of being distracted by the Next Level Leadership Conference and Valentine’s Day I’m getting back on track with my goal of reading 100 books and writing 100 blogs to go with them. Most of the books I’ve read so far have dealt with theological issues or wizards, but this post is dedicated to an entirely practical book for my work at church: George Barna’s The Power of Vision.
At Glennville First Christian Church we are in the process of developing long term plans for the future of the congregation. In order to be effective in this goal, I’ve decided to do a little reading on the importance of vision within organizations. Since it’s a church, the majority of the goals are already set in place. Ideas like preach the gospel, serve others, and worship together are in place and being practiced, but in order to have a greater impact on the community we need to become more focused on what we hope to accomplish through our efforts. Thus, a clear vision of the future is necessary.
Barna’s book on vision helps to articulate just what a vision statement is, what it should do, and how it benefits the congregation. Much of the argument for the use of vision statements in the religious world is based upon the success of similar ideas in business, but the concepts are easily applied to congregations as well. The general idea is that without a clear focus on specific outcomes it is highly unlikely such results will be achieved. Since congregations desire a particular set of outcomes having a well-conceived vision statement is both wise and helpful.
As the elders of GFCC work to establish a clear vision for the congregation I realize we are violating Barna’s advice. He clearly indicates that creating a vision for a congregation can only be done by the pastor over that congregation. He minimizes the effectiveness of consensus and directs the pastoral professional to take this task upon themselves. I respectfully disagree. If vision is in fact produced by God, as Barna repeats throughout the book, then the vision established by a plurality of elders is just as possible. The Holy Spirit can certainly work through a collection of leaders just as effectively as through one individual. At the same time, I agree with much of what the author shares in the book.
Having a clear vision allows the congregation to embrace some ministry opportunities while allowing others to pass by. One of the greater challenges my congregation faces is choosing an area in which to focus attention. As our vision statement is developed, it will become increasingly clear which areas we need to focus on and which opportunities are met by other groups.
A clear vision promotes forward thinking. As a congregation that has existed for nearly ninety years, we do a lot out of organizational muscle memory rather than from the perceived benefits that could result. This means time, energy, and money are being spent on ministries and programs that are ineffective or unnecessary. By focusing on a specific vision a congregation like mine can break out of its ruts and move in a new direction.
It is obvious from the style of this post that I’m thinking of the implications of creating a vision for GFCC rather than talking about the book itself. That is probably greater praise than I could articulate. If you a leader and would like a well thought out examination of the value of clearly communicated vision The Power of Vision: Discover and Apply God’s Plan for Your Life and Ministry by George Barna is a great place to start.
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On the Shelf
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J. K. Rowling
Tell it Slant, by Eugene H. Peterson
On Christian Doctrine, by Augustine