A Process for Visioning (part 2)

 by Tim Woodroof and Jon Mullican – 

The previous blog article set out the first steps of a basic process for discovering God’s vision for your congregation.

  1. Consider working with a guide
  2. Choose a time horizon
  3. Determine who should participate
  4. Charge and equip these people

This article continues the work of building a basic, visioning process by thinking through the importance of planning, communicating, and implementing.

Choose a Core Process

Once a time horizon and participants are chosen, a core process is needed. Exactly how will the team proceed? Again, choosing the core process is a decision to be made by church leadership. While the details of the processes are beyond the scope of this chapter, listed below are some resources that can aid in choosing a process. (Remember, even when accessing these resources, making use of a guide—someone who has been there and done that—can be extremely helpful as the Vision Team moves through its work.)

Work the Plan

Once a core process is identified, the Vision Team can move forward with its task. The team knows how far to look into the future, how participative the leadership wants the process to be, what process to use and when to complete the task. So get to work. Read the suggested materials. Conduct the assessments. Start talking to each other and to the church. Start dreaming. Start painting that picture of what your church will look like years from now.

Verbal explanations of a church’s vision can only go so far. That’s why, once the vision has been well and clearly articulated, action becomes necessary.

Communicate the Work (Process)

As the process unfolds and the vision takes shape, good communication is critical:

  • The Vision Team should touch base with leadership from time to time to confirm things are headed in an acceptable direction. It would be a shame if the team worked for months on a vision only to realize the result was not acceptable to the church’s leaders.
  • Frequently updating the congregation on the team’s progress is also recommended, since many will be participating in some level of the process and all will be interested in the final product. A well-informed group is more easily led!

Communicate the Vision (Result)

Once a vision is formed, pictured, and described, the Vision Team should first communicate the vision to the leadership. This will serve several purposes:

  • It allows the leadership to hear/see/understand the vision
  • It allows leaders to push, prod, poke, and probe the vision (a necessary part of adopting the vision and making it their own)
  • It allows the Vision Team and leadership to learn valuable lessons on how best to communicate the vision to the congregation

When both the Vision Team and the church’s leaders are unified in their support of the vision, it should be communicated to the entire church by the Vision Team and immediately ratified by the leadership. This communication can be accomplished via small home-groups, verbal announcements and slide presentations in class or during worship services, or (preferably) all of the above. Obviously, if different venues are chosen and multiple presentation are made, the same message must be communicated or the church will become confused about what is next, what is most important, and where things are headed.

Be aware that new (or renewed) vision will be disruptive for some in the congregation. A certain percentage of members will hear “My ministry is less important than the ministries specifically mentioned in our vision” or “We’re throwing out our traditions!” or “Nothing will change that I want to see changed.” Verbal explanations of a church’s vision can only go so far. That’s why, once the vision has been well and clearly articulated, action becomes necessary.

Implement the Vision

Vision is the “WHAT” of church. WHAT shall we become? WHAT is our purpose? WHAT does God have in store for us?

Implementation is the “HOW” of church—the means by which the vision is accomplished. Every core process should have, at its end, the question of “How will we move toward the vision?” Notice the key word toward. Once a vision is discovered and articulated, it cannot be realized in a year or even three, but it can be approached … moved toward.

The final task of the Vision Team is to create a basic year-one, year-two, year-three implementation framework or plan. Executing that plan is NOT the team’s responsibility. Rather, the Vision Team completes its work with this plan and can hand the results to leadership for implementation.

Vision is the “WHAT” of church. WHAT shall we become? WHAT is our purpose? WHAT does God have in store for us?

“HOW?” is now the question leaders must ask and are responsible to accomplish. Often, leaders choose to form yet-another team: an implementation team (comprised of a few Vision Team members and existing leaders), charged with the responsibility to execute the vision.

Once this team is formed, implementation of the vision should start immediately. John Kotter (Leading Change) recommends that some “early wins” be initiated—i.e., finding and focusing on things in the vision that most everyone wants to see happen and that can occur quickly and relatively easily. Such early accomplishments provide momentum and allow church members to realize church leaders “mean what we say.”

A Model for the Vision Process

Process is important for conversations so critical to the health and future of your congregation. Done poorly, a visioning process can waste lots of time, frustrate members, and result in few “actionable” plans. Done well, however, a visioning process can reinvigorate your people, refocus your efforts, and shape a healthier and more effective future for your church.

Here is a graphical representation of the model we have proposed for consideration as you define a visioning process for your congregation.


Note: This post may contain affiliate links. By clicking on them and purchasing products through our links, we receive a small commission. It helps fund Interim Ministry Partners and HOPE Network Ministries.



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