Mission. Vision. Values. Strategic plans. Out of those four things, can you guess which one is usually the hardest for pastors to have clarity in?
Yep. You guessed it… Vision.
Unfortunately, most seminaries don’t teach pastors how to cultivate a vision for the church they are leading. And with the majority of churches declining or plateauing, it’s no wonder vision is a struggle for so many pastors.
It’s become a struggle cycle. The church hasn’t had a vision for years so they do what they’ve always done, not knowing why they do what they are doing. A new pastor comes and tries to bring fresh vision and the church pushes against them. The pastor stops casting vision and coasts instead. ’round and ’round the cyle goes. Eventually, the pastor wants to begin leading with vision again. Or better yet, a group of leaders sees the need for a vision. But when it comes down to it, the struggle keeps going ’round and ’round because, at this point, the only vision people can see is to stay alive for longer than the budget projections are showing.
That’s not to say that every church is in that situation. Thankfully, plenty of congregations would happily move forward if their leaders were leading them forward.
But here the problem comes in again: vision is a struggle. Here are some reasons why.
5 Struggles Pastors Face Regarding Vision
1. “Vision” is too abstract and confusing.
Vision. Everyone seems to have a different definition for it as it relates to the church. And with every definition, things seem to become even fuzzier than they were before.
Is it just a statement? Is it a slogan? Is it a picture? Is it simply a Bible verse or passage?
Many of us pastors struggle with vision because if we got really honest, we’d admit that we don’t actually know what it is.
Sure, we talk about it. We’ve heard dozens of conference sessions about it. But it’s as if everyone just assumed we knew the definition they were using.
2. Prioritizing urgent things over important things.
Let’s say we came to a working definition of vision that we understand. The next struggle pastors face regarding vision is the constant, never-ending battle of urgent versus important.
Sunday’s a comin’, right?!
Our weekly schedule is already tapped out just because of that reason. So to add to our plates the important task of cultivating a vision from God seems all the more daunting.
Not to mention the unexpected “emergency” counseling sessions, the coffee requests, the office pop-ins, the long emails that feel like a response is needed imminently, there are many “urgent” things that, oftentimes, rob us of the time to spend on important things.
3. Being timid because of the past.
Some pastors have gone through a very intentional, prayer-filled process of cultivating vision for the church they lead. They spent hours upon hours praying, reading, researching, talking with other key leaders, and leading discussions.
No one got on board.
This could have been for a variety of reasons, but the thing that some pastors are still wrestling with is the result: their vision was ignored or even fought against.
And that memory of the past has made many pastors timid about embarking on the journey of cultivating vision today.
4. Letting critics derail and discourage you.
If you’re going to cultivate, cast, and steward a gospel-charged, mission-charged vision, be ready for the critics to come.
Everyone loves a joy-ride. Not everyone may want to go on a road trip to a certain destination.
To most people, the church is a joy-ride. A nice journey to nowhere. Except for heaven, of course.
But you and I both know that God has a specific work for us to do in this life and it requires us to make certain turns at certain places and actually go somewhere.
But when you get clear on the destination, people will try to derail you. They’ll try to get you to turn where you shouldn’t, not because they’re trying to be difficult, but because they might be afraid of going to that neighborhood or that region.
Any leader who is going to cast vision will deal with critics. But that doesn’t make it any easier.
Unfortunately, many pastors have allowed those critics to become louder than the God-given vision.
5. Not raising up leaders who will help carry the torch.
You’ve heard it said, “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” So good. And so true. The problem?
Leadership development is something the church talks a lot about but does very little.
The reason? Like vision, leadership development is an important thing that doesn’t feel so urgent. So? It gets pushed off until next week or until next month or until next year.
In order for the vision to take root and for work to be done to make it a reality, every pastor must have leaders around them who are carrying the vision torch.
Coming (Soon) Here
The Intentional Pastor’s Toolkit
A toolkit that will help you lead with incredible clarity, develop leaders, reduce stress, and plan further ahead.
I have been hard at work developing some tools that will help me lead myself and my church more intentionally and I want to share them with you.
One of the tool drawers of the toolkit is all about strategic leadership. It contains a 6-month discussion guide that is designed to lead you and your team toward a clear vision for the future that is specific to your church.
Additionally, there is a strategic plan calendar that will help you take your vision and turn it into a plan.
Imagine having clarity for every month of the year and making progress on the important things.
There are also tools dedicated to making leadership development actually happen in your church as well as tools designed to help you optimize your week around the important, not just the urgent.
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