by Andy Stanley
How do you keep the church’s passion for ministry from deflating?
Vision doesn’t stick; it doesn’t have natural adhesive. Instead, vision leaks. You’ve repeated the vision for your church a hundred times. Then someone will ask a question that makes you think, What happened? Didn’t they hear what we’ve said over and over? Don’t they know what this church is all about?
You can spot leakage by listening for three things:
- Prayer requests.What people pray for will tell you more than anything else whether they are locked into the vision and priorities of the church. When you are in a leadership meeting, are the only prayer requests for sick people? When I’m in such a meeting, I say, “Whoa, is anybody in this group burdened for an unchurched or unsaved friend? Yes, let’s pray for the sick people. Now, what else can we pray for?”
- Stories of great things happening in people’s lives.If there are no stories, then maybe the vision for life transformation has leaked.
- What people complain about.If people are complaining about the wrong stuff, then vision is leaking. When they complain about the music, or the parking, or that the church is too big, or there are too many people they don’t know, you can respond, “I know. God is blessing us.” But it’s a sign of vision leakage.
I am often tempted to get frustrated with the people who don’t understand the vision, but I have to ask myself some important questions. What do I need to do to assure that we have a compelling vision as an organization, and what must I do to make sure it doesn’t leak? If the vision is not communicated in a compelling way, then the organization is going to be unfocused. Wherever focus is lacking, only random activity is left. That’s when you wake up and find you don’t like the organization you’re leading.
It’s our job as leaders to get everyone oriented and focused on our main purpose.
What causes leaks?
There are three reasons vision seeps away: success, failure, and everything in between.
Success means your options multiply. Size increases complexity, and complexity can confuse vision.
Our church was at its most efficient when there were just six of us sitting around the table. Everybody knew and understood everything. It was as smart and efficient as the organization has ever been. This efficiency leads to success, and success gives birth to complexity, the enemy of efficiency and vision. Many churches become successful organizations where everyone is busy, but they’ve lost connection with the vision.
Failure will also knock a hole in your vision, if you let it. When a plan or strategy fails, people are tempted to assume it was the wrong vision. Plans and strategies can always be changed and improved. But vision doesn’t change. Visions are simply refined with time.
Our first fundraising campaign was a total failure. No money came in, and I didn’t follow up or follow through. One day a wonderful lady in our church came up and asked, “Andy, how’s it going with the fundraising?” I answered, “It’s not going very well at all.” She said, “Do you think God’s trying to tell us something?”
She clearly was implying that since the plan wasn’t working, then the vision for this church must be wrong.
But I knew the vision was right, so I said, “Yes, I think God is trying to tell us something. He’s trying to tell us it was a terrible fundraising idea.”
We don’t have to change the vision because a plan doesn’t work out.
You know what else is tough on vision? Life. Every single day of my life works against the vision. Vision is about what could be and should be; life is about right-this-minute. Life is about the kids and the laundry and the doctor and the house payment.
No wonder vision leaks. Monday comes along and rips it off the wall. The urgent and legitimate needs of today can cause us to lose our vision.
In church life, nothing un-focuses us faster than haphazard, “y’all come” programing. Everybody has a favorite program. But adding too many programs to the church schedule will de-focus your church like nothing else.
So we ask hard questions of each potential program: Is this event a step toward maturity, or just more programing? Unless it makes a clear contribution to maturity and life transformation, it will likely become a vision leak.