Blurry vision

In a previous post I suggested that church vision statements are honored in the breach more than in execution. Why? Because they are drawn up by a select few in a closed meetings with little outside input. People who must change behaviors in order to turn vision into reality are rarely among the visioneers.

Seasoned intentional interim pastors have seen plenty of failed church vision statements; they know that words on paper are nothing more than that. No matter how often, how creatively and how urgently the words are broadcast they won’t result in changed behaviors by the congregation, by volunteers and by ministry leaders.

Effective interim pastors understand mission and vision, and they have polished the visioneer’s skills that turn words on paper into action on the street.

Interim pastors understand mission

[Note: Different authors and organizations use the term “vision” here. We have deliberately chosen to use the term mission because the Mission Dei is a fundamental literary component of biblical revelation]

It bears repeating that mission answers a fundamental ontological question: Why does this congregation exist? Or, if you prefer, it answers the teleological question: What end or purpose does this church serve?

A church mission statement, carefully crafted by any Bible-believing congregation, will serve nicely for any other Bible-based congregation. For these churches the mission is shaped by the mission of God and by the commission Jesus laid upon the Church prior to his Ascension.

  • It will include missional evangelism, baptism and instruction – all components of the disciple making process.
  • It will include a “rinse and repeat” assertion that new disciples themselves become disciple makers.
  • Many will include a theological component such as glorifying God, exalting Christ.

The primary distinction in church mission statements will be related to a given church’s vernacular. Church mission statements should probably be cast in the language of the people. It needs to be read out as a few declarative statements in terms the congregants understand and use in everyday language. (Here are some sample statements; they’re a mixed bag qualitywise)

A crisp, biblical and memorable mission statement is the foundation on which vision rests.

Interim pastors understand vision

Vision is the most basic answer to the question of function: What are we going to do? It connects our biblical mission and the world as we find it. It emerges from the synthesis or overlap of three elements:

  1. The mission delivered to us by scripture – What purpose are we to serve?
  2. The mission field in which we have been placed – Where are we to do this?
  3. The resources granted to us – What have we got to work with?
In addition to being careful students of scripture, visioneers carefully observe their mission field – the community and culture in which the church is embedded. They also discern the resources the Lord has entrusted to the congregation.
The vision statement is located where those three elements overlap. When vision is aligned with mission then our intentions, our planned actions, will in fact move us toward fulfillment of the mission.
A cogent vision statement that flows from a crisp mission statement sets the stage. The church is now ready to move forward. But, without the interim pastor’s skill in bringing everyone on board, neither the mission nor the vision will be served.

Interim pastors polish visioneering skills

By working intentionally with groups and individuals the interim pastor will foster genuine transformation in the hearts and minds of the church members. In time their values, their actions and their topics of conversation will be infused with the mission and the vision.

With groups (formal offices of the church, ad hoc gatherings and longstanding affiliation groups) you employ proven strategies to move the mission and vision from being mere aspirations and turn them into reality for people. Those strategies include:

  • Facilitate discussion about mission and vision using group process
  • Use variety to include mission and vision in the weekly sermon; show how they are infused throughout daily life and service
  • Delegate action planning to ministry team leaders, asking them to involve their team
  • Spend time training Sunday school teachers and small group leaders to become involved in casting mission and vision
  • Hold open Q&A meetings that encourage active discussion about the mission and vision
With individuals the interim pastor’s relationship skills come to the fore. He will use a variety of methods to bring congregants up to speed on the mission and vision:
  • Ask lots of questions of those responsible for leading the church’s many ministries and programs
  • Coach those who lead ministries (e.g., the Women’s Ministries leader, the Children’s Ministry leader) so that the values embedded in the mission and vision become their values
  • Use good discernment in recruiting new ministry leaders, looking for those who welcome having their worldview and their values molded by scripture
  • Meet with Church Board members one-on-one regularly to discuss their lives, to mentor and to have open-ended discussions about the direction and health of the church
  • Ask each Board member to help you create a feedback loop by establishing a strong connection with a ministry team leader. Discuss the feedback on a regular basis.

Closing Question

What tried and true practices have helped you in bringing the church to consensus over mission, vision and action plans? I’d love to hear what’s worked for others.

Image credit: maridav / 123RF Stock Photo