August 28th, 2010

12 Steps to Recovery for Vision Statement Addicts

It’s such a joy to receive daily correspondence from pastors and church teams taking vision seriously in the name of Jesus. Often questions come about the “vision statement.” The primary reason for the question is that the process, as outlined in Church Unique, is not fully appreciated as a new paradigm. Teams engage the process but don’t fully reboot the hard drive when it comes to vision. Here is an e-mail I received today, followed by response.

We decided to follow the book Church Unique and used a denominational coach trained by your organization. We have gone through a the process of articulating the Vision Frame. Now we are talking about vision inside the frame, what you refer to as “vision proper” I would dearly love to see some examples of vision statements to get a better handle on the shape and feel. Is that possible? Thank you very much!

Without sounding upset, I must say that the point of my book is that you don’t need a vision statement, but a visionary state of mind. You don’t need a strategic plan, but a strategic thinking point of view. But the problem is clear: we are addicted to the statement itself.  Although the new paradigm is completely discussed in Church Unique, the addiction is strong. 

Try these 12 steps for recovery. 

#1  Admit that as soon as you make vision a statement, you render it powerless.

#2  Believe that a redefinition of vision, under the Lord Jesus as your Chief Visionary, will restore your leadership; decide to turn your leadership of His church completely over to Jesus.

#3  Commit to develop a visionary state of mind not a vision statement; realize that a visionary state of mind allows God to be God and allows others to speak into the process.

#4  Pursue a visionary state of mind by developing a framework (Vision Frame) of thinking first,  that you CAN and SHOULD  state.

#5  Before developing your framework, do a searching and fearless inventory of where God has placed you, your congregation’s capabilities and your leadership’s deepest passion. (I call this the your Kingdom Concept.)

#6  Start your framework by restating the timeless mission of Jesus for your time and place; decide that this will be THE organizing principle of everything you do. Otherwise, disband and close the church.

#7  Then state the four most important driving motives and core convictions that will shape the culture of your church as you pursue Jesus’ mission. (Congrats you have completed to sides of your Vision Frame.)

#8  Based on you searching inventory and the first two sides of your frame, state what kind of disciple your church is designed to produce; these may be called measures, life-marks, practices or something similar.

#9  Finally determine and state your church strategy as the “the how” of the mission using a picture. Note: You will never have a visionary state of mind or a visionary church until the congregation enthusiastically embraces this picture along with the other sides of your Vision Frame.  

#10  Now that you have a Vision Frame, you can start thinking, praying, discerning, dialoguing and dreaming about your vision as God’s better future God. Use the sides of your Vision Frame to serve as a guide. Decide on the single most important thing the church must do in the next 12 months. This priority is called vision proper.

#11  Ruthlessly avoid the temptation to write vision proper as a statement. Do gather 6-12 key leaders and ask them to contribute “living language” in the form of phrases, metaphors, stories, and “what if” dream nuggets based on your single 12-month priority. Use this tool as a team and revisit it quarterly.

#12  With your priority in mind create talking points for every kind of daily interaction (prayer, one-on-ones, recruitment, teams, preaching, etc.) Use this spider diagram to practice painting a picture with words. Cast your vision as much as possible by dripping vision into daily conversations. Encourage the team to do the same. Don’t print your talking points. Remember that vision transfers through people not paper.

In the end, a visionary leader is not someone with a vision statement in their hand, but a compelling picture of God’s better future, streaming from their lips and entering peoples hearts all the time. May God bless your recovery process.

4 Comments on to “12 Steps to Recovery for Vision Statement Addicts”

  • AJ Thomas says:

    Wow – I just finished with your book today. I wish it would have been as clear and simple as this post. Good stuff!

  • jim coffey says:

    Will, good stuff. I’ll push back just a bit (would you expect anything else)?

    I agree that too many people get caught up in the “writing” of the vision statement, but…
    I think you’re missing the boat by your strong words against a written statement.
    Not everyone is a visual and auditory learner. Just as not everyone responds to writing.

    If I’m on your team I would end up writing down various talking points – because that is how I process information. You can forbid me to do so … but I’d end up doing it anyway. Not because I’m rebellious but because that is just how my brain is wired. After I write it down I can throw it away because the act of writing clarifies my mind and helps me remember.

    I do agree 100% that the vision transfers between people face to face telling stories.

    If you want to fully engage all members of the community you’ll find that there are some people that have brains wired by God to process information best when they see it written with words on paper. This is why engineers almost always have a white board in their office. Talk to your dad – most engineers like seeing things in writing.

  • Joshua Yarbrough says:

    Will, thanks so much for this post. I do have a question however. I have been reading your book and think your model would be good to utilize for a visioning process for the department I oversee in my organization. The issue is that we are attempting to clarify the vision and guiding principles for community development. We have hundreds of staff around the world that need to be guided by this. Without a written statement how could we help all of our staff get on board and understand what we are attempting to do? I will not have face to face contact with all of these people, so something written is very necessary. Do you feel that your vision pathway is appropriate for organizations as decentralized as ours, or just local churches or where leaders have direct access to their followers?

  • Jeff Stephens says:

    This is the problem with the vision frame graphic in the book. It looks like a frame around a solid vision when it should be a frame around a clear pane of glass through which you see (envision) your ministry and your community.

Leave a Comment