July 4, 2015

The Nine Forms of Generic Church Vision that Stifle Practically Every Church

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Most pastors are visionaries. But to fully realize the vision of a church, a pastor needs more than a generic sense of the future.

When it comes to vision, the biggest challenge to success is not your obstacles. The biggest challenge to overcome is settling for a lesser vision and not knowing it. If you grab on to a faulty tool—in this case the tool of vision—everything you to try to build with that tool will be limited.

Once you move past a generic sense to a vivid vision, you will still have many obstacles to overcome, but those are the natural challenges of implementation. You still have the hard work to do. But every action and every point of communication is more powerful with the vivid and compelling picture of the future in view.

If you are living with generic vision, and I believe most pastors are, more of your implementation challenges have to do with clarity than you realize. In the last week alone, I have seen issues like staff hiring decisions, children’s programming decisions, and campus launch decisions all present major dilemmas only because of unclear vision. Yet the lead pastor didn’t recognize it as such.

How then, can we apprehend the generic church vision that plagues our churches? In my forthcoming book, God Dreams, I have identified nine forms generic vision to help you name it in your church. The nine stem from three healthy biases. That is to say, we empower generic vision with good motives most of the time. We do the wrong thing for the right reason. It’s a good motive taken a little too far in application.

The three healthy biases are: accuracy, growth and efficiency. I will briefly describe each bias with the three forms of generic vision they create. Also, I will invite you to receive free God Dreams resources when they are available at the link below. The next resource is a worksheet to help your team identify its specific form of generic vision.

#1 – ACCURACY BIAS

A healthy bias toward accuracy can lead us to confuse Biblical statements with Biblically informed vision.

 The story of church vision in the last two decades could be described as the great misuse of the Great Commandment (Mt. 22:34-40) and the Great Commission (Mt. 28:19-20). Most people have heard some variation of the following as a vision statement for a local church:

  •  “Our vision is to love God and love others.” (Love God vision)
  •  “Our vision is to make disciples of Jesus Christ.” (Make disciples vision)
  • “Our vision is to glorify God.” (Glorify God vision) 

These are biblical imperatives that should apply to all churches, but not as a vision statement. Why? When Jesus summarized the law, He was not giving churches a vision statement. This is a meaningful summary of the law, but it’s not an answer to the question: if we’re a church, what should our vision be for the next three to twenty years?

To summarize the problem, in our efforts to be biblical we fail to be imaginative, by cut-n-pasting verses as vision.

#2 – GROWTH BIAS

A healthy bias toward growth can lead us to substitute a grow-only vision for a growth-minded vision. 

Some church leaders equate growth with vision. “If we experience momentum, we must have vision,” they reason. Here are three examples of how growth becomes an end in itself as generic kinds of vision statements for a local church:

  •  “Our vision is to reach more people for Christ.” (Reach more vision)
  • “Our vision is to build a bigger facility or launch more campuses in order to take the gospel to more places.” (Build more vision)
  • “Our vision is to change world.” (More change vision)

Every church should be reaching more people and multiplying disciples. And an increased response can certainly lead to more facilities and more campuses.

A healthy bias for growth might undergird a vision, but statements like these are weak by themselves. “Reaching more” and “changing the world” are too vague. And buildings and campuses might be important tools, but they are means to something greater, not an end in themselves.

#3 – EFFICIENCY BIAS

A healthy bias toward efficiency can lead to a done-for-you vision that neglects adequate do-it-yourself vision ownership. 

Church leaders across the centuries have been drawn to learn from other churches where good things seem to be happening. Often this happens with the best of motives: they suspect God is at work and they want to be part of it. They appreciate the encouragement, the ideas, the tools, and the training from the other churches’ leadership. They follow the spirit of 1 Corinthians 11:1 where the Apostle Paul said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” A noble intent for sure.

But the passion that says, “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” while wisely seeking to improve efficiency, can lead to a debilitating blockage of the imagination. Who wants to leverage the learning of others to the point of sacrificing the thrill of having a God-given, handcrafted vision?

This bias shows up in several approaches to vision. But unlike the accuracy bias and the growth bias, the efficiency bias doesn’t usually express itself in a written vision statement, but in the mindset of the leaders. I would label three expressions of this intent as follows:

  •  Serve as a franchise vision
  • Offer the most vision (i.e., more programs)
  • Be the best vision (model church, top 10, etc.) 

Of course I have much more to say about these nine forms of generic vision in God Dreams. But I bet this is enough to begin a meaningful conversation with your team.

The post will be unpacked in greater detail in God Dreams, my fourth book. The subtitle is 12 Templates for Finding and Focusing Your Church’s Future.  I invite you to sign up for pre-release specials before the book is published in 2016 (link below). The biggest one will be a free visual summary that you won’t want to miss! The next tool I am providing is a generic vision worksheet.

Get on the list for pre-release specials for God Dreams here.

March 19, 2015

Incredible Coaching Opportunity for Pastors in Southern California: Vision co::Lab with Senior Pastor Rich Kannwischer

How would you like to get 24 hours of vision, strategy and missional leadership coaching from one of the most effective pastors in the country? Rich Kannwischer, Senior Pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, CA, will be leading a Vision co::Lab at his church from April – November. I am particularly excited about this opportunity to learn from Rich. 

Shortly after Rich assumed the pastorate at St. Andrew’s, I reflected on a dynamic interplay I observed in his leadership, between two different kinds of “wins.”

Some things that a new pastor does naturally relate to felt needs of the church. Other things are more significant changes that will eventually shape the church’s culture. Both are real wins but how they happen and how they feel are very different. Great leaders use them together to maximize positive change.

For example, not long into his assignment, Rich changed both the service times and the worship strategy. (There had been no change for 30 years.)  In the first 7 weeks after the change, the new strategy, coupled with his energy and preaching talent realized a 30% increase in weekend attendance. This dramatic change met a huge felt need (given the congregation’s mildly declining attendance) by providing hope for their future.

But Rich took on two other projects in the short term.  First, he refused to move into the generous square footage of the previous pastor’s office, in favor of creating a more efficient, inviting and collaborative space. Second, he partnered with Auxano to navigate a team down the Vision Pathway. Even though the team had completed some strong strategic planning work, the language was not robust or specific enough to shape culture. Both of these initiatives required extra effort because they were completely off the felt need radar. 

Clearly, Rich is leveraging wins that meet felt needs for wins that guide a new future.

  • How are you balancing felt-need wins with culture-shaping wins?
  • Are you looking for and creating both kinds?
  • Are you trying to do too many culture-shaping wins at the expense of felt needs?
  • Are you only focusing on only felt needs, neglecting to challenge the status quo?

As you review these questions consider the differences:

> Wins that meet felt needs DO

  • Bring immediate satisfaction to individuals
  • Build immediate credibility for the leader (more chips in the bank)
  • Create a positive atmosphere

 DO NOT

  • Change the expectations of people
  • Automatically align with the vision
  • Reflect the most pressing real needs

> Wins that shape culture DO

  • Introduce a new way of thinking
  • Align people, tools, and process toward a clear vision
  • Create long term value

 DO NOT

  • Feel good at first
  • Build credibility immediately
  • Happen without dialogue and pushback

Rich will be bringing the same wisdom and balance displayed above to the Vision co::Lab.

Our co::Labs are co:ntinuous and co:laborative communities where 8 churches come together (4 people per church) to walk the Vision Pathway. We meet six times, one time per month, for four hours of training on topics like:

            Reading the culture of your community

            Assessing your congregation’s strengths

            Rallying people to a common cause

            Shaping a church’s internal culture

            Leading a vision process

            Mentoring staff

            Releasing the church for community impact

            Radically simplifying the mechanics of church

Of course you will get the standard deliverables and toolkit that come with every Church Unique Vision co::Lab. And, I will be joining Rich for several sessions.

To learn more about this incredible coaching opportunity, click here to get the dates, cost and further details.

February 24, 2015

The Top 10 Ways Pastors Spend Time that Doesn’t Make Disciples

What gets in our way when it comes to the church’s mission to make disciples? Let’s look at the things we do at church and they way we spend our time as pastors:

  1. Preparing a sermon or teaching message in a given week without spending time in disciple-making relationships.
  2. Spending time meeting with staff and church leaders in a given week in lieu of spending time in personal disciple-making relationships.
  3. Designing a worship experience in a given week without a prior design of a clear disciple-making strategy.
  4. Managing a weekly money gathering process from people without having a clear disciple-making vision that will be used to steward the money.
  5. Recruiting people to volunteer in ministry environments without any knowledge of their involvement in disciple-making relationships.
  6. Providing for the care needs of others in the church without a system for care to take place in the context of disciple-making relationships.
  7. Creating any content (worship guides, newsletters, social media, curriculum) without a prior definition of disciple-making outcomes.
  8. Training any small group or Bible study leaders without a prior training in the church’s disciple-making strategy and outcomes.
  9. Developing and launching programs that do not fit into a clear and cohesive disciple-making strategy.
  10. Putting out fires with or for people who could care less whether they have or you have any disciple-making relationships in life. 

What would you add? What do you think pastors do that does not make disciples?  Help me write the next 10!

December 26, 2014

6 Reasons Why Most Church Strategic Planning Is a Waste of Time

Church Strategic Planning

Most church strategic planning is a waste of time no matter what you call it or why the church started the planning to begin with. Have you ever personally experienced a time-waster planning retreat?

The planning may be called lots of things like:

  • long range planning
  • vision planning
  • visioning weekend
  • goal-setting
  • strategic operations

In addition to the variety of names, the planning may be spawned for numerous reasons like facility planning, attendance decline, website design, or capital campaign initiatives to name a few. But whatever you call it and and whatever got the process started, Many pastors confess that the outcome of strategic planning  is left wanting. The usefulness of the deliverable itself—the plan, the report, the vision—is so limited, it will soon be stored in a church closet otherwise known as the strategic planning notebook graveyard.

Sound like a doomsday message? I hope not! Because a well designed vision process is one of the most exciting things to lead and experience. It’s why Auxano has eight full-time consultants (we call ourselves navigators) with dozens of Church Unique Certified and Network Navigators who practice our Vision Framing Process part-time. Literally hundreds of churches go through the process every year with amazing success!

So what are the reasons why most church strategic planning is a waste of time? 

Reason #1: Most planning deliverables have too much information.

Two weeks ago, I looked at a current strategic planning document for a church. In addition to a statement of mission and values, the plan contained 5 overarching objectives and 22 goals. It’s not unusual to see this much information. The problem with “too much: is that the only person who benefits is the executive pastor type or board member with a high need for control. It helps them feel good to have all of the objectives and goals listed in one place. The real problem is that no one else in the organization cares that much about the goals.

Does that sound harsh? It shouldn’t. It’s not a negative commentary on the people and their motives, its a negative commentary on the model of planning. In a nutshell, a plan with too much information misses the human element. It doesn’t connect on an emotional level and doesn’t help the average person, really know what to do.

How much information should your plan have? At the summary level it should have five things: mission, values, strategy, measures and “vision proper.” Vision proper means that everyone knows the one, most important goal at any time. For certain people in the organization, there are tools for more complexity, but not much more.

Reason #2: Most mission and values statements are too generic.

We have been so saturated with generic in church leadership we don’t even realize what it is any more. Here is the key principle to understand: Mission and values should be broad but not generic. They are broad because many types of activities are required to accomplish the mission and many different kinds of tasks can flow out of a deeply held value. Therefore your mission and values should be broad yet specific, rather than broad and generic. Consider these definitions to help you think about this idea:

Broad: to a great extent, ample, vast, extensive, large

Generic: applicable to all members of a group; a name not protected by trademark.

Specific: precise or particular; peculiar to somebody or something.

Applying these definitions we would say that your church’s mission should be extensive and vast, but peculiar to your church. 

 

Perhaps the best way to describe idea of broad yet specific is to think of oceans. There are five oceans in the world, Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic and Southern. These are broad bodies of water with complex ecosystems and each is a world of its own. But they are also specific and unique. To make the bridge to church, the better analogy might be a lake. There are over 112 millions lakes in the world larger than half an acre. Each one is peculiar, despite the fact that to a frog, each of the lakes provides for a “broad” environment.

A broad and generic mission is: love God, love people and serve our community. A broad and specific mission is: inviting people into the unexpected joy of desperate dependence on Jesus. To get to broad and specific read this post on why churches operate at less than 50% effectiveness. It will help you get past generic.

The last four reasons are below and will be unpacked in follow-up posts:

Reason #3: Most strategic plans don’t clarify how the mission is accomplished.

Reason #4: Most strategic plans for churches don’t clarify  when the mission is accomplished. 

Reason #5: Most planning processes involve too many people.

Reason #6: Most planning processes neglect training on vision competencies.  

So how many strategic planning experiences have you had that you considered a waste of time? I would love to hear the total!!!

December 6, 2014

The Top 10 Reasons to Advance Church Goals One Big Goal at a Time

Church Goals by Will Mancini

Most church leaders never experience what it feels like to have one big goal for their entire church. (Unless of course they are raising funds in a traditional capital campaign.) Yet, to be a part of a church culture that sets and achieves big goals time and time again is as God honoring as much as it is exhilarating!

What do most churches do instead of having one big goal? Its pretty simple. They either have no clear and stated aspirations at all or they have too many goals in an overwhelming strategic plan or cumbersome dashboard. The sweet spot is a rare yet priceless in-between: one highly visible, broadly supported goal. At Auxano we call this a “missional milestone” and it usually is based on a time horizon of 6 to 12 months out.

One key to understanding the value of having one goal, is that you have one goal at a time. That is, you keep resetting the next big goal to advance the longer-term vision of your congregation. (Learn more about the different horizons of planning.)

 So what are the top ten reasons to set church goals one at a time?

#1  One goal at a time focuses the attention of staff and leaders.

No goal = little focus. Too many goals = playing for different teams.

#2  One goal at a time creates greater energy among the congregation.

No goal = unactivated potential. Too many goals = depleted energy.

#3  One goal at a time directs everyone’s prayers as a concert of dependence on God.

No goal = random prayers. Too many goals = low likelihood of any goal-directed prayers at all.

#4  One goal at a time helps leaders think bigger about what God might be doing.

No goal = smaller thinking. Too many goals = fragmented thinking.

#5  One goal at time means we will set goals for disciple-making outcomes not just for raising money.

No goal = you only set goals when raising funds. Too many goals = people never see the importance of  disciple-making goals.

#6  One goal at a time generates a sense of momentum.

No goal = people define success any way they want. Too many goals = splintered momentum.

#7  One goal at a time helps us build toward bigger and bigger goals.

No goals = no “ramp” to bigger goals. Too many goals = each goal stays smaller.

#8  One goal at a time fosters healthy risk-taking.

No goal = no reason to risk. Too many goals = much lower risk threshold.

#9  One goal at a time connects people to the larger story of God’s redemptive history.

No goal = live in a smaller story.  Too many goals = disconnect people.

 #10  One goal at a time demonstrates God-honoring unity.

No goal = missed opportunity to show people our “togetherness.” Too many goals = shows people our different agendas.

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