The idea of mission is simple: Do you and those who you lead know what you are ultimately supposed to be doing? While most pastors think they are clear on mission, most church attenders are not. And[...]
I can’t believe my life’s odometer gets to click into the year 2020. It’s the medical standard for good sight that has become a cultural metaphor for clear vision in every dimension of life and leadership. Since I have read ministry planning documents, good and bad, for almost 20 years, I can assure you that I have seen more 2020 vision logos, bad clipart and goal lists than most other humans.
Albeit the most expected thing to write on, I can’t resist enjoying the moment that has been anticipated for some time–crossing the 2020 line in the name of church vision. Part of me wants to run from the overuse and misuse of outdated strategic planning models that created “2020 Church Vision” documents well before their time. But here I am, optimistic like a happy clam looking at those four beautiful digits, “2-0-2-0” on every calendar. I simply can’t hide my passionate devotion for ministry motion guided by vision clarity. So I hear I go again!
This time, I thought I would summarize my life’s top learnings. I really wanted to write a top 20 list. But I want you to have great vision to just an adequate one. So here is my top 15 list. Growing up I had 20/15 vision which represents better visual acuity than 20/20. It’s the ability to see at 20 feet what the average person can see at 15 feet. And a top 15 list will be faster to read even though it’s longer than SEO-recommended article titling.
I can assure you that I have seen more 2020 vision logos, bad clipart and goal lists than most other humans.
By the way, while these lessons apply to both organizational ministry and personal life planning, I wrote them with the pastor in mind for leading the church into 2020 and beyond. In addition to these principles you may want to check out the 6-week sermon series and campaign resource entitled 20/20 Vision For Life.
Lesson #1- The General Sense Dilemma:
Most leaders actually don’t prefer clarity.
This gateway lesson may be unexpected, but it’s the easy place to start when you consider the biggest reality of my life’s work. I have spent every day for two decades converting, convincing and cajoling church leaders to work on clarity. It’s a ministry to a remnant. Not to mention, it’s the reason why I consider myself a “clarity evangelist.” That title sounded pretty dumb to me at first, but the conversion metaphor was the only thing that could think of to approximate the clarity makeover; the difference between the before and after portrait of a pastor with a Vision Frame.
Why don’t leaders want more clarity? At first I thought, “Pastors don’t get it.” But the truth is, most don’t want it. In a strange way it’s natural to prefer our prejudices, biases and expected patterns more than real clarity. Vision, after all, does bring with it the explosive power to disrupt even when that disruption is for our better-ness.
In a strange way it’s natural to prefer our prejudices, biases and expected patterns more than real clarity.
When I wrote Church Unique in 2007, I learned a new term– phronemophobia which means fear of thinking. Thomas Edison said that “Five percent of the people think; ten percent of the people think they think; and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”
Obviously “avoiding the light” of clarity is not related to the moral kind of darkness. Rather, think of it as a comfortable shadow in which all activity stays unscrutinized and therefore remains baptized as Good in the eyes of the doer, however inefficient or ineffective. Why shine a light on current reality when clarity might bring new accountability?
Out of the gates this may sound a little harsh. So let me clarify it a bit. Every pastor I have met is a visionary. It’s not the calling or the motive that’s in question. Church leaders simply rely on a general sense of where they are going. That kind of clarity is a notion of the future or generic kind of vision. Generic means “to have no distinctive quality.” It’s predictable, common, unoriginal, nondescript, plain, undecorated, and mediocre. It’s stuff like “to reach more” and to “glorify God” and “to love God and love others.”
That’s right; pastors don’t pursue clarity not because they don’t care about the future. They don’t pursue clarity because they think they have vision “generally” figured out. (Check out my classification of the nine kinds of generic vision.) Hint: It usually sounds like a popular bible verse. That’s why the first lesson is entitled, “The General Sense Dilemma.”
Lesson #2- The Combustion Recipe:
Creating clarity requires three essential ingredients: sufficient time, good questions and active collaboration.
My Dad loved to work on cars. I like to retell the garage-shop wisdom of diagnosing a failure to start: “There are only three essentials to get the engine firing,” he would explain, “Air, fuel and a spark.”
Generic means “to have no distinctive quality.” It’s predictable, common, unoriginal, nondescript, plain, undecorated, and mediocre.
The same is true with your clarity engine. Without three basics the clarity process doesn’t run. Like the systematic approach to understanding why the car doesn’t start, you can logically answer why the team doesn’t have clarity. Has adequate time been invested in the process? You need more than a weekend retreat. Have we asked enough of the right questions? You need to overcome the General Sense Dilemma and get that mind hitting on all eight cylinders. Have we invited the right people to provide perspective and challenge the process? You need more than one person to navigate the tunnel of chaos.
So, how do you get started with these three essential ingredients? First, calendar block at least 8 hours per month to work on clarity and nothing else. If you do, I’ll bet you easily have 6 months worth of meaningful progress in store. Second, grab a good resource that will provide questions. I wrote Church Unique, Innovating Discipleship and God Dreams to provide an abundance of questions and tools, but there are other good resources out there. Here are 36 good ones to get you started on 20/20 Vision. Third, invite the best 3-7 people into the process to push, challenge and ultimately affirm your thinking. These people are right in front of you when you are ready to invite them to the table.
Lesson #3- The Teachability Ticket:
While clarity is free for all there is a fee– humility.
The amazing thing about clarity is its accessibility. God democratized clarity from day one. There is no discrimination– it’s available to all. The only price is your posture. Once you know all three ingredients of The Combustion Recipe all you have to do is add them together with the mixing spoon of humility. Without humility, it’s hard to find the time (you’re too busy), it’s insulting to ask the questions (you’re too smart) and it feels slow to invite people into the process (you’re too results oriented).
Pastors don’t pursue clarity not because they don’t care about the future. They don’t pursue clarity because they think they have vision “generally” figured out.
To call it “free” may sound funny coming from a guy who makes a living from clarity facilitation. Yes, I do charge for vision consulting. But that’s the exception for the times and places where acceleration of time, questions and collaboration are worth the additional investment. But for most leaders that’s unnecessary.
Lesson #4- The Intuition Trap:
The natural talent of intuitive leaders is often a barrier to greater clarity.
This lesson was learned with grief. I enjoy close proximity with really gifted leaders. The irony is that many of the most gifted visionaries don’t spend enough time on leading with clarity. The reason is that their intuitive leadership talent and spontaneous ability to inspire others become a lifetime substitute for the substance of a carefully codified culture. Most ministry is guided by charisma not clarity.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are two moments that I really enjoy. The first is when a leader with limited visionary intuition works the intentional vision process well. They fight to discern, develop and deploy great clarity. Believe it or not, these leaders always surpass the super star preachers who don’t put their hand to the vision plow. The second moment is when the intuitive leader chooses to sharpen their great gifts with great process. Intuition plus intention creates an exponential impact that takes men and women to the moon for Jesus.
Most ministry is guided by charisma not clarity.
For example, consider Church of the Highlands, one of America’s notable rapid growth churches that was started less than 20 years ago. Pastor Chris Hodges takes hundreds of staff through a process every year to determine one goal that will most positively impact everything else they want to do. In God Dreams we call this a one-year goal or mid-ground vision. Most pastors would never take the time to wield that kind of clarity.
Lesson #5- The Courage Syphon:
Clarity attained means nothing without the courage to act.
At least one-third of the leaders who make it to break-thru don’t follow-through. It took me about eight years to internalize this lesson. I assumed clarity was everything. But’s it’s not. Without courage, clarity is almost like a curse–you are better off without it!
Having a Vision Frame is like having a solid GPS. But without fuel in the vehicle it doesn’t help to know where you are and where you are headed. The gasoline is courage. It’s the convictional stuff that moves the clarity work forward. And some leaders let people syphon it from their tanks like looters in the night. Why do leaders lack the grit and gusto to lead with from the vision they have just achieved? That’s another article altogether.
I have spent every day for two decades converting, convincing and cajoling church leaders to work on clarity.
A great example is a client named Kyle, who leads a church in the Mountain West. He invested in a Vision Framing process this year and texted me while I was finishing this post. Kyle exhibited a powerful spirit and tenacity when it came time to act on what God revealed. His text reads:
“Also, I wanted to thank Auxano. We ended the year $210,000 ahead of budget- the first surplus we have had since I can remember. That’s over a 20% increase and I didn’t even do a generosity series. We just started intentionally implementing the vision."
What do the remaining clarity lessons bring? You can scan the next ten lessons below. Continue to follow along as I roll out the rest as we celebrate 2020 this week!!
The Next Five Lessons: Part 2
Lesson #6- The Elusive Unicorn: The power of clarity begins and ends with singularity.
Lesson #7- The Complexity Lid: As the organization grows a leader must invest disproportionately more time to create continued clarity.
Lesson #8- The Genuine Ladder: Most “success” is not guided by great clarity; therefore the litmus for clarity is not success but meaningful progress.
Lesson #9- The Platinum Token: The two halves of the clarity coin are identity and direction, which always cash in together.
Lesson #10- The Infinite Incline: If you live another day, there is always more perspective.
The Final Five Lessons: Part 3
Lesson #11- The Spotter’s Lens
Lesson #12- The Constriction Secret
Lesson #13- The Proud Pappa
Lesson #14- The Toyota Vacation
Lesson #15- The Daily Dawn