I’ve had the privilege of working with several congregations as they develop a fresh vision for mission-focused ministry. I’ve noticed an initial tendency among these congregations for the “Reaching up…Reaching in…Reaching out” type of vision statements. The “up, in, out” statements express a desire for maturity, fellowship and outreach. Those passions are commendable but they fail to locate a congregation’s vision in their zip code.
Throughout the New Testament a church’s zip code was critically important. Paul, for example, spoke to the church “in Corinth” and addressed specific Corinthian challenges. Similarly, a church’s vision should connect with the needs and opportunities within and outside a congregation’s walls. A good vision statement reflects the uniqueness of congregational setting.
Here are some ways to land vision in your neck of the woods:
DISCOVER FIRST…THEN IMAGINE
The first task of vision development is getting to know the people living in and outside your walls. What are the spiritual, relational, emotional and physical challenges of those living in the extended shadow of your steeple? Engaging in listening events, prayer walking your neighborhood and meeting with neighborhood school, law enforcement and social service leaders helps. Taking the REVEAL survey and ordering a MissionInsite report from the CRCNA mission team can also be useful. When information has been gathered ask, “In light of what we’ve discovered, what would Christ have us do?”
DEVELOP A VISION PYRAMID
A vision pyramid creates increasing levels of specificity. A vision pyramid is built from the base up. Level one names God’s mission. It is a statement that could fit all churches no matter location. Level two is the vision statement which asks “How will God’s mission be lived out in our neck of the woods?” Level three identifies 3-5 congregational values (the culture of a congregation) that sustain the vision. Above vision is an objective which paints a simple and compelling picture of what life will be like when the vision is fully deployed. Finally, at the peak of the pyramid are the annual S.M.A.R.T goals which translate vision into action. Each building block brings a congregation one step closer to landing vision in their neighborhood.
FLOAT THE VISION
When the first draft of a vision statement has been completed it should be test marketed with those it hopes to serve. Ask members of the congregation and community, “If this vision were to become fully operational, would it make a significant difference in your life and in the lives of others living in our community.” If it elicits a glazed look or a yawn, the vision must be revisited.
ROOT VISION IN A TWO-FOLD COMMITMENT
All visions must live out a two-fold commitment of being communities of grace focused on the Gospel and communities of blessing focused on justice and mercy. Faith communities abundant with grace and blessing always transform lives and communities for Christ. Does your vision reflect a commitment to be a community of grace and blessing in your neck of the woods?