Communicating a vision for your church has always been important, but this year, it’s more important than it’s ever been. People are overwhelmed, isolated, divided, and in need of hope. As a leader, you need something that will bring them together for the sake of the gospel- and you can’t do that if you don’t have a compelling vision or can’t communicate it with clarity.
Communicating your vision with clarity means that you’re talking about it in such a way that your people connect with it, memorize it, and embrace it as their own. Because here’s the sad truth: it’s possible to have a compelling vision from God and not be able to get people on board to help you accomplish it. This is because you haven’t worked through how to make it digestible and applicable to your people. It’s like going on a road trip without thinking about what supplies you’re going to take or where everyone’s going to sit.
Bottom line? Don’t be cute. Sacrificing depth and clarity of purpose for a catchy phrase is never worth the trade-off.
Right now, you might be thinking, “I’m not thinking about 2021, I need to get through Christmas!” Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with our Christmas Marketing Blueprint episode that will help you increase your attendance/viewership. If you haven’t seen it already, though, you should check it out sooner rather than later- there’s a certain timeline you need to follow. Since your online Christmas experience is going to be a bigger deal than ever this year, we’ve also done an episode on seven streaming ideas for your online Christmas service.
After you’ve planned Christmas, casting vision for 2021- the topic of today’s episode- is what happens next. We’re going to take a hypothetical situation and walk you through it so that you can apply it to your own God-given vision for your church.
Once you’ve figured out where God wants you to go, through much prayer and thought, you need to boil down your vision into one very clear and simple statement. Those words are worth repeating: your message needs to be simple and clear, not clever. If your vision is a hundred things or not well-defined, it’s going to be very difficult for people to hop on board. Do your best to figure out where God wants to take you and communicate that in one sentence.
In our example, many people in the church have stopped attending in 2020. This is not surprising, but the pastor wants to get the church back on track. So in this case, the clear, simple statement might be something like, “To reach people who are not attending church, we are going to launch a digital, online campus.” They’re essentially saying, “Our vision is to have a healthy digital online campus.” There are a few great things about this. First, it’s clear and direct- it leaves no question about the goals. Second, it’s specific and names a measurable outcome for success.
If there’s no tension between where you are and where you want to be, your vision will not be perceived as important. Think through: what’s the problem you’re trying to overcome? So in this example, the problem would be, “Because of the pandemic, many people have stopped attending church in person because of large crowds. This causes them to be more lonely, isolated, and disconnected from a relationship with Jesus.” This statement goes beyond saying what the problem is for the church, and talks about how it affects people. That’s a good thing!
When you’re communicating this vision for the first time, you have to lead with the problem and that tension. Let people know WHY this is important, and your vision will be much more impactful.
Here’s what we mean: when you’re defining the problem, don’t just lead with emotions. Obviously, you want to show empathy and care for the people affected by the problem, but that’s just the starting point. As you continue to define the problem, lead with something bigger. What do you believe about the problem? And, more importantly, how does that belief affect your actions?
In this example, the philosophical problem would be, “People should understand the importance of the church in their lives, and shouldn’t have to fear attending a weekend meeting. We can be a place where people connect to other people in person, but also online so that they can grow in their faith through a healthy and loving community.”
Casting vision without giving a clear plan of action is a recipe for disaster. If you need people to come along with you for this journey- and you do!- they need to know where you’re headed. A great way to do this is to use a simple three-step plan.
In our example, this might look something like the following:
Obviously, all of these steps will be broken into sub-steps and action items, but having a road map for people really helps. You can put deadlines on these steps and communicate them to your congregation. When you do this, it seems possible to them, because you’re taking things one step at a time and demonstrating that you’ve given thought to how it might work out.
It’s also important to have a three-step plan because people aren’t inside your head. They can’t imagine the vision the way you do. So if you present this grand, sweeping vision without any specifics, they’ll get lost. However, if you break it down into three easy-to-remember steps, they can grasp that and become engaged emotionally.
Communicating wins can best be done by answering the question, “What would it look like if we accomplished this? How would our world look different?”
In our example, that would sound something like this, “People in our community will experience the joy of knowing Jesus and growing in their relationship with Him. They will benefit from plugging into an online, local community of believers where they and their children will hear the gospel, be challenged in their faith, and take the gospel to other parts of our community.”
Basically, you’re saying, “Imagine what could happen if we nail this!” This gets people excited because they start to see what could be.
When we’re presented with a new idea, the first thought in our minds is often something along the lines of, “Yes, but is it worth it?” If there’s nothing at risk, the vision will not be as compelling as keeping the status quo. Communicating this effectively goes back to the problem we discussed earlier- what’s at stake, or what could be lost if you don’t solve the problem?
Here’s the example: “If we fail, people will continue to become more disconnected from the local church. Our children and families will become more isolated, and our community will suffer more from the lack of gospel awareness.” This is a powerful reminder of our personal responsibility in this area.
As humans, we are more scared of losing that we are excited by gaining. This sometimes causes us to not risk things in order to make gains. By communicating the loss, you’re helping to communicate what’s really at stake if nothing changes.
This is the part people usually skip but it’s so important. It’s simple, too. All you have to do is answer the question, “What do you want your people to do?” What’s one simple action step they can take immediately, to help you accomplish this vision?
Don’t just get people excited without telling them how they can help make the vision a reality. In this example, the call to action could be something like, “Sign up for our digital campus discovery meeting, donate to church digital campus initiative, pray, and attend our digital campus discovery meeting.” That’s a super easy next step for people to take and will help you get well on your way to getting this thing going.
Here’s how all the pieces would fit together, using our example:
“Many people in our community are becoming disconnected from the local church, more isolated from relationships with other people, and this has all been the result of the pandemic. By the end of this year, we will plant a new online campus for people in our community, so they can be confident about attending church. When people can confidently attend church, they’ll build relationships with other people, connect and grow in their relationship with Jesus, and our community will see how the gospel can transform a city.”
As we said at the beginning of this episode, it’s important that you have a vision. You’ve probably already prayed and felt like God has given you a direction for the year ahead. When it’s time to communicate that vision, you have to make sure that it’s clear, compelling, and your congregation is able to rally around it.
We just released something that can help you with your vision for 2021- our sermon calendars! They’ll give you a big-picture plan for the sermon series content that you’re going to be preaching on throughout the year. They come with graphics, media, small group discussion questions, sermon starter guides, sermon illustrations- really, they come with everything you need as a starting point for your sermon preparation.
We have several calendars to choose from. The topical calendar, which breaks up the year according to different topics or themes, the expository calendar, which works through 2021 in large passages or by Bible books. We’ve also released two new, super-incredible options this year. The lectionary calendar works through the church calendar, through seasons like advent, epiphany, lent, and Pentecost. We also have “The Gospel Story,” which works through the entire Bible in one year, telling the story of Scripture and connecting it all to the person of Jesus.