Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Leadership (6)

This is the sixth in my series of articles on leadership. We have been exploring the application of five lessons for leaders in the 21st century. They were developed by Joel Barker in a video called Leadershift. This series of articles provides my perspective on the lessons and their application to the local church setting. In the last lesson (in mid July) we explored the impact of our leadership style and how it affects our productivity as a leader. The last of Barker’s lessons is we must create shared vision to build bridges to the future.

I have worked with a number of churches, denominational organizations and Christian ministries as they sought to think strategically about the future and their ministries. I believe the heart of the strategy planning process is the development or refinement of the church’s mission and vision statements. Not everyone defines “mission” and “vision” in the same ways. I define a “mission” statement as a statement of identity or purpose. It is a statement that defines who we are and why we exist. I believe a “vision” statement is a statement of direction or destination. It is a statement that describes where we are going or the direction of our journey.

The mission statement should be brief, clear, and powerful. The vision statement should be concise and motivating. However, no matter how clear and powerful your statements are or how comprehensive your plan is, unless your congregation and church leaders come to share the vision it is unlikely any real change will take place.

Remember the definition of a leader. A leader is someone you choose to follow to a place you wouldn’t go by yourself. People have to choose to follow you. If no one is following, then you are not leading. We are leading the people of God on a journey of faith. We are attempting to move from where we are to where we believe God desires us to be. Leaders build bridges that enable people to make the trip.

There are many pastors who have given up on the journey because they have been unable to lead their congregations to share the vision. I understand their frustrations. It is so much easier to settle into a maintenance situation than to explore a fresh vision for the future. In reality “maintenance” is what makes many congregations comfortable, but leadership is not about comfort.

My experience is that it is much more than “approving a plan” or passing a recommendation at the business meeting. It is real ownership of the vision. I have rarely seen this happen unless the church leadership is personally and vitally involved in the process developing or discovering the vision. The church must come to adopt or own the vision. They must believe the bridges proposed will make the journey possible. They must be convinced the vision represents God’s will. They must see the ministry potential the vision creates, and they must be led by a leader whom they trust because he or she has “shared” the discovery process with them. I want to encourage pastors not to give up. The congregation does not have to get to their destination today or even tomorrow. They just need to be moving toward a shared vision of God’s plan for their ministry. Don’t stop building bridges to the future.

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