If your people don’t seem clear on where they’re going, if your ministry leaders aren’t sure how to measure whether they’re successful, you might have a vision drift problem. Effective vision casting means keeping your focus solely on what God is calling you toward, never wavering or drifting along with the latest and greatest trends. As a senior pastor, one of your primary roles is to establish–and then consistently move people toward a preferred vision of the future. Everyone needs reminding and they need that reminding regularly. The next of the twelve essential qualities of a senior pastor that we will explore is visionizing.
For the purpose of the Senior Pastor Profile, Visionizing means leading people to discern, embrace, and pursue God’s Kingdom agenda.
We have a vision that far surpasses all we can ask or imagine. The challenge is how to lay hold of a vision so wide and so deep, and how to keep it always in the forefront of our minds.
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”
That is the future we are moving toward. Praying as Jesus prayed, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”? Bringing even the smallest glimpses, tastes, and sounds of the coming Kingdom to those around us in this world now, where that need is so deeply felt and so desperately needed. Giving a cup of cold water to one who is thirsty. Being the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus to those around us so they also can catch this vision of what is to come. How can we do this?
The role of a senior pastor is not only to live out that reality, but also to call it out—to be the voice of one calling in the wilderness to make way for the Lord, who is coming. The best senior pastors cast a vision that leaves people eager to move toward it and willing to sacrifice to get there.
7 Habits that Demonstrate Visionizing
What does it look like for someone to visionize well? Although it’s a bit different for everyone, here are some of the features held in common:
1. Pictures and communicates a preferred future
One of the main goals of every senior pastor is visionizing: that means picturing a preferred future and then finding compelling ways to communicate that vision. Without vision and hope, churches die… because they have nowhere to go and no purpose to fulfill.
2. Gets people to commit to the vision
People hearing about a vision and committing to it are two very different things. They may hear a vision and feel antagonistic toward it, ambivalent, or even ignore it altogether. Senior pastors need to place significant amounts of energy helping people buy into the vision and commit to it, or it will ultimately stall out and go nowhere.
3. Initiates building toward a preferred future
Talk is just talk. Concrete steps need to be taken if a congregation is to move toward their preferred vision. If the senior pastor doesn’t lead others in starting that journey, he or she will lose credibility next time they try to bring up an idea or direction. People will simply stop taking what they have to say seriously until they begin to actually see forward movement. Getting to this point makes it significantly harder to lead future change.
4. Mobilizes efforts and resources toward the desired end
Change doesn’t just happen without energy and resources behind it. Keeping everything as-is while adding new initiatives doesn’t work. People will burn out. Effort, energy, and money must all be restructured to facilitate movement toward the desired end.
5. Engages effectively with non-visionizing people
There will always be people who resist change. How a pastor works with those people leads to success or failure. Rather than arguing or overruling their concerns, try listening. Understand their position and adapt the plan to address their worries. The plan will be stronger for it, and the pastor will have created allies rather than enemies. If all else fails, move on with the change without them and allow them time to watch and see the eventual results. Trying to force matters is never helpful.
6. Creates opportunities out of obstacles
Unanticipated problems will also arise. Expect them, and look at them as opportunities for creativity. How can you solve this problem? Who else can you bring in to help you think it through? What other methods might be more effective? What can you learn from those you are trying to serve or reach? Outside-the-box thinking thrives on obstacles.
7. Gets measurable results
Change isn’t change if nothing changes. Effective senior pastors need to consider how they will measure success. For instance, if their goal is to make disciples, what would that look like if they did? How would the ministry be different? What would those disciples be doing? Find ways to measure even non-numerical results to assess whether plans are succeeding.
How well are you visionizing?
If you would like to assess yourself in this area, take some time to reflect on the following questions. Write out your answers for more complete processing, or talk them through with someone if you’re more of a verbal processor.
- How have you pictured and communicated a preferred future?
- How have you gotten people to commit to the vision?
- In what ways have you initiated building toward a preferred future?
- How have you mobilized efforts and resources toward the desired end?
- How do you engage effectively with non-visioning people?
- When have you created opportunities out of obstacles?
- How have you tracked measurable results?
Visionizing is 1 of 12 qualities that have been proven to be essential to successful and healthy senior church leadership. To learn more, read The BEST qualities in a Senior Pastor. Next week, look out for another crucial quality for senior pastors.
Effective communication skills are crucial. Research has shown that empathizing, receiving, clarifying, understanding, reading non-verbal cues, giving and receiving feedback, and transmitting your message all contribute to effective communication. Use the Effective Communication Profile to discover how well you do in these areas. Work with a coach or help others develop their communication skills with the Effective Communication Coaching Guide and Storyboard.
The Leadership Difference focuses specifically on key leadership skills you need to be effective as a leader. Whether you are leading a church, a team, or a small group, skills and strategies like these will result in lightening your own load, developing the skills of others, and getting the job done effectively. “If I had to choose between a four-unit college course on church leadership, or buying Bob’s book, I’d buy Bob’s book.”—Amazon Review