First, remember that God equips certain members of the church as pilots — people equipped to navigate the church between the rocks and shoals.
We assume that these people are elders, and that would be fortuitous indeed. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The church’s best pilots may be on staff or a part of the ladies Bible class or volunteers in the food pantry program. Find these people and have them help in designing the vision-discernment effort.
Second, “vision” does NOT mean “vision statement.” I have no interest in vision statements. I think they’re a waste of time because they inevitably say too much. Committees strive for perfection, and in church work, that means comprehensive doctrinal correctness. So while a vision statement ought to be along the lines of “Seeking the lost,” we’d far rather say, “Training, praying, serving, and helping those having spiritual and/or physical needs.” Blech … I find no guidance or direction in a 30-word vision statement that sounds like the product of a committee.
The subject, you see, is vision not vision statements. A vision is something someone sees. And the goal of the process is to help the church see what it could be if, with God’s help, the church is led to realize the vision.
It’s not a vision statement about educating the illiterate. It’s being able to see in one’s mind’s eye what the church would look like if we educated the illiterate and brought to Jesus many of those we teach while we’re at it. Think about it. Picture it. Envision it.
Can you see study centers? Someone visiting social agencies and low-income housing to recruit persons to educate? Training sessions for the teachers? Literature designed by experts to help an adult learn to read while learning about Jesus? Follow up classes and programs? Training teachers on how to live and share Jesus while teaching the alphabet to adults? Doing it right by consulting with other churches that have done this successfully? Secular nonprofits that have had success? Talking to experienced leaders about how to do it right and what mistakes to avoid?
Just asking the questions helps paint the picture. But a vision statement about adult literacy and Jesus does not. In fact, it tends to create the impression that we’ve already done the hard work, when in fact we haven’t even begun.
Now, if the preacher can help the church to see the vision in fact — and to see that this is God’s vision for this church at this time — then he’s got something for the ol’ resume. And he’s done great work for the congregation he serves.
And if he’s done this, then the members will develop the habit of asking whether the church they see today looks like the church they’ve envisioned. And when it doesn’t, they’ll know that it doesn’t — and likely why it doesn’t, because the vision has been painted so very clearly. Even if they haven’t memorized the vision statement.