It is at times when problems seem insurmountable that churches and organizations most need to focus on a positive vision for the future, rather than merely avoiding a negative one.
Behavioral research has shown that when groups focus on solving problems, they soon become depressed and anxious, but when they formulate plans by working backward from a positive future they want to create, they develop energy, enthusiasm, optimism and high commitment.
And yet, most church teams are very good at obsessively explaining and analyzing their problems and failures and discussing all the reasons why something can’t or shouldn’t be done.
So Why Do So Many Church Vision Processes Fail To Energize?
First, the traditional church vision process usually takes the form of understanding where we are now, the current reality, and then determining the gaps that exist between the current reality and the desired future. Though understanding reality is a key job of leaders, the problem with this approach is that it begins the planning process in a negative mindset because you realize your church or organization is already in the hole, so to speak.
Second, the typical church vision process devotes significant time to the cause and result analysis of problems and issues. Though this is an important exercise to understand the origin of problems, it again focuses on the negative and often fails to address the often hidden problems that church leaders face, such as deeply held beliefs, traditions, and assumptions and complex emotional and sociological barriers.
The result is a negative focused vision process that emphasizes the following:
- organizational weaknesses
- problem solving
- obstacle mitigation
A Different Approach To The Vision Process
What would it look like if churches took a different approach to planning for the future, an approach which focuses on what’s working well and what a positive and energizing vision of the future could look like rather than focusing solely on problems, issues and obstacles?
A vision process like this typically involves including a large section of the church staff and congregation in reflecting upon their strengths and successes and imagining visions and dreams of what is possible. This is the first step to move the dialogue from Deficits/Weaknesses, what’s wrong, to Strengths/Successes, what is working well and could be done better and emphasized more, and Possibilities/Opportunities, what opportunities are there that allow us to do what we do best. Research shows that organizations that focus on their strengths, what they do best, and what truly works improve their key metrics significantly more than those who obsess over what is broken.
Every church and organization has something that works right–things that give it life and vitality when it is effective and successful. Problem solving gets replaced with innovation when the focus is on identifying this positive and successful DNA and connecting it to a vision that heightens energy and inspires action for change.
Posted on June 23, 2020