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Why Do So Many Church Vision And Change Processes Fail To Inspire?

According to Gallup’s recent State of the American Workplace report, only 22% of U.S. employees strongly agree that their company’s leaders have a clear direction for their organization. My guess is those numbers are similar for churches as well.

Certainly most church leaders spend significant time and resources defining and communicating their church’s vision. So, why then do so many vision and change processes fail to inspire staff and congregations? There are several possible reasons for initiatives failing to inspire positive change. But, there is one reason that stands out above all others.

The Main Reason Why Vision And Change Fails To Inspire

Perhaps the most important reason for the failure of a church vision and change initiatives to inspire is simply this: Most church leaders do not include a significant number of people in shaping the vision and direction of their church.

A new vision statement or change initiative is often decided among a small group of core staff and lay leadership, maybe with an outside consultant facilitating, and then communicated with extraordinary effort to the rest of the staff and congregation. This is all done with the hope that the proposed change will become widely embraced. In reality, the vision or change rarely achieves the buy-in that church leaders hope, expect, and pray for.

What if there was a way to create a compelling approach that guarantees buy-in?

An Alternative Approach: Get Everybody Involved

Consider a church that wants to develop a new vision or incorporate a needed change. Instead of gathering a few staff and key lay leaders in an off-site retreat, they decide to engage a large part of the staff and congregation in the process of determining the vision or the needed change.

First, staff across all levels and functions come together in collaborative sessions to pray and to discuss the church’s aspirations, opportunities, and future strategy with a focus on the church’s strengths, uniqueness, and what ministries are already working well.

Next, focus groups representing all ages, demographics, constituencies, and ministries come together in a similar discussions.

These comments are pulled together and shared with a leadership team who then develop a vision or change statement with strategies and goals. Because the staff and congregation had a critical role in shaping the initiatives, there is naturally greater buy-in and a strong commitment. The result is a small army of change advocates from day one.

Buy-In Comes From Meaningful Conversations With A Variety Of Stakeholders

Effective leaders are not limited by the biases of their own executive leadership team. Real change emerges from meaningful conversations with various constituencies. By bringing new voices together, new discussions can happen, new visions and dreams can be articulated, new perspectives can emerge, new passions can be aroused, and new possibilities for the future can develop. Simply put: If you want to have a different conversation, you have to change the people who sit at the input table. And, if you want buy-in, you have to gain the input of a large number of stakeholders.

When church leaders have a deeper understanding of their staff and congregation’s perspectives, and include their prayers and input into a change initiative, implementing the change becomes easier. Why? Because people naturally begin to identify with and champion the change they themselves want to see and have been a part of developing.

Isn’t it time to consider taking a different approach to discovering your church’s future direction?


Posted on June 16, 2020
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Jim Baker

Jim is a Church Organizational Leadership and Management Coach, Consultant and Trainer. Throughout his career Jim has demonstrated a passion for showing Pastors and Ministers how to use organizational tools for church and personal growth and health.

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“For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5