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Have you ever been hiking in a group when the leader got too far ahead, leaving some to find their own route and end up lost? It matters little that these hikers knew up front where the group was headed or what they planned to do when they got there: When they tried to find their own path, they ultimately failed. And it wasn’t necessarily their fault.

CarbonNYC via Compfight cc

This scenario happens all too often in the Church. A pastor puts great energy into casting vision for his leadership team without helping them find the specific direction they need to take.

Department leaders are left trying to turn the conceptual into practical steps. What was intended for long-term alignment becomes only a short-term starting point from which each person blazes a different trail.

How can pastors prevent casting vision that ultimately leads to chaos? We’ve found these three tips to be helpful:

Don’t Just Focus on the Big Picture.

If you stay so focused on the big picture that you never come down to Earth, your team will be left to their own paradigms to interpret your directions. The lead pastor should meet early on with all department leaders to help them see the first steps they should take towards the overall goal.

Identify Vision’s Best Friend: The Strategist.

A lot of visionary leaders struggle with the details. It’s a fact! Instead of letting this hamper progress, find a strategic thinker to come alongside and help prioritize action. This could be an executive pastor, a consultant, or another detail-oriented team member. Fight the urge to be distant from the nitty-gritty action items, however. You may not be the one carrying out the specifics, but your visionary presence inspires and helps the whole team stay focused on the big picture while they are hashing out the smaller details.

Take Responsibility for Keeping Leaders on Course. Consistently.

As the vision-caster, your vantage point should help you identify when team members are taking steps off course before they become critical and you find yourself stuck. The longer you wait to course-correct, the greater that divergence will become and the more difficult it will be to reverse. Check in often. Create systems that regularly evaluate how your leaders are spending time and resources against the big picture and help them feel supported.

Take time to think through your plan as a leader before you cast vision. How are you going to implement these three tips? Where will the pitfalls be? Which team leaders will need extra attention or extra direction?

If you have a plan in place before you start painting the picture, you’re more likely to succeed in setting each leader in the right direction and helping them all work together to reach the vision.

If you’re struggling making a plan in this next season, our team would love to partner with you.

For the last 11 years, we’ve been providing pastors with an ally—coaching them as they lead churches towards a new vision for the future, with the ultimate goal of continually reaching new people and helping them take next steps towards Christ.

We’d love to help you grow your ability to effectively lead your team and your church to thrive in the new normal. 

To learn more about how we can serve your church, check out our consulting options or our Unstuck Leadership Coaching.

Photo Credit: CarbonNYC via Compfight cc

Ryan Stigile

Ryan Stigile serves as the Executive Pastor of Rock Bridge Community Church, a 5-campus church with campuses in Georgia and Tennessee. Previously, as Director of Expansion at NewPointe Community Church (NE Ohio), Ryan led the launch and development of new multisite campuses. With Mount Paran Church (Atlanta, GA), he guided the leadership team through a strategic change initiative to simplify and align its ministries. Ryan has a Master of Business Administration from Kennesaw State University and degrees in business administration and discipleship ministry from Lee University. He lives in Dalton, GA with his wife Emily and their daughter, Addison.

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