By Ryan Stigile, contributing writer
Anyone who has ever led a hiking group knows how important it is for everyone to stay together. If one person veers off in even a slightly different direction, he could end up miles away by the end of the day. The pursuit of vision requires the same unity of direction. Unfortunately, many pastors cast only the desired destination without any clear instruction on which trail to take. Their vision-casting process goes something like this:
- Develop organization-wide vision
- Cast vision to the leadership team
- Make each department leader fully responsible for implementing vision within his or her area
From there, department leaders must try to turn conceptual vision into practical implementation. Like hikers without a compass, they each take their best guess at the direction they should go. Influenced by their own paradigms, everyone may begin “implementing the vision” but each in a unique way that splits off from its original trajectory. What was intended for long-term alignment becomes only a short-term starting point from which each person blazes a different trail.
Differing paradigms map divergent directions. Consider the following steps to prevent your team from being “lost in the woods:”
Step #1 Cast Micro-Vision
If you’re only casting vision at 30,000 feet, you have little control over where people land. Early in the visioning process, the lead pastor must meet regularly with each department leader to paint a practical picture of the future that he or she should pursue. If these pictures are not clearly painted, each leader will paint their own.
Step #2 Partner with a Strategic Thinker
Most lead pastors struggle with the “dirty details.” Visionary leaders need a strategic thinker to help them engage implementation consistently throughout the organization. For some churches, this is an Executive Pastor or another detail-focused team member. If you don’t have the right person on staff, seriously consider partnering with a consultant. Utilize this individual in micro-vision meetings to guide each department leader through a detailed planning process. Remain present in meetings to show support for the process and ensure that everyone is headed in the intended direction.
Step #3 Constantly Course-Correct
Because department leaders are typically visionaries, they will continually pursue new ideas. While this pursuit of innovation is highly desirable, some new ideas will head in diverging directions. Pay regular attention to the decisions of each department. When you see something that is even slightly off path, course-correct before it becomes more critically divergent. The longer you wait to course-correct, the greater that divergence will become and the more difficult it will be to reverse. (If your organization is currently stuck, it is likely due in part to previously permitted divergences).
Your church was founded with a clear course charted toward a unified understanding of vision. Somewhere along the way, each department may have taken its own direction, creating disunity and complexity over time. Make sure your next vision-cast is more than just a shared starting point.
Ryan Stigile serves as the Strategic Analyst for Mount Paran Church in Atlanta, GA. Ryan is passionate about the inclusion of organizational principles in the local church. He is currently an MBA student at Kennesaw State University.