Walt Disney was known to be a man of great vision.
Disney World opened it’s doors on October 1, 1971. Unfortunately, Walt Disney himself died five years prior to that, so he was not able to see his theme park come to life.
During the ceremony to dedicate the park, someone reportedly turned to Mrs. Disney and remarked, “Isn’t it a shame that Walt didn’t live to see this?”
Mrs. Disney then turned to that person and famously said, “He did see it. That’s why it’s here.”
Hearing that story makes the lump in my throat swell up, how about you? Something about it connects and resonates in my soul and it makes me feel unbreakable! That’s what a clear vision does: it outlasts you. I hope that in your churches and in mine, our people would catch on to God’s vision for us in such a way that makes it unbreakable too!
Vision is a hard thing to define, usually because it only lives in the head and the heart of the pastor or leadership. So how do we make our God-given vision something that others adopt as their own? How do we build a theme park?
In no particular order, I believe there are at least six elements of an unbreakable vision of the future.
Unbreakable Vision Identifies How to Play Well
It is easy to understand who the winner is in any sporting event. The team with the most points at the end wins (except soccer and hockey. Come on, guys. Ties? Really?).
Your mission statement gives you the goal, or the “what” you are trying to accomplish. However, mission statements are just the tip of the iceberg and only give a definition of the win. Vision defines what it means to play well.
The vision is best described as a story of the perfect scenario. It is a clearly defined picture of the future that can be reasonably attained through God’s power.
Knowing exactly what that looks like helps everyone know when the vision is being achieved, thus, everyone wins. It could mean that guests are greeted at every touch point as they visit your church, or that everyone is part of a small group and is actively serving, or that Tony Romo doesn’t get hurt. Seriously, this is going to be a long season.
Unbreakable Vision Tells the Right Story
One church I worked at hired an outside firm who wrote a story for our vision. It was so incredible to hear it that way that we all immediately got it and adopted it. They started with “A young, married couple with 2 kids drives into our parking lot on a Sunday and sees directional signs showing them where first time guests park” and ended with “They came back and joined a small group because they had experienced such a friendly church that met them where they were at.”
They may as well have said “And they lived happily ever-after” because that’s how we all felt. It was a Disney movie in the making!
When your staff and leadership understand what it looks like when the story is right, they can adopt and implement it themselves.
Unbreakable Vision Identifies the Target Audience
Notice the first thing in the vision example from above was “A young married couple with 2 kids.” That was on purpose, and not because we don’t want any old people to come. We used the volume of our band to handle that little problem. (I kid, I kid)
How does the old saying go? Aim at nothing and you’ll hit it every time? That’s why it’s important to narrow down a target audience in your vision. It should represent a demographic of people that you can realistically reach (i.e. they live around you). It does NOT mean that you’re purposely ignoring any particular groups, but it DOES mean you’re not trying to reach everyone. Read that a few times before you start your angry comment.
Unbreakable Vision is Easy to Explain
The best vision is a simple vision. Vision statements can get detailed and vague quick, so do your best to keep it lean and simple, yet straightforward. Write it with the intention of others being able to repeat most of it in some way after hearing it only once. Try not to sound like this.
They may paraphrase your vision, but that’s OK. Telling the story in their own voice allows them to adopt it. You will know if the key points are there or not and don’t be afraid of coaching leaders on this. Well-trained leaders are how the vision can be spread and maintained.
Unbreakable Vision is Shared
A ministry vision dies on the table if only one person knows and understands it. One person can rarely implement vision by himself; others need to understand it, adopt it, and implement it too. This means that you shouldn’t be the only one speaking into the vision.
I made that mistake early on in my last youth ministry. Before I knew anything about the group I had a vision ready to go and I implemented it in week one. It didn’t work.
After about a year, in frustration, I asked three volunteers in my ministry to meet at my house to help me come up with our new mission, vision, and values. What we came up with collectively began to turn our student ministry around. It resonated in a personal way because they had skin in the game and it caused adults and students alike to rally behind it.
Want to know the magical statement? The first vision was “Challenging Skeptics and Fueling Believers.” It was more about me and what I was about than my youth ministry.
Collectively, we came up with, “Making Disciples of Jesus who Make Disciples of Jesus.” It was MUCH better suited to who our group was!
What are your thoughts on vision? I’d love to hear how a powerful and clear vision has changed your ministry.