The Bridge Between Your Church’s Vision and Reality  - Leaders.Church

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The Bridge Between Your Church’s Vision and Reality 

I once heard it said, “A dream without a plan is just a wish.” This is true when it comes to growing your church. You have a vision that you feel the Lord has planted in your heart for your church.  However, a lot of times, that vision fails to connect with our congregation or when we find ourselves stuck, asking, “Why is my church not growing?” The answer is found within the bridge between your church’s vision and reality.

We find ourselves compromising on our vision and mission to try and create action and movement. We attempt to stimulate growth through continually changing the big picture or outline; when in all reality, it has more to do with the breakdown of the steps to make the vision a reality. 

We cannot expect an outcome if the steps are not in place. Imagine trying to build a skyscraper without detailed plans of what to do next. You will have a lot of construction workers standing around with tools in their hands with nothing to do. Eventually, they leave for another project that isn’t stalled.  

In this post we’ll look at the bridge between your church’s vision and reality:  

Broad Vision
Focused Action
Start Small
Maintain Consistency
Communicate Often

As the leader of your organization, it is your job to build a bridge between your church’s vision and reality through broad vision and focused action. Remember, Habakkuk 2:2 (NIV) instructs us, “Write the vision down plainly, so that the runner may run with it.”  

Let’s break broad vision and focused action down for a second: 

Broad Vision

Church has to have a broad vision. There has to be something worth fighting for. For example, I recently bribed my wife to watch The Lord of the Rings with me. It has been an effort four years in the making.  

As I was watching the third installment, Return of the King, I was struck by one of the final scenes. Aragorn and his company of warriors decide to march to The Black Gate, Sauron (the big bad guy’s main fortress). He knows they cannot win the fight because they are outnumbered; however, if he can create a diversion, then they will take Sauron’s focus off of Frodo and Sam and allow them to reach Mount Doom and destroy the One Ring. Surrounded, Aragorn and his companions charge straight into the heart of a vast army. Why? Broad vision. They were creating a diversion so that all of Middle-Earth could be saved (Ok, nerd moment over). 

Church has to have a broad vision. There has to be something worth fighting for. Click To Tweet

How does this relate? People will band with you and stand with you in the face of impossible odds if the vision is bigger than them. If the vision is too small, you will lack the momentum and excitement needed to move the ball forward. The buy-in simply won’t be there. 

Think about it: 

Chick-Fil-A focuses on providing the best experience when going out to eat a chicken sandwich. 

Walt Disney World focuses on providing the happiest place on earth for families.  

Southwest Airlines focuses on providing the most value for your buck. 

Do you see the pattern?  

Best. 

Happiest. 

Most. 

As a result, each of these companies has some of the most loyal employees and patrons. Why? Because the vision is big enough. 

I have never met someone that wants to plant a mediocre church that makes a menial impact with a decreasing congregation. Sadly, that is the result we see with pastors banging their heads against the wall asking, “Why is my church not growing?  While the pastor may not have this vision, the actions taken are what communicates these results as the true vision. The new question to ask should be, “how do I grow my church.” Having broad vision for your church is the first step. 

Catch thisIf you wanted to be somewhere different, you would. You have to take responsibility and do an autopsy of your organization; searching for the places narrow and small vision has permeated.  

Focused Action

If we get too broad, we will lose people. Remember the construction analogy? If there is not a blueprint for how, then they will not know what the next step to take is. As a result, people standstill, or walk back to what is familiar. 

At the same time, if we are broad in our action, we will find there are too many steps to take. Herbert Simon once said, “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” Your congregation may not be engaged in the vision and growth of the church because they are on sensory overload.  

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There was once a study of online commerce. What they did was have two identical stores open with the same products. The only difference was they had one store provide fifty options while the other only offered five possibilities. At the end of the study, they found the store with only five options sold more than the store with fifty possibilities. 

You have to take a hard line and investigate the ministries and activities of your church.  

Do they support the vision? 

Are they focused? 

Do they work together? 

What does not fit? 

For example, Pastor John leads Life Church. They take great pride in all of the things they do. They provide homeless outreach, spiritual formation classes, a prayer service, Sunday morning service, Sunday night service, youth ministry, and early morning prayer throughout the week. 

Pastor John feels like a part of their vision is connection. So, he decides to start small groups. However, there is little involvement. Most of their ministries see only a tiny group of attendance and interaction throughout the week. In this example, Pastor John could either have all of this on the same night or different nights throughout the week.  

What does Pastor John do? He stops the small group initiative and becomes depressed that his church is not moving forward. As a result, the rest of the ministries suffer. 

Sound familiar? Too many times, it is. 

What should Pastor John have done? He should have done an autopsy of the ministries and activities of the church asking the autopsy questions: 

Do they support the vision? 

Are they focused? 

Do they work together? 

What does not fit? 

Then take steps to align the action of the church to fit the vision of the church.  

For example, having a prayer service and spiritual formation classes will take away from the attendance of small groups. Why? Because there is only a finite number of people who attend the church. Also, people do other things throughout the week than come to church.  

If you feel that connection is an essential piece of the vision, God has given you, stop the spiritual formation classes and prayer services for a season, and institute small groups. You can have small groups focused on prayer and spiritual formation, but the method and action are now in line with the vision that God has given you.  

Be sure to note this. Just because you stop doing something in this season does not mean it is done forever. Sometimes, we have to regroup to come out of the gate stronger. 

Once the actions your church is taking are focused, making the vision a reality becomes a lot easier. 

How do we do this? Well, here are three steps to take to use action to build a bridge between your church’s vision and reality.

1. Start Small

Ok. We all know the Hillsongs, Bethels, Elevations, James Rivers, and Dream City Churches. It is ok to want to get to the place where 12,000+ people are coming to worship every week, but we have to start where we are and start small. None of those churches started where they are.   

They started small and worked their way up, guided by their broad vision and focused actions. 

Please remember this: It is not a competition. You are not in competition with the other churches in your district or city, the “big player” churches, or even with yourself. You are walking on a specific journey designed and curated by the God of the Universe. Your only job is to follow His guiding and the vision He planted in your heart. 

Let’s go back to Pastor John of Life Church. He wants to activate the vision of a better connection through small groups. Let’s say his church is running four hundred people in average weekly attendance. With small groups, you generally want one small group for every ten weekend attenders. If Pastor John tried to start ten small groups because that is the vision, he would end up with a few tiny groups and a bunch of empty ones, and he, his time, and his congregation would feel the weight of that. It would feel like a failure. However, if Pastor John started with four excellent small groups and grew from there, it would be deemed a success.   

 There is power in starting small and working in the process. 

2. Maintain Consistency

One of the biggest mistakes seen in churches is the lack of maintenance and consistency. A lot of pastors are dreamers. We understand the big vision and want to run towards it, leaving a wake behind us. As dreamers, it is vital to prioritize maintenance and consistency as much as dreaming. 

Walt Disney was a dreamer. You can’t discount that. His brother, Roy, was a doer. Without Roy Disney, we would not see Baby Yoda in The Mandalorian on Disney+. Why? Because Roy was able to take Walt’s visions and dreams and bring them into reality, but he didn’t stop there; he maintained them with consistency.  

We have to maintain the actions we take with consistency. What does that mean? Let’s look at Pastor John again. He has started his small group initiative at Life Church. He connected his question, “What do I need to do to help my church grow?” with his vision and instituted small groups starting small with four small groups (matching the proper ratio). 

If Pastor John just started the small groups but did not maintain them, they would die. Every new seed planted has to be watered and nurtured. He has to continue to work with the small group leaders, look forward to the next session of small groups and what the focus will be, and continue to promote them. If Pastor John just started small groups without a consistent strategy of maintenance, it would be a lost effort.  

Many of us need to ask the questions of both a dreamer and doer (remember Walt and Roy): 

What is next? 

How can we improve? 

How can I provide better support? 

What specific steps need to be taken to move this forward? 

When you ask these questions and create systems that maintain your actions, then you will see growth in your church and connection to your vision.  

3. Communicate Often

Communication is key, especially when attempting to create a bridge between your church’s vision and reality. I think we can all agree on this. However, not many of us (including myself) prioritize communication as we should. Assumption is the lowest form of communication. 

Volunteers have everything they need for success. 

Volunteers are happy. 

Staff knows where to go.  

Staff is communicating with their teams. 

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A mentor of mine, Chris Cook, always said to me, “The worst thing to happen with communication is that you assumed it actually happened.” Let’s break this down: 

Pastor, ever think you’ve communicated only to find out whatever you thought you did never actually happened? Click To Tweet

Quickly 

When something happens, do not hesitate. If there is a problem with a volunteer, someone asks you a question and needs your assistance, or someone has a concern, you need to respond quickly. The longer you take to address something, you lose credibility.  

Remember, if you are leading and no one is following, then you are merely taking a walk. Losing credibility is the fast track to losing credibility and taking a lonely stroll.   

Make sure you respond quickly. When you are instituting new, focused action, people are looking for someone to trust. At the same time, they are looking for a fault in the plan. Welcome to human nature. You must respond quickly to avoid these negative results. When you do, you win the respect and credibility of your people; even when your response is in opposition to their stance. 

Often 

Communicate often. Imagine being on the battlefield. You are way out in the bush country, deep into enemy territory. Imagine you are standing there surrounded by enemies, waiting with sweat dripping down your brow for communication from your commanding officer. Pretty uncomfortable, isn’t it? That’s how a lot of our people feel when we do not communicate often. 

They are in the trenches, working with people directly and are the ones taking the heat. We must communicate often to maintain their support. What should you communicate? 

  • Your support 

  • How they did something well 

  • Any changes in strategy 

  • Analytics

  • Encouragement for the future 

If you cannot think of something to communicate: COME UP WITH SOMETHING. I cannot say it emphatically enough (hence all caps). Find something you can communicate. Your people are desperate to hear from you. Be their leader. Lead them well with the voice of their shepherd. 

Uniting broad vision and focused action will help your church reach its goals and answer the question, “Why is my church not growing?” Take the necessary steps to lead your organization forward and create that bridge between your church’s vision and reality.


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