“I don’t know what to do.”
These are words leaders hate to say or think. Jerry was no different. Jerry had pastored a small church for seven years. In his first few years at the church, he knew where he hoped to lead the congregation. Back then, the challenges were obvious which made the vision easier to identify and articulate.
Then something changed. And it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. After five years, they overcame the challenges and became the church they had envisioned. While most would assume Jerry was happy with his leadership, he had a growing concern—the future vision of the church. Where was he supposed to lead them next? His excitement and confidence in the early vision seemed like a distant memory. For the past two years, he had struggled with doubt and a lack of clarity.
He didn’t know what to do. He was in a vision rut.
Maybe you can relate to Jerry. You love your church and want to lead her well, but you are unsure where to lead them next.
“Who will we strive to be?”
“What will we strive to do?”
You need a vision for the church.
If you find yourself struggling to come up with a vision, consider the five following suggestions for getting out of the vision rut:
1. Pray and dive into Scripture.
This is not perfunctory. Determining where to lead the church begins with communing with God and studying His Scripture about the local church. The vision of the church should be bathed in prayer and rooted in the Bible. Scripture keeps you tethered to God’s ultimate plan for the church.
Determining where to lead the church begins with communing with God and studying His Scripture about the local church. The vision of the church should be bathed in prayer and rooted in the Bible.
Pray that God will give you and your congregation open hands with the vision so that it is not your vision but His vision. Pray that He will give you and the congregation a sense of clarity as to what the church needs to be and do in the future. And then pray for courage. Pray that God will give you the courage to point the church to where you feel that God is leading it, even if the vision is not easy or comfortable.
2. Get away.
Ministry never stops. You already know this. When you are in the office, it becomes difficult to concentrate on any one project for an extended period. The phone rings. A church member unexpectedly stops by. The church roof is leaking. The ministry world is ever active.
You need to get away. This is not a vacation but uninterrupted time to pray and consider what the church’s future will look like. Get away by yourself and get away with other church leaders. Both options are helpful. Some leaders may feel guilty for getting away, but for the busy leader, time away may be the best move for your leadership. Consider setting aside time by yourself and with other church leaders to consider what God wants you to do next.
3. Visit other leaders of other churches.
Sometimes, you need to hear from leaders of other churches. Many church leaders have been where you are and can speak into your dilemma. Leaders of other churches can also inspire as they share their own church’s vision.
As you consider who to visit, make sure to include both those who know you well and those who do not know you well. Those who know you well will be able to speak with an understanding of your leadership strengths and weaknesses. Those you do not know well will be able to share a vision with which you were not familiar. This conversation may spark an idea or provide the inspiration you need.
4. Visit other churches.
If possible, consider visiting other churches. Spending time at another church can provide inspiration and generate ideas for your church. Visit a church you admire that is located in a similar context as your church, and visit a church you admire that is located in a dissimilar context. Ideally, you attend a worship service as a part of the visit, but understandably, not all will be able to do this.
Reading can help inspire and generate ideas. First, consider selecting a book on vision development. Ideally, this book will help provide a framework to which you can refer as you get out of your vision rut. A book geared toward vision development can also help increase the confidence of a leader who has been visionless for a time.
Second, consider reading a book about a leader you admire. A good biography talks about the leader’s successes and failures, where they excelled and where they struggled. These types of books are excellent at helping leaders learn from the past as they look toward the future.
Finally, consider choosing a book that tells of a great movement of God. Read about what God has done in the past to increase your confidence in what he can do today. Movements of God often start with a few, ordinary, faithful individuals. Learning about how God uses these individuals to spark a movement may make you realize that God can use your faithful few to do something significant as well.
Movements of God often start with a few, ordinary, faithful individuals. Learning about how God uses these individuals to spark a movement may make you realize that God can use your faithful few to do something significant as well.
Are you feeling stuck in a vision rut? Don’t get frustrated. Don’t question whether or not you’re a capable leader. Often vision does not unexpectedly strike a leader like a lightning bolt. Many times, a church leader’s vision comes from an intentional effort to identify and clarify where God would have him lead the church.
More than anything, seek God in prayer and Scripture-reading. But in addition to this, allow yourself to get away, individually and with your leadership team, to consider where to go next. Visit with other church leaders and other churches. Learn from them and their visions. And read. Dive into a few books that will get your mind thinking about vision crafting, leadership, and the power of God.
God has placed you at a church. You are not there by accident. Take some steps to get out of the vision rut and lead your congregation to the destination God desires your church to go.