I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. “What is your vision for our church?” My wife and I were sitting before seven elders in our pre-hiring interview. Inwardly I thought, “How could I have a clear vision for this church? I am brand new here.” Outwardly, I gave a generic response like: “My vision is that we would be a healthy church. I want us to faithfully reach lost people and make disciples.” I suppose my response was sufficient…I got the job.
It is commonly believed in churches that one of your primary responsibilities is to set the vision and direction for the church. I have heard it taught that pastors should get away for a few days to pray and hear from God. He then comes back and shares with the congregation the future God has for them.
Like me, you have probably preached a New Year’s sermon called “Our Vision for this Year.” Developing the vision for a church is not an easy process. After examining your present reality, you pray and seek God’s direction. You might talk it over with your spouse and a few church leaders. You stand in front of your church and with conviction, paint the picture of what you believe is God’s intended future.
In this scenario, what follows is often discouraging. People begin to question the necessary changes to accomplish this vision. There may be a lack of buy in from key leaders. Finding motivation to stay the course is difficult. It is so much easier to just follow the status quo. After repeating this process a few times, pastors want to give up on the whole idea of sharing vision.
I have heard many pastors share my own questions, “Why are people not buying into my vision? Do they not want the church to go forward?”
If your congregation is not buying into the vision you have cast, there are 10 possible reasons.
1. You have not heard from God.
Have you sincerely prayed about the direction of your ministry? Have you fasted? Have you allowed sufficient time for God to share His heart with you? Have you joined in prayer with other church leaders? It is important for pastors to remember, “You are not the only one in the room to whom God speaks.”
2. The vision is more about you, than it is the church.
If our motives are impure, our vision can be more about our ego and success, than it is about God’s Kingdom. I will never forget a prayer hike where I was sharing with God all the things we were about to do as a church. God distinctly spoke to my heart these words: “selfish ambition.” What I had been praying about was more about me and my desires, than it was about God’s will for our church.
3. The vision is unclear.
It is possible the reason people are not buying into your vision is that it is too complicated. You do not need 10 pages of vision. Keep it simple. Make sure the 14 year old girl, and the 78 year old man in your church can both understand and communicate your vision. A great resource on this topic is Thom Rainer’s book, “Simple Church.”
4. The vision is unrealistic.
The common perception is that vision must be big, but it does not have to be huge to be inspiring. It must be realistic. If your church averages 100 in attendance and your goal for next year is to reach 1,000, your congregation may find it difficult to buy into the vision. If you baptized 25 last year, but this year you envision baptizing 150, people need to see how this is possible.
Remember, small wins build momentum in your ministry.
5. You are moving too quickly.
Another mistake in casting vision is simply going too fast. If you are new to the church, your first task is to develop relationships in the church and community. Just because you have the title of pastor does not mean you have a lot of influence. Take time to build credibility with those you lead.
6. You did not invite others into the vision creating process.
One of the most effective ways to lead the church in a new direction is to create shared vision. People buy into something they help create. Invite your entire leadership team to be a part of the process. Allow them to answer questions like, “I dream of a church where___________.”
7. You have not shared the vision with key influencers.
Often the most important part of the vision process is the meeting before the meeting. Before you share the new vision with the congregation, meet one on one, or in small groups to answer questions and enlist the support of influential members of your church.
8. You have not identified who will champion each part of the vision.
Your vision must be broken down into parts. You cannot own it all, or do it all. You need someone for each part who believes in the vision, and is responsible for seeing that part accomplished.
9. You are not talking about the vision enough.
It is hard for most pastors to believe, but we probably do not talk about vision enough. While you are consumed with this new direction, your people are not, even though you have shared it with them publicly. Insert vision into your sermons, website, social media, small groups, and print materials.
10. You have not built accountability into the process.
Accountability might be the most important piece of the puzzle. You probably do not have an outside person or organization holding you accountable to the vision. A ministry coach can be valuable to this process. You and your team will need to decide on a way to hold yourselves accountable for the vision God has given you.
Question: What has been helpful for getting people to buy in to your ministry vision? Share in the comments below.
If you believe other pastors could be helped by this post, I would be honored to have you share it on social media.
Hi! I'm Loren Hicks. I am follower of Jesus, a husband, a father, a friend, and for the past