Preventing Your Vision From Becoming a Dysfunctional Idol

Lightbulb vision
A clear vision provides direction, motivation and filters for decisions. (Flickr )

Vision is imperative. Senior pastors and church leaders need to know where they're leading the church. A clear vision provides direction, motivation and filters for decisions. Clearly communicating the vision fuses incredible momentum into a church.

However ...

Have You Ever Seen a Vision Become an Idol?

  • Not enough cash flow to fund the vision and no plan to get there? "We can't slow down to make a plan, so just keep pressing onward." 
  • Are staff members exhausted from consistently working evenings and weekends? Are families suffering from not having much time together? "We value our staff members and their families, but this is the price we're going to pay to make this vision a reality. After all, we're reaching people with the gospel."
  • Is this choice a bit questionable or on the edge of being unethical? "Well, it'll get us more influence or will open doors and we'll reach more people, so it's worth it."

Unfortunately, these examples are based on real-life situations.

I'm convinced those involved had good intentions. They wanted to reach people with the gospel and do what they felt God had placed on their hearts. Their efforts bore a lot of healthy fruit. Unfortunately, their efforts bulldozed over and hurt people as well.

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How does this happen? I have a couple of theories:

Theory No. 1: Perhaps the vision was on-point, but there wasn't really a strategy in place to accomplish it. I like how Carey Nieuwhof stated this:

"To bring a vision to life, you need a strategy. The reason so many leaders turtle when it comes to strategy is that strategy is both specific and potentially divisive."

The vision might be to plant five new campuses within the next three years. Your strategy should be a road map of how to achieve that vision. If we sprint off, even in the right direction, we're still going to have issues when the course is the length of a marathon.

Theory No. 2: Another cause could be a lack of perspective. It's easy to create a bubble of church culture where the vision overrides almost anything. If you're only running ideas by your team, elders who are also close friends or folks who want your approval, you run the risk of receiving affirmation only. Even if you talk with another senior pastor, you might not get completely unbiased feedback.

Here's one simple way to avoid this potential landmine: Consider talking with someone in your congregation who's a leader in his or her profession and is respected in the community. Run ideas by this person and gauge the reaction.

Maybe you're thinking, Well, but he doesn't really understand the vision. He's not in full-time ministry, so he couldn't understand what we're dealing with here.

That's the point. This individual has a different perspective, one that reflects the community and congregation. Get input from someone not immersed in "church-speak" if you're about to launch a huge event or new program. Maybe not all of the feedback will be valid or useful, but some of it will. Regardless, you'll be more effective in achieving the vision when you know how a certain tactic (event, program, etc.) will be received from those you're trying to reach.

This post might not apply to you. I hope it at least serves as a caution flag to help you keep this from happening.

However, if you don't have a strategy to achieve the vision, if you aren't seeking input from people not on staff at a church or if you're pushing yourself and others to the detriment of everyone involved, perhaps this is useful information.

I love the local church and want congregations to be healthy and thriving. I highly doubt most pastors are taking the vision for their church to this extreme. However, it is something I've seen happen with devastating consequences. That's why, although I value vision, I want to raise a caution flag on having it become an idol.

Deborah Ike has a heart for ministry with a head for business. As the President & Founder of Velocity Ministry Management, Deborah serves ministry leaders by helping them achieve their God-inspired vision without burning out themselves, their staff or volunteers. She provides a variety of ministry consulting services based on her experiences in the corporate world and as a church volunteer. Connect with Deborah at and on Twitter (@DeborahIkeVMM).

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