What does your church’s vision do for you? Vision should be a guide you use to make decisions about your ministry. It should help inform you about what ministry should you start, which ministries should you keep, and which you should no longer pursue. Ultimately, it should shape your church design by helping you decide where to put your people, places and resources in order to best achieve the mission God has called you to fulfill.
Originating Your Vision
I’ve come across churches in all stages of developing their future vision. Some have it highly refined—the staff, leaders and attendees know not only what the vision is—but exactly what their role is in helping achieve it. Some churches, on the other hand, have a vision that’s not quite as developed, or not yet absorbed as a way of life by everyone in the church. Staff and leaders may be teaching the vision, but there is little action being taken to make the vision a reality.
Many churches have a vision statement simply because someone told them they should have one. They post it on the bulletin board each week and it’s prominent on the website, but it’s either too generic or broad to be used as a practical guide for leading the church’s ministry.
And then there are still the churches out there asking, “what is a vision and why do we need one?”
Vision’s Influence on Church Design
Let me share an example of how important vision can be when it comes to building a new church: Many churches claim to have a vision of reaching unchurched people. Yet, they build churches to suit their own wants, rather than addressing the wants and needs of the unchurched. When we look at buildings designed specifically to make unchurched people feel welcome, we discover that open, inviting, and flexible spaces are an asset and benefit the entire ministry and outreach of the church.
Ask yourself, does your facility reflect your church’s ministry and vision?
That can be a hard question to answer, but thankfully, there is a common scenario that prompts folks to come to terms with their vision in a more expedient fashion. As people strive to get closer to God, changes occur within them. Many times a passion for a certain type of ministry, a way of touching people’s lives for Christ, starts to build in a person and as their excitement grows they begin sharing the message of how this ministry will reach people for Christ.
This excitement and passion is the foundation of their vision.
The next step for someone with a fledgling vision is to go to the pastor or church board and ask for support, space, staff time or maybe even full congregational support and involvement. That sounds awesome, doesn’t it? When a church has two, three or more people asking for support at the same time, it must decide whether it has the resources to support all of that inspiration.
Deciding How and When to Nurture a Vision
So, how do you decide whether or not to support the ideas and opportunities that are brought to you? Have a clearly defined vision of your ministry for the next 5 to 10 years and use it as a roadmap to determine which of the burgeoning ministries will fit in with the overall direction and which ones won’t.
This may sound harsh or even counterproductive to think you couldn’t support someone’s ministry idea, but think of it this way: If God gives someone a vision for a certain ministry then He will provide the resources to help it flourish. Your church simply may not be where God wants that ministry to grow, and His plan for that ministry will not succeed or fail based on your decision to support it.
Churches with a clear vision have ministries that reflect that vision. They also have facilities that reflect that vision.
How Vision Plays into Building a New Church
Why am I so concerned with vision? Because when we begin work with a church, it can be easy to dream of all the ways a facility can support a church’s ministries. I frequently find myself saying, “your vision is most likely bigger than your wallet.” Difficult decisions have to be made about what you can afford to put into your building. Similarly, difficult decisions must be made down the road to ensure you can be a good steward of the resources God has given you in your new facility. There are important questions that must be answered:
- How will you prioritize what gets built first?
- Whose ministry will have to wait?
- Whose ministry won’t get everything they hoped for?
- How will you remain unified as church staff, leadership and congregation in light of these decisions?
Define Your Vision and Church Design
A clearly defined vision will provide the tools you need to answer the questions above. Instead of focusing on why one person doesn’t have everything they wished for in the new facility, you can refocus people’s attention to the higher priorities and defuse issues that can sidetrack progress. Staff members who know the vision, understand that sacrificing their wants can help accomplish the church’s vision. Also, a unified vision lets people feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves.
I recommend you find a way to develop your vision into a tool that aids you in your church design quest (having witnessed first-hand, the troubles that can result from not doing so). There are many good books and sites out there that can help you, but start thinking sooner rather than later.