One of the key things for any church leader is helping people coalesce round a vision for the future. Encouraging people to do more than ‘keep the show on the road’ but instead to stretch forward toward what God has for them, working together towards a common goal. In this I recall an old adage that offers a useful framework to the three parts needed in work on vision: Get it, Sell it, Strategise it.
The first thing then, about discerning the common vision and vision building. An important first step – this is much more about how vision is drawn out from the people than something the leader discerns and passes on to the people.
Creating space and time to do this is important – yet is so often squeezed out with the mundane, with everyday decisions taking priority. There are though some very simple tools available. Recently, for example, I worked with two churches moving into union and asked all of the office bearers to imagine they had fallen asleep for five years – and that when they woke up, they found all their dreams about the church had been fulfilled. I asked them “What does that look like?” Their answers were remarkably similar and created a picture that has become THEIR vision that they own together. It caught what God was speaking into each one of their hearts, giving them something to plan around and preach around.
If our churches are to be multigenerational though, then this vision casting needs to include all generations. Getting the voices of younger generations into the room as part of the process of vision casting will make or break it. Not only because the vision will be fuller with their involvement but also because people commit themselves more fully to what they have helped to create. If we want young people to buy into the vision and own it, then they need to be party to creating it!
This may seem like a recipe for disaster, with the stereotypes telling us that younger people want to see a church that is vibrant and adventurous whilst older people are looking for stability and certainty – yet put people of different generations in one room and you find a different dynamic at work.
The second stage is to share that vision more widely, looking for different ways to do this. Preaching will be part of that – but it should only be part. Write about it in the church magazine, put it on your website, share about it on Facebook or Twitter. It should also be something that everyone involved in creating the vison shares. For example, get a younger person who was involved in casting the vision to speak during a morning service about why they are excited by it. People their own age are much more likely to connect with what they say and it ensures that people see it as a vision for the whole church, across the generations.
Finally, as we strategise it (or take tentative steps in the right direction) we need to allow people to serve in ways that work for them. In this, older generations will often be willing to step into whatever needs done – whilst younger generations will look for what they feel they can do well and do with others. They will also look for a set timeframe for what they take on. These things are important to them and allowing them to serve in ways that work for them will be a game changer.
Rev Graham Duffin
Loanhead Parish Church