Monday, March 20, 2006

Communicating the Vision, Part 2

I still remember the vision of my college church: Preach the Gospel to all people, Pastor believers, Prepare disciples, and Plant leaders in all nations.

I have not heard that phrase or been in that church for about 7 years. But I will probably always remember that vision. In fact, even though I am no longer a part of that church (and that catchphrase is no longer at the forefront of that church's ministry philosophy) I think that Preach, Pastor, Prepare, and Plant will always provide reference points for me as I travel on my ministry journey. Why? What makes a vision so powerful and memorable? In this particular case, the vision was communicated, illustrated, and embodied until individual members of the church embraced it as their own.

Last week, we focused on the personal preparation that is required for communicating a vision. Before we go public, we must do the hard work of understanding, writing, embracing, and living the vision. Today, we will talk about going public with vision.

Here is the ultimate goal in communicating your vision: You want people to know, understand, and remember the vision.

Write It Down
First, create your vision statement. This was mentioned last week. Habakkuk says "write down the vision." In your own personal preparation time, you should write out a long, detailed version of your vision. What is the picture of the future that God has given you? Who does it involve? What action is required? What are the principles and values that undergird the vision? What is the Biblical mandate that drives and provides the framework for your vision?

For going public, you should shorten that vision to no longer than 2-3 sentences. If the statement is too short, it will not give people enough information to know what action to take. If it is too long, people will not remember it. In The Power of Vision, George Barna said, "For vision to be effective, it must be simple enough to be remembered and be specific enough to give direction."

Drive People Crazy
Next, say it until people are sick of hearing it. Sometimes it is hard being around visionaries because they can't stop talking about their vision. I cannot tell you how much I hated hearing "Preach, Pastor, Prepare, Plant." But I remembered it! Communicate it with enthusiasm, confidence, and relevance. In the book Leadership Jazz, Max DePree said, "I learned that if you are a leader and you're not tired of communicating, you probably aren't doing a good enough job."

When you speak about your vision, share it with enthusiasm (no one is going to be more excited about the vision than you), confidence (no one wants to follow someone who isn't sure about where they are going), and relevance (no one wants to go somewhere that will not benefit them).

And keep saying it over and over again.

Harness Relational Power
Begin sharing your vision one-on-one and in the context of group relationships. Community will come before action. People want to know they can belong before they believe in your vision. Next, find various and creative ways to share your vision. Use every outlet available. If you are writing your group members an email, get the vision in there. If you have a blog, put it right at the top and find ways to develop it through regular posting. Share it at the beginning of every group meeting.

Illustrate It
Use stories to illustrate your vision. Imagery is more important than dry details or numbers because people are willing to adjust their lives when they see God at work. In Spiritual Leadership, Henry Blackaby says, "Graphs and charts can convey data and engage minds, but a story detailing God's activity in the midst of a secular world can engage people's hearts and gain their commitment."

There are amazing storytellers in the Bible. Moses told stories of the past to motivate the Hebrews to continue marching to the Promised Land. Joshua told stories of the present to give real-time context to the vision they were living in. Jesus told stories of the future to describe the Kingdom of God. God is the master storyteller. The entire Bible is His vision for His relationship with His creation. At NCC, we like to tell stories (and occasionally throw out moonpies) to people and teams whose lives and ministries reflect the vision we are running after.

Tell stories of the past, present, and future to illustrate your vision.

Sell It
Finally, you have to sell it. You have to demonstrate how the vision benefits and adds value to the individuals you wish to involve. Henry Blackaby in Spiritual Leadership: "Vision can motivate followers to do things they would never attempt otherwise." Think about the following questions:
  • Who should be involved?
  • Why should they be involved?
  • How does it help them grow spiritually?
  • Does it help them grow personally or professionally?
  • Are there emotional, physical, or intellectual benefits?
  • Does it tie in to other goals that they have set for their lives?
  • How does it tie into Biblical commands or help them fulfill God's purposes for their lives?
Final Thoughts
In a recent article in Leadership Now, Mark Sanborn said, "To translate values and vision into company culture, they must be communicated repeatedly and modeled consistently. Until an organization's vision and values become a common refrain in the speech, writings, and personal example of leadership, they will remain empty slogans and ineffectual intentions."

To communicate your vision, you must do the hard preparatory work of digging into the Word of God, praying, writing, and living it. Then you must find a way to say it, opportunities to say it, and increase its stickiness by repeating it, illustrating it, saying it in different channels of communication, and demonstrating its value to the individual.

Next week, we will explore the principles behind the execution of your vision.


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