A church, like any organisation, needs a clear and specific vision and planning framework to focus their efforts – to know where they are going and how to get there. A carefully crafted vision, developed collaboratively, gives a group freedom to spearhead energy in the direction God is calling them. It sets them free to stop doing anything that busily distracts from that purpose. Will Mancini’s vision as a pastor turned consultant is to help church leaders have breakthrough clarity and vision. He has teamed with Warren Bird, director of research and intellectual capital at Leadership Network, to give churches this vision crafting and planning process, God Dreams.
The 12 templates for vision for different churches offer a balance between offering a prefabricated copycat vision and starting with a completely blank slate. Churches are invited to dream with a 5-20 year “Beyond the Horizon” big picture, starting with what templates they most resonate with:
Vision that advances
Vision that rescues
Vision of becoming
Vision that overflows
The book offers frameworks for adopting a templates or linking two, and communicating the resulting vision with crystal clarity by painting the picture of a better world with inviting metaphors, showing how it solves a problem (the “burning platform”), and letting the God-sized scope force reliance on God in prayer.
For example, for the unique contribution of AuburnLife Baptist Church, two templates resonate with where I have seen God working. Reading God Dreams helped me articulate that the vision that grabs our imagination for AuburnLife is to meet a need for multicultural hospitality and overflow as a leadership farm. We have been learning how international students and other newcomers come to Hawthorn for education and a fresh start, but often struggle with isolation and lack of friendships beyond their own culture. They eagerly want to learn about Australian culture and develop their English. At our core, and at our best, our vision is one that adopts the huge need for welcoming hospitality. Jesus shared life and showed radical grace with all sorts of people over meals, and celebrated a mustard tree for how it provided food and shelter – we want Auburn to reflect this aspect of Jesus’ nature. If we could do only thing well, we want to be a warmly welcoming hub of hospitality for international friendship – offering shared meals, excellent English tutoring, and conversational space and cultural exchange, including dialogue about faith and spirituality. Our hands reach out to welcome, share in cooking and eating, join together for a helping hand, and express prayerful concern. This vision is one that generously overflows into leadership multiplication. Our church has been and hopefully will grow ever more so as a leadership farm or a greenhouse for people of all backgrounds to grow as disciples and leaders. In our mobile society – and as students come and go – most people will be with us for a limited period. We maximise our influence by helping members and international friends, including what we hope will be a growing crew of interns and staff, to flourish as disciples and leaders. The church will then proudly let them go and send them on in a wave of world-changing influence. This is the dramatic good God is calling us to and for which we rely on God.
Conversations in church meetings will help confirm if this is a good place to start. Then, Mancini and Bird suggest, we need to develop a “Horizons storyline” that articulates also our planning and execution of how to get there:
Background vision of four supporting strategic ideas for how to get there, or the mountains to climb to access the horizon vision. (For us this might be nurturing AuburnHub as a welcoming space, giving beyond ourselves to alleviate hungers in the world, generously training interns as leaders, and implementing a discipleship and leadership development pathway for everyone to identify and pursue their gifting).
Midground vision of one big idea to focus on for the coming year (which might be reimagining Sunday@5 as a discipleship-focused leadership farm)
Foreground vision of four supporting plans for the next 90 days.
I especially appreciated Mancini’s urge to invite widespread collaboration in vision development, to strenuously avoid contentment with generic vision, to start with a long-term view and to plan for audacious goals that desperately need prayer. Mancini suggests that capacity for “God-sizing” your vision will depend on the extent of a church’s culture of mission, dynamic of trust, history of progress and tenure of current (and past) senior pastors. At AuburnLife, for example, we have moderate strengths in each of these areas and so have a good base to dream from, and if we can continue to foster these four elements we will be poised to dream even bigger.
God Dreams is my go-to book for vision coaching which goes beyond drafting bland vision and mission statements. It deserves to be thoughtfully read and actively implemented by church leaders and team who want their vision to sing with imagination-grabbing clarity and focused influence.
Review by Darren Cronshaw, AuburnLife Baptist Church and Australian College of Ministries.
A shorter version of this review was originally published in Journal of Religious Leadership 16:1 (2017)