Communicate Your Vision: Use More Than Words

The right vision for the future of an organization moves people to action, and because of their action, the organization evolves and makes process. Like a bicycle, an organization must continually move forward, or fall over. The role of vision in driving the organization forward is indispensable.

The vision’s power lies in its ability to grab the attention of those both inside and outside the organization and to focus that attention on a common dream – a sense of direction that both makes sense and provides direction.

To that end, your church’s vision cannot exist merely as words on a page or website, or in an impressive visual display in your church foyer.

Articulating your vision through consistent and powerful ideas is one of the toughest tasks of leadership.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling by Stephen Denning

This revised and updated edition of the best-selling book A Leader’s Guide to Storytelling shows how storytelling is one of the few ways to handle the most important and difficult challenges of leadership: sparking action, getting people to work together, and leading people into the future.

Using myriad illustrative examples and filled with how-to techniques, this hands-on guide clearly explains how you can learn to tell the right story at the right time.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION – Look forward by thinking backward

Whoever you are in the organization – leadership team, department director, or someone on the front lines – you can lead by using stories to effect change.

However, as leaders well know, most people do not like change. So any story involving an uncertain future that is different that the present faces a difficult road.

Humans naturally remain anchored to the past. We also have an aversion to loss – that is, we are typically more concerned about what we must give up rather than be excited about what we gain. We also have an ownership bias, meaning we want to hang on to what we have.

The truth is that people usually don’t want to believe a future story that involves significant disruption. So what’s a leader to do?

When we dream alone, it’s just a dream. When we dream together, it’s already the beginning of a new reality.

By definition, future stories aren’t true stories. Since the future hasn’t happened yet, it’s impossible to say anything totally reliable about it, particularly where human beings are involved. The first step in augmenting the credibility of a future story is to explore whether the length of the causal chain between the situation today and the imagined future can be reduced. The longer the chain of causation, the greater the chance that one or more of the links will break, as some unexpected development throws all predictions into chaos.

Since the plausibility of the story is related to the length of the causal chain, it’s useful to take this thinking a step further. You can shorten the future causal chain to zero by using a springboard story.

A springboard story is a story about the past – something that has already happened. However, the springboard story elicits a future story in the minds of the listeners – the listeners start to imagine what the future could be like if they implemented the relevant change idea embedded in the story in their own contexts.

The springboard story itself doesn’t need updating because it doesn’t change: it’s already happened. As a result, you avoid the yawning gap between the future as envisaged and the future as it unfolds.

Moreover, because the springboard story’s listeners invent the future for themselves, they are much more likely to find that future alluring than if some stranger had dreamed it up for them.

Stephen Denning, The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling


Build a team vision exercise around the author’s idea of the “springboard” story as described above.

Write down a sequence of activities describing your current vision that you would like to improve or update. Write down each activity on a sticky note.

Place the sticky notes in a row and start building new ideas for each sticky note. Ask: “If this hadn’t happened, what would have instead?”

Every time you add a new idea, reflect on its impact on the rest of the sequence.

Continue with the rest of the sticky notes, adding as many new ideas to each activity as possible.

When you have finished, create a new story using the new ideas you have developed.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix #84-3, released January 2018.


This is part of a weekly series posting excerpts from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix book excerpts for church leaders.

SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; each solution is taken from a different book. Additionally, a practical action step is included with each solution.

As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS Remix provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

> > Subscribe to SUMS Remix <<

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Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

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comment_post_ID); ?> Thank you Ed for sharing your insights into the Church Growth Movement. I have my reservations with Church Growth models because it has done more damage than good in the Body of Christ. Over the years, western churches are more focused on results, formulas and processes with little or no emphasis on membership and church discipline. Pastors and vocational leaders are burnt out because they're overworked. I do believe that the Church Growth model is a catalyst to two destructive groups: The New Apostolic Reformation and the Emerging Church. Both groups overlap and have a very loose definition. They're both focus on contemporary worship, expansion of church brand (franchising), and mobilizing volunteering members as 'leaders' to grow their ministry. Little focus on biblical study, apologetics and genuine missional work with no agenda besides preaching of the gospel.
— Dave
comment_post_ID); ?> Thank you for sharing such a good article. It is a great lesson I learned from this article. I am one of the leaders in Emmanuel united church of Ethiopia (A denomination with more-than 780 local churches through out the country). I am preparing a presentation on succession planning for local church leaders. It will help me for preparation If you send me more resources and recommend me books to read on the topic. I hope we may collaborate in advancing leadership capacity of our church. God Bless You and Your Ministry.
— Argaw Alemu
comment_post_ID); ?> Amen!!
— Scott Michael Whitley

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