You can’t take your vision public until you’ve articulated your vision. Seems like that should go without saying, right? Kind of like the assumption that you’ve got to fill the pool before you’re going to dive in. But you’d be surprised how many churches and organizations have never taken the time to understand and articulate their unique calling from God. Or maybe you wouldn’t be surprised…because you’ve been a part of them before. Maybe you’re leading one right now.
I’ve been writing and speaking about assessing and articulating vision for years now, so I’m not going to try to summarize Church Unique here. Instead, I’d like to share a couple of pieces of my recent experience in leading Vanguard University through the Vision Frame process. Over a period of about nine months, I facilitated an assessment and articulation process for a group of Vanguard’s key leaders. Each month, we would spend a day or two together, wrestling with different aspects of their Vision Frame to more clearly articulate the unique mission God has given Vanguard. I was honored to work alongside these committed, passionate leaders who have dedicated their lives to Christian secondary education.
By using Vanguard as an example, I’d like to answer the question I am most frequently asked about the Vision Frame process.
Why does it take so long to articulate vision clearly?
Many people assume that clarity means simplicity. That’s not usually the case. The best kind of clarity—clarity that provides fuel for the organization—is only find by slogging through the complexity. Only after wading into the complexity of organizational history, internal dynamics, multiple priorities, personal callings, and, most importantly, listening for God’s voice together, can a leadership team emerge with unified clarity. If you just want a nice mission statement, you can do that in a couple of hours. If you want a fully-formed vision that fills your leaders with an unquenchable fire to do whatever it takes for the cause…it will take a big longer. You can’t microwave clear, compelling vision. Period.
With Vanguard, there were many complex issues that needed to be discussed openly and honestly in the process. We included key people from these different constituent groups (faculty, staff, administration, etc.) in the core team, but at significant points in the process, we needed to hear from the wider group as well. In order for us to be able to move forward confidently, it was absolutely critical to hear the voice of the larger group. And (this is important), we had to be willing to go back and make adjustments to the way we had articulated things based on their input. There are times when a leadership team must listen and adjust and other times when a team needs to set the direction clearly, inviting everyone to join in. A wise leader knows which is which and leads accordingly.
Do you see why it takes longer than you think to fill the pool with a clearly articulated vision? You’re going to need people to help you maintain the pool and invite others to jump into the pool in the future, so you can’t do it all yourself. Articulating vision clearly is a collaborative effort, not an individual task.
Vanguard’s Vision Frame
After months of work with Vanguard, here’s the result…their Vision Frame. Over the next few posts in this series about Taking Vision Public, it’ll be important for you to have their Vision Frame in mind so that you can see how all the different pieces work together and are built on this foundation.
Equipping students for a Spirit-empowered life of Christ-centered leadership and service.
Truth – We pursue truth by knowing Christ who is Truth.
Virtue – We honor God by committing ourselves to the person and model of Jesus Christ.
Service – We develop our talents to their potential and discern God’s purpose for our lives.
Cultivating the Spirit-empowered life in Christian experience and service
Promoting academic excellence that integrates faith and life
Providing professor-mentors in a dynamic community environment
As a part of articulating the Measures, we developed what we called the Vital 9, a grid of more specific mission marks in the life of each student. The Vital 9 were developed by placing the values on one side of the grid and the measures on the other side of the grid and describing the resulting attitudes and attributes that Vanguard wanted to see in each student.
This Vision Frame articulated the unique vision and approach of Vanguard, filling the pool with clear, refreshing water. That meant it was time to move on to the next step of vision-soaked communication…the tagline. We’ll cover that next time.