The Vision Vacuum

In my nine years of parenting, I’ve attended some really bad kid’s birthday parties. In my years in ministry, I’ve also participated (and lead) awkward small groups. I’ve been on volunteer ministry teams that didn’t accomplish much. And I’ve held jobs where I spent more time frustrated than fulfilled. The experiences were painful in different ways, but they had one thing in common: they all lacked vision.

For example, let’s consider the bad birthday party. During one of those experiences, I observed the group dynamics of a gaggle of preschoolers. Although there were clearly fun things available, there wasn’t any sense of direction. No one led the kids into a plan. No one helped them experience the fun together. Some kids clumped together in packs and began fighting. Some wandered aimlessly, loners outside of the group. And none of them really had much fun at all. The party didn’t lack the essential elements of a good time–it just lacked vision.

The party debacle reminded me of Matthew 9:36, when Jesus had compassion on the people because they were “harassed and helpless, like a sheep without a shepherd.” Yep, I just applied that to a preschool birthday party, a vision-less, shepherd-less experience for everyone. And that same concept applies to your work today.

Most churches and organizations have overarching vision statements, but as leaders, we can underestimate the need for vision in everything we shepherd. Perhaps you can tell me about your big vision in your church or company, but can you tell me about your vision for today’s staff meeting? Maybe you have a sense of what your manager or senior pastor believes is the vision of your team, but can you tell me about your vision for the event you are holding next month?

What that bad kid’s birthday party reinforced in me is that my primary role as a leader is to spark and maintain vision. Here’s a few ways you can apply that today:

1. The Hook: Start off meetings or emails with a personal story. Use the story to hook back into the vision of your program. Most people are motivated when they know their work makes a difference, but you are responsible for communicating these connections. This can help us all keep the “main thing the main thing.”

2. Rigorous Pruning: As a leader, we must ask ourselves the hard questions. Does what we are doing actually accomplish the vision? Even if no one is talking about it, they are certainly thinking about it. Lead with courage, and prune projects and programs that aren’t accomplishing the vision.

3. Careful Tending: In order to lead with vision, I must carefully tend my own soul. The more vision-casting that’s required of me, the more solitude and prayer I require. Being the vision-holder is a tiresome job, no matter how much you believe in what you are doing.

4. Repeat with Diligence: Although your vision may be very clear and present to you, it’s never as clear or present in your team. Never assume that your team knows what you are after without a reminder. Spark the vision. Maintain the vision. Repeat.

Not only do we need vision for the work we do, we need vision for the life we live. In ministry, we all have the temptation of becoming reactive. I asked a co-worker recently about his workload, and he admitted he can lose a day (or more!) each week merely answering email.

We need personal vision. What is the most important thing you do? How do you prioritize? When should you say no in order to say yes to the most critical needs of your soul? If you are operating in a personal vision vacuum, today might be a day to spend some time refreshing yourself on what matters most to God, and what he’s gifted you to do. Tend your soul, tend to your team, and remember…even your kid’s birthday party needs vision.

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Nicole Unice

Nicole Unice

Nicole Unice is a ministry leader at Hope Church in Richmond, VA. She's a bible teacher and the author of She's Got Issues (Tyndale, May 2012). Her writing on spiritual formation and leadership has been featured in Leadership Journal, Relevant, the Catalyst Blog and she's a featured contributor to Christianity Today's Today's Christian Woman. Connect with her at

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comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright
comment_post_ID); ?> "While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
— Ken

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