A Vague Vision Means 100 Things to 100 People

So you have a vision for the future. Virtually every leader does.

But how do you know whether your vision is going to catch on—whether it will capture the imagination of people and actually move them forward into a different future?

I mean that’s a tall order.

And any leader who’s even spent a few minutes up front casting vision has asked themselves whether their vision will catch on or not.

Sometimes even after you unveil the vision, you live for months waiting and wondering whether it is resonating widely or whether it’s simply going to fizzle and die.

Is there a way to know whether your vision will catch on, or whether it will sputter on before it dies out?

I think there is.

8 Signs Your Vision Isn’t Going to Catch On

In my experience, a vision needs at least 8 ingredients for it to resonate with people. This isn’t scientific…it’s just experience.

I know when things haven’t caught on the way I had hoped in the past, I’ve gone back to these elements to ensure they were in place.

Hopefully they can help you craft a clear and compelling vision for your organization  or ministry area that resonates.

Here are 8 signs your vision isn’t going to catch on:

1. It’s not scripturally sound.

I think the most compelling characteristic of a great vision is that it’s biblically sound.

I take a bit of heat in the comments section on my blog for not citing scripture in all my posts or telling people to pray about things, but I promise you that’s the foundation of what I believe and how I try to lead. It’s just if I said that every single time, it would be a bit redundant. I want to talk about the things in these posts that are easy for leaders to miss or overlook.

But let’s go there. Scripture resonates. If you want your vision to resonate, base it on scripture.

It might not always resonate right away (look at the prophets). But ultimately it will.

Can you build a compelling vision without scripture? Well yes you can. Otherwise there would be no successful movements or groups outside the Christian tradition. Nor would there be cults or political movements or businesses that succeed in casting vision outside faith parameters.

Finally, having a scripturally sound vision will help you lead with integrity. It reminds you of your accountability to God for the leadership with which you’ve been entrusted.

And it will sustain you in the good seasons and bad seasons. Fads come and go. But the Word of God stands forever.

Great vision simply expresses timeless truth in a timely way.

2. No one else is excited. As in no one.

A good sign your vision is going to fail is that no one else is excited about it.

If you’re getting a universal flat stare from everyone around you, or a universal thumbs down, you should pay attention.

Yes, you might be the one faithful person left on the planet and everyone else might be wrong.

Or you might be wrong, or misguided.

It’s probably the latter.

3. You’re not passionate about it.

Sometimes you just don’t feel passionate about a vision. I promise you, people can tell.

You might be able to get traction around something you’re not passionate about, but not for long. It will fizzle as you fizzle.

My team is so aware of this now that they regularly ask me if I’m passionate about a major goal we’re setting together as an organization. Because they know if I’m not, we’ll just spin our wheels as an organization until I am.

Same is true of what ever you lead. Your people will never be more passionate your vision than you are.  Which might explain #2 above.

4. It’s not specific.

Specificity (say that three times out loud) inspires action.

It is very difficult to rally people around an unspecific vision.

Our vision is to create a church unchurched people love to attend. The beauty of that vision is it’s clear. And naturally, the problem with the vision is that’s it’s clear. Not everyone loves it.

Which is perfect for us. We want to get specific traction with Christian who have unchurched people on their hearts and with unchurched people in our community. Our church isn’t for everyone.  (You can read more on why your church isn’t for everyone here.)

If your vague vision (like, say “Love God. Love People.”) is too vague to rally anyone, it will mean a hundred things to a hundred people and, as a result, it will be very difficult to align people around it.

5. You can’t get it down to a 30 second elevator pitch version.

You know the elevator pitch, where all your months/years of strategic planning and vision come down to your ability to pitch your idea to someone in the 30 seconds you have together in an elevator?

Many leaders choke when asked to define their vision in 30 seconds or less.

We say things like “Well, it’s more complicated/nuanced than that.”

Or “It’s really about 5 things and demands more time.”

If it’s about 5 things, it’s about nothing.

And if it’s complicated to you, I promise it’s far too complicated to them.

6.  It doesn’t challenge the status quo.

Every compelling vision challenges the status quo.

If yours doesn’t, you’re not actually leading people anywhere.

7. It’s provoked zero opposition.

 As much as we all dislike opposition, a great vision will always have some.

If you’re vision hasn’t provoked any opposition, it’s likely because it doesn’t propose anything significant.

The best way to incite zero opposition is, of course, to do nothing significant.

8. You don’t hear it echoed.

Even if you overcome all the points of opposition, you still might not have an effective vision if you don’t hear it echoed.

The vision absolutely needs to come from your mouth again and again, but if it only comes from your mouth, you probably don’t have a vision that’s going anywhere.

Until the vision lives in the hearts and lips of the people you lead, you really don’t have a vision that will carry your organization into the future.

So what do you do if you realize you don’t have a compelling vision?

Retreat.   Rethink.   Relaunch.

And when you and your team roll out your next iteration, just watch to ensure that:

1. It’s scripturally sound.

2. It excites people.

3. It excites you.

4. It’s specific.

5. You’ve got a 30 second elevator pitch version.

6. It challenges the status quo.

7. There’s some opposition.

8. You hear it echoed.

If you want more, you can pick up a copy of my book about how to lead change through opposition here.

Andy Stanley also wrote about how to make vision stick that you can get here.

How about you?

What makes for a compelling vision in your view?

>> Read more from Carey.

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Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
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

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