Fundamental #5: Have a Compelling Vision
Vision is about foresight, looking ahead and seeing the possibilities of what could be or where God may be leading you. A vision can be defined as a statement about the future, an imagining of something specific that does not exist today. A pastor needs a clear vision of the future in order to guide and lead the church. Without a vision a church has no direction, and the people “cast off restraint” (Proverbs 29:18), which means to simply go their own way or do what they think is best. A vision provides focus for the church and will enable the pastor to keep church members moving together in one direction towards their ultimate goal.
A vision also quantifies the goal and objectives of the church. It defines what the church’s ultimate objective is and what specifically it is trying to accomplish. Consequently, the vision has to be measurable in some way. Because if you cannot measure it then how will you ever know if you’ve reached your goal? Many churches falter or stagnate because they do not have a measurable vision of where they are going. A pastor with a measurable vision is one who has received that vision from the Lord and understands where God wants him to lead his church.
The primary reason a vision must be measurable is so that you take the necessary steps and plans to see it come to fruition. It must drive your actions and behavior and become the main focus of the church. Without a clear and measurable vision it becomes too easy to drift off course, chase after less meaningful goals, and use valuable resources ineffectively. And the consequence from this is that you end up not achieving the vision for the church.
Fundamental #6: Think Strategically and Plan Accordingly
It is not enough to simply have a vision of where you are going. A pastor must also have a strategic plan on how to get there. The vision provides the goal a pastor is trying to reach and the plan provides the means and strategy on how to get there. Without a good strategic plan pastors will likely not achieve the vision that God has placed before them. A simple way of saying this is that pastors need to manage God’s resources for God’s vision.
So what exactly is strategic planning? Strategic planning is the process of setting goals, organizing activities and deploying resources to achieve a vision. A Strategic Plan tells you what resources you are going to use, when you are going to use them, and how you are going to apply them, in order to accomplish the vision God has given to you. All of your available resources are provided by God (James 1:17) and His desire is that you invest and manage them wisely in order to grow His Kingdom. A strategic plan helps the pastor and the church to do just that.
Your objective, then, is to plan the work and then work the plan. Some plans will be long and detailed, while other plans may only need to be short and summarized. A strategic plan is meant to be flexible so it can adjust to current trends and changes in the environment in which it was made, so that as the situation changes the plan can be modified to take those changes into account. Failure to do so will result in completing plans that are no longer viable or fail to achieve their objective.
There are two more points that are worthy of mentioning. First, a good plan helps you make better decisions. When you have a plan and something changes or a new opportunity arises, you can more easily assess the impact of the change based upon the existing plan. Second, a good plan avoids wasting God’s resources. Having a plan gives you the ability to put God’s resources to the best and most effective use possible at any given point in time.
The strategic plan is not for God’s benefit, but for the church’s benefit. It is a tool that will help pastors and churches stay focused on the vision that God has given to them and enable them to manage their resources wisely and effectively.
Fundamental #7: Optimize Your Resources
Besides people, Churches and pastors have several other resources that God has given them to help grow the church. These resources include time, money, and information. The key to managing these other resources effectively is to optimize them. In other words, to use them in such a way as to maximize what they can produce for the Kingdom.
The Bible says that we cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24). So it is clear that we can only have one Master, and that is God. It also means that money, or the love of it (1 Timothy 6:10), is what often draws us away from God and into sin. And often money can represent other things that we worship or covet instead of God. So how you act with regard to money is a key indicator of how you worship, obey and honor God.
The key to optimizing money is to see it as God’s first and foremost. When we see money as ours we begin to worship it or treat it differently than what God intends. When viewed from His perspective it allows us to think more clearly about how God would have us manage and invest His money. It puts the focus on God and not us. God tells us this truth in Luke 3:13-14 when He says, “Don’t collect any more than you are required to. Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely-be content with your pay.” He is saying to be content with what He has given us to use for His purposes. He also tells us to invest it to produce a return (Matthew 25:14-30).When we treat money as our own, our sinful nature will expose our hearts and lead us to covet what money can give to us, rather than what it can produce for God.
Time is one resource that can never be bought or refilled. Once time is gone, it is gone forever. Therefore, we must be very careful as to how we spend our time and what we use it for.
Time is always a matter of priorities. If we ask someone to do something for us, or do something with us, a common response is often, “I don’t have time for that.” But that is not really true. They do have the time. What they are really saying to us is that they have something more important they need or want to do with their time. It may be getting rest, spending time with their family, working on a major project at work, or something else. Whatever it is, it is what they believe is the most important thing they can do with their time at that moment.
Optimizing time is about managing priorities – the importance and urgency of what you need to do. The problem with time management arises when we attach too little or too much importance or urgency to an activity. When that occurs we end up spending time on one thing when we should have spent our time on another. It is always a matter of our own choices. So in order to make better choices, pastors need to thoroughly think through the importance, urgency, and impact of each activity so that they use their time effectively.
The Bible says in Proverbs 10:14 that “Wise men store up knowledge.” One of the most overlooked resources of the church is information. This may be information on church members, or information about its ministries, activities or available resources. There is a wealth of information available to help pastors do the ministry they are called to and it is important to know where that information is or how to access it. Some information must be collected and stored by the church, especially information on its members and their activities or giftedness, etc. Other needed information is often available on the internet, at a library, or at a bookstore.
Many churches assume they know where information is or how they can access it only to discover that it is not being collected or stored or it is more difficult and time-consuming to find. In order to optimize information, you need to access it in a timely fashion. That means you must have it readily available or know where it is to get it. A computer comes in very handy for doing this, but you don’t need a computer to store or access information. You can use other methods that can be just as effective, such as paper files or individuals.
For you as a pastor, information, or knowledge, gives you an advantage in decision making and use of your resources. The Bible says in Proverbs 16:13 that “Every prudent man acts out of knowledge.” Additionally it says in Proverbs 24:5 that “a wise man has great power; and a man of knowledge increases strength.” So there is wisdom and power in information and God is encouraging you to pursue it.
Fundamental #8: Focus on Accomplishment
Setting goals and working towards them is what enables successful people to achieve their goals. Lou Holtz did not all of a sudden become the head football coach at Notre Dame in 1986. After an early setback in his coaching career he made that one of his goals. So he kept working and progressing as a football coach for 20 years before being hired for that position. He kept his vision in focus and kept working at it daily until his goal was reached.
So as a pastor you must maintain your focus on achieving the goals and producing the results that God desires. You know that Satan wants to distract you (1 Peter 5:8) and so you should always keep the vision in mind and keep pressing forward. To do that, you must measure success by the results that you produce. You know that God is the one who produces the fruit (1 Corinthians 3:7), but it is through you and the church that the fruit is produced. You cannot be effective for God, or the church, if you are drawn away or distracted from your goals.
To make sure you are progressing towards your ultimate goal you must also track your results. This enables you to channel resources into areas of greatest success, because that is obviously the place where God is at work in the ministry. And you should abandon non-fruitful ministries for the same reason – that God may not be at work in those areas. Spending time in unproductive areas of ministry generally waste resources and do not produce tangible results or move your church towards its ultimate goal.
There is an anonymous saying that says, “Those who know, and yet do not do, do not yet know.” In other words, we all learn to a great extent by doing what we have learned. The 8 fundamentals for church leadership and management contained in this article are primarily Biblical principles and tools. They must be applied and practiced in order to be learned effectively. We call them fundamentals because they are basic and foundational to understanding leadership and management as they relate to a church. And it is my belief that when these fundamentals are practiced, pastors will experience less conflict, more ministry participation, church growth, and greater effectiveness in their ministries.
“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” – Philippians 4:9
*For a free copy of our Management for Church Leaders™ Training Book, please click here!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Barry Voss is the President and co-founder of FaithLife Ministries. FaithLife Ministries is a ministry dedicated to training and equipping pastors and church leaders around the world. Barry has been training pastors and church leaders in the mission field since 1996 and was the developer of the Management for Church Leaders™ training manual in 2001. He has trained more than 12,500 church leaders in over 40 nations. Please visit their website at www.faithlifeministries.net for more information. He is a member of Christ the Shepherd Lutheran Church in Alpharetta, GA and serves as an elder, a guitarist & worship leader, and as an adult ministry teacher. He and his wife Kim live in Cumming, GA and have two adult children and four grandchildren.