I recently attended a continuing education course on church revitalization taught, mostly, by Kevin Ford. Kevin is a relative of Billy Graham, but more importantly he has consulted with churches on revitalization for many years. I learned a lot during the course, however one comment Kevin made was particularly striking to me. He said that 90% of his consulting with churches is spent helping them identify what they are trying to accomplish. That means a lot of churches are not clear on what they are doing and why!
This goes right along with what I’ve been observing as I work with Anglican churches on revitalization. When a church doesn’t have clarity on what it is trying to accomplish, there is no alignment of the time, treasure, and talents of that church. Different groups try to go in different directions which often leads to unhealthy conflict. People can get frustrated and leave. The attitude of, “We’ve always done it this way” becomes the default position and the church starts to maintain and then decline.
When a church does have clarity on its specific mission then it leads to alignment of the time, treasure, and talent of the church. The culture of the congregation aligns under the agreed upon mission which leads to agreement on specific strategies to try together, which leads to clarity on roles and responsibilities. In the right roles that are fulfilling God’s mission for the church, people find fulfillment and fruitfulness. The church is more likely to be healthy and grow.
So what is your church trying to accomplish? What is your church’s specific mission? Do you have a vision that is clear, doable, and that brings the church into alignment under it?
Last March I wrote on this same topic and thought it was worth re-sharing:
“Anyone who has served in leadership in a local church knows the church is supposed to have a Vision Statement. Many a vestry has hammered one out and it is written somewhere, maybe even in the weekly bulletin, but often not much is ever done with it. When I speak on Church Revitalization it is more often the case that no one can even remember what the Vision Statement is when I ask. Is it just a waste of time to have one or is it really important? It is very important! One of the main reasons is that The Vision Should Drive Every Decision the church makes.
Think about the hundreds and hundreds of decisions a local church must make year in and year out. Should we spend this money on that? Mrs. New Idea wants us to start this new program, should we? Mr. Liturgy is insisting we add or remove some part of the Sunday service, should we? Should we change the style of music? Should we do Alpha or Christianity Explored or Celebrate Recovery or Rooted or something else or none of them? Should we keep doing both Sunday School and Children’s church? Should we add a staff member? Should we use nametags? Should we…?
The decision for all those and every question that arises should be filtered through the specific vision your church has committed to. That vision must, of course, come from God’s vision for the church in the Scripture. When a question comes up, the next question should be, ‘Does doing that better help us fulfill the vision or not?’ If not then don’t do it. Even if it is a perfectly good thing to do, which it probably will be, if it doesn’t fit the agreed upon vision then don’t do it.
Part of the beauty of having a clear vision is it gives the leadership a standard to base the decision on. Rather than the whims of the rector or vestry or an influential member or the big giver, the vision is what drives the decision. Then, if the decision is based on the vision, the agreed upon vision is the ‘bad guy’ not the leadership. If the answer is yes based on the vision then the time, talent, and treasure of the church can be given to it because the agreed upon vision demands it.
What is your churches’ clear, Biblical, memorable, and specific vision? It’s not just a good idea to have for the bulletin cover or by-laws. Dust it off, narrow it down, know it, and start using that vision to drive every decision.”
If your church does not have clarity on what it is trying to accomplish, what could you do this week to begin to get that clarity? Pray and seek God’s direction on what He wants your church to specifically accomplish for Him. He knows! And certainly feel free to contact us at the AAC as what we want to accomplish is seeing every local church in the Anglican Church in North America fulfilling the Great Commission and thriving!
The Rev. Canon Mark Eldredge is Director of Church Revitalization and Coaching.