Most church leaders are familiar with the life cycle of a church. When a church is on the growing side of the life cycle, vision followed by external relationships are driving the church. When the church begins to plateau and fall into decline, vision is the first to wane, relationships become internally focused, and structure (facilities, budget, calendar, and methods in making decisions) drives most everything. It is obvious that having a compelling vision is key to a vital growing church.
According to Thom Rainer from his book, The Breakout Church, vision is birthed from the intersection of the needs of the community, the gifts of the congregation, and the passions of the leaders. In leading countless churches through the visioning process during the past decade, I have come to not only concur with Rainer’s conclusion, but I would add that to the degree that churches immerse themselves in the discovery process in visioning reveals their commitment to the community, the mission of the church, and to living out the resulting discerned vision. If there is not a team of people willing to go out into the community and have conversations with leaders and unchurched neighbors to unearth the real needs of the community, the commitment to meeting those needs let alone living into the vision is unlikely. On the other hand, if the congregation eagerly embraces the process with their ears, eyes, hearts, minds, and souls open to discovering God’s preferred future for the church, unbelievable and beautiful things have and do occur.
When is it time for a church to re-vision? This is a question that is often asked. There are several reasons a church would want or need to re-vision. First, if the church is at the adult stage of the life cycle, it is time to re-vision. This is a counter-intuitive time to consider doing so, but if the church does not revision at this stage, it will fall into plateau and then decline. The second reason to re-vision is if the current vision is no longer compelling or providing energy and excitement for the church. Since the vision is God’s preferred future for your church, the third reason it is time to re-vision is if the future vision is now a reality. The fourth reason is if any of the three ingredients from the vision intersection (needs of the community, gifts of the congregation, passions of the leaders) shifts, it is time to re-vision. In this world that is beginning to emerge from a pandemic, most every church is seeing a shift in at least one of these three if not two or possibly all three. And, what better time to discern God’s preferred future for the church and start a new life cycle?
Being a visionary church and leader is one of the game changers identified in Being the Church in the Post Pandemic World. Start with the Ultimate Relaunch Playbook (bonus section of the same book) for a play-by-play handbook on how to relaunch your church into the community this fall. Then begin to walk through the eight game changers for a becoming vital church in the post-pandemic world by becoming a visionary leader and church. A compelling vision may be just the catalyst your church needs for a fresh start.