When we planted our church, we had a very simple vision. Our vision was to have guitars in worship, we didn’t want to have to wear suits on Sunday mornings, and we wanted to have small groups. That was it. We fulfilled our vision on the first Sunday. After the first couple of years, people started coming to us and saying, “You know, our church doesn’t seem to have a vision.” They were right.
Developing a vision is part of creating your 2-year plan. The development of that vision is a fiery process. It starts with prayer and the work of God. It starts with being angry about things. It starts with passion. It’s born in the heart of a man or a woman who is consumed by an idea or a picture, a vision of something that they have to do.
When you begin to develop the vision for your church, I suggest you consider the following 7 things.
- It needs to answer the question “What kind of church is this going to be?
There are lots of kinds of churches in this country. Do you know how many denominations there are? Over 10,000 in America. There’s a pretty wide variety of possibilities of what your church could look like. The vision you create should be answering the question, “What kind of church is it going to be? What’s it going to be like when I walk in?”
- Articulate who your target is.
Will you focus on people in a particular geographical location or a particular ethnic group or age group. Who’s the target? Who’s this for? It may be that you define it in terms of unchurched people in an area or people who are alienated from churches. That will inform a lot about what will take place and how you communicate.
- Choose the location.
You don’t necessarily need to have a specific call to a location. Sometimes God does send you to a specific location, but not always. If you don’t have a specific call, then I would suggest that find a place that doesn’t already have a church that’s like the vision in your heart. Take age demographics and educational levels into consideration. Then start getting to know the town or neighborhood.
- Find a vision that focuses on the future.
You want to paint a picture of what can be but is not yet. Most people in the world are not very visionary; they can only grab a hold of what they can see. You have to be really good at painting a picture for people. Help them taste and imagine what this thing is going to be like and what it can accomplish.
- It has to be challenging enough that it’s going to require faith in God’s power
If you’re honest and God’s been building this vision in you, you’ve got some things in your heart, that if you said them out loud, it’d be so big that it would almost be prideful to say. Right? Some of you are reading this right now and you’re thinking about those things. You’ve never said it to anybody. You’ve thought “That’s just too out-there. I can’t say that. Who do I think I am?” What I’m telling you is that that’s probably from God and it probably is too big for you. The whole idea here is not just to do what we can do. What makes this all happen is that God does it.
- It should be possible, not a wild dream.
Even though your vision should be big, you need to be specific enough that it’s possible. It can’t be, “we’re going to win the whole world for Jesus!” Don’t aim too big, but don’t aim too small either. Remember, big visions motivate people more than small visions.
- Make it Catchy
It helps if you have some little phrases or sayings or points that can be repeated again and again that are easily remembered. Some of these phrases might be things that you use on your website and business cards. For example, one church plant I know has a little saying that they put on all of their literature. It’s “Real God, Real People.” It’s really simple, but it’s got punch. If you can move beyond just regular prose to a few sayings like that, it helps as you’re trying to communicate this to other people in big numbers.
To be successful a church planter must have a well-rounded, specific vision for their church. They must be able to communicate with a passion that will attract people. They must live it and own it. So, where are you going to start?
This piece was first published as a part of From Coaching Church Planters: A Manual for Church Planters and Those Who Coach Them by Steve Nicholson.
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About the Author
Steve Nicholson is a pastor of the Evanston Vineyard in Illinois and was previously the head of the Church Planting Task Force for Vineyard USA.
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