Sticky Visions

I’d like to introduce you to a pastor and leadership speaker we have not spoken of yet.  We have talked about Dr. Brene’ Brown, Danielle Strickland, Patrick Lencioni, Craig Groeschel just to mention a few.  Today is Andy Stanley’s turn.

Andy Stanley is a pastor and leadership speaker/author.  He calls himself a church grower.  He is part of an organization whose vision is to “create churches unchurched people love to attend.”  He’s created 97 churches world-wide with this vision.

Let’s talk about your vision.  It’s all well and good that you have begun the work to create a vision statement for your church.  But how do you make it something that is easily articulated, is “owned” by leadership and the parish, something that drives resource decisions?  Stanley tells us in a video presentation and in a book of the same name, Making Vision Stick, that there are several fundamentals for making vision stick.

He first defines vision as “a mental picture of a what, of what could be, a preferred future.  The vision is fueled by a conviction that it should be the future.”  A vision gathers momentum as others “see” the preferred future.  It is from conviction and momentum that the steps to get there emerge.  But remember, a vision does not explain the “how.”

When creating vision, it needs to be clear and those speaking it should do so with clarity.  Clarity results in influence, which is the essence of leadership.  We don’t often follow leaders who have the grandest plan, but we do follow those who are clearest about their vision.

These are the fundamentals of a “sticky vision.”

  1. State it simply.  Paragraphs and complex sentences don’t work.  People can’t easily articulate it.  You want it to be memorable, it has to be portable.  For example, the Disney Company’s vision statement is: “to be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information.”  Short, easily memorized so that all employees can state it, from the street sweeper to the CEO.
    1. Cast the vision convincingly
    2. State the problem
    3. Offer the solution, which is the vision
    4. Explain why that vision is the right solution.
  2. Repeat, repeat, repeat.  Vision statements tend to fade away over time unless you continue to address them.  The vision needs to be in frequent conversations, in meetings about resources and directions of the parish.  The vision should be the touchstone.  Everything should point back to the vision.
  3. Celebrate it systematically.  Celebrate when you have accomplished pieces of the vision.  What’s reported and celebrated is remembered, embedded and thus has a higher likelihood of being repeated.

I think that “State it simply” is the most fundamental idea of all of them on Stanley’s list.  In my experience, I have seen parish visions that included everything but the kitchen sink.  It is imperative the parish leadership and parishioners know and can articulate what the parish is about.  When asked about the parish, anyone in the parish should be able to say something like, “We bring the Kingdom of God to everyone who walks in our door.”  Something like that – short, declarative, memorable and possible.  (And no, you should not take that as your vision statement.  That is the vision Jesus said is for all followers to do.  Yours must be far more specific to your place, time and situation).

We have just completed a series on Courage.  Within courage is the need for vision-casting.  Our blog in that series entitled Skills That Increase Courage will give you the steps in casting a vision.  For more on that, for mentoring and assistance writing vision statements, contact us.  And for your continued growth as a leader, tap into new knowledge streams that talk about sticky visions, the importance of vision to organizational health and the like.


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As I write this, it’s just under a month until the first phase of the Church’s Synod on the process of synodality is to begin.