Many congregational leaders know the importance of clear vision and mission statements. Some of us have experienced positive energy working with a team that articulates congregational hopes and dreams. It can be a creative endeavor. It can be fun. There is a sense of standing in the presence of hope.
What’s the difference between the two?
Many have identified careful distinctions between a mission statement and a vision statement. I like to simplify the difference.
A vision statement imagines an ideal. It states what your congregation wants to become. It is a mental picture of a desired future.
A mission statement defines purpose. Such a purpose statement describes what your congregation does. Who does it? How does it get done? It tells others why your congregation exists.
A friendly warning
Don’t create either a vision statement or a mission statement if you don’t intend to let such statements guide you every day. Your congregation should allow those tools to focus your thoughts and actions.
How many ways can you use vision and mission statements to shape congregational life?
If your vision and mission truly represent your congregation, you will find repeating the words of such statements will come naturally in many different settings. When this happens, you experience the satisfaction of serving a congregation that is clear about what it stands for and what it hopes to be.
Many congregational leaders know the importance of clear mission and vision statements. However, congregational leaders are less capable at enacting plans.
Years ago, Kennon Callahan described this as “calling plays the players can play.” There are lots of visionary congregational leaders, but not so many who can pull off Vacation Bible School. There need to be more leaders who learn to put plans into action. There need to be more who can manage annual festivals, start a small group ministry or spearhead an outreach trip. As a congregational leader, dreaming the big stuff can be seductive. But sometimes leadership means being able to design an operational infrastructure that can support a new Advent program.
After all, what good is a vision if the website hasn’t been updated?
The difference between management and leadership
I know there is a difference between management and leadership. But I also think the difference of the two apply more distinctly to very large organizations. Given the scale of most congregations, the distinction between leadership and management is certainly smaller than for a Fortune 500 company.
The link between leadership and management in the congregation is learning. Effectiveness at both means a commitment to learning how to do something new. Sometimes it is not so much vision that is needed as the ability to learn to accomplish tasks. This dynamic is true for many in the congregational system. The dynamic of learning is not limited to the lead pastor or to the chair of the board.
Congregations that flourish function as a learning community. This is true even if the congregation doesn’t call itself that.
There is an observable pattern among congregations which learn to do new things. This pattern goes beyond the distinctions between leadership and management. The specifics of this pattern differ from congregation to congregation. However, this pattern reveals the importance of plans and behaviors as a congregation moves through:
Is all this not theological enough?
This pattern is interestingly close to the pattern of revelation, identified by James Loder in his book The Transforming Moment. This pattern is at least as important, however less enticing, than having a vision. Sometimes good management is excellent leadership.
In terms of organizational learning, the book Immunity to Change from Kegan and Lahey provides a powerful perspective on how to manage any number of relational and missional challenges while leading and managing a congregation.
Planned giving doesn’t need to be a complicated challenge for your congregation. By following these principles, your congregation can start securing the financial future of your ministries.
Everyone needs a will.
Some people assume planned giving only applies to the very wealthy. The reality is that most people need a will, so a good starting point is to educate the congregation about the importance of having a will. As part of that conversation, invite people to include a final gift to the congregation in their wills. The vast majority of planned gifts arrive at the congregation in this manner.
Your faith community is uniquely positioned to talk about end-of-life issues.
Planned giving is best seen as a ministry. You can help people approach the end of life and stewardship of their assets from the perspective of their faith. Your congregation should root this conversation in your own faith tradition’s teachings about life and death, helping congregants to think about managing their assets based on what they most deeply believe and value.
Link this topic to your mission and vision.
Potential donors need to envision what your congregation could do with their gifts. Share your vision and help people to see how they could leave a legacy by supporting your congregation’s ongoing mission or a particular ministry or program. Make sure your congregation has a gift acceptance policy and a plan to receive and manage gifts through an endowment or other special fund. These tools will be helpful to your congregation and important to share with potential donors.
Congregations don’t need expertise in tax and legal issues.
The role of the congregational leader is to explain why planned giving is important in terms of faith and values and to share how the congregation can benefit from a planned gift. To determine the most beneficial planned giving vehicle, refer the individual donor to his/her attorney or tax advisor.
Rely on resources from your denomination or partner with your community foundation.
A number of denominations have resources to help congregations plan and promote wills and planned giving. Some denominations also offer a foundation to manage a congregation’s endowment fund. Consult your local community foundation as a possible partner in setting up an endowment fund and receiving planned gifts.
Leadership is leading people to the place they’d go if they only knew how. This is the definition of leadership I learned from my friend Dr. James Rafferty.
Such leadership happens in the small exchanges between people in hallways, on the phone or as the work day ends. Congregational leadership happens in these subtle connections as much or more than in grand pronouncements about mission and vision.
We’ve trained clergy to be active listeners. We’ve taught clergy and laity the importance of collaboration. Our clergy and lay leaders know to accept many points of views.
Relational and directive
Sometimes the demands of congregational life require leadership to be open and highly relational. On other occasions, congregational life requires leadership to be more directive.
Yes and no
Yes, in some instances, it is important that a clergy person’s “yes” be “yes” and his or her “no” be “no.” But it is important to remember: a clergy person with a non-directive, sensitive temperament can be trained to be more directive and resilient more easily than a person with a direct, tough temperament can be coached to be more non-directive and sensitive.
What kind of temperament do you have?
More directive? Or more non-directive? Either way you will need to exercise the other muscle.
If you are more non-directive, look for those who will nudge you to be more clear and straightforward when the situation demands that. If you are more directive, look for people who will stay after you to work with a lighter touch, particularly when dealing with relationships. This will be hard for you, but you can do it.
Remember, you are helping people go where they want to go if they only knew how.