VISION & Should Out-group Members Help Shape Vision?

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 11/5/15.

A pastor of a mid-sized church (300-450 attendance) wondered to what degree the vision should be generated by the pastor and staff (the in-group) and to what degree should the vision be co-generated with laity who may include out-groups. This is what he said:

“What do you think about the viewpoints that ‘it is not the Elders’ role to come up with the vision,’ but (their) work is to follow the lead pastor’s vision and ensure that he/she has time, resources, and tools to cultivate a clear vision of the body.” The student went on to emphasize that in many large churches it is the pastor and staff who are an in-group that drives the vision. And the laypersons and out-groups are those who bring it about. Thus vision should be in-group created but out-group undertaken.

But, I wonder with such a scenario about two things. First, perhaps God has sent those out-group members to your church and He wants you to reach out to them and build a shared vision.

Secondly, the in-group/out-group division could have been caused by cultural differences (see my posting on “Does Race Matter When It Comes to Out-group Members?”) Therefore, should we break down the organizational silos and unite a congregation by creating a shared vision, rather than a vision created by the dominant culture in the church.

And finally, what will happen when a new leader (e.g. pastor) comes into such a situation?  Does each new pastor bring their own new vision to the church?  Regrettably, I have observed that this is often the case. The end result it that with each successive pastor the church often gets a new vision and then goes in a new direction, thwarting long term strength and health.

In fact, in the business word the new leader rarely comes up with a brand new vision, but instead allows input from the in-groups and out-groups to set a shared vision.  But there is a caveat. And that is that some churches may have a wrong vision (and/or mission) and therefore they must be gently but tenaciously drawn back to the missio Dei.  However, I’m not talking about these churches.

Rather, I sense that if most churches foster a vision that is cultivated in community that vision will be is more balanced, broad, shared and long-term.