Whose Vision is it, Anyway?
I’ve invited my colleagues (and CCI veterans) Dan Bolin, Brian Ogne and Neil Fichthorn to talk about how board-director unity on vision issues can be achieved.
DB – Although vision tends to emerge from an individual, not a committee, God-given vision isn’t a one-man show. It must be confirmed and supported by the entire group. Through balance and consensus, board members and the director alike contribute to a fully developed vision.
NF – When there are differences of opinion or viewpoint among the decision- makers, each needs to have an opportunity to express his opinion about where the organization needs to go – without resorting to emotional appeals or outbursts. Therefore, it is usually unwise to use a confrontational style of communication when building consensus for a vision.
DB – It’s OK to disagree, but make sure to practice good stewardship and model Christ’s love so as to preserve the ministry. Don’t get entrenched in your own opinions. When people abandon their commitment to consensus and start talking about “my” vision, someone needs to find out if the Lord’s wisdom – or personal agendas – is prevailing.
BO – A wise director will test-market his vision with his board and staff. There have been times when I’ve gotten too far down the road and heard my staff say, “Hey! What about the people, money and other resources we’re going to need?” The board is responsible for making sure resources are available to bring the vision to life, but there must be open discussion and solid agreement on direction before beginning.
NF – Directors who listen to the constituents – adult guests, camper families, staff, board members, donors, peers and experts on camp growth – gain a lot by learning people’s views on the proposed vision/direction. That information, in turn, allows them to adjust their plans as needed.
DG – Listening often and well is extremely important. Recently I met with the pastor and elder team at a mid-sized church. The pastor was eager to begin a major building program but they really needed a feasibility study before proceeding. Unfortunately, the pastor wasn’t interested, stating, “God gave me a vision for this project and He will lead us through.” It is easy for some camp leaders, too, to spiritualize and protect their projects, refusing to seek the counsel and accountability of others.
BO – A great way to approach any decision-making task is to develop a prayer team, well before the decision is made. By asking God first – not after the vision has already been launched – all the issues can be bathed in prayer to see if God is confirming the direction.
DB – Many camps and conference centers these days are forming new visions in order to keep them viable for both ministry and business in the years ahead. Be sure to begin with a brutally honest assessment of where you are now – what is working, what is not, where the weaknesses are, and where new opportunities for ministry exist. Consider your core ministry and program competencies, heritage, available resources, history, donor base, internal and external cultures, and begin praying for God to show the organization where to put its efforts.
BO – Focus groups comprised of key constituents can help us find out if we’re serving the right people in the right way. By asking them what they need most from us right now and how the ministry is meeting those needs, we can find out how our vision should be changed. If the organization’s vision isn’t evident in the changed lives of children and adults, something is wrong.
DB – We want to make sure our vision energizes people and our staff, but we also must guard against losing our own character along the way. Always ask: Are we – as the director and board members – in tune with God, living a life that’s honoring to the Lord?
DG – Nehemiah was all about vision and leadership, but he had to embrace risk (asking the king for resources) in order to answer God’s call on his life. It was only after a great deal of prayer and a clear understanding of what God was asking him to do, that Nehemiah was able to pursue his vision successfully.