Some people like to look back at this time of the year and note all the things they accomplished in the previous year.
If they stayed busy and had some measure of success, the year is considered successful. I think it’s better to measure our activity by how well it enabled us to achieve our vision.
It’s easy to be very busy doing the wrong things, and much of what we do that is not in alignment with our vision will be wrong.
That’s why we can exert a lot of energy and see little, if any, change in our churches and other organizations.
There’s not much we can do about the past except to learn from it and ensure we don’t duplicate the same mistakes.
As we begin the first week of a new year, how well are your initiatives aligned with your vision? Have you planned intentional activity that will bring you closer to achieving the vision God has for your ministry, church or both?
Of course, you can’t answer that if you have not discerned God’s vision for your church, and unfortunately that is the case for many churches.
As I have worked with churches of all sizes, and especially smaller churches, I have found the vast majority of them have no sense of a clear vision for ministry.
To make the problem worse, many of those churches that do have a vision have one that is so fuzzy or generic that it is really not helpful at all.
If your church is beginning a new year with no vision for ministry, I strongly suggest investing the time and energy in discerning such a vision.
Otherwise, your church will spend another year drifting along hoping that something good might somehow happen instead of being intentional about pursuing a God-given vision.
The mission of the church is simple and is the same for every church. It’s found in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) and the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40).
The vision will be different for every church because your vision will address how your church will accomplish that mission today in your community.
Since every community is different with different needs, and since every congregation is made up of different people with different gifts and passions for ministry, the vision will vary from church to church.
To put this in another way, whether you are in the largest megachurch or you are leading a small group meeting in a storefront, the mission will be the same.
However, you will have a different vision for how you will accomplish that mission.
One reason so many churches struggle is because they do not understand God’s vision for their church. Content to drift along they eventually drift into problems, conflict and confusion.
Spend time in vision discernment as a new year begins. You may need to bring someone in from outside your church to help lead this, such as a denominational leader, a consultant or a good coach.
I’ve worked with several churches in vision discernment, and many of them found it to be a positive for their churches.
When your work is in alignment with your vision, you find that you become much more effective, your work becomes more enjoyable because you can measure what you are doing against a target and it becomes easier to prioritize your time.
Dennis Bickers is a church consultant and author. He served previously as the bivocational pastor of Hebron Baptist Church near Madison, Indiana, for 20 years followed by a 14-year ministry as a resource minister with the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky. He blogs at Bivocational Ministry, where a version of this article first appeared. It is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @DennisBickers.