Is the Vision for Us or Me?
Sorry kid, no one else in the room is smelling what you're cooking...
I was leading a retreat in the middle of Kansas a few years back to help a church discern the vision of its next season of ministry. This 2-day retreat is designed to help leaders articulate a dream for where God is leading their organization and devise a plan to pursue it. One of the exercises I guide teams through helps them discern different options to pursue. You can't do everything, so what specific impact is God calling you to? While it's rare to have 100% of people gravitate to the same thing, it is common for many leaders in the room to have a shared vision. After all, it's often why they're connected to this ministry in the first place. But that's not the case for everyone.
In this case, one leader, an influential servant in this ministry, was adamant that the church should pursue opening a food pantry in their new facility. Everyone else shared what their dreams for the church were as well. Many of them overlapped, but none of them shared the same desire for a food pantry. This leader tried to cast a compelling picture of what it would look like. But no one was sharing that specific dream.
Before you go and write off the rest of the leadership for not wanting to serve the poor, they were already an effective ministry with a huge heart to serve the community. While there are a million ways to serve and a million needs to meet in a community, this specific one didn't seem to resonate with the rest of the team. And that's ok.
I've led this exercise dozens of times, and every once in a while (which was true in this case), someone offers up a clear outlying direction they believe their team should pursue. After witnessing this a few different times, I realized something profound. Maybe God is calling that specific person to fulfill the vision in their heart.
It seems harsh in a team setting to facilitate a conversation that shuts down someone's dream. But when the team isn't picking up what one leader is putting down, we must reach a consensus and move forward. However, it doesn't mean that the vision in their heart needs to die.
So, God placed a vision in your heart...
How can you tell the difference between that vision being for the whole organization and a vision that's unique to you?
When it comes to discerning whether God is calling your organization to pursue a vision or if it's just a personal desire, it's important to remember that God has a plan for both! Your life and the ministries you serve in are unique and different. Sometimes it isn't easy to know where the organization's calling ends and your own begins. Here are a few key things to remember that can help guide your decision-making process.
1. Seek God in Prayer
For some, knowing and discerning God's will is as clear as the Apostle Paul getting knocked on his backside on the road to Damascus. For the rest of us, we're left to the good work of discerning God's dream and direction for our lives.
It's essential to seek guidance through prayer and reflection. Take time to quiet your mind and listen for God's voice. It's also helpful to seek the advice of trusted friends and leaders in your community who can provide guidance and support.
Also, there are deeply profound processes and tools designed to help guide you as you discern your calling. Soul care, counseling, and faith-based leadership coaching processes like Younique are designed to help you understand how God has uniquely created you. Knowing your passions, abilities, giftedness, and dreams assists you in discerning God's will for your life.
2. Know Your Ministry
Another critical factor to consider is whether the vision aligns with the mission and values of your organization. Think about the identity of your ministry. The mission, values, and discipleship strategy. Does it feel like this new vision is a complete "left turn" compared to that disciple-making identity? If so, it could be your own passion and conviction talking. Think back on the difference your ministry has made in the past. It doesn't mean you can't try something new, but organizations often have a history of investing in certain areas, and the new vision is tied to that identity in some way.
It's also important to consider whether the vision is something that is truly within your organization's capabilities and resources. If the vision seems unattainable or unrealistic, it may not be from God.
3. Put Your "Yes" on the Table
Finally, pay attention to the way you feel when you think about the vision. If it fills you with peace, excitement, and a sense of purpose, but no one else seems to affirm your dream for the ministry, it may be time to step out in faith on your own. It could be an Isaiah 6 moment for you where God calls out, "who will go for us?" Our response needs to be that of the prophet, "here am I, send me."
Ultimately, discerning God's will is a process that takes time and discernment. This is trou as a group and also individually. Trust that God will guide you and your organization as you seek to follow His will. Ask yourself a few simple questions to help your heart be open to God's leading:
Have you spent time seeking God's will through prayer and reflection? For yourself and the organization?
Is your ministry's vision aligned with the mission and values of the organization? Or more toward your own?
Do I need clarity on God's calling for my own life?
Am I the only one expressing passion about this?
While this journey is by no means simple, we can begin to understand that sometimes God calls us towards something corporately. Then sometimes, we must step out in faith on our own, recruit others passionate about this vision, and go on mission together.