Church Leadership Strategies – Vision Casting, Leader-Directed

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Leader-Directed Vision Casting

Part of the ministry resources on Strategies for Church Leadership and Renewal.

Introduction – What is a Visionary?

Leader-Directed Vision Casting is a “top-down” approach to church leadership and renewal where a visionary leader with high credibility works in concert with God to discern a vision for the congregation in collaboration with the spiritual community, communicates the vision so as to engender enthusiastic support, and then activates the strategies and structures to carry the vision to fulfillment. This often works well in conjunction with Leader/Participatory Strategic Planning, though some authors on this subject distance themselves from more traditional planning models.

This approach commonly assumes the existence of a strong visionary. A visionary is someone who can project an inspiring picture of the future and activate people and resources to realize that scenario. There certainly is biblical precedent for this with Nehemiah, David, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Deborah, Paul, and others. Also, Christian history is replete with examples in the early church with Augustine, the Reformation with Luther and Calvin, the American Restoration Movement with Campbell and Stone, and countless others.

On the other hand, research suggests visionary leadership is rare. They more commonly present among the intuitive/thinking (NT) temperament of the Myers-Briggs typology, which is not to say that only they can cast vision, but that they will do it with greater ease.

However, the process of vision leadership, even with its merits, can be a setup for disappointment. Those who are not gifted visionaries may try to emulate the practices of successful visionaries who write the books, only to find that they simply cannot identify with important aspects of the process, or that people do not respond enthusiastically. This is not a criticism of either the books or the leaders, but simply acknowledges that not all are geared for this work. Collins and Porras remind us in Built To Last, that it does not take a visionary to lead a great organization. However, for those who are gifted visionaries, and for those who are not naturally wired this way but train themselves toward that end, visionary leadership can bring powerful results.

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In terms of overall leadership theory, vision leadership is an expression of transformation and empowerment. One of the four key competencies of transformational leadership as defined by Bernard Bass is “inspirational motivation,” or being able to inspire others and provide meaning and challenge to their work by involving them in envisioning attractive futures. This key is upheld in all major authors on empowering leadership such as Max De Pree, Warren Bennis, James Kouzes, and Barry Posner.

For those who engage the vision process, it helps to have wise and experienced guides. The ministry resources below may help. They are listed in suggested order.

First Reads on Vision Leadership

  • Will Mancini, Church Unique: How Missional Leaders Cast Vision, Capture Culture, and Create MovementOne of the best on the subject. It is written from a missional perspective in distinction from strategic planning, church growth, or what he calls “soul fast foods” to which church members gravitate when they experience the vision vacuum. Mancini explains that each church has a culture that reflects its particular values, thoughts, attitudes, and actions and shows how church leaders can unlock their church’s DNA and unleash its one-of-a-kind potential.
  • Aubrey Malphurs, Developing a Vision for Ministry in the 21st Century, Second Edition —This has been a standard among evangelicals for many years, and is among the best from the pragmatic, church growth perspective. It is more collaborative than other approaches. Also, it is full of helpful appendices. Malphurs wrote several companion volumes, including:

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