Making Vision Real
by Dave Zietlow Vision is an attractive, ideal future state that is credible and compelling yet not readily attainable. Once an organization has gone through the dreaming process to determine what might be, and articulated that vision with an identified mission, it is ready for the process of making it real. The Appreciative inquiry 4D model calls that Design and we know that process as strategic planning. This process asks the powerful open ended question "How do we make our vision real?"
Within a church community visioning might be led by a pastor with the assistance of lay leaders. In the strategic planning process, lay leadership needs to take the initiative and leadership of the plan development. Making the dream real depends on the willingness of the lay leadership within the church to lead and participate in the process with great energy. Selection of the strategic planning team is an important component of the planning process.
Strategy might be described as the general plan of action that takes into account resource allocation (people, facilities, equipment, and time); strengths and identity of the organization; and core programs on which to build. The church as the organization finds this foundation in the skills & gifts of the leaders and people within the church, scripture, buildings, community partners, and healthy existing programs. Leaders need a clear purpose and vision before they adopt an effective strategy. Strategy involves a road map to where you are going and making adjustments along the journey based on what the organization wants to be and do.
It is very important to evaluate the environment in which the organization and church find itself. Community demographics and trends are an important component of a strategic plan. Telling stories of successes that help to build momentum or future success are used to gain energy from the strategic planning process. Situational analysis includes a search for SWOT - Strengths to build on, Weaknesses to grow into, Opportunities to take advantage and build on; and Threats to identify and meet with plans and resources. Data is gathered along with the stories of God's work in order to form a solid foundation of success. By linking action with vision, strategic planning provides hope for a better future.
Improving the chance of success, leaders develop strategies that focus on three qualities:
- Core Competence - This is something the organization does extremely well in comparison with others in the community. Asking the question, "How has God used our church to impact the community inside and outside our walls will point to a possible core competence. Core competencies can be developed by assessing the resources of the church and reading scripture to determine how the church has been equipped for ministry.
- Synergy - Occurs when the organizational parts come together to produce an impact that is greater than the individual components. Multiplying by bringing different groups within the church to a common purpose, engaging partners in the vision, and prioritizing activities that push the plan forward are all examples of leveraging synergy within the church. Small groups that pray and study scripture together often help form this synergy.
- Creating Value - Focusing on the church's core competencies and the synergy in moving together create value for the community. Grounded in scripture to love others this value multiplies itself throughout the church and into the community it serves.
Strategy formation integrates knowledge of the community, focuses on scripture and the Spirit, and implements vision and mission with the core competencies. It does this in such a way as to attain synergy and create value within and outside of the church community. Leaders need to ensure that strategies are executed and actual behavior within the organization reflects direction. The Appreciative Inquiry 4D Model focused on Design is an excellent methodology to develop a strategic plan.
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