One thing I have noticed in my first ten years of ministry is that vision is easy to cast but hard to make stick. There are so many good and godly ideas that we can talk about. There are so many biblical directives and directions we can take. Communicating those things is easier than doing those things. I found Andy Stanley’s book Making Vision Stick extremely helpful in understanding how to get an organization to catch and maintain a vision. This goes beyond forging mission statements and having meetings. This book gets to the core of leadership itself. What is more, this book communicates a great deal in only 75 tiny pages. I really do mean tiny, this is a small, small book. I thought this book was so helpful that I ordered copies for all our elders and staff so that we can discuss it together. After reading this review maybe you will feel like doing that as well.
Here is the gist of what Stanley lays out:
Leaders must take responsibility
It starts with you. He says, “it is the leader’s responsibility to ensure that people understand and embrace the vision of the organization…but when a leader blames the follower for not following, the leader has ceased to lead.” (p.17). He says we must make what we are doing “get-able”. People have to get on board. That means we must communicate things in a consistent and coherent manner. This starts with leadership. It doesn’t get done by polling the congregation. It takes a group of leaders who decide on what they believe is the biblical course and direction for the congregation and getting everyone else on board. In other words, we can’t just hope that people will randomly come together on a consistent and coherent direction and move forward in a unified fashion.
Once the leadership has realized its own responsibility in casting and maintaining a biblical vision there are five things you can do to “significantly increase the adhesiveness of your vision.” (p.18)
- State the vision simply
- Cast the vision convincingly
- Repeat the vision regularly
- Celebrate the vision systematically
- Embrace the vision personally
State the vision simply
He says, “People don’t remember or embrace paragraphs” so make it simple and memorable. “If your vision is unclear to you, it will never be clear to the people in your organization. For your vision to stick, you may need to clarify or simplify it.” That is so, so true. I wonder if sometimes we have so much vision that it is distracting. We don’t consolidate and boil it down to the most significant thing. People are so busy and so distracted, it is hard to get them on board to a dozen visions. This also means that the leader understands the vision. This is going to take prayer. It is going to take study. It is going to take time. We often get so pulled down by the urgent that we don’t make time to prepare for the future in a way that is healthy and balanced.
Cast the vision convincingly
He gives three parts to this step
- Define the problem – people have to realize how serious it is and what is at stake if they don’t get on board
- Offer a solution – A vision is convincing when people can see the connection between the problem and how the organization is offering a solution
- Present a reason – This is the reason action must take place now. This is the answer to the questions “Why must we do this?” and “why must we do this now?” It isn’t that you are the first to recognize the problem itself but a leader will understand that the problem is so significant that it requires immediate, coordinated action to address it.
Repeat the vision regularly
This is about building vision casting “into the rhythm of your organization.” This is not about saying something once or twice and hoping people get that what you are talking about is a long term focus of the efforts of the entire congregation. The repetition is done in numerous ways (sermons, activities, emails, mailouts, etc). In order to make this a habit he recommends doing this at regular times each year so that it becomes part of the rhythm of the congregation.
Celebrate the vision systematically
Celebration clarifies the win. People will repeat what is most often celebrated. Stanley says, “Every organization celebrates something. But if your vision doesn’t align with your celebrations, I assure you that what’s celebrated will overpower the vision and determine the course of your organization.” (p.40)
Embrace the vision personally
“Your willingness to embody the vision of your organization will have a direct impact on your credibility as a leader.” (p.47). That is so, so true. In our new evangelistic class on Wednesday nights, I make sure that as I give out outreach responsibilities that I take on some myself and that if there are studies happening, that I am involved in them personally and that the class knows that. How can I expect them to buy in to something I am personally disengaged from?
“When you embody the vision of your organization, people come to believe that your job is more than just a job for you. Over time it occurs to insiders that you would be doing the same thing even if there weren’t an organization to support you. When it is evident to those closest to you that you have personally embraced the vision, you give them permission to do the same.”
How to tell when your vision is slipping
Last, the book talks about how to know if your vision is slipping. I will leave it up to you to get this book and read that part because I think it will be well worth your time.
How have you helped cast and implement vision and direction for your congregation? How have you maintained it over the long haul?