Where there is no vision, management drives the sports utility vehicle, which is the image for the spiritual and strategic journey of a congregation that includes vision, relationships, programs and management. Vision, which was driving, is now in the back seat behind management. When this happens, many management people are elated. They believe they should have been in the driver’s seat all along.
For a while relationships are still navigating from the right-front seat, but eventually programs will move into the navigation seat. Relationships will be overtaken by tasks. Process will be overturned by programs.
The difficulty is that no congregation can manage its way into the future God has for it. This is pushing when God is about pulling. That is about efficiency whereas vision is about excellence. Management is about an organizational focus and vision is about an organism or movement focus.
Management as the lead factor is simply the opposite of having vision as the lead factor. While important and essential, management processes and actions are not intended to lead. They are intended to support visionary leadership.
Here are three vision insights that suggest a focus on management in congregations is not a focus on God’s vision. The first 61 insights about congregational vision are contained in the posts found here.
Vision Insight 62: Management is only fully happy when it is driving the congregational vehicle. When not driving, it is trying to drive.
Out of management’s overwhelming desire to control it wants to be in charge. Management believes congregations need more of what it has to offer. It feels that leaders are not accountable, and are not leading.
Even if a congregation is being well led, management people still feel leaders are not paying attention to all the right things. They continue to urge greater efficiencies, and as always they are partially right, but not sufficiently right that their concerns should always be addressed.
In the spiraling patterns of congregational life over the decades and generations, there are times when management must lead because there is no vision or there are insufficient leaders to empower the vision. When this happens the driving actions of management are meant to be temporary to provide a respite for visionary leaders to renew their strength and soar with faith in the manner of eagles.
Management, on the other hand, does not want to give up control and the driver’s seat to a new emerging sense of God’s vision for the congregation. Therefore, it may oppose the emerging vision as risky and out of character for the congregation.
Vision Insight 63: Vision fulfillment is more about empowerment than control, relationships than programs, and hope than heritage.
Empowerment, relationships and hope are part of the currency of vision. Control, complicated administration and decision-making, over-programming, and too high a view of the heritage of congregations are part of the currency of management. Congregations are often over managed by controlling management, and under led by visionary leadership.
Too often a management approach seeks to move a congregation only from negative to neutral. Management is concerned about fixing what is wrong and bad rather than soaring with what is right and good.
The classic — and I will admit overused — statement is true of management in many congregations: “We’ve never done it that way before.” The heritage culture has infected many congregations. God’s visionary leadership is about hope that builds on the heritage rather than the hope that the heritage of the congregation will return to dominance one day.
Vision Insight 64: Effective visionary leadership will be supported by empowering management that is captivated by God’s vision for the congregation.
Management can actually be empowering and not controlling. For many congregations that is an unfamiliar concept. They primarily or even exclusively perceive or experience management as controlling.
It is a thing of great beauty when management people, administrative committees or governance groups are captivated by the vision of the congregation, and see the great contribution they can make to empowering the fulfillment of the congregational vision.
Unfortunately, management people and entities in too many congregations see it as their responsibility to control the congregation rather than to empower the congregation. In its most radical form this control can be demonic.
God’s vision seeks to empower congregations to be all they can be in the midst of God’s Kingdom. Satan seeks to control congregations and keep them from doing good and being people of Good News.
This is the 22nd in a series of posts on congregational vision. To see all the posts go here. The next blog post in this series is entitled, “Congregational management must be accountable to visionary leadership.”