By George Bullard
Yes, and for very good reasons. There is nothing wrong with professionals. There’s no reason to criticize them. It is all about the dependency congregations develop with outside third-parties who help them craft their future vision. Because ownership is such an important part of any vision statement, and because it needs to be something that emerges out all the passionate experience of congregational participants, to use a professional marketer or strategist at the specific point of crafting the vision statement does not enhance its value.
What a professional marketing strategist can do is help you polish the statement once crafted. They can help you align the vision statement with other things you are writing, sharing and communicating. They can help you evaluate whether or not the things you are doing to fulfill your vision actually connect with the vision statement.
It is always possible a coaching relationship can assist you while you are writing your vision statement. This should definitely be a process coaching relationship and not one where the coach provides you with actual content other than as an example of multiple ways your vision statement could be crafted.
Here are three vision insights that focus on the authentic nature of a written vision statement versus a professional vision statement. The first 40 vision insights about congregational vision are contained in the posts found here.
Vision Insight 41: Too much focus on a professional vision statement takes the focus off of a real visionary experience.
While it is very important to have a well-written vision statement that communicates clearly, it should not be so professional and sterile that it does not speak into the actual experience of the congregation. Having a marketing strategy for its context is important. Overly professionalizing vision statements to use as a marketing tool often distracts from the power and passion around a vision.
It is not the well-crafted and professionally polished vision statement that is likely to significantly increase the invitational quality of a congregation. It is the relationship with people, and the meaning and significance of the visionary experience in the life and ministry of the congregation that will be enticing to others.
Stories about real visionary experiences that speak into the lives of others are the most powerful marketing tools you can have. Yes, a professional marketing strategist can assist you in realizing when you have some great stories, but they do not originate them. The stories must be the real experiences of real people connected with your congregation who are willing to engage others through their storytelling.
Vision Insight 42: Vision is not about doing the same old things the same old ways and giving them a new name and motto.
Vision is not window dressing. It is not just style. It is of a substantive nature. It is real, new and innovative content, focus, and direction. It is not dressing up what you have already been doing for many years and calling it a new vision from God. This would focus more on the past and perhaps the present. Vision always focuses on the future towards with God is pulling us.
It is not that the same old things done in the same old ways were wrong or bad. They were just about the past rather than the future. While the core substance of the gospel proclaimed from the first century forward never changes, the strategies and structures for nurturing and proclaiming the gospel message modulate over time. The style with which the gospel message is proclaimed is in constant flux.
I once heard Len Sweet say, for example, that he had changed his style of preaching five times during his ministry in response to the changing patterns of succeeding generations of followers of Jesus. Read carefully. That was a change in style, some in structure, but not in the substance of the gospel preached.
Vision Insight 43: Vision is so much more than a marketing statement or motto, yet these can be important in communicating vision.
It is important to cast vision in a manner that connects with the audience each congregation is called to address. As a vision statement is molded in response to visionary discernment and insight, it must be the breath of God that edits the words and phrases, and not a Madison Avenue marketing mindset.
The counterpoint is that vision must connect with people who may not have the same depth of God talk in their lifestyle as the deeply committed disciples who form the people of passion in congregations.
This is the 17th in a series of posts on congregational vision. To see all the posts go here. The next blog post in this series is entitled “What are excellent versus mediocre congregational visions?”