Last summer I spent a month at Christ Church, Mount Pleasant, working as an intern on a placement for my course. The thing that struck me the most was the clear sense of vision that the Rector, Ted, and the staff team, had for the church. He wasn’t just running a church, doing what needed to be done, but he was planning, casting vision, putting step by step strategy and short and long term goals. And he managed to communicate it to just about every member of his congregation. They were behind him. The church had found a focus: to be a community of communities through which Christ transforms the lives of those in the church and those outside. This vision wasn’t just plucked out of the air; it was the result of much prayerful planning, taking into account the recent and long term changes in the church. It was inspiring. His recent annual address shows that – it is clear on where the church has come and where it is going – inspiring: Read it here.
Now, here’s the problem. Ted cast inspiring vision, he showed great leadership. He was able to delegate well in order to plan the nitty-gritty everyday stuff. He paced the change appropriately, and explained it at each point. However, he has raised my expectations of what a leader should be. Last year, I was looking around at churches in which to do my curacy – I’d be part of the leadership team, but I would not be the leader. Don’t get me wrong, I looked at some great churches full of wonderfully committed Christian people, striving to live and work for God. I met committed leaders who attend to the needs of the congregation, teach well, and are wonderfully pastoral. But I did not seen much vision – very little in the way of bold statements of “this is what we’re gonna be,” “this is what we’re aiming for,” or “this is how we’re doing to do it.” I think this vision is important.
Surely the Church (big ‘C’) needs such vision, a vision that can only come from God, and so will be slightly different for each individual church depending on the community they are set in. Every church should have such a vision. I am not saying church leaders should all rely on management techniques, or global programs such as “40 days”, although there is a place for these to guide thinking. But as a church leader, I need to plug into what God wants to be doing in any particular community, listen to what his Spirit is saying and what He is already doing, allow him to guide the direction, then cast that vision, put it into action, prioritise, strategies etc.