A lot of the conversation around the missional church surrounds smaller and that can be a challenge for leaders of larger churches struggling with the same tensions of mission. Translating ideas from the missional conversation so they work in the context of big is challenging since the larger the organization, the more systems are needed to ensure its function (and those systems are hard to change). The next few blog posts will offer some ideas applicable to a larger church context, the first being a challenge to the common practice of ‘vision casting’.

Every two to five years every lead pastor will emerge from the mountaintop (or retreat center), appearing before the congregation with the proverbial tablets containing the future vision/direction for the church.

Every two to five years every lead pastor will go back to the mountaintop, cast vision again, because the previous one sputtered out and the church looks the same.

We all want to see our churches transformed for the better, but changing culture is very hard.

Why is this and is there a better way?

I just finished a book titled ‘Tribal Leadership‘, that confirms: changing culture is hard, but it can happen if you inspire people the right way. Inspiration, however, isn’t the most important piece. When new vision rolls out, a congregation may get excited, but excitement doesn’t translate into profound buy-in that will lead to significant change. What leaders are trying to do is change culture for the better, but our method to impart vision top-down impedes this intent. It turns out it routinely becomes disconnected from what’s actually happening in community.

Picture yourself as factory worker where one day the manager comes in and surprises everyone with new direction and policies for the supposed betterment of the company. It’s going to impact the way you do your day-to-day job. Two things usually happen: you slowly and begrudgingly fall in line; or you resist. For centralized organizations, it’s generally hard to mobilize workers to get excited for prpfound cultural changes when it comes top-down. There’s simply nothing inspiring about taking orders especially when, and here’s the key, you have little ownership.

[tweetthis]Inspiring people to believe in a vision means they have to somehow be part owner of the story.[/tweetthis]

Right now, I, along with my colleagues, are going through a visioning/strategy process to figure out what the next steps for our church. The difference is we’re not relying on a sudden new epiphany from God, rather we’re trying to affirm what is already happening in our community and build from there. The work we’re trying to do is discerning where and what the existing culture looks like, and how we can take it deeper.

Taking that culture deeper means we need to build people up so that they become owners of the dream for the community. When someone owns the dream, they in turn become evangelists for that dream. What could be better as a leader than to step back and see everyone else take over what you’ve started (or have been a part of)? It’s also a crucial component to kick-start a culture of growth. When your church values reflect Kingdom values, and that culture is embraced as shared story, you have a chance of developing healthy and replicating community.

What can you affirm and where do you need to go deeper as a church? Maybe you need to restart and start new, or maybe you just need to see where there’s life already happening and build from there.