When I was still serving as a children’s pastor, one of the churches I was on staff at had never hosted a summer Vacation Bible School. This is typically a week-long event for elementary age children that is high energy and filled with games, crafts teachings, music, etc. The whole purpose of the week is to help kids know and follow Jesus better. Unfortunately, at that time, the typical week was very focused on the kids already coming to the church. My heart was to create an event that focused more on kids in the community who had never been to church before.
The church staff heard my dream and supported my vision. After six months of planning, the big day hit and I was overwhelmed to see 300 kids attend our first ever night. We did things very differently than a typical church event and it was a huge success. While I acknowledge that it was truly a God-led moment, there were also many things that I needed to do as the leader to see the vision come to pass. Upon reflection, there are three basic steps that will help us as leaders move our vision from here to there…from a dream to a reality.
Vision – throughout the Bible, we see stories of people with amazing vision that God brings to fruition (Daniel, Abraham, and Mary to name a few) and those who lacked vision and ended in defeat (Samson, King Saul and Judas). Without vision, we have no direction, no purpose and nowhere to see our passion manifest. Vision provides the answers to so many questions. Vision keeps us focused on the big picture when the little details seem overwhelming. Vision rallies others when they see our enthusiasm and it matches up with passion of their own.
My vision was to create an event that would attract kids to attend church and learn about God in a fun and high-energy environment. This was compelling enough to draw support from church staff and volunteers because I was so fired up about it that the excitement became contagious. A vision is not truly compelling until it keeps the leader up at night! What is that dream you have been holding on to that God might be surfacing right now? Write it down and keep it in sight!
Strategy – while it is a blast to dream and reach for the sky, it can quickly become an exercise of frustration if there is not a framework for accomplishment. This is what strategy provides. How many different components does your vision entail? How many people do you need to join the team in order to see success? What are the big rocks you must have in order to make progress towards achievement? Strategy is your game plan, your map, your flow chart. Strategy shows the basic route to get from here to there. Strategy does not require a lot of details, but it definitely requires a sense of direction and needs to get to your vision. And the best strategy is often created within the context of a team instead of one individual attempting to see all of the angles and possibilities.
My strategy was to split up the Vacation Bible School into as many different areas as possible and give away as much authority as possible to key volunteers. We had snacks and games and teachings and music. Multiple generations of volunteers were serving and one person was even in charge of gathering prizes (for free!!) from local businesses. Meetings were planned, checkpoints of accomplishment were determined and the strategy kept everybody moving the same direction at the same time to the culmination of our vision. What an incredible demonstration of the power of team! Without strategy we would have been a bunch of chickens running around, but with strategy we were a team of cyclists planning to win the Tour de France.
Tactics – here is where the rubber meets the road. All of the dreams and strategies must eventually land in basic, daily tasks. These are the practical steps needed to accomplish the vision. A journey of a thousand miles is completed one step at a time. It might seem counterintuitive, but the dream is actually in the details. Without the details, the dream remains a dream. With the details, the dream becomes a reality that often far exceeds our wildest hopes.
Checklists might not seem exciting but they prevent us from forgetting key components for our vision. Deadlines are essential and somebody has to be in charge of making copies, right? Practical tactics allowed me to see over 300 kids and almost 100 volunteers come together for a week that truly transformed hundreds of lives. And this event has continued to this day making a difference for hundreds of kids every summer for almost fifteen years.
So, how do we get from here to there? My suggestion is to start backwards. Determine the “there”, otherwise known as your vision. Write it down, let it sink deep into your heart and then, when it’s time to share, your passion will be contagious. Develop a team to help create the framework of strategy and then work out the details that will lead to accomplishment. And write it all down as you go. My greatest blessing is to see something that God had me start years ago continue to this day under the leadership of other people because if the vision is the right one, it will outlast the leader.