Forming vision teams

By Jim LaDoux
“A Visioning Team is a small, cohesive group within an organization that provides leadership throughout the transformation process. It's guided by a capable leader who builds a positive, proactive team, positions its members for maximum impact, monitors progress, reflects on results, and celebrates short-term wins.”
The purpose of a Vision Team is to inspire a shared vision around God’s preferred future of your faith community that encompasses home and congregational life as well as online settings and engagement with the local and global community. The vision casting  process involves 3 essential stages:
  1. REVIEW "what is." The vision team creates a Congregational and Community Report that describes the church's identity, its purpose and current priorities, its passions, traditions, norms, and strengths. In addition, it names what's working, what's not working, the most significant issues facing the church along with emerging opportunities for ministry.
  2. RETHINK "what might be." The vision team creates a Preferred Future Report that outlines a clear and compelling vision for what the church will look like 3-5 years from now. It describes what people would "see, feel, and hear" as part of this preferred future, and usually reflects how people would connect with God, connect with each other, and connect the people and needs one's community.
  3. REINVENT "what's next." The vision team create a ministry road map that outlines specific strategies, quarterly goals, and action steps for moving forward.  The road map lists who is responsible for upcoming steps and when each step will be completed. The ministry road map is a "working document" that is updated monthly or quarterly to reflect recent plans and changes in the ministry landscape. 

Typical teams are 5-8 people in size, comprised of lay leaders that represent various age groups and perspectives. The pastor (s) are part of the team but usually don't lead the team. They often serve as Spiritual Guides for the team along with providing helpful background information and institutional history. Team members usually:
  • Meet for 1 year, or until the work they oversee is integrated into the church’s structure.
  • Gather 8-12 times a year to develop a compelling vision, create a ministry road map, celebrate the progress being made, and identify next steps for living into the vision. 
  • Sponsor a "visioning retreat" where additional members and church leaders gather to help shape a preferred future.
  • Stay in touch with team members via Zoom, texting, and emailing.
  • Have defined roles as well as serve as temporary project coordinators.
  • Spend 1-3 hours a month listening, learning, and working on short-term tasks.
  • Pay attention to the church's culture and how its shaped by its purpose, priorities, traditions, norms, and what people say, do, measure, and celebrate.
  • Pay attention to the bright spots in ministry and where they see God as work in the congregation and community.
  • Tend to their ongoing spiritual growth and vitality, seeking to understand what following in the way of Jesus looks like for themselves as well as their faith community. 

Team members usually are commissioned during worship when their term of service begins and provide progress reports to the congregation on a quarterly basis. Progress reports are often shared at monthly/quarterly leadership meetings.

  • They're active participants in the church's mission and ministries.
  • They're positive, proactive, and prayerful; they're open-minded and willing to learn.
  • They're accessible by phone, text, and email, and respond in a timely manner. 
  • They have a track record of following through on commitments and responsibilities.
  • They have a strong network of relationships at and beyond the church.
  • They're respectful of the church’s history and traditions yet open to new approaches to ministry.

In addition to participating in team meetings and completing short-term tasks each month, most vision teams also assign individuals to play a few key roles.  The most common ones include:
  • Team Facilitator. This person creates powerful team meeting agendas, guides conversations during the meetings, assigns tasks to team members, and follows up on people's commitments between meetings to ensure that they have the support needed to fulfill their tasks. 
  • Historian. This person keeps notes from each meeting, usually in bullet-form. This person also updates the Celebrations Log, and the Vision Team's planning road map.
  • Reports Coordinator. This person coordinates the creation of 3 reports: The Congregation and Community Profile, The Preferred Future Report, and initial drafts of the Ministry Road Map.  
  • Spiritual Guide. This person creates safe, sacred space for the vision team to discern God's intentions throughout the process. The guide may offer prayers on behalf of the team, invite team members to dwell on scripture, and encourage spiritual growth among team members.
  • Communication Coordinator. This person creates plans for keeping members and leaders abreast of recents wins, decisions, and next steps of the visioning team through various church communication platforms such as the website, e-news, worship announcements, Facebook, Instagram, etc. This person also creates or maintains a roster of church leaders (pastors, paid staff, elected leaders, ministry team members). 
  • Listening Coordinators. This person coordinates listening projects such as interviewing leaders of ministry teams, community leaders, and leaders from various churches or ministries. Information gathered from people were interviewed is woven into other Congregational Report.

Actions most teams need to address the first month of being formed include:
  • Confirming buy-in among team members about the team charge.
  • Listing the "deliverables" the team will provide on behalf of the church.
  • Gathering and sharing contact information from all team members.
  • Determine where team information can be accessed or uploaded.
  • Assigning key roles to team members.
  • Deciding when, where, and how the the team will meet and for how long.
  • Discuss team member's willingness to listen and learn between meetings.
  • Discussing what team members need to thrive; deciding on a team covenant.
  • Deciding on the content to be addressed during team meetings.

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