My experience has taught me that the majority of pastors are fairly driven people. It may be due to the nature of our calling or something in our personality or some other intangible factor but we pastors tend to want to accomplish something and we want that accomplishment to be important in our eyes, in the eyes of others and sometimes even in God’s eyes.
It may be that part of the problem we have with maintenance ministry is that it doesn’t seem to accomplish much–actually, it is probably better to say that it doesn’t seem to accomplish much in the short term. Like most people in North America, we want to accomplish great things is less time than it takes for our latest electronic device to become obsolete. The regular caring ministry of the church does accomplish great things but it takes time.
This drive to accomplish may be part of the reason why so many pastors push and prod and even demand that their churches adopt a vision, often a vision that these pastors have developed. Their vision will help the church, they claim. A careful examination of the proposed vision will sometimes reveal that the proposed vision will also do great things for the pastor if it is adopted.
Pastors, like congregations, have times when they need a vision. Some pastors, in fact, seem to need a vision all the time, while others need a vision at certain times in their lives and ministry. It is important therefore for pastors to understand their need for a vision and how that personal vision relates to the congregations they serve.
There will often be a connection between the personal vision and the ministry the pastor is involved in. When I decided that I wanted to study for my D. Min., that personal vision had a direct effect on the churches I was pastoring at the time: the congregations had to recommend me to the seminary; they had to allow me time off for study; my work for them was the focus of much of my study and they had to be willing to be a part of the project that was part of my study.
The important thing about this process was that it was my personal vision and I gave them a free and clear choice about being a part of that vision. Had they not been interested, I would have had to revise my personal vision. It was not a requirement that they become part of my personal vision.
I encourage pastors to develop a personal vision–it can be a very important part of their personal growth and development. While some might chose a vision that has nothing to do with ministry, most will chose a vision that has ministry implications. But we must always be clear that our personal vision doesn’t necessarily have to be the church’s vision. If the congregation isn’t interested in our vision, that doesn’t mean they are unspiritual, unwilling to develop, against us or anything like that. It simply means they aren’t moved by our personal vision and if we want to pursue that vision, we need to do it on our own.
In my ministry, I have had many personal visions. Some, like my educational desires, have been shared with the congregation who happily volunteered to participate in the vision. Others, like my desire to be involved in denominational activity, were approved and supported by the congregation but not adopted as their vision. Others, like my writing, were quite separate from the congregation who didn’t always know what I was writing or for whom.
The pastor’s personal vision is important–but it isn’t always important that the church adopt that vision. Particularly in the small church, the congregation’s vision needs to grow and develop from the real setting and needs of the congregation. While the pastor is an important part of the congregation and vision process, he/she must always be aware of the important distinction between his/her personal vision and the congregation’s vision. The two may be related–but they may also have no real connection beyond the person of the pastor.
May the peace of God be with you.