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Partners In Ministry—the Christian Education/Discipleship Pastor

The Church's Vision for Building People—Who Makes It Happen?

By Leroy R. Bartel


Vision is a clear and precise mental portrait of a preferable future, imparted by God to His chosen servants, based on an accurate understanding of God, self, and circumstances.

Vision is marvelous and mysterious; it is also powerful. George Barna provides an excellent Christian perspective on vision. He states, "Vision is a clear and precise mental portrait of a preferable future, imparted by God to His chosen servants, based on an accurate understanding of God, self, and circumstances."

It’s one thing to dream a dream and see a vision, but who makes it happen? Who develops the strategy to see it achieved? The composer’s idea must become a musical score before it is ever a moving symphonic performance. The builder’s dream becomes an architect’s drawing, followed by a construction crew’s dirty, noisy work before it is ever a beautiful edifice. In the church, someone has to take the pastor’s vision and translate it into a congregational strategy before it can become part of the church’s ministry, or all is lost.

Although a church’s vision to reach the lost and build people must, in large part, be owned and cast by the senior pastor, the question is: Who develops the strategy and works the plan so a local church truly accomplishes this vision? In a larger church this may be the pastor’s senior associate or a Christian education director. In a smaller church it may be the pastor himself, or the task may be assigned to a deacon, Sunday school superintendent, or other lay leader.

Building the Vision

Regardless of who leads the process, the senior pastor must be deeply involved in the process from beginning to end. Other key leaders and influencers within the church should be included in the process as well. Without their involvement and ownership, there is little chance of success.


The person who is leading the visioning process must be careful to ensure that everything is bathed in prayer and guided by God’s Word.

A vision statement is built on a church’s mission statement and expresses the mission in terms of a future goal. It answers the questions: Where is God leading us in the immediate future? and What does God want us to accomplish? The process takes into account an analysis of the demographics and needs of a community, as well as the dynamics and character of the church.

The person who is leading the visioning process must be careful to ensure that everything is bathed in prayer and guided by God’s Word. Building a vision is a spiritual task, not simply a corporate necessity. No vision casting for a church is worth the paper it is printed on, unless it is generated and characterized by faith.

Communicating the Vision

One of the key tasks is communicating the vision in appealing ways. After the vision statement has been written, it should be reduced to a memorable slogan that can be easily remembered. A commercial designer or artist can be used to develop an attractive visual representation of the vision slogan.


In the church, someone has to take the pastor’s vision and translate it into a congregational strategy before it can become part of the church’s ministry, or all is lost.

The vision must be promoted continually in formal and informal ways. It must make its way into all of the church publications, correspondence, and advertisements. Products like mugs, pens, key chains, mouse pads, and apparel items can also be developed and effectively used to promote the church’s vision.

If the person responsible for coordinating and overseeing the church’s Christian education/discipleship ministries is given the task of communicating the church’s vision, that person must realize the importance of personally modeling that vision. It does no good to live in contradiction to the vision. He or she must help the leaders of the various ministries of the church see the importance of living the vision as well. The church can use various ways to reward and acknowledge those who make significant contributions to achieving the vision. The vision should be shared at every available opportunity. Also, opportunities need to be provided for people to make commitments to do their part in achieving the vision.

Developing the Strategy for the Vision

Developing a strategy for implementing the church’s vision involves more than the Christian education/discipleship leader and the pastor; all key leaders in the church—children’s pastor, youth pastor, Sunday school superintendent, Sunday school department leaders, and music director—need to be involved in this process. The Christian education/ discipleship leader and the pastor need to help these ministry leaders think through the implications of the vision for their respective ministries. They must answer the questions, What will this mean for us? What will have to change? What will it cost in terms of time, personnel, facilities, and money?


Prayer opens eyes of faith to grasp innovative ways to achieve a challenging vision. Prayer helps leaders find solutions to problems and see them in proper perspective. Prayer provides a leader with the wisdom, faith, and strength to achieve a godly vision.

The Christian education/discipleship pastor must involve other ministry leaders of the church in the process of developing strategy. This includes helping the leader of each department develop a vision for his or her own department in conjunction with the pastor’s vision. If these leaders are not involved in the vision process, they will not take ownership of the vision or goals. Attempts to achieve vision without the support and involvement of others can be a lonely and frustrating endeavor.

The Christian education pastor will need to keep the process focused and on track. Sometimes there seems to be a thousand distracting and divergent trails to follow. Strategic planning is critical. Vision goals need to be broken down into achievable units. The rule of thumb is: plan backward from the goal to where you are.

Prayer is indispensable. If the church’s vision can be achieved without faith, it is not a spiritual vision. A godly vision can only be achieved with risk-taking faith. A godly leader will persuade others to pray until the vision becomes a faith reality. Prayer makes the vision become a passion in the hearts of leaders. Prayer opens eyes of faith to grasp innovative ways to achieve a challenging vision. Prayer helps leaders find solutions to problems and see them in proper perspective. Prayer provides a leader with the wisdom, faith, and strength to achieve a godly vision. The Christian education/ discipleship pastor will provide plenty of opportunities for prayer.

Implementing the Vision

The responsibility for implementing the vision strategy of the church demands several things:

It demands patience and persistence. Things that are worthwhile usually never come quickly. A leader must be able to encourage people to stay on course when things are discouraging and help them ignore temporary frustration in order to achieve the hope of a better future.

Closely related to patience is persistence. Persistence is that quality that never gives up and keeps on trying. It is a determination animated by confident belief in a God-given vision.


The leader must involve those heading the various discipleship ministries of the church in the process of developing strategy.

It demands perspiration. There is no substitute for hard work. A vision will never be achieved without diligent, untiring effort. The Christian education pastor must encourage others to selfless effort for a preferable future. They lead by setting the benchmark in effort.

It demands participation. Wise leaders understand that a significant goal is rarely achieved alone. Realized vision is the result of unified hearts, common goals, and cooperative effort. Every person involved in Christian education in the church must participate if the church expects to achieve its vision. Without this participation, there is no ownership of the vision. Consequently, those charged with the task of implementing vision are careful to involve people in both the responsibilities and rewards of realized vision.

It demands publication. Communication is a critical element in effective implementation of a vision. Those who lead others to achieve visionary goals understand the value of communication, both up and down the chain of command. Without communication misunderstandings proliferate, people lose sight of the goal, and before long no one knows where we are or what we are trying to do.

It demands power. No godly vision can be achieved by human strength alone. Divine challenges undertaken in human strength are an invitation to futility and frustration. The impossible task undertaken by Zerubbabel and the vision to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple for Jehovah could only be achieved through divine power. The secret to success in leading people to the realization of godly visions remains the same today: "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit," says the Lord Almighty (Zechariah 4:6, NIV).

Nothing is as satisfying as cooperating with God to achieve what would be otherwise impossible goals. The Christian education and disciple-making ministries of the local church are in a unique position to work with people helping them realize a God-given vision through the power of the Holy Spirit. What a thrill this brings.

I was raised on a farm and remember my father’s demeanor at harvest time. Months before, he had envisioned the harvest, planned for it, prepared for it, and worked hard to see the crop grow and mature—now the harvest was here. His eyes twinkled, his face shone, laughter came easy, and thanksgiving overflowed. The vision had been realized. It’s no different in the divine harvest.

Endnotes

1. George Barna, Turning Vision Into Action. (Ventura, Calif: Regal Books, 1996), 35,36.

LeRoy R. Bartel is the leader of the Commission on Discipleship for the Assemblies of God in Springfield, Missouri.

 

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