How to Lead When You Lack Clear Vision and Direction


If you are not clear about vision or direction, don't panic: God is still with you.

This experience of being temporarily "in the wilderness" where you can't see what's next is more common than you might imagine.

The important thing is not to allow yourself or your team to settle in and accept it as "the way things are."

The first thing to do is figure out the reason why.

There are many possibilities—each one is personal and nuanced—but they often land in one of these five categories:

— The church just experienced an unexpected transition.

— The church underwent a traumatic issue.

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— The leadership is tired.

— The church is in a rapidly changing community.

— The leaders need a personal leadership breakthrough.

It should not take long to figure out the vision lacks clarity. That shapes your discernment process, and in some cases, the actual vision.

Right now, COVID fits within the second category. That is definitely traumatic, but it's time to start rising above it.

It's been nearly impossible to see more than 30-90 days out in front, but life is starting to become clearer, and that allows you, and all of us, to see further out. Even if it's just 6-9 months, that is progress!

While you are waiting on God for direction and vision clarity, focus on increasing the spiritual health of your church.

Here's how you can start moving forward while you are pursuing clarity in direction and vision:

1. Focus on the Great Commission. Every evangelical church in the world shares the same mission, to lift up the name of Jesus and develop disciples who follow Him fully.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19-20).

The Great Commission, or often referred to as the mission, is the universal purpose of the church.

Your vision represents the unique focus of your church. It is the expression or the fire, fuel and flavor that demonstrates how you go about the mission in your community.

While you are asking God to clarify your vision, focus on the Great Commission!

This is not a place to remain indefinitely, but there is no problem at all with focusing on the Great Commission while you work on adding your unique vision to it.

2. Get good at the basics. You know the basics.

The big picture basics of the church are:

— Lift up the name of Jesus and redemption in His name.

— Love people well who are both inside and outside the church.

— Communicate biblical grace and truth.

— Help people mature in their faith.

The organizational basics of the church are:

— Invite people to church.

— Greet people with a generous spirit of hospitality.

— Provide an uplifting worship experience.

— Follow up with guests well and consistently.

— Create a simple and attractive process for people to grow in their faith.

Take time while you are working on your unique vision to improve any or all of the above points.

Make your church better while you ask God to help you make your church bigger.

You could invest several months here, making your church stronger and increasing spiritual health.

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Dan Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as executive pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as vice president of leadership and church development at INJOY.

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