Reflexive thinking, the ability to think about our thinking, is one of the defining characteristics between ourselves and animals (one of the others being that no self respecting animal would spend nearly as much time on Facebook as so many of us seem to do). The process of clarifying vision and mission is an exercise in reflexive thinking. One of the exciting elements of this process is that it can take the conceptual – questions like ‘why do we exist as a church’; ‘what is our local context expression of the Body of Christ’ – and then concretise it in reality via the implementation of a strategy or game plan.

I find the movement from theoretical statements to reality a fascinating process. Probably because one of the things that comes to me most naturally is to question things – deeply, thoroughly, sometimes irritatingly. This is such a part of who I am, that it was inevitable that I would use this ability to assist with change on an organisational level.

One of the ministries we offer to churches and NGO’s in Rustenburg is vision and mission workshops. This is one element of a greater ministry, for which God has made us available, which falls within the framework of supporting the overall well-being and function of the Body of Christ. It is a part of our strategic and leadership offering to teams or individuals entrusted with stewarding the local expressions of the BoC.

Central to this process are these simple, and important things are often best represented with the simplest statements of reality, three steps:

– Where are we now?

  • Paint an accurate picture of current reality – including all opportunities and challenges.

– Where do we want to be?

  • Articulate “what will it look like” when we arrive at our “success/goal”.

– How do we cross the distance between the two.

  • This is action plan territory, where the vision and mission are implemented.

Coupled with this three step process are three key terms that give the picture shape.

  • Vision – is a picture of what could be. It is a catalyst that transforms an organisation by aligning people across different departments or sub-teams to pull in the same direction. It is a goal of the highest order, almost unreachable, that allows people to stretch for what is not yet graspable.
  • Mission – tells you what ‘business’ you are in, and what products or services you will offer. It is more detailed than the vision, and provides statements of purpose.
  • Values – If the vision and mission statements orientate us in a direction and with a cause, the values delineate the boundaries in which we live out this vision and mission. Put in a different way, it is the way in which people (both outsiders and insiders) can expect to interact with the followers of the vision/mission. For example, a Church that values listening will prioritise this in all of their interactions. Their meetings will involve listening; their outreach and missions will hinge on this value; conflict resolution will be defined by listening.

The question of why to go through this process is as important as the question of what the vision and mission will be.

Why do this?

  • Creates a structure around which to build your priorities and actions, as well as guiding those priorities and actions.
  • Helps establish alignment around who you are and where you are going
  • Guides your selection of partners and others selection of you (including partners, employees, investors/donors)
  • Provides inspiration and clarity
  • Opens up new possibilities and ideas – “stretches the imagination and motivates people to rethink what is possible”

These process are intensive and require deep listening – to the context, to the people, to what God is saying! My role is to be facilitator and guide, and to pay the most attention to not impeding the process with my own desires or needs. This is not a simple line to walk, but I have found the following to help keep me on track.

The facilitator must listen well; must reflect the right information back to those engaged in their own listening; must insert the right questions at the right times, to prompt further or deeper thinking; and must provide alternative perspectives on a discussion when useful.

I have had the privilege of facilitating two vision workshops in Rustenburg over the course of the past six months or so. It has been such an awesome opportunity to engage with the leadership of two very different organisations (church and NGO) to dig into what they are called to, and how better to do it.

There are further similar projects upcoming in 2018, and we would appreciate your prayers for them all.