Lessons in Leadership: Cast the Vision

Susan Moudry



As I write these words, parts of the country are beginning to reopen. Some states are lifting restrictions and even in Pennsylvania, golf courses, marinas and private campgrounds will be allowed to open—with restrictions in place—on Friday. There are mixed feelings about these announcements: Some have been eager for them, others aren’t so sure they’re ready, and church leaders seem to be busy wrestling with the logistics of how and when to open the doors again.
In the midst of that I want to encourage you not to get lost in the logistics. Now let me be clear, I am not advocating for reckless behavior and rushed decisions; what I am saying is keep your eyes on the bigger picture too. Who are you as a church? Where do you want to go? Why are you reopening things or resuming ministries in any given order? Your job—maybe one of your most important jobs as a leader in this moment—is to cast vision.
The reality is that while folks are talking about wanting to “get back to normal,” that normal no longer exists. New practices and behaviors are part of our world and aren’t likely to disappear simply because stay-at-home orders are lifted. This isn’t a new phenomenon.

World events have changed long-term behavior many times before. For example, I still occasionally enjoy cream sauce on toast for dinner, a Depression-era meal that stuck in my family. Others hide money away in their homes, another practice born of the Depression. We don’t yet know what behaviors and practices will stick with us through this pandemic, but many could. I physically backed up when one of my own extended family members opened a door recently; telecommuting is being normalized; people have been hoarding supplies. At the very least, these practices won’t disappear overnight.
Carey Nieuwhof recently wrote:  “Don’t get me wrong, I think the in-person church is here to stay. But the biggest mistake most leaders will make is the emotional rush to get back into a facility, to see everyone again, to assemble their team and get back to ‘normal’, they’ll re-embrace a model of ministry designed to reach a world that no longer exists.” See the full article here.
If all this is true and the world has been forever altered, then leaders cannot make the mistake of simply jumping back in to business as usual. Instead, Christian leaders must keep on drawing people into a vision of where we could go, drawing on both the past and the present.
Here are a few suggestions as you seek to cast vision in your setting:

  1. Up Your Spiritual Practices- It’s impossible to cast vision if you aren’t caring for your own spiritual vision. Pray. Take Sabbath. Spend time listening for God and dreaming about the future. Journal. Talk with a covenant group. Read your Bible. Stop saying you don’t have enough time to take care of your spiritual and physical well-being. You can’t lead if you don’t.
  2. Up Your Communication- Do more than you already think you are doing. Trust me, staff, congregants and others are missing things. Use this time to explain your vision in newsletters, emails, on Facebook and Instagram, through small groups and staff meetings. Call people directly, check-in and listen to their concerns. Then do it all again. And again.
  3. Up Your Preaching- Speaking of communicating, if you haven’t already, throw out the planned sermon series or lectionary and spend a few weeks preaching on the gospel’s meaning for your people right now. What has Covid-19 done in your context:  are there financial concerns, health issues, ability to offer help, inequities exposed, or desire for a slower pace of life? Preach in a way that speaks to these things and shares vision. There are lots of resources out there to help you with this, don’t be afraid to change the plan.
As we begin the process of reopening and navigating new social norms—in the rush to return—don’t lose sight of where the church could go. Don’t let others dictate the path you’re on. Cast a vision of what could be and invite people to join you in seeing it through.


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