Without a Vision, Giving Declines

Without a Vision, Giving Declines

Nonprofit employees want inspired leaders with bold vision: Nonprofit employees ranked vision, relationship building, inspiring trust, and strong communication skills as the most valued elements of leadership. That was the finding of a national study recently conducted among nonprofit employees by a leading nonprofit firm, Dickerson, Bakker & Associates. You would find a similar result if you presented the same survey to your congregation. Look at any growing church, and you will find an inspiring leader with a bold vision.

Do you know what else grows with an inspiring leader with a bold vision? Giving. As I work with church leaders across America to reverse declines in giving, one of the first places we start is their vision. A compelling vision is what initially attracts people to attend your church and then to begin giving you their hard-earned money. Vision is also how you keep people attending and giving.

As I write this, days into the start of September, I am helping churches make up lost giving ground while preparing for their end-of-year appeals. Each takes a slightly different strategy, but each is centered around a compelling vision. Vision is what drives a person to dig into their pockets or cell phones to give you money to support the cause your vision is about. But how do you arrive at a vision?

Developing your Vision

There are scores of books on vision and how to develop one. It has been one of the most written about and talked about subjects in Christian leadership circles. You probably have been to leadership conferences and have leadership books on your shelf. You, like me, probably formed a team to study and craft a vision statement. In my opinion, we have made vision development overly complicated. Most vision statements I see are either trying to be too cute or too broad to be effective. If we were honest, most people in our chairs or pews don’t truly know our vision, nor do they care. Again, I think this is because we have made it overly complicated.

Please understand that I am not trying to minimize the importance of vision. It is crucial. I think that we have made it too difficult and muddied the waters for ourselves and the people we lead. Finding your vision is much simpler than we have made it.

What is in your heart?

Two Old Testament figures show us how to establish a vision. First, David is a prime example of someone who was driven by a vision and who, in turn, drove Israel to accomplish more than they ever dreamed. While his son, Solomon, is known for building the temple, David’s dream and vision began the process. As we know, God would not let him build it since he was a man of war. However, listen to what he tells the leaders of Israel in I Chronicles 28:2, “King David rose to his feet and said: “Listen to me, my brothers and my people. I had it in my heart to build a house as a place of rest for the ark…” He then laid out his dream and vision. In chapter twenty-nine, he leads the people to give willingly to fund the new temple. The offering given in chapter twenty-nine resulted from a vision David had in his heart and communicated in chapter twenty-eight.

Nehemiah is another example of God placing a burden on his heart. In chapter one, after he hears of the disgrace of the broken walls of Jerusalem, he “mourned and fasted and prayed before God.” In chapter two, he is given permission and aid from the King to rebuild the walls. He begins by inspecting the walls. Nehemiah 2:12 says, “I set out during the night with a few men. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem.” What was in his heart ultimately led to the walls being rebuilt in fifty-two days!

What is in your heart? What do you get excited about when you dream about the future of your church or ministry? What keeps you up at night? Those are the things that are the basis for your vision. Start there. Show people what is in your heart, not some catchy phrase or acrostic. People respond to vision, and money follows vision!

My former boss, John Maxwell, is famous for saying everything rises and falls with leadership. I believe there is truth in that statement. But good leadership starts with a bold vision. How is your vision? Does it inspire you? Will it inspire others? It might be time to work on your vision. Because without a vision, giving declines.

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