4 Roles a Senior Pastor Can’t Delegate (Part 1)
A vision without a voice is just a dream. That’s why vision-casting is such a critical responsibility for senior pastors. If you’re the primary voice people hear on a regular basis, you can’t delegate vision casting to anyone else.
Amy and I had a good conversation about what it means to own that responsibility as the senior pastor, as well as some practical wisdom for growing your ability to effectively cast vision.
But the fun part is, this is just the first episode in a series of four that I’m really excited about.
The most popular episode of all time on The Unstuck Church Podcast was on the roles a senior pastor can’t delegate. At the time we published that episode, I had identified three. I’ve since added a fourth.
- Vision-Caster (Part 1)
- Spiritual Leader / Teacher (Part 2)
- Leader of Leaders (Part 3)
- Culture Champion (Part 4)
We decided to record a new series of episodes and go much deeper on each of the four.
In this first part of the series, Amy and I discussed:
- Why senior pastors can’t delegate vision-casting
- How good vision-casting moves both the mind and the heart
- The essential role your team DOES play in helping shape vision, and the most effective ways we’ve learned senior pastors can involve them
- The two most important “Why” questions you have to answer for people when you’re casting vision
- The group of people senior pastors often take for granted when it comes to vision-casting—and why it can set the whole thing back
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Links & Resources from the Episode
- Strategic Planning – The Unstuck Process
- Roles a Senior Pastor Can’t Delegate
- Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley and Lane Jones
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Amy: 01:33 Well over the coming weeks, we’re going to be doing a series of podcasts on the roles that senior pastors can’t delegate. So before we dive into this first one, Tony, can you give us an overview of those four things?
Tony: 01:44 Yes, and by the way, this is coming out of previous podcasts that Amy, I think you and I did this, it might’ve been a couple of years ago now. I’m not sure. It’s been one of the most downloaded podcasts we’ve ever done. And so we just decided we’re going to, we’re going to dive in and take a look at each of these topics individually. And I’m suspicion is that the reason why it’s one of the most downloaded podcasts we’ve ever done is that senior pastors, we love you, but you’re trying to do too much. You’re trying and you’re still too hands on. You’re not empowering other leaders on your team. And if you do empower other leaders, you don’t know what priority responsibilities you have once you hand off the responsibilities you have had. And so we’re going to dedicate an episode one episode each to these four roles.
Tony: 02:43 These are the roles that we’re seeing senior pastors and healthy churches really focus on and embrace and there’s just four of them. The first is vision casting, the second prime being the primary teacher and developer of other teachers on the team leading leaders, and we’ll focus a conversation on what that looks like, and then driving the culture of the church. Those four, that’s if you were to create a job description for senior pastors, especially in larger churches, I would say a thousand or more in attendance, that’s what your job description needs to look like. And if you’re in the day to day leadership of any of the other ministries of your church, that suggests that you’re probably not positioning yourself and your church to see the increase that God might have for your ministry. Today we’re going to focus on vision casting, but in future
Amy: 03:47 That sounds good. I’ll tell you why. When I work with senior pastors and the staff, he instructs your piece. There’s either a twinkle in their eye when we really make this clear, these are the four things you need to be doing, or there’s a little bit of a look of panic. I don’t know quite how to let go of the other things.
Tony: 04:03 Yes. And you know, one of the reasons why they can’t let go is honestly they haven’t thought about the development of the leaders around them. And so they don’t think they can at this point
Amy: 04:47 That’s right. So
Tony: 04:55 Yes. So before we can talk about vision casting, we need to talk about vision clarity. And the key question that you need to answer for people when it comes to casting vision is where are we going? Where do we sense God’s taking our church in the future? And Amy, what you and I have learned when it comes to the two developing vision and churches is it’s really difficult to develop vision without doing that with a team of leaders, r
Tony: 05:51 I would say eight to 10 is ideal. What we’ve learned is, is very helpful for this to be a facilitated process so that the senior pastor can fully engage in the conversation. In fact, the church, I was just at
Tony: 06:47 But it’s also specific but not too specific. So, first of all, it has to be big enough that we sense that this is beyond what we could accomplish in our own efforts. But it’s not so big that people look at it and think, well, there’s no way that’s going to happen. And because when it’s too big, we have found the vision can actually be demotivating because people just, their senses, this is never going to happen. The other thing we’ve learned though is vision has to be specific, specific enough that people do have a clear picture of, “Oh, I get it! This is where we sense God’s taking the church”, but it can’t get so specific, so in the, into the nitty gritty details that people’s minds get confused about what
Tony: 07:43 Yeah, so one of the churches we were working with, they wanted to communicate. We intend to grow, we intend to reach more people with the Gospel message, but we, we want to personalize it. So the way they did that is they decided we are going to double; We want to communicate, we intend to double the number of people we’re reaching. So for this church moving from 4,000 people to 8,000 people, but they added a one to it. So for their future vision, they talked about reaching 8,001 people because they wanted everybody to recognize, “We’re hoping you have one person in mind that you’re praying for, that you’re engaging life with, that you’re building a relationship with somebody you’re serving, somebody that you’re eventually going to invite to take a next step.” Whether that’s just coming to visit or church or engage in a group or join you in a serving opportunity, whatever that looks like, we want you to be thinking about that one person.
Tony: 08:47 And if all of us did that, we would double the impact, the reach of our ministry. Another example and one of the churches we were just with recently talked about the need, if we’re going to reach our community that’s filled with young families, part of our specific vision for the future is we need to build a new children’s ministry facility where we can have captivating environments for our children and young families want to bring their kids here and young kids, they love it and they’re, and they’re pulling their parents back to church. Another example of the church that we were just serving was taught they wanted to communicate the impact that their church would have beyond the walls of their ministry and so they decided, you know, if we have this many people, if we serve, if each of us or five hours a year in our community, and if we did that for the next five years, they calculated it would be a total of a hundred thousand hours in community impact initiatives. And I love that because it communicates the significance of what that church could be doing to touch the lives of people outside the church and create opportunity then for the church to share the gospel. So those are some, I think, great examples of bolds specific vision that helps the church recognize we’re here today. But this is where we sense God’s taking our church into the future.
Amy: 10:23 And with each of those examples, there’s a litmus test in a sense, when you reach the end of that vision time, whether it’s a three year vision or five year vision, you can actually assess did this get accomplished?
Tony: 10:35 That’s right, and that’s the distinction. Many times, to be honest, when I go into a church and they share their current vision statement, it feels more like a mission statement. It expresses why the church exists, but it doesn’t give much clarity; It doesn’t paint a clear picture of where the church senses God’s taking them into the future.
Amy: 10:58 All right, so let’s assume that this vision has been clarified so we can now answer the question, “where are we going?” So, what’s next when it comes to this vision?
Tony: 11:06 So part of part of communicating vision is answering that question, “why is this important for the church?” We have to help people understand where we’re going into the future and as a church, why this is so critical to our mission. But that’s not enough. You also have to make the vision personal – It has to be personal for every person in your church. Why is this important for me, and this is where storytelling I think is imperative stories will help you move from information to inspiration and a good vision cast will move both the mind and the heart, and so let me give you a specific example of how I saw a church translate it’s future vision into making it more personal. In fact, I’ve seen several churches do this through the years. Part of the vision casting process, they brought key leaders into the church. And we did this at one time at a, I think it was when I was on still on the team at West Ridge church here in the Atlanta area.
Tony: 12:13 We brought all these key leaders and had them sit on the stage in our auditorium, serve them dinner, welcome them, and then we shine the spotlight on seats in our auditorium and told the story of the people that sit in those seats and why the vision of where we’re going in the future is so critical to the individual stories represented by the people that sit in those seats every Sunday. Amy, I think you’ve seen something similar, but what it does is it helps to personalize for people why this corporate objective of moving into the future is so important to each individual, including many of the times, the person that you’re trying to rally behind their vision itself. So again, we need to explain why: why is this important to the church and why is it important to me.
Amy: 13:11 Those are powerful experiences, aren’t they telling me we’ve had them at our church too? And it always reminds us as the church, why we exist, again, when you hear those stories of just redemption. All right, once you help people understand why accomplishing the vision is so important, what’s next?
Tony: 13:27 So then you have to share how the vision will be accomplished: How will we get there? In other words, people need to hear about the path for getting from here to there. In other words, what’s the strategy? What’s the timing? Who’s going to be involved? How will we know when the vision has actually been accomplished? And so pursuing a new vision always requires some sort of change. Very few of US process change. Well, when it’s just dropped on us without any explanation, even when the change is positive. So let me give you an example. It’s not enough just to explain in vision casting, “we are going to open a new campus as a church” and it’s not enough just to explain why we’re going to open that new campus. You also have to talk about how is it going to be accomplished?
Tony: 14:20 So once you’ve explained we’re going to open a new campus and why we’re going to do it, people deserve to know the path forward. “When will the campus launch?”, “where will it be located?”, “who will be involved in the launch of this new location?” and “what will be some of the key milestones prior to that launch?” In other words, we’re trying to involve people not only in the end goal, but we’re trying to involve them in the process. The steps we’re going to take to move toward that vision reality. This will help people feel like they’re really part of the process. It helps to create buy-in and that’s part of what vision casting is all about. We want to engage people; We want them to feel like they’re part of the vision. And so when we explain
Amy: 15:18 You change a strategy within the church without vision and all you get is resistance.
Tony: 15:22 That’s right.
Amy: 15:24 But if you lead with vision, then people hold a little looser to those strategies because they’re anchored on the right thing, not the strategy itself. All right, so in fact that leads us to the final key part of the vision casting process. Isn’t that right?
Tony: 15:37 That’s right. We act at this point now that we’ve communicated where we’re going, why we’re going there, how we’re going to get there. The next step is to make the ask. We need to invite people to join in the journey to accomplish the vision. This is where we’re answering the question. How can you help us get there? So this is where we rallied people. We, we asked people specifically to join us with their prayer, with their time, with their financial support. But the caution, and this should be obvious, is we can’t ask anyone to do anything that we’re not going to do personally. So if you can personalize how you’re going to be praying for the vision and the next steps you’re taking as a church, how you are going to be investing your time, how you and your family are going to be financially supporting this vision.
Tony: 16:34 The more you can personalize it, the easier it is going to be to make this ask and to actually engage your church and being a part of the vision itself as well. The bigger the ask, the more personal the ask needs to be. In other words, if you’re inviting people to make significant investment of their prayer, their time, their financial resources, it needs to be more personalized. And if you’re asking someone to be a leader in generosity, in any of those three areas, that very well may mean you need to actually have a one on one conversation with that person through this vision casting process.
Amy: 17:15 And this might be obvious, Tony, but as you’ve been talking about vision casting, it’s been really clear this big corporate in a sense of vision casting to the church. But as you were talking about the leader needs to make sure they’re going to do what they’re asking others to do, don’t they also need to be great senior pastors at vision casting to their staff team?
Tony: 17:35 That’s right. The leaders on your staff team need to be modeling this and honestly. If you can’t be rallying your staff to do this, the people that you’re paying to lead your ministry, then that should be an indicator to you that either your messaging, your vision casting itself is not tweaked to the point where it’s ready for the congregation to hear it, or it could suggest you need to make sure the hearts of the folks on your staff team are aligned with the vision for where your church is going to make sure you have the right people on your team, so that as a staff leadership team, they can also be modeling and helping your church really see that vision that God’s given your church become reality.
Amy: 18:19 And the staff need vision too. They have their heads down doing the ministry, the church, and the senior pastors. That reminder, you need to cast a vision to them regularly.
Tony: 18:28 Wow, that’s a great reminder, Amy.
Amy: 18:30 Okay. Any final thoughts, Tony?
Tony: 18:32 Let me leave you with this. Thought of vision without a voice is just a dream, and that’s why vision casting is such a critical responsibility for senior pastors. If you’re the primary voice people here on a regular basis, you can’t delegate vision casting to anyone else. You have to lend your voice to that vision, and this is part of it. What it really means to lead strong in your church.