Here are the two most important leadership truths I’ve learned since becoming a lead pastor:

  1. Culture eats vision for breakfast
  2. Vision without strategy creates a culture of apathy

Culture eats vision for breakfast

I don’t know who said it first, but I’ve heard it many times from different leadership thinkers…and I’ve thought about it constantly over the  last two years. Casting a vision is important, but unless the culture of the organization is thoroughly shaped by that vision, the vision will perish. This is why the work of cultivating culture – creating it, shaping it, guarding it – is one of the most important tasks of a leader.

I see it in Jesus so clearly.  How much of his time did he spend creating the culture of his little tribe of 12? He constantly talked about his mission – to seek and save the lost.  He constantly took opportunities – impromptu object lessons and on-the-fly teaching moments – to re-point them towards that mission which was the heart of the culture he was shaping.  He constantly guarded the culture with course corrections, rebukes and encouragement along the way. It could be argued that we don’t see Jesus articulate the real “vision” he had for his tribe until the very end of his earthly time with them. That was when he finally said “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mat 28:19-20) Why had he waited so long? Because he was creating the culture that would catapult rather than consume the vision.

Vision without strategy creates a culture of apathy

Just about every church has a vision statement.  But more and more I realize that spending lots of time crafting a great vision statement without creating a clear, practical strategy for accomplishing it is not only a waste of time, but it actually serves to create a culture of apathy. No one can stay excited about a vision that they  have no idea how to accomplish and, over time, touting vision without providing strategy burns people out and makes them cynical that progress will actually happen. So, strategic planning is more than just about nuts and bolts…its actually a key part of the vision-casting process.