How to Lead When You Lack Clear Vision and Direction

If you are not clear about vision or direction, don’t panic, God is still with you.

This experience of being temporarily “in the wilderness” and you can’t see what’s next is more common than you might imagine.

The important thing is not to allow yourself or your team to settle in and accept it as “the way things are.”

The first thing to do is figure out the reason why.

There are many possibilities, each one is personal and nuanced, but they often land in one of these five categories.

  • The church just experienced an unexpected transition.
  • The church underwent a traumatic issue.
  • The leadership is tired.
  • The church is in a rapidly changing community.
  • The leaders need a personal leadership breakthrough.

It should not take long to figure out the vision lacks clarity. That shapes your discernment process, and in some cases, the actual vision.

Right now, COVID fits within the second category. That is definitely traumatic, but it’s time to start rising above it.

It’s been nearly impossible to see more than 30-90 days out in front, but life is starting to become clearer, and that allows you, and all of us, to see farther out. Even if it’s just 6-9 months, that is progress!

While you are waiting on God for direction and vision clarity, focus on increasing the spiritual health of your church.

How to start moving forward while you are pursuing clarity in direction and vision:

1) Focus on the Great Commission.

Every evangelical church in the world shares the same mission, to lift up the name of Jesus and develop disciples who follow Him fully.

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.” Matthew 28:19-20

The Great Commission, or often referred to as the mission, is the universal purpose of the Church.

Your vision represents the unique focus of your church. It is the expression or the fire, fuel, and flavor that demonstrates how you go about the mission in your community.

While you are asking God to clarify your vision, focus on the Great Commission!

This is not a place to remain indefinitely, but there is no problem at all with focusing on the Great Commission while you work on adding your unique vision to it.

2) Get good at the basics.

You know the basics.

The big picture basics of the church are:

  • Lift up the name of Jesus and redemption in His name.
  • Love people well who are both inside and outside the church.
  • Communicate biblical grace and truth.
  • Help people mature in their faith.

The organizational basics of the church are:

  • Invite people to church.
  • Greet people with a generous spirit of hospitality.
  • Provide an uplifting worship experience.
  • Follow up with guests well and consistently.
  • Create a simple and attractive process for people to grow in their faith.

Take time while you are working on your unique vision to improve any or all of the above points.

Make your church better while you ask God to help you make your church bigger.

You could invest several months here, making your church stronger and increasing spiritual health.

3) Develop the culture to focus outward rather than inward.

Every church, over time, will drift inward if not purposefully and intentionally leading in an outward direction.

That’s not an indictment; that’s just human nature.

Further, it’s an unintended by-product of really good relationships. People who grow to love and care for each other begin to focus on each other.

Don’t lose the long-term and caring relationships in your church, but redirect them outward to invite others in.

It’s like the all-to-familiar story of small groups.

They do their job so well; they become ingrown. The leader is so good and the people so caring that almost unperceptively, it becomes all about just those in the group.

The source of that problem is something good, so tap into the good and turn the force outward before it’s stuck focused on self.  At that point, it is difficult to change.

*What is your church doing in the community that reaches people, touches hearts, and changes lives – including people who may never attend your church?

4) Build teamwork and community over silos and division.

As a leadership coach, all too often, even in good churches, I see teamwork and community begin to erode, usually due to sustained pressure and problems.

Leaders can and do get tired when buried under the weight of unending problems.

When teamwork and community begin to erode, that results first in silos (teams doing their own thing,) then eventually it degrades further into division.

Take practical steps to build teamwork.

  1. Cultivate an open and honest culture.
  2. Focus on the same goals together.
  3. Help each other solve problems.
  4. Share resources, not equally, but in the best way for the church to make progress.
  5. If there is gossip, end it.
  6. Establish accountability according to responsibilities.
  7. Take time to laugh and play together.

5) Form a team to help solidify a fresh new vision.

God may speak directly to you about direction and vision. But God is not limited in how He communicates. Sometimes He works through you and your key team together.

If you are the senior pastor and have a lead team, be open and honest about the lack of direction and much-needed clarity of vision. After all, they already know.

Remember, this is only temporary, and you have plenty to work on while you establish a fresh vision.

NOTE:  If you are a campus pastor, department head, or a volunteer, for example, leading a small group, make sure your vision fits under, supports, and is fully aligned with the overall vision of the church.

In fact, your specific vision starts with the overall vision; your role is to add only enough uniqueness to make sure that it’s clear and relevant to the group you lead.

God may speak directly to you about direction and vision. But God is not limited in how He communicates. Sometimes He works through you and your key team together. /clickandtweet]

15 thoughts on “How to Lead When You Lack Clear Vision and Direction”

  1. I couldn’t help but think about visions that changed due to covid. You had a clear vision and direction, and then a curve ball.

    1. Ken,

      You are so right. Curve balls are common and COVID was a big one, but the good news is that the fog is lifting!


  2. Very thought provoking. How would you address a church whose “leadership” (i.e., Deacons and other ministry leaders) are indifferent about reaching others. There is a “settler’s” culture in the church I am describing.

    1. Hi Ron,

      Candidly, it’s tough to turn a culture like that, often because they, (excuse me for saying “they”) don’t see it that way, or have a different perspective. In any case, start there… answer the question “why is that true?” Sometimes they are just tired, others are discouraged, others feel defeated because they don’t know what to do. One size does not fit all… If they in fact are indifferent, as in literally don’t care, first let me say that is rare. I would start by finding the one or two who care. Then the two-three of you influence one more and keep going until nearly all are once again fired up to reach out.

      1. Yes, that’s so encouraging… God in His infinite wisdom is leading the like minded in my church to become active and support one another’s initiative.
        It has taken some (of us – hard out in Ministry) to take a step back to allow others to take a step forward, but God you know, He knows what He’s up to in even that move… there are some amazing gifts in our membership/fellowship and praise God He knows who, how, and when to harness that energy for His kingdom.. He’s so GOOD!!!

  3. Thank You Dan, your advice is filled with the echoes of LOVE. It caused me to pull your book, Confident Leader. I was drawn, by GOD I’m sure, to your chapter on Belief, page 21. Wade and Lisa experienced a robbery. As I think about it, Covid is a robbery. First, in isolation, we have been deprived of our GOD-loving and supportive community. Second, our feelings are violated by an unknown source which gives us uncomfortable feelings of insecurity. In Wade’s case, he turned those feelings into an opportunity to train people how to protect themselves. GOD is Love. Dan, you struck a nerve as feelings of LOVE may be GOD’s call for intensifying our actions. From isolation back to a GOD-loving and supportive community. More than ever our world needs more talk about LOVE and LOVE actions. Thank You.

  4. Thanks Dan. Another season when vision becomes murky is when succession is on the horizon for the leader. Vision follows call and when God intends to place the call of leadership on another, the vision in the current leader will lessen. Thanks for your generosity in sharing your insights, Dan. You help many, including me.

  5. I like to see the trinity church to come along or somebody coming over is the ministry in solid rock Church into Gilmer Hall to help out to homeless people and all the table around the world and so we should have them in the ministry coming along very soon could be and really we really think we should
    thank all peoples

  6. Kennedy Makwenda

    A very insightful, thoughtful and indeed vision changing article. However how do you as a visionary dig yourself our if the traumatic thing is your sin? Leaders have lost faith and trust in you, even though the rest of the church still loves you. What do you do?
    Many thanks.

    From Africa

    1. Kennedy,

      That’s tough to answer from a distance, far too many variables. I think you need may need to place yourself under accountability to a small team of people you trust to seek their guidance and counsel.

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