Creating growth in the local church is not only the responsibility church leaders have. While the leaders are often the ones to establish the vision and set goals for any desired growth, the members of the congregation must buy in and actively participate in achieving the goals. The personal investment of members is essential to seeing the vision brought to fruition. Therefore, ownership in the vision by church members is key.
Developing ownership in the vision is a challenge church leaders must face. It is a difficult task given the differences represented within the congregation. There are a few important ways in which this ownership can be sewn with effectiveness, thereby propelling the church forward in realizing the vision God has given them.
1) Ownership in the vision requires knowledge by all participants. The best way to create knowledge is communication. Communicate well, communicate often, communicate openly, and communicate repeatedly. Communicate as many of the details of the vision and plan as possible without compromising any issues of confidentiality or sensitivity. The more details about the vision-casting and goal-setting process that can be expressed to the congregation, the better.
This communication can and should be done in a variety of ways. Leaders can communicate corporately in full-congregation meetings. This can be done at regularly scheduled church business meetings or in specially-called gatherings focusing only on church growth. Church leaders can also have small-group meetings or targeted groups that gather lay leaders or members with special skills and gifts. Although not always very practical, many people will also respond positively to one-on-one meetings where they can ask questions. Communication of the vision and the details of the church growth initiative is essential.
2) Church leaders desiring to develop ownership in the vision and goals of church growth should enthusiastically invite feedback and participation. Feedback from members can communicate their understanding of the vision and goals, as well as their emotions surrounding the initiative. This feedback can be collected in a public manner through open mic type events where members can share with leaders and fellow members. Alternatively, church members can write their feedback in emails or letters that will be reviewed by the leaders. Sometimes feedback can be gathered in an anonymous manner, but many times this is not as effective in building ownership in the vision.
Perhaps equally as important as inviting feedback is the implementation of members’ ideas that are reasonable and consistent with the vision for church growth. Yes, some of the ideas may not be suitable for implementation. There may be those within the congregation whose gifts and abilities have prepared them uniquely to contribute to the church growth process. They may be lay leaders within the church or even new members. Both ownership and trust are built among members when they see their ideas coming to fruition in the church growth process. They will feel valued by the church leadership and are more likely to participate in future initiatives.
3) On a smaller but deeper level, some members can be invited to join with the church leaders in their private deliberations and strategy sessions with regard to the church growth initiative. When inviting church members to join, they can either be treated as full members of the church leadership with rights to be in the meetings and to contribute verbally in the meetings, or they can be invited to be observers of the process more generally. They should be held to the same standard of confidentiality to which the church leaders are held, but they should also be privy to all the relevant information that will facilitate excellent formation of opinions and the ability to make decisions. Including lay members of the congregation in leadership meetings will go a long way in creating the much-needed ownership and trust through the church growth process.
Overall, church leadership needs the full support of the congregation when undertaking a church growth initiative. Through communication, feedback, and inclusion in leadership meetings, the church leaders can set themselves up for success in bringing the congregation along with them in the implementation of God’s vision for the church.