Dan T. Cathy, President and COO of Chick-fil-A, spoke briefly at the EQUIP 2020 Global Conference in February of 2012, held at Christ Fellowship Church in West Palm Beach. Chick-fil-A is more than just the fast food restaurant that made cows famous for saying: “Eat more chicken.” It is one of the largest family owned and successful businesses in the U.S. today with more than 1560+ units in the chain. Personally I love their waffle fries!
Though the conference focused on biblical leadership, and specifically training international Christian leaders, Dan Cathy spoke on customer service – something all good leaders must be reminded of. I was struck by how well he had personally embodied the vision and how brilliantly he communicated it. From employees walking around the dining area asking if they may “refresh your beverage” and offering pepper from a large pepper mill for your salad, to coming outside with a large umbrella to bring you in from the rain.
Dan is on a quest for Chick-fil-A to provide genuine, heartfelt hospitality, and ensure that customers chain wide have an exceptional dining experience. That’s a big vision. His passion is for “second-mile” service, exceeding even the highest expectations of a typical fast-food restaurant and I think he will accomplish the vision.
It is one thing to have a vision, and it’s another thing to communicate a vision in such a compelling way that it actually happens. I experienced that vision-driven customer service just a few weeks ago. I met someone for lunch at Chick-fil-A, and on my way out I was debating about having one of their amazing chocolate chip cookies. You know how that goes … I’m standing there looking bewildered, counting the calories as I stared at the big menu on the wall. Then an employee who was paying attention (to my bewildered look) walked up and asked me if she could help. I told her that I wanted one of those delicious cookies but saw that the line was long and I was in a hurry. She said, if you give me the money, and wait right here, I’ll take care of it for you. In about one minute she reappeared with a big (warmed) chocolate chip cookie and a smile. In that moment, I became a raving fan of Chick-fil-A for life.
Vision is powerful. It moves people and changes things. If Dan Cathy and his organization can be that good with selling chicken, what might we be able to do in our local churches if vision was cast and lived out that well?
In two previous Pastor’s Coach articles, “A Leader’s Greatest Panic” and “The Birth of a Vision” (www.danreiland.com) I deal with the subjects of a leader without a vision and a leader developing a vision. In this article I’d like to talk about communicating a vision.
I’ll start with the assumption that you have a clear vision. And your quest is to help the people see what you see, believe in that vision, and take action with you. This process is not about getting people to do what you want. It’s about inspiring others to see what God has made clear to you and inspiring them to buy in to the dream with their whole heart. Please make note. The people will not give any more of their heart to the vision than you do.
The following points will help you communicate your vision.
- Settle the level of your conviction.
Are you all in? Do you truly believe God gave you this vision? Are you passionate? Are you ready to sacrifice? I don’t ask these questions to state the obvious, or because I doubt you. I ask only to reinforce the importance of your unwavering and passionate commitment to the vision. When you are 100% sold out and will not turn back, you are ready to communicate.
- Make the vision clear.
Clarity demands simplicity. If you need several pages of typed notes to speak the vision, you are in trouble. You need to be able to say it in just a few words. At 12Stone® Church, we can state our vision in six words: Inspire Life, Share Life, Give Life. And if you attended, you would see that it’s really just three words. Inspire, Share, Give. The people know exactly what that means. There is a longer (but not much) version, and of course we can teach full sermons on the topic, but the point is keep it simple and make it clear! When you embrace that, you are ready to press repeat. You need to say your vision over and over. Use creativity to help keep it fresh, but say it often!
- Connect with the people.
Please understand that though the vision is not “all about you” you are the leader and it starts with you. Followers always find a leader first, not the vision first. No one ever pulled into a church because of the vision statement. They first believe in and follow you, then the vision. It’s essential that you connect at a heart level with the people you lead. Be that a small group or the entire church. Without that heart connection they won’t trust you and if they don’t trust you they won’t follow you. So what does that mean? Be yourself. Don’t try to make everyone happy. Love people. Be kind to people. But remain focused on the vision God gave you.
- Make sure your vision is believable.
This is not often discussed. It’s complicated. The intersection of practicality and faith is difficult to discern because the line is not clear. It is subjective. What is prudent faith? What is reckless faith? You can never have too much faith, but God does grant practical wisdom. The two must come together for vision to catch traction. The intersection of the natural and supernatural is essential to vision casting.
For example, if your church has 200 people and you say to your congregation that you believe God will grow your church to 2,000 people in one year, you might be pushing faith beyond prudence. Or at least beyond what God has promised and that is the core of the matter. What has God told you that He wants to do? When you hear from God, then let faith help you catch up to what He wants. When you know God’s plans for your church, your confidence rises and you can help the people believe with you.
- Tell the truth.
The Kingdom of God does not move forward without sacrifice. Jesus established that truth on the cross. We may not be called to that ultimate sacrifice, but we are all called to give of ourselves to see the mission move forward.
What is your current reality? What must change? What is simply not acceptable as you make progress toward your vision? What is the picture of your preferred future? Lay it all out like it is. There is a price tag attached to all of this. Be honest about the cost. Don’t make it sound easy. A God-sized vision is never easy to achieve. It will cost time, money, and energy – and usually lots of all three. The beauty is found in the fact that it’s all worth it! Stay positive and full of faith, but tell the truth.
- Let the people know how they can participate.
Let the congregation know they are needed. Tell them how they are needed. For example, they are needed to serve, pray, and give financially. Be specific. Don’t beg, or raise guilt, cast vision! Tell stories. Talk about life change. Be personal. Tell what God is doing in your life.
I’m always encouraged by what the Holy Spirit does at any worship service where there are baptisms. Part of the mystery of salvation and heaven itself is revealed in that holy moment of baptism. No matter what the specifics of your vision are, baptism is connected to the purpose of all local churches. When people “see” salvation and life change they are encouraged to buy-in more deeply to the vision. What are other ways you can tell the story of what you believe God wants to do? Be consistent in your communication and celebrate the successes along the way.
On a personal note, I know communicating vision effectively is challenging. It requires human skill and divine input. Don’t be discouraged. Communicating vision is not an event, it’s part of what a leader does. You never stop. Learn to pace it right, keep it going, and trust God for the portion that only He can do.