President George H. W. Bush was widely criticized when he commented that he did not get the “vision” thing.
For the last several decades, if you have read anything about personal or organizational development, you will realize that having a vision for yourself, your organization or your church is mandatory. I don’t disagree with this idea, but vision is just the beginning. You can have a magnificent and compelling vision and fail in the pursuit of that vision.
There are other things to consider – values, strategies and so on – in building an effective organization or church, but I affirm that the biggest challenge that a leader faces in the 21st century is obtaining resources. When I used the term, I am using it in a very broad sense. Resources include, but are not limited to, people, finances, spiritual insight, time and technology. In fact, it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between these four; they tend to blend into one another.
For a church or church-related organization, there must be a focused attempt to marshal spiritual resources. This is done through prayer, discernment, study of Scripture and dialogue in the community of faith. For believers, this is the beginning point. If we cannot find the spiritual resources to do what we attempt, then we better stop at once.
People are a vital resource. Personal commitment to any organization, including the church, is much more transient than in the past. We can cite any number of reasons. Some people leave the organization because “their needs are not being met.” Others question the commitment of the organization to them, so they “jump ship” first.
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Organizations can be part of the problem as well by failing to adapt to the gifts and skills of those who are part of the organization. Without people, we will do little to move toward our vision.
Time is also at a premium. This and the people resource clearly overlap. People will not invest their time in something that is not effective, helpful or rewarding. On the other hand, individuals will give a great deal of personal time to something in which they believe. From another perspective, people may be impatient and unwilling to give the organization the time it needs to accomplish its mission.
The organization that fails to adopt and use technological resources will not survive the 21st century. Sure, it takes time to set up digital systems, but once they are established they enable us to use our people and time resources more effectively. Communication, administration and education benefit from proper use of technological resources.
When we use the term “resources,” finances are usually thought of first, but money is only one ingredient needed to achieve a vision. I would argue that spiritual direction, people and technology may be higher on the list of priorities, although money can help maximize the effectiveness of the latter two.
Resources allow vision to become reality. The problem is not that resources are limited. This goes without saying. No matter what resource we discuss, there is always a finite supply, including time. Allocation is the issue. The challenge for the leader of the 21st-century organization is to persuade and challenge those with resources to invest them in order to accomplish the vision. This is an art that comes from passion and practice.
Ircel Harrison is an associate with Pinnacle Leadership Associates and director of the Murfreesboro Center of Central Baptist Theological Seminary. A version of this column appeared previously on his blog.