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Is your strategy as big as your vision?

Our vision is to provide high quality, age-appropriate experiences which invite every student in our community to experience the Good News of Jesus Christ.

This could be the vision statement of any youth ministry team in the country. Like you, I’ve seen vision statements like this in youth ministry literature, on youth group websites, and even painted on the walls of youth rooms for years.

The problem is that they have a vision (mandate) to reach 4,000 students in their community but a strategy which scales to reach a lot less. The result of this strategy vs. vision mismatch is frustration-induced angst. No one strategy can reach 4,000 teenagers in a community!

We all know youth workers who have quit or been fired. And one of the reasons? They failed to focus on something they could actually succeed at. A lack of measurable results makes it easy to quit any job. (Or get fired!)

You could work 32 hours per day 8 days per week and not make a serious dent in that vision– it’s too big. Simply put, the vision is not right-sized for the strategy. (Most youth ministries employ a single strategy system– a youth group model.)

Compare that vision to the vision of the local public school system– which likely reaches 90%+ of teenagers in your community. They might have a similarly large vision/mandate. But it takes hundreds of full-time, professionally licensed employees and anywhere from $6000 to $9000 per student to enact a strategy that reaches nearly 90%+ of the students in your community.

There’s no youth ministry in America that employs enough people to reach 4,000 students built on the youth group model. It simply falls apart at a certain size.

Youth workers rightly have a burden to help students walk with Jesus and introduce others to Jesus for the first time. But we need to shrink our vision to something we can actually handle strategically instead of aiming at everything and hitting nearly nothing. 

To get more effective you need to shrink your vision to a realistic size that your strategy can actually accomplish. Then, if you start to nail that, you can expand your vision a little bit bigger. (Better yet, discover new strategies altogether to reach different types of students.)

Sometimes to grow you’ve got to shrink. 

Photo credit: Gary Jungling via Flickr (Creative Commons)

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3 Responses to Is your strategy as big as your vision?

  1. Joel Mayward April 23, 2012 at 12:12 pm #

    This is so counterintuitive for me, for two reasons. First, I tend to not like measurable stuff, because it screams “programmatic” to me. Second, I’m a visionary/idealistic guy, so being told to “think smaller and more focused” feels like it is limiting the vision. Those two reactions are probably actually limiting the vision for all the reasons you described.

    Jesus has a pretty big vision; it’s called the kingdom of God. And it started with 12 guys being and sharing good news in Jerusalem. Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a mustard seed or a tiny bit of yeast. Maybe I need a “mustard seed” of a strategy.

    • Adam McLane April 23, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

      What if limiting the vision to something you could actually accomplish made you feel like your job was doable? 

      I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve ever overcome in ministry… that it’s somehow my job to lead a ministry that reaches EVERYONE. 

      I don’t really know how far anyones vision is supposed to go. But I do know that your “vision” can’t possibly be to ignore the #1 and #2 things Jesus told all his followers to do. (Love God with everything you’ve got, Love your neighbors as yourself.) 

      In reality, if we truly… literally loved our neighbors as ourselves, we’d be plenty busy and things like vision would be a lot smaller. 

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