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The Importance of Long Term Vision

Recently I heard the founder of Patagonia, Yvon Choulnard discuss the importance of long term vision. He described a very difficult season in the early days of the company when growth outpaced revenue and they had to lay off some of the workers. This was incredibly difficult fo Choulnard because he tried to treat his employees like family. The turning point came when he asked this question: “How would decisions change if we were thinking about our company 100 years from now? That is not a question American marketplace or church leaders ask very often. We focus on how we can grow quickly, how we can address today’s problems today. Sometimes we’ll try to look five or ten years down the road, but we’re quickly back to the urgency of growth today. There is no Outreach Magazine Top 100 Slowest Growing Churches list.

The Importance of Long Term Vision

Greg McKeown, the author of Essentialism, sees great value in a 100 year viewpoint,

“This kind of tremendously long term vision starts to help us to discern between the absolutely essential things and the total, trivial many. With that perspective, you can start to see that most of what we are consumed with and even worried about are things that won’t even matter five years from now.”

What would happen if we did take the extreme long view in churches? If we thought more about the impact of our decisions in 100 years rather than focusing almost exclusively on what’s right in front of? 

1. How would a long term vision impact church staffing?

The amount of turnover right now in churches is overwhelming. Every week I hear from a pastor looking for their next staff member. They don’t have time to develop anyone from within, they have a hole they need to plug as soon as possible. Who do I know who would do an amazing job? 

If we had a long term vision I think we would see how important it is to grow leaders from within rather than constantly trying to pick fruit off of other people’s trees. Once we’ve picked all the trees around us clean, we will still have holes with no one to fill them. With a long view, however, we would see that children’s ministry may not be great tomorrow or next week, but with the right coaching and encouragement we could likely develop great leaders over the next 10 years. 

2. How would a long term vision impact building decisions?

Church buildings are often made built on the need of the hour. We need children’s space. We need auditorium space. We need a student building with all the bells and whistles. We never think about what might be useful in 20 years, or 50 years. With a longer horizon we might not be in such a hurry to spend millions of dollars to build what we need right now. On the converse we might not be so quick to saddle the next generation with massive debt to solve this generation’s challenges.

3. How would a long term vision impact local outreach?

What if we had a bifocal vision for outreach? We continue to help our community now, but we are also planting seeds that will potentially change our community in 20 years. How could we invest in Kindergartners in a way that will make an impact when they are Seniors?

In the same podcast Patagonia founder Chouland said this, “The faster a business grows, the faster it dies. We decided on a growth program so that we would be around 100 years from now.” What would happen if we stopped pursing growth for the sake of growth? What would change in your church focused on a 100 years from now?

 

This article on the importance of long term vision originally appeared here, and is used by permission.

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Geoff has served on the leadership teams at Seacoast Church and Saddleback Church, and as Managing Director of Exponential. He is the author of several books, including Together: A Guide for Couples in Ministry written with his wife Sherry. Along with writing, Geoff coaches churches and leaders around the U.S. and in Europe. Geoff lives in Denver, Colorado. Twitter: @geoffsurratt