4 Ways Pastors Can Deal With Vision Hijackers

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Shawn Lovejoy is a Ministry Partner at Vanderbloemen Search Group. Shawn previously served as Founding and Lead Pastor of Mountain Lake Church in Cumming, GA, and leader of the annual Velocity Conference. He is now a full-time coach for Pastors and leaders, and he recently wrote Be Mean About The Vision

First, the bad news:

No matter how clearly, consistently, or creatively Pastors communicate the vision, some people just won’t get it. Tweet: No matter how clearly, consistently, or creatively Pastors communicate the vision, some people just won’t get it. http://bit.ly/1VVnFPq

Sometimes they will not want to follow. Sometimes they will wander. They will have their own ideas and their own agendas. Sometimes they’ll even try to hijack the vision!

I don’t know how you were raised, but I was told never to pick up hitchhikers. That may sound mean, because, after all, hitchhikers obviously need a ride. Why not stop to pick them up? The answer is simply because, historically, hitchhikers have sometimes become hijackers. They’ve threatened the driver, seized the wheel of the car, and taken both the car and driver somewhere against their will. The word “hijack” means to seize by force or threat of force.

Vision hijacking happens in churches every day. The Pastor gets knocked out of the driver’s seat, and the vehicle is taken somewhere else against the leader’s will. Here’s how it happens: if you think about it, every church begins 100% unified around the vision. The church staff is completely aligned. Sure, there may be only one person or just a few people, but everyone believes in the vision so deeply they’re willing to risk everything to see it happen. However, over time, new church staff members and congregants begin to come on board, many of whom don’t understand what the organization really stands for or where it is trying to go. Some people have different ideas about where the church should go.

Slowly, either consciously or unconsciously, these vision hitchhikers can become vision hijackers. And if Pastors don’t wake up and seize the wheel, the church may end up miles away from their original destination. So what should Pastors do when they sense some people may be trying to take the wheel and steer the organization in a different direction? 

Here are four ways Pastors can prevent vision hijacking.

1. Be careful with new leaders.

Tenure does not guarantee leadership, but it does make it a safer bet. The old adage “hire slow and fire fast” applies most to leaders. Pastors need to be slow and discerning in placing people into positions of power.

2. Confront things and people quickly. 

As Pastors and leaders, we can never just stick our heads in the sand and hope vision issues will go away. They almost never do, without great harm. We can’t be cowards. We can’t be intimidated by big personalities, big givers, people with lots of influence, or long-tenured church staff employees, citizens, or church members. We must confront vision drift quickly!

3. Provide a place for honesty.

75% of the time, when a Pastor provide a safe place for a person to be honest about their struggles with the church's vision, that person will take the opportunity to speak. I’ve had conversations were the person sitting across from me during that conversation will open up and say, “Well, now that you mention it, there are some things I’m struggling with.” That’s a great opportunity. Now we can be honest. I’m not going to be defensive. I’m going to listen. I’m going to be calm, but I am also going to be courageous. They’ve been honest, and I will respond with both grace and truth without waffling on the vision.

4. Be willing to let people go.

Not everyone on your church staff is supposed to make the whole journey with the church. Tweet: Not everyone on your church staff is supposed to make the whole journey with the church. http://bit.ly/1VVnFPq @VanderbloemenSG

Our responsibility as Pastors is not to hang on to everyone. Our responsibility as the leader is to hang on to and steward the vision! If people try to hang on when they don't share the vision, they become miserable and they make everyone else miserable! A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough. Love them. But let them go gracefully.

How can you deal with vision-hijackers on your church staff?

This blog post was originally published on CourageToLead.com.