Vision: Lost and Found is a new book by Tim Stevens that explores how Granger Community Church near South Bend, Ind., got stuck but didn’t stay there. After nearly 20 years of growth the church found itself in a rut. They had lost their vision. The book explores how they got to that point and the massive re-visioning process they undertook to get back on track, including loads of details and resources (read our review). Check out Tim’s video chat with former Granger staffer Tony Morgan for a good overview of the book. We talked with Tim about some of the deeper issues and questions after reading the book:
One of the things I enjoyed about your book is that it’s so current—nice job getting it out so quickly. But even though stuff that happened only six months ago is in the book, time has still gone by and you’ve surely made some progress. So how are things going as Granger rolls out the new vision?
Tim Stevens: This year we have been deep in a strategic planning process. We brought on a consultant who is giving us some outside perspective and great tools to help us figure out how to put feet to the vision. We are beginning to get some traction on several parts that were holding us back. Parts of the vision (such as “Activating the Campus”) are going very quickly! Other parts (developing missional communities) will be a slow process—training 15 leaders, then 30, then 60, then 120 and so on. It will be exponentially easier and faster in growth as time goes on.
You took a lot of time to sort out your refined vision and come up with a plan to roll it out—more than a year. That seems like a lot of time to—well, not be doing anything. Obviously you were working hard on this vision, but how do you deal with the urgent stuff of the day to day while trying to plan and implement a 5-year vision?
Tim: Working the year-long process was one of the most difficult parts for all of us. Because we went through the years of ‘The Funk’—we believed we needed the buy-in from the entire congregation in order to get ownership in the execution phase. By having one person (me) keeping their eye on the ball every day to work the process—most everyone else was able to keep focused on the day-to-day.
In many ways Granger is uniquely positioned in that you could take the time to focus on redefining your vision. A lot of churches don’t have that luxury. What advice would you give to those churches?
Tim: I’m not sure we were uniquely focused any more than another church. We’d gone through lay-offs, a plateau in attendance, and 20% less in offerings in the few years prior to our vision work. We were as stretched and resource-starved as ever in our history. But that’s what was driving us to do the hard work. We had no other choice. We needed to find God’s new vision for our future!
In some ways you ended up crowd-sourcing your vision. How scary was that?
Tim: Very! But as people gained a voice in the process, we gained even more of the their trust. By the end of the year-long crowd-sourcing process—the church was pregnant with anticipation!
One of my favorite insights you shared in the book was discovering that people connected with the word “dream” much more than they did with the word “vision.” Did you come across any other simple but profound insights like that?
Tim: We became even more aware that God’s Spirit resides in every believer. He doesn’t only speak through the leaders. He also speaks through the people in the church. So it was very cool to see that confirmed as some pieces of our final vision came not from us, the leaders, but from God speaking through our congregation.
Attractional ministry works really well with top-down communication where everything is coordinated and in sync. Missional ministry doesn’t work as well with that kind of a communication strategy—there’s a lot more of people doing their own thing. As you try to blend the two, how is your communication being impacted? What kind of differences are you seeing?
Tim: It’s flippin’ hard! That doesn’t surprise us, we knew if it was easy there would be tons of churches already down the road. But we believe we must figure it out. We don’t think the church, in its current form, will have an impact much longer without figuring out how to reach people where they are. Yes, communication is difficult. But today’s technology makes this more feasible. We are exploring the technology solutions we need to have in place to be successful.
In the book you talk about the fragmentation of society—are you worried about the fragmentation of Granger? You’re doing a lot of different efforts in different directions. How do you keep it all unified?
Tim: Worried—no. But intentional about staying unified. The mission, our values, and this new 2016 Vision unites us and keeps us going in the same direction. It has been amazing to see the entire team pulling together. This vision has breathed new life into the staff and people of the church. There is strength in our direction, and a growing desire in hundreds of people to ‘be the church.’