How to Communicate a Vision that Inspires Generosity

By Chris Willard with Warren Bird

Growing your church and your people in generosity is important to you—and us. That’s why Leadership Network has developed HUB:Generosity for larger churches who want to accelerate generosity and stewardship. For more information, go to leadnet.org/generosity-hub.

“Vision casting” is one of those often-nebulous duties on a pastor’s job description that is tough to master.

How do you crack the code when it comes to communicating vision that drives people to give generously?

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Tim Downs of The Communication Guys has some great questions to determine how effective you are in casting vision that inspires generosity.

Is your vision COMPELLING?

Tim says it well:  You can’t cast what you don’t possess…You have to start by asking, “Does this vision OWN me?”

“Is it something I really believe in and have a passion for?” Tim asks. “Because when you own that vision, it’s something you unconsciously communicate to other people.”

This may be even more true with generosity and giving, because if a pastor doesn’t buy into the big idea, people are going to see right through it.

“So much of communication goes beyond the words,” Tim adds. “Often, it’s non-verbal things—a simple attitude, a tone of voice, a look on your face, a passion and enthusiasm you have. It’s the model of your whole life.”

Is your vision CLEAR?

This question is where leaders often miss the mark.

Vision can’t be a foggy picture that people can’t see or get their arms around. Tim says the vision must be achievable, tangible and measurable—or people can’t grasp it or know when it’s been reached.

“You can’t just have this blue-sky dream out there and hope to pass it on to somebody else,” Tim says.

Lack of clarity will cause givers to hesitate supporting the vision financially. Givers in your church want to make sure they’re making a good investment. If the vision is unclear or the idea is not tangible, it’s difficult for givers to get behind it.

“People want to know, ‘What’s my return on investment,’ ” Tim says. “So a good visionary knows they have to put it in terms that, ‘If I give to this and we accomplish this, I will know what I got for my investment.’ ”

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Is your vision CAPTIVATING?

As a leader, you’re supposed to cast vision, provide leadership and also manage the ministry. The problem is, if by temperament and personality, you gravitate toward management, you’ll tend to communicate process and details when it’s time to cast vision.

As Tim says, leadership is the “Google Earth view,” and management is the “street view.”

“You have to be careful to not get so engrossed in the street view so that’s what you try to sell people on,” Tim says.

For instance, a management-driven pastor would cast vision for a new facility by telling people, “We can get 300 chairs in there, especially if they’re not upholstered.” “You’re not motivating anybody with that,” Tim says.

The Google-Earth-view vision caster can paint a picture that captivates people.  “Imagine if we had a space where when you invite a friend to church, it had the environment of your living room—warm and inviting,” Tim says. “Those things sound very different.”

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Is your vision CONTAGIOUS?

“It’s been said that if you want to catch someone on fire, catch yourself on fire and stand next to them,” Tim points out. “A vision cannot be separated from your own character. It isn’t something you email to someone else. It’s something that you have to possess and then pass on.”

A generosity vision is not a one-and-done sermon. A compelling vision has to be reviewed regularly, and kept on people’s minds.

“Every vision needs a champion,” Tim says. “A vision is like a fire that’s in constant danger of going out. And it’s that leader’s job to keep fanning the flame of the vision so it’s always on other people’s minds.”

An important bottom-line for casting a compelling generosity vision: It has to be compelling to the hearer. That kind of vision often requires more listening than talking.

We have to know what people are passionate about. What parts of your church motivate and inspire them?  You will be much more effective in casting vision and inviting people to give generously if you’re connecting with something that captivates them.

“A complaint with people in ministry is we’re often answering questions that no one’s asking,” Tim says. “We can be so enamored with our solution that we present it all in those terms, but it has to be presented in terms of what they want and what they desire. When you can present it that way, it becomes captivating.”

Generosity Strategies and Tactics is an ongoing series brought to you by Leadership Network thanks to a grant from the Lilly Endowment. To learn more go to www.leadnet.org.

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