I don't have GPS on my phone. I rely primarily on written or printed directions, or on my own sense of direction. This doesn't always work. Last summer, I was visiting some friends up in Pennsylvania, using printed directions. According to my directions I was only 15 minutes from my friends, and the road I needed to go down was closed. Fifteen minutes of backtracking later, I called my friend, and he gave me an alternate route to take. Unfortunately for me, my friend sucks at giving directions. Another 15 minutes later, I was back where I started, still lost. I called my friend again, got directions again (which didn't work again). Rather frustrated, I pulled out my phone and looked at the map of the area. Eventually I figured out how to get to his house, and arrived 45 minutes later than I expected. I believe that a leader without vision is a bit like a guy without a GPS. If a leader does not know where the group is going, he will lead the group in circles or to dead ends. So what does a leader's vision look like, and how does one get it?
It is important that we understand that vision and a goal are not the same thing. Vision is seeing the end goal of a group, and figuring out how to get there. The analogy of GPS for vision fits very well to describe how it works in the life of a leader. Vision, like GPS, gives you and (hopefully) your group direction to go down. For example, for my english class last semester, I had to do a group project. We were given a goal, to present a power-point lecture on possible ways to stop obesity in children. So, I divided up the work to everyone in the group, and then set up different check-points, to see how we were doing. I did this by sending out group emails, and then meeting with the group in person. This gave me a clue to where the work was at, and if we were ready for the presentation. Vision isn't just knowing where the group is going, but where it is at. Eventually leading you towards the goal of the group or leader.
In relation to Christian leadership in particular, vision is understanding what God wants to do in a group, and then working with God to accomplish it. This vision is exemplified in the life of a man named Thomas J. Barnardo. In 1866, a young doctor in London stumbled upon a young group of homeless boys. Being shocked that such poverty actually existed in London, Barnardo felt called to end the homelessness of the children in London. This was his goal, and before he died, he rescued over 60,000 children (Fessenden, 120). Author David E. Fessenden notes this was not always easy. "During his second eleven years of ministry, Barnardo rescued six times as many children [12,000], but he had to do it with only four times the money. In spite of that, Barnardo's vision never seemed to waver; he continued to dream big" (Fessenden, 107). Barnardo got a goal, and held onto a vision. This vision was carried into his organization, into the lives of the homeless youth he worked with, and eventually to the British government (Fessenden, 105).
So how does one obtain vision? Like we've already seen, the starting point of vision is a goal. What is the purpose of your group? Be it something as simple as a presentation or ending homelessness, a goal is necessary for any group. Once you have goal, you set to work to chart how your group can reach that goal. What needs to happen in order to obtain your goal? For a spanish group project I have right now, our group needs to have a group charter, a game plan for what we will be doing over the next 12 weeks. Finally and perhaps most importantly, you need to be able to do some recalculating. If I had a GPS on my drive to Pennsylvania, I might not have had to waste 45 minutes trying to find where I was going. I needed only to drive down a different road for a little while, and the GPS, like good leaders, would find a way to reach the goal another way.
An older translation of Proverbs 29:18 reads "Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he" (KJV). While modern translations differ, I think the proverb remains true. A leader who lacks vision will lead the people down. However, a people with the law, that is: a people with vision, will succeed. For personal application, I resolve to examine the vision of the various groups I lead. Where are we going, what's the end goal? Are we moving towards that goal, or away from it? What do I need to change in order to better get us to that goal? Why not try that yourself?
Fessenden, David E., Father to Nobody's Children, Fort Washington; CLC Publications. 2005. Print.