Leading with vision: 6 dynamics of visionary leadership

July 19th, 2018

One of the pressing questions that I am asked as I meet with young church leaders is about the importance of having a clear vision for the churches they are leading. Vision is the most critical single dynamic in leading people to God’s preferred future. People commit to following compelling visions, not church programs. People want to give themselves to a great purpose that gives their lives significance. Vision comes from leaders, not committees. Here are six dynamics of visionary leadership that I have observed and experienced in my 46 years of ministry:

V-iew: Visionary leaders have a clear mental image that conveys where an organization or group needs to be in the future. The vision addresses the why, what and how. Vision is primarily right-brained and passionate. Vision evokes emotion. Goal setting and strategy development are the result of vision. The process doesn’t proceed it. Picture Moses’ clear picture of the promised land that sustained his 40-year ministry in spite of resistance from his people and the barren nature of the wilderness environment.

I-nspire: Visionary leaders are able to inspire people to join a life-changing movement. Leadership is influence. Visions are contagious. Think Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Nelson Mandela. Alice Paul was a powerful visionary leader who led an intense reform movement that pressured President Wilson to pass the amendment to give women the right to vote, which was ratified on August 18, 1920. Movements are always connected to visionary contagious leaders who are able to engage people’s head, heart and feet.

S-kills: Visionary leaders design their learning around the skills needed to fulfill the vision. As a young pastor, my friend Adam Hamilton took a summer sabbatical and traveled with his family to study churches that were making a significant contribution to the work of God’s Kingdom. Once a year, my partner-in-mission Karen Perry Smith and I hold a five-day Basecamp for pastors who are looking to take their ministry to the next level. Basecamp is specifically designed for “leaders of leaders” who are serious about Kingdom growth. Participants leave with a three-year strategic starter plan for scaling new ministry and mission heights and an enhanced understanding of the discipline required to get there. (This year’s Basecamp is full. To join the waitlist for 2019, contact Karen at ksmith@ginghamsburg.org.)

I-nvest: Visionary leaders think vision first and resources second. They believe that when God gives a vision God will make provision. One of the boldest acts of faith that I have seen our Board take was in my second year at Ginghamsburg Church. We were operating out of an 1876 two-room country church building with a $38,000 budget. I had been a youth pastor in two previous churches and was convinced that youth ministry was absolutely strategic for our future growth and direction. On that 1981 winter evening, the Board agreed to increase our budget from $38,000 to $58,000 and we hired a full-time youth director. What an act of faith!

O-rganize: Visionary leaders organize their church structures and programming to accomplish the vision. Again, goal setting and strategy development need to be aligned with the vision. The process doesn’t precede vision. It is critical to name a repetitive, clear discipleship path that replicates the values and DNA for new people joining the movement.

N-ame: Visionary leaders are careful and prayerful in the selection and naming of their leadership team. Jesus spent a whole night in prayer before he selected his leadership team of twelve from the rest of his disciples. Your leadership team will be the agents of change, the leaders of leaders. Strategic leaders maximize time with their leadership teams. In Acts 6, the Apostles stated that in choosing servant leaders that they should be “known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.” Why is naming this critical team so important? “We will turn this responsibility over to them and give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).


Mike Slaughter, pastor emeritus and global church ambassador for Ginghamsburg Church, served for nearly four decades as the lead pastor and chief dreamer of Ginghamsburg and the spiritual entrepreneur of ministry marketplace innovations. Mike is also the founder and chief strategist of Passionate Churches, LLC, which specializes in developing pastors, church staff and church lay leaders through coaching, training, consulting and facilitation services. Mike’s call to “afflict the comfortable” challenges Christians to wrestle with God and their God-destinies. Mike’s newest book is Made for a Miracle: From Your Ordinary to God’s Extraordinary (Abingdon Press).

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