How to Help Students and Families Embrace Your Ministry Vision

Kara Powell | Mar 27, 2013


It’s one of the most frequently used words when it comes to leadership.

But what is it?

At FYI, we have adopted the definition of vision suggested by our friend and Fuller colleague, Dr. Scott Cormode. In working with our Sticky Faith Cohorts, Scott defines vision as a “shared story of future hope”. (To find out more about this definition of vision, check out this free video module from our Making Changes Stick Toolkit).

There is a lot to love about that definition of vision. For the purposes of focus in this blog, I want to emphasize the power of a vision (and a story of future hope) that is shared.

A recent Harvard Business Review blog post: declared “Purpose is Good. Shared Purpose is Better.” The post explains:

But in a social age, this kind of purpose isn't enough. The problem comes down to a simple preposition. Most leaders think of purpose as a purpose for. But what is needed is a purpose with.

Customers are no longer just consumers; they're co-creators. They aren't just passive members of an audience; they are active members of a community. They want to be a part of something; to belong; to influence; to engage. It's not enough that they feel good about your purpose. They want it to be their purpose too. They don't want to be at the other end of your for. They want to be right there with you. Purpose needs to be shared.

For clarity about the difference between “with” and “for”, check out the contrast between Adidas and Nike, as cited in the post:

Adidas: The adidas Group strives to be the global leader in the sporting goods industry with brands built on a passion for sports and a sporting lifestyle.

Nike: To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world.
*"If you have a body, you are an athlete."

Adidas tells you what they are for. Nike helps you feel like you are with them.

Similarly, here’s a contrast between Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks:

Dunkin Donuts: Make and serve the freshest, most delicious coffee and donuts quickly and courteously in modern, well-merchandised stores.

Starbucks: Our mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.

Dunkin Donuts makes me part of good food in a “courteous” environment. Starbucks works with me to change the world.

A few questions to ponder as you think about your vision:

  1. What is your vision statement?
  2. What feelings do you think it engenders in students, families, congregation and community members?
  3. Is it more of a “for” statement or a “with” statement?
  4. How do you feel about your answers to #3 and #4? If you’re not satisfied, who could you meet with in your congregation to help you brainstorm? Developing vision is not an individual sport. It’s best done with a team. So who might be your best team members? Creative stay-at-home parents? Innovative business leaders? Experienced pastors? Wise teenagers? Committed volunteer leaders?

As the blog post concludes: “Remember, this is not something you are going to do to them (your customers), or for them, but with them. It's a journey you will be on together, hopefully for a very long time.”

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.

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