Churches With a Vision for the Future: a Profile of the Baptist Union of Victoria
Having a vision for the future is an important barometer of church health and vitality. Drawing from analysis of the Australian National Church Life Survey (NCLS) 2011 data of Victorian Baptists (8330 adult attenders across 79 churches) and a small set of follow-up interviews it is clear that while there are high levels of commitment to the idea of vision, at both a leadership and membership level, it can be hard to help attenders capture and own a vision. The data has demonstrated a strong association between churches with a clear vision for the future and numerical growth, a strong sense of belonging and innovation. Church leaders reinforce this, stating that a well-defined vision gives a clear sense of direction and facilitates decision-making and resource allocation. To be most effective a church's vision should be mission focused, engage the skills and gifts of the membership and be accessible to the whole group. A vision should be discerned in a context of trust, acceptance, humility and patience. The ongoing examination and evaluation of the outworkings of a church's vision enables churches to move forward with confidence and purpose. Finding the balance between innovation and realism, planning and action can be challenging but ultimately very powerful.