At one time or another, every center director has a dream for the center. Taking that dream to reality can be an arduous task, but one well worth the effort. God clearly states in His Word that without vision, the people perish. It would not be much of a reach to also say that without vision a ministry will perish, but most visions begin simply with a dream.
The first step toward making your dream a reality is to determine if it is simply your own dream or if it has been sent to you from God. Several times as executive director, I tried to initiate my own ideas only to find that they were not what God had in mind or were not in His timing. After having to retrace my steps and redo some of my own initiatives, I began to learn that the most important step in moving from dream to vision is to be sure to first spend enough time with God to determine if it is just a dream or if He has a vision for moving forward. At this point, it is helpful to run your idea past two or three trusted advisors and spend time praying with them before presenting it to your board or your staff. Although you may be anxious to proceed in making your dream a reality, this step can save you time, effort, money, and even embarrassment in the long run.
It is so easy to see problems that we know need answers and to try to fix them in our own way and in our own power. Simply waiting on God to begin the process was against my "fix-it" nature, but this was an important lesson God wanted me to learn; and I'd love to save others the difficulties I experienced. Doing things on my own was like Atlas pushing the world up the mountain, while allowing God to take the initiative was like the little boy riding his bike up a San Francisco hill, catching hold of the back of a trolley and coasting the whole way.
When you have determined that God has truly given you a vision that will advance a particular area of your ministry, you are ready to communicate that vision to your staff and board. At our center, it usually began with the words, "I have an idea." At first, the staff would cringe, but they learned that an idea might take a few months or even years to instigate and that if it was indeed from God, we would be better for it. I found that flexibility was an extremely important quality in staff members, volunteers, and sometimes even in board members and donors. I never set out to do an "extreme make-over" of our center; but looking back, it seems that might have actually been what God had in mind. We purchased a new facility, expanded it to double the square footage, added several programs, and eventually became a medical clinic.
Whether we were engaging in a capital campaign or simply adding a new counseling concept, four ingredients aided the process in guiding the ministry to move from vision to reality.
Just as a vision is a gift from God, so is the passion for that vision. Throughout those many changes at our center, I often found that the passion with which I began a project would begin to wane as we went to work to bring it to reality. We should not be surprised to see the enemy go to work to try to thwart God's purposes. He uses everything from personal distractions and discouragement to opposition and financial challenges. He knows our weakest points and will concentrate on them. We may question if this was indeed from God until the realization occurs that the enemy is at it again. Recognizing the opposition as being from Satan and not from people or circumstances puts a project into perspective and helps establish renewed resolve. A director's passion is contagious and the first ingredient toward the success of any project.
While passion is mainly a personal attribute, enthusiasm is the component for sharing that passion. The original meaning of the word enthusiasm, being filled with God, will help to successfully communicate any vision, as we seek to be filled with His thoughts, His words, and His grace as we share the passion that He instilled in us for a project.
Sometimes fear of the unknown can rob us of the enthusiasm we need to communicate with our donors. I remember that happening to me when God impressed on my heart that we needed to expand our space. We had a beautiful building, but it was too small to accommodate our growing needs. I rearranged the space in my mind repeatedly. Finally, I knew it was time to present the idea of adding a new wing to our building. I felt that this idea was from God, but when I presented it at our fall fundraiser, I was afraid to even call it a vision. Instead, I made an "I have a dream" speech. Thankfully, my fear did not limit God; and in His own unique way, He moved my dream to a vision and quickly to reality. When God is in the vision, He will accomplish it.
Clarity in communicating the need, the process in meeting the need, and the role each person will be playing to make the vision a reality are extremely important. Although there are great challenges in how we communicate the vision, using all the new tools available while hanging on to the old ones for those supporters who have been long-term advocates, the real test is filling our message with integrity. We would be wise to take the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:4 to heart: "My speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." Using every communication tool available will bring your vision to your supporters, but taking extra care to present the need by simply sharing your heart will bring honor to God.
Don't be discouraged if change seems to be slow at your center. Keep praying and keep your eyes on the One who will make it happen. You may be laying the foundation for the next person to bring your dream to reality. We wanted to add medical services the year I became the director; however, almost ten years passed before that happened. In God's timing, it took only forty-two weeks from the very first exploratory meeting until our first in-center ultrasound. During those weeks, filled with meetings, remodeling, and multiple training sessions, the enemy tried to discourage us; but God was ready for us to make the move, and He made it happen.
There is no magic formula for moving from . It takes a little commonsense, a lot of hard work, and a close partnership with God throughout the process. However, perhaps the most important step is one not mentioned above — being sure to give the praise and glory to our Sovereign God because the "battle belongs to the Lord."
Pat Stonestreet, wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother, served as the executive director of AbbaCare, Inc. in Winchester, Virginia, for 11 years. Her first book, But God, which includes insights from time as executive director, will be available from WestBow Press soon.