As you lead your media ministry there are likely times you may think it is time for a new vision. Questions then come up such as how would we pay for the increased costs, how will staff play a role, and what results do we hope a new vision might deliver. There are good books written about these things. I recommend first starting with the book of Nehemiah. His story provides one biblical model of leadership around a vision which I found to be strategically insightful and compelling.
If you feel inadequate to lead a new vision, be encouraged. We first meet Nehemiah as he prepares to rebuild walls and gates in Jerusalem and, as far as I know, he didn’t have even ‘entry-level’ construction experience on his resume. Nonetheless, he must have had some combination of personal assets God needed for the job. I believe you can also do what Nehemiah did by following his vision model.
In what I simply call the Nehemiah Vision Model, there are 4 leadership responsibilities identified in his story: Burden Before BHAG, Raising Resources, Protecting Culture and Celebrating Results. Let’s take a look at the first one, perhaps the most important one.
Burden Before BHAG (Chapter 1)
Some vision processes start with creating what many call a Big Hairy Audacious Goal or BHAG. It might begin with key staff gathering together to answer questions like ‘why do we exist,’ or ‘what are we trying to accomplish.’ To be sure those and other probing questions are an important part of the process. But in Nehemiah’s process before there was a BHAG, there was a burden.
While serving in Persia under King Artaxerxes as the king’s cup-bearer, we read Nehemiah learned that back home in Jerusalem the city walls and gates had been destroyed causing the Jewish people to live in disgrace. Upon hearing all this, Nehemiah’s immediate response was to weep, mourn, fast, and pray gut-wrenching prayers. And notice this heavy burden he felt continued for what appears to be about 4 long months. During his prayer times, he recalled God’s promise to return His people to Jerusalem. He also prayed that God would prepare the heart of his leader, the king, for their upcoming discussion about releasing Nehemiah to go to Jerusalem.
Notice this was an outward-focused vision to benefit ‘others,’ and would in fact require Nehemiah to leave his prestigious ‘corner office’ serving in the presence of a king, and travel far away to tackle a big challenge.
In our mission-driven work, we often talk about ‘making our case for support’ which includes identifying a problem to be solved, a need to meet, or a villain to defeat. And it’s not all about us as an organization. It’s about others. Nehemiah recognized a problem, a need he could not stop thinking about. It broke his heart so much that it drove him to prayer and for an extended period of time. Nehemiah’s burden became like what author Parker Palmer wrote, “Vocation at its deepest level…this is something I can’t not do!”
What about you and your ministry? Beyond your mission statement, what is the urgent problem or the urgent need God is putting on your heart? Is it in the people your station is reaching? Is it in the city your station is licensed to serve? Does this unsolved problem burden you? Does it break your heart to see this need remain unmet? The book of Nehemiah indicates he spent way more time praying over his vision than the 52 days he spent actually accomplishing his vision. You may not need to spend months praying about it. But it is worth some amount of time. You may find it beneficial to challenge your staff to join you in this process, especially since the final decision will likely affect them in areas such as programming, events, fundraising, budgeting, staffing and goal-setting.
I’ve heard it said by pastors ‘a message born in the heart will reach a heart.’ I think this can be true about a vision also. I have been fortunate to hear numerous team members from the child sponsorship ministry of Compassion share stories of children they have helped release from poverty, providing them with an education, the gospel, and basic necessities of life. Each time I have seen someone from Compassion share a story about one of their children getting sponsored they became emotional.
In the end, it’s not about how a vision can make your ministry bigger or stronger. It’s about how your vision can impact new people or have a deeper impact in the ones you already serve. Once the vision is decided, it will be primarily the leader’s job to declare the new direction clearly and consistently, as Nehemiah did. In Part 2 we will see how Nehemiah took the lead in raising resources to fund the vision, protecting the workplace culture from derailing the vision, and the importance of celebrating the results of the vision!
Dusty Rhodes is Chief Development Officer of WGTS 91.9, the 2021 Marconi Award-winning media ministry serving Washington DC and its surrounding communities in Virginia and Maryland. He has served Christian media for 30+ years as an award-winning air talent, Program Director, General Manager, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Development Officer, Senior Vice President, and has also consulted nonprofit organizations on leadership and fundraising.
You can reach Dusty at Dusty@WGTS919.com