StartLeading: Vision Starts with the Why — Jason Gaboury

“What brings you to Hunter College?” I asked.

“Pre-nursing.” The mixture of hope and anxiety in her eyes was typical of freshmen attempting to major in nursing in Hunter College’s elite program.  “I guess I want to help people.”  She went on to tell a personal story about illness in her family, a compassionate nurse, and a desire to be that for others.

“Wow. You experienced compassion, and you want to pass that on.” I took a breath.  “What are you going to do while you’re in school to develop your compassion, this gift that you want to give to others?”

Her eyes moved up and to the right.  “I don’t know.”

“What about joining a community of people that believed compassion was the most powerful force in the world and wanted to help each other learn to live that out?”

I then introduced her to InterVarsity.


Simon Sinek gave a TED talk called, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”.  In his talk he argues that most vision communication moves from the outer rim of the above diagram to the middle, from the most concrete to the most abstract.  “But”, he says, “the great leaders communicate from the inside out.”

Here’s an example from NSO.  A student asks, “What’s InterVarsity?”  A typical response might sound like this.  “Oh, we’re a Christian group on campus.  We have small groups, large groups, and God Investigation Groups…we build really great community.”  Would you want to come to a group that just wanted to keep you busy?

What if we said instead, “We believe that no student is here by accident, but that every one of the 14,323 students on campus are loved by God.  Tragically most students don’t know it.  Our events, activities, and service projects are all set up to help ordinary students connect with each other and experience God’s love in tangible and transformative ways.  Our next event happens tonight, wanna come?”

See the difference?

Write out your answers to these questions and share your vision message in the comments below:

  1. Why does your chapter exist?  (Hint: See InterVarsity purpose statement)
  2. What are your events and activities designed to do?  What impact are they designed to have on students’ lives?
  3. What is one specific action step you could invite the listener to do? 

StartLeading: Vision & Clarity – Greg Jao

My eyesight is terrible. When I don’t wear my glasses, I shuffle forward. I’m constantly reaching for the next handhold. I’m nervous about tripping up. I can’t recognize people just a few feet away.

When my vision is clear, I run. I take risks. I leap over obstacles. I recognize people and opportunities (Look! My friend. And a bookstore just ahead!) When my vision is clear, I know where to go and how to get there.

vision glassesWhat’s true for me individually is true for any group. When the vision is clear, everyone in the group moves ahead with freedom, courage, and clarity. So how do you make your vision clear?

A Vision You Can See

A vision has power when the words evoke a concrete, clear image. It’s literally a picture of the future. Too often personal and collective visions are merely vague aspirations (e.g., “excellent service”, “bold evangelism”, “be a good student.”) A good vision, though, makes the aspiration concrete: “Our customers spontanously call us to thank us for our work.” “Every student in the college has been invited to respond to the Gospel personally, relevantly, and graciously from a friend in the fellowship at least once before they graduate.” “My professors encourage me to take another class with them.”

As you work to clarify vision, use your senses. What would it look like if we succeeded? Sound like? Feel like? Smell like?

In the New York/New Jersey region of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, we described our vision for student transformation this way:

We envision a future where students first hear about InterVarsity from campus tour guides who describe us on every tour as the largest and most dynamic student group on campus. During the year, they see people who have an intimate relationship with God and whose actions and attitudes reflect a biblical worldview, a holistic engagement with Scripture and the world, and a growing experience of personal holiness and transformation. They discover that our activities and publicity, members and ministries regularly awaken an awareness of their need for God. They find themselves intrigued by the topics of the large group meetings, compelled to attend special events, and strangely drawn to the vibrant prayer meetings and bible studies. Because they each know two or three InterVarsity members, they have been invited – sensitively, relevantly, and clearly – to become a follower of Jesus at least once or twice before they graduate. And they know each InterVarsity member can name at least 2-3 friends on campus who have made that same decision. Because InterVarsity exists, students give their allegiance and love to Jesus – and become witnesses to the way the Holy Spirit grows them in Christlikeness and empowers them for mission.

Clear enough for you?

Next Step: Take the vision statement of a group you belong to (as an employee, member, or leader) and write a “vivid description” of what you aspire to accomplish. Share it in the comments below.