Is Your Vision Caged on Paper?

Most pastors will invest more time on preaching preparation for the next month than they will on vision communication for the next five years. How about you?

That quick experiment is a great way to introduce a special two-part SUMS Remix devoted to the visionary planning problems you must solve.

Will Mancini, founder of Auxano and author of God Dreams, has never had a pastor disagree with him about the simple time analysis above. Most quickly nod with agreement, and understand that something is not quite right about it.

Of the many reasons (let’s be honest… excuses) given, one of the most important is that no one has shown the pastor how to spend time on vision planning. That’s what God Dreams is designed to do. Central to the book’s process is the Horizon Storyline, a tool leaders can use to connect short-term action steps with the long-range dream, while leveraging the power of storytelling to make the plan stick.

Vision Planning Problem #1: You craft a vision statement, but it’s not meaningful enough to talk about after it’s been written.

 

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Illuminate, by Nancy Duarte

“THE PEOPLE WHO ARE CRAZY ENOUGH TO THINK THEY CAN CHANGE THE WORLD ARE THE ONES WHO DO.”

With these words, Apple Inc., and its leader, Steve Jobs, catalyzed a movement. Whenever Jobs took the stage to talk about new Apple products, the whole world seemed to stop and listen. That’s because Jobs was offering a vision of the future. He wanted you to feel what the world might someday be like, and trust him to take you there.

As a leader, you have the same potential to not only anticipate the future and invent creative initiatives, but to also inspire those around you to support and execute your vision.

In Illuminate, acclaimed author Nancy Duarte and communications expert Patti Sanchez equip you with the same communication tools that great leaders like Jobs, Howard Schultz, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used to move people. Duarte and Sanchez lay out a plan to help you lead people through the five stages of transformation using speeches, stories, ceremonies, and symbols.

This visual and accessible communication guidebook will show you how Apple, Starbucks, IBM, charity:water, and others have mobilized people to embrace bold changes. To envision the future is one thing, getting others to go there with you is another. By harnessing the power of persuasive communication you, too, can turn your idea into a movement. 

Solution #1: The Horizon Storyline will teach everybody to use vision everyday.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

As crazy as it seems, the problem listed above <<repeat problem>> is a common experience. The words become “caged” on paper after the vision retreat or committee meeting. The problem is that vision transfers through people, not paper.

The visionary leader must also be a cultural architect. Transforming the future is made possible because the cultural perspective is held in conscious view. While it’s possible to communicate your vision in many ways, the spoken word has the ability to grip hearts in a way no other medium can.

Only when you pull people together in a room are you able to create a unique opportunity for human connection. Speeches, stories, ceremonies, and symbols become your unique torchbearer kit to help communicate your dream in a compelling and desirable way, helping your travelers long for and help achieve it.

Deliver Speeches

When you deliver a speech, you have the opportunity to explain your ideas and directly address resistance to change. By contrasting the current situation (what is) with the improved reality travelers will enjoy if they embrace your dream (what could be), you’ll be able to make the future more alluring than the present.

Tell Stories

Whereas speeches structurally move back and forth between the present and the future, a story follows a single protagonist’s transformation. We remember stories because they connect our hearts and minds to an idea.

Hold Ceremonies

Ceremonies fulfill a need to express emotion collectively resulting in communal catharsis. Ceremonial acts help travelers envision new behavior or purge old mindsets so they can move forward unencumbered. Use ceremonies to mark important transitions to provide your troops the opportunity for community and commitment.

Use Symbols

Symbols are ordinary artifacts that take on meaning because they were part of a speech, story, or ceremony. They express ideas and emotions in concentrated form. Because of their resonance, symbols become the visual language of a social group. They express people’s thoughts, feelings, and values in a shorthand and sometimes highly charged way.

Nancy Duarte, Illuminate

A NEXT STEP

At your next leadership team meeting, break the team into four groups. Each group will write a compelling story describing what you would like the church to become in the next three to five years. Start the story with “Once upon a time,” and be sure to reveal heroes, villains, battles and victories.

Instruct the teams to utilize all four of the methods listed above. Be sure to give as much detail as possible.

When completed, do these three steps for each:

  1. Have each group read their story for the rest of the team.
  2. Ask the other teams to specifically name what possible outcome or reality described that they like best or get most excited about from each story.
  3. Start a list of short-term actions that are do-able first steps to see that dream become a reality.

Now prioritize the first four action initiatives, assigning a key leader and completion date to each. For more on developing short-term action initiatives refer to Chapter 17 in God Dreams.


Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 47-1, published July 2016.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. Each Wednesday I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt here.

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Protect the Past While Envisioning the Future

Does your church dream more about where you have been than where God is leading you?

Have you ever looked around to realize that your church might be living today by focusing on yesterday?

Many churches long for the past, dreaming about the “good old days.” When faced with questions that are not easily answered, or walking through times of trial and doubt, churches, like people, often want things to be the way they used to be.

The problem is, the past has gone. While we may look back and respect it, and maybe even at times revere it, we cannot live in the past, especially when circumstances demand answers for the future.

If you are interested in learning how to lead your church away from the past in order to focus on what God has ahead, protect the past while envisioning the future.

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THE QUICK SUMMARY – Church Unique by Will Mancini

Church Unique, by Will Mancini, describes a new kind of visioning process designed to help churches develop a stunningly unique model of ministry that leads to redemptive movement. He guides churches away from an internal focus to emphasize participation in their community and surrounding culture.

Mancini offers an approach for rethinking what it means to lead with clarity as a visionary. He does this by explaining that each church has a culture that reflects its particular values, thoughts, attitudes, and actions and then shows how leaders can unlock their church’s individual DNA and unleash their congregation’s one-of-a-kind potential.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Bold aspirations must be rooted in the values and visions that have come before. For you to be alive and in touch with God’s work in the world, you were necessarily touched by the vision of others who came before.

Leaders should look for the artifacts of vision every day within their specific ministry contexts. An ongoing discover of uncovering and appreciating the visionary contributions of past and present help prepare your own unique vision to take shape.

Visionary leadership is the art of protecting the past as we champion the future.

We must listen carefully to the ones who have gone before us and learn about their vision. How does their vision intersect with what God is calling us to do? What artifacts of vision exist in the past that can be used to support our vision of the future?

Uncover the creation story – all vision has a creation story, the events and the passion that birth the idea of a better future. Visionary leaders uncover every creation story in the lineage of the people they are influencing.

Collect the hidden gems of vision vocabulary – in the articulation of past vision, there are key terms that live large with meaning. They are “words within the walls” that often stay undiscovered or unpolished. Consequently, they are under-noticed and under-celebrated.

Find the “Hall of Fame” memorabilia – Behind the pictures on the wall, the stained glass windows, and the sound system of your church home are the stories from the people who have forged the character of your church. These “hall of fame” memorabilia speak stories to your church’s uniqueness.

– Will Mancini, Church Unique

A NEXT STEP

Dedicate 20 minutes at the beginning of your next three team meetings to discuss the three vision artifacts listed above.

Meeting Number 1: Uncover the creation stories – the problem with most stories of the past is that they remain in rough form, half-buried in the conscious of the organization with few people who can recall a God-moment that got it started to begin with. If your church is more than five decades old, there may be few, if any, living members who were present at the birth of your church.

Create a plan to recover lost or half-buried memories of your church’s creation stories from long-term members, attic crawl spaces, newsletter archives, or historical documents in your community. The end result should be documented, sharable stories of your church’s birth and ensuing growth that serve as momentum to move forward into what God has for tomorrow. Example: Use significant historical changes like a relocation or renovation to fuel vision for significant changes that lay ahead.

Meeting Number 2: Collect the hidden gems of vision vocabulary – as your teams complete the work of uncovering the creation stories, alert them to be intentionally looking for words and phrases that are often repeated or seem to have significance attached to them. Make sure the teams collect these words and phrases for others to see and enjoy.

As you review these words and phrases, consider how they may be polished and integrated into the living language of your church today, as a way of honoring the past while honing language for the future.

Meeting Number 3: Find the “Hall of Fame” memorabilia – as your teams complete the work of uncovering the creation stories, also alert them to listen for mentions of items and objects to which others have attached importance. Most importantly, record the stories behind those objects that give them significance. Make sure the teams note these items and importance. An old window, chair, or other random object could serve as inspiration from where we have been to get where God is leading.


Not all history is bad, and not all future opportunities will be good. It takes discerning leaders to impartially and prayerfully evaluate “the way things used to be” in order to lead toward the future that God is calling you to create.

If your church is going to remain a vital outpost of Great Commission Transformation in your community, remember to protect the past while envisioning the future.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix Issue 22-1, published September 2015


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

You can find out more information about SUMS Remix here.

Subscribe to SUMS Remix here.

What Account Do I Draw From to Pay Attention?

Last fall I had the opportunity to be a part of The Adams Family Adventure – a week-long trip to Walt Disney World for my immediate family of fifteen: six children and nine adults.

All week long I had the most fun watching the rest of the family as they experienced Walt Disney World, most for the first time. We captured that trip in over 3,000 images, whose primary purpose was to bring up stories from our memory from that single image.

As we departed four different cities on the first day of our trip, we were texting and FaceTiming about our various experiences. It was the first airplane flight for four of the grandchildren (they did great). They left their homes early in the morning, took long flights, got on a big “magical” bus, and arrived at our resort.

To our grandchildren, it must have been a little strange. From the time they came running off the bus, throughout all of the fun adventures of the week, to the goodbyes at the end of the week, they were a little overwhelmed, maybe even overstimulated about the whole process – and I began to see all over again what it means to be curious.

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You can, and must, regain your lost curiosity. Learn to see again with eyes undimmed by precedent.   – Gary Hamel

My grandchildren’s curiosity was brought sharply into focus when I recently read the following:

In childhood, then, attention is brightened by two features: children’s neophilia (love of new things) and the fact that, as young people, they simply haven’t seen it all before.   – Alexandra Horowitz

On LookingAlexandra Horowitz’s brilliant On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes shows us how to see the spectacle of the ordinary – to practice, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle puts it, “the observation of trifles.”

On Looking is structured around a series of eleven walks the author takes, mostly in her Manhattan neighborhood, with experts on a diverse range of subjects, including an urban sociologist, a geologist, a physician, and a sound designer. She also walks with a child and a dog to see the world as they perceive it. What they see, how they see it, and why most of us do not see the same things reveal the startling power of human attention and the cognitive aspects of what it means to be an expert observer.

Here’s an illustrative example as Horowitz walks around the block with a naturalist who informs her she has missed seeing three different groups of birds in the last few minutes of their walk:

How had I missed these birds? It had to do with how I was looking. Part of what restricts us seeing things is that we have an expectation about what we will see, and we are actually perceptually restricted by that perception. In a sense, perception is a lost cousin of attention: both serve to reduce what we need to process of the world “out there.” Attention is the more charismatic member, packaged and sold more effectively, but expectation is also a crucial part of what we see. Together they allow us to be functional, reducing the sensory chaos of the world into unbothersome and understandable units.

Attention and expectation also work together to oblige our missing things right in front of our noses. There is a term for this: inattentional blindness. It is the missing of the literal elephant in the room, despite the overturned armchairs and plate-sized footprints. 

Horowitz’s On Looking should be required reading for ChurchWorld leaders. How often do we fly past the fascinating world around us? A world, mind you, that we have been called to serve.

How can we serve a neighborhood or community or a block of our subdivision if we haven’t paid attention to it?

To a surprising extent, time spent going to and fro – walking down the street, traveling to work, heading to the store or a child’s school – is unremembered. It is forgotten not because nothing of interest happens. It is forgotten because we failed to pay attention to the journey to begin with.

Will Mancini, Founder and Team Leader of Auxano, the vision clarity-consulting group I am a part of, has written eloquently on the subject. In his book Church Unique, he introduces a principle called “The Kingdom Concept” with references to artist Andrew Wyeth:

 Most artists look for something fresh to paint; frankly, I find that quite boring. For me it is much more exciting to find fresh meaning in something familiar.   – Andrew Wyeth

Mancini goes on:

What’s particularly interesting about Wyeth is that in more than fifty years of painting he never tried to capture a landscape outside of the immediate surroundings of his home in Chadds Ford Pennsylvania, and his family’s summerhouse in Maine.

 Ponder this starling fact for a moment: This man has touched the world with an ability he never exercised outside of his own backyard! His creative mind and brilliant skill, turned loose for ten hours a day and for years on end, can be forever satisfied by radically full attention to the familiar.

 It seemed to me that he was doing something inherently visionary, and critically important for ministry leaders to do as well: his ability to observe his immediate surrounding enables him to discover and express meaning in life that other miss.

The role of today’s leaders is to clarify what is already there and help people perceive what has gone unnoticed.  These are the skills needed to lead a Church Unique.

Questions to Ponder

  • How do you observe the all-too-familiar in order to discover new meaning and discern the activity of God that others miss?
  • What do you look for?
  • How can you learn to scrutinize the obvious?
  • What does it mean to look for the extraordinary in the ordinary?
  • How can you lead your church to find exponential impact through a simple and local focus?

A good place to start is simply looking…

Understand the Four Horizons of Vision

Are you a little confused about visionary planning?

There is a difference between having a vision and having a plan. Vision is about the picture of your church’s future. A plan is about the steps to get there.

The vision answers the question, “Where is God taking us?” The plan answers the question, “What are the next best steps, and how do they relate?”

Look at vision as having four horizons.

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THE QUICK SUMMARY – God Dreams, by Will Mancini

Is your team excited about the next big dream for your church?

You are a visionary leader and your church probably has a vision statement. Yet most churches are stuck in a trap of generic communication without a truly visionary plan. Just like a visionary restaurant needs a more specific focus than “serving food,” a visionary church needs something more than biblical generalizations like “loving God, loving people” or “making disciples and serving the world.”

When a team doesn’t share an understanding of God’s next big dream, leadership grows tired, overworked by an “all things to all people” ministry approach. Too often there’s no unified picture of what success looks like. People can feel uninspired and your church’s programming can seem more optional than ever.

Ministry without clarity is insanity. Are you ready for a better way?

In this groundbreaking work, based on Will Mancini’s 15 years and over 10,000 hours of church team facilitation, God Dreams reveals a simple and powerful planning method that will bring energy and focus to your church like never before.

First, God Dreams shows how to reclaim the role of long-range vision today by providing 12 vision templates, each with biblical, historical, and contemporary illustrations. These vision starters will dramatically accelerate your team’s ability to find complete agreement regarding your church’s future.

Second, God Dreams explains how to overcome the fruitless planning efforts that many church teams experience. With a tool called the Horizon Storyline, leaders can connect short-term action steps with the long-range dream, while leveraging the power of storytelling to make the plan “stick.” This tool will galvanize a diverse team of ministry leaders and volunteers with unprecedented enthusiasm.

Imagine leading with a refreshed sense of freedom and confidence, with a totally new way to inspire your church. Imagine the ability to harness the energy and resources of your people toward a specific dream of gospel impact, in your church and in your lifetime.

God Dreams is your passport to leading into a better future.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Your eyes can focus on multiple horizons. As you are reading this, look up and notice what is in your midground – a desk and chairs, other people?

Now look to the background and note what you see. A window to look through or a bookshelf?

The document itself and your arms and hands are in your foreground.

Without moving your head, experience the ability to focus in and out of these three horizons going back and forth quickly. That’s called accommodation. It’s a natural reflex that is happening subconsciously all day long. But it’s also a voluntary process. You can consciously control it whenever you want, as you probably did while trying the exercise.

What’s natural to your daily life can also be natural to your church’s organizational life. It is possible to use the three basic distances you are zooming in and out of all day long to build a visionary planning model.

In fact, the primary reason for vision in human-body functions is to guide and direct movement. The same might be said of your visionary plan: it exists to guide and direct movement for the church body as a whole.

The Horizon Storyline is a tool to develop the right amount of vision content for the right time in the future, for the entire leadership team.

The breakthrough of the Horizon Storyline is the development of a planning tool that fits human experience. It’s natural to grasp, using the way we already see, think, and communicate. What if we could forever remove the “it’s just too complicated” barrier? What if your planning tool would intuitively and immediately make sense? What if it would actually be fun to revisit over and over again?

The Horizon Storyline is defined by how we see different “horizons” in our field of vision every day. This idea is illustrated in a landscape painting, with the background far away as the eyes can see; a focal point of the piece in the midground that draws and keeps your focus; and an object in the foreground up close, right before your eyes.

To start, we just carry over the simple idea of background, midground, and foreground using those as names for three of our four planning horizons. We will simply see them as horizons, not in three-dimensional space but into the future. They are time horizons.

Here’s how it works. The near future we will define as ninety days away. That is the foreground vision. The next horizon, the midground vision, we define as one year away. And the furthest horizon we can “see” as an organization is the background vision, defined as three years away. The eyes of your church or ministry should be able to “see” this amount of time into the future.

Now that leaves one more horizon to define. This fourth horizon is just a little farther than you can clearly see. It’s just past your visible range. I call that “beyond the horizon” as a reminder that it is far away, just over the next mountain range, so to speak. I define this time frame as anywhere between five and twenty years depending on the church’s life stage and context.

Will Mancini, God Dreams

A NEXT STEP

The horizons described above are extensions of the way your eyes naturally work.

Right now think of at least one foreground, or short-term strategic horizon for your church. Something within the next 60-90 days.

Now list one big thing you hope to accomplish this year.

Finally, what is a big project, idea or task that you know will need to be tackled in the next few years of your leadership?

Rate the connectedness and continuity between these strategic initiatives. Bring the team together and ask, “What could be done to bring these three natural horizons of visionary planning into alignment?”

 


 

More energy. Greater resources. Better synergy. Would you like to have that right now at your church? Would you have guessed that the first step toward these improvements is defining your specific vision as a church?

If you don’t have a clear vision, you certainly won’t have a culture that matches. And if you don’t have a strong culture, then what are people in your church really doing?

Why are they there?

Taken from SUMS Remix 32-2, published January 2016.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

You can find out more information about SUMS Remix here.

Subscribe to SUMS Remix here.

Learn to Think Beyond “Right Now”

Imagine that the role of vision in your church is like an axe.

When skillfully used, it makes a path clear. It removes obstacles. It broadens the path for others to follow. It enable greater accomplishment.

Most pastors regularly pick up the axe of vision in their ministry. Some quickly set it back down, having never been trained in its effective use. Others swing like crazy, unaware that they wield a dull edge. Too often they become frustrated or confused by too little return for their tireless work.

One way to sharpen the axe of vision is by thinking beyond “right now.”

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THE QUICK SUMMARY – God Dreams, by Will Mancini

Is your team excited about the next big dream for your church?

You are a visionary leader and your church probably has a vision statement. Yet most churches are stuck in a trap of generic communication without a truly visionary plan. Just like a visionary restaurant needs a more specific focus than “serving food,” a visionary church needs something more than biblical generalizations like “loving God, loving people” or “making disciples and serving the world.”

When a team doesn’t share an understanding of God’s next big dream, leadership grows tired, overworked by an “all things to all people” ministry approach. Too often there’s no unified picture of what success looks like. People can feel uninspired and your church’s programming can seem more optional than ever.

Ministry without clarity is insanity. Are you ready for a better way?

In this groundbreaking work, based on Will Mancini’s 15 years and over 10,000 hours of church team facilitation, God Dreams reveals a simple and powerful planning method that will bring energy and focus to your church like never before.

First, God Dreams shows how to reclaim the role of long-range vision today by providing 12 vision templates, each with biblical, historical, and contemporary illustrations. These vision starters will dramatically accelerate your team’s ability to find complete agreement regarding your church’s future.

Second, God Dreams explains how to overcome the fruitless planning efforts that many church teams experience. With a tool called the Horizon Storyline, leaders can connect short-term action steps with the long-range dream, while leveraging the power of storytelling to make the plan “stick.” This tool will galvanize a diverse team of ministry leaders and volunteers with unprecedented enthusiasm.

Imagine leading with a refreshed sense of freedom and confidence, with a totally new way to inspire your church. Imagine the ability to harness the energy and resources of your people toward a specific dream of gospel impact, in your church and in your lifetime.

God Dreams is your passport to leading into a better future.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

For more than a few reasons, the practice of long-term thinking is hard to come by these days. Steward Brand, who is working on an interesting project called the 10,000-year clock project writes:

Civilization is revving itself into a pathologically short attention span. The trend might be coming from the acceleration of technology, the short horizon perspective of market-driven economics, the next election perspective of democracies or the distractions of personal multitasking. All are on the increase. Some sort of balancing corrective is needed.

This “think long” clock is consistent with God’s view of time.

God chooses to reveal Himself through redemptive history. Time is His canvas. This simple fact by itself challenges us to think about the future in epic chunks of time.

It’s time to trade an obsession with now for a mind-set that values thinking long, beginning with the discovery of twelve compelling benefits in the value of thinking long.

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Will Mancini, God Dreams

A NEXT STEP

Review the twelve compelling reasons to think long above, and note that they are grouped into three broad categories. We think long first because the Bible challenges us to do so, second because practical considerations invite us to do so, and third because it’s a key for unlocking the motivation of people.

To broaden this discussion with your team, reproduce the chart above with each of the three categories and their reasons on a single chart tablet sheet. Using these three sheets, discuss each of the 12 in terms of how you and your church can begin to think long.

Do you really want to inspire people? Don’t flood your church with more programs and events. Rather, blow their minds with new context. Give them something that blows up the smaller stories of the now. Disrupt the casual week-to-week worship routine with a real, visible, and dramatic picture of the specific difference your church will make 10 years from now. Give people something epic!

If you think long, you are more likely to dream big and attempt great.


Life is too short and ministry is too hard to swing all day with a blunt-edged vision.

 

Taken from SUMS Remix 31-3, published January 2016.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

You can find out more information about SUMS Remix here.

Subscribe to SUMS Remix here.

Capturing the Vision Lesson Behind Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Frequent readers of this site know of my fondness (well, let’s call it what it is – extreme fanaticism) for the genius of Walt Disney and the amazing empire that bears his name. Recently, I’ve been researching the early history of animation at Disney through various sources, mostly first-person accounts of the animators of that time.

I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Anaheim, CA at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure last week. In a unique dining experience while talking with Cast Members, I was reminded again of the vision Walt Disney exercised to bring Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to life.

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Tucked inside the entrance gates to Disney’s California Adventure is an iconic reproduction of the Carthay Circle Theater in Los Angeles. One of the most important theaters in the Golden Age of Movies during the Twenties and Thirties, it represents the premier of a tremendous achievement by Walt Disney – the first full length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Though we now view Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as an animation classic, in the mid-1930’s the idea of a full-length “cartoon” was unheard of. Walt Disney took one of the biggest risks of his career, putting almost all of his resources – both business and personal – into the film. Called “Disney’s Folly” by most of Hollywood (and more than a few inside Disney Studios itself), the film opened to critical and financial success, paving the way for Disney to continue expanding his creative genius.

With critics becoming more vocal, Walt Disney knew he would have to inspire his team of artists and writers as never before.

The rest is history…

Ken Anderson, Art Director for Snow White, remembered it this way:

Walt approached a group of employees late one afternoon, gave each of them fifty cents, told them to grab dinner across the street and then return to the soundstage that evening. None had any idea of what Walt had in mind.

When they arrived and took their seats on wooden tiers at the back of the room, Walt was standing at the front lit by a single spotlight in the otherwise dark space.

Announcing that he was going to launch an animated feature, he told the story of Snow White, not just telling it but acting it out, assuming the character; mannerisms, putting on their voices, letting his audience visualize exactly what they would be seeing on the screen. 

He became Snow White and the wicked queen and the prince and each of the dwarfs.

Anderson said the performance took over three hours. One animator later claimed, “that one performance lasted us three years. Whenever we’d get stuck, we’d remember how Walt did it on that night.”

– Neal Gabler, “Walt Disney-The Triumph of the American Imagination

But there’s more to the story…

Along about the same time, Disney demonstrated his vision in another way. The new medium of television, though in its infancy, was growing.

According to Keith Gluck, writing for The Walt Disney Family Museum,

Before Walt Disney even understood the new medium of television, he still had the foresight to invest in it. Walt had learned from dealing with shady characters in the past to pay close attention to contracts. When his distribution deal with United Artists was coming to a close, he chose not to renew. UA was insisting on the television rights to all Disney cartoons. “I don’t know what television is, and I’m not going to sign away anything I don’t know about,” Walt said. He ended up signing with RKO Pictures in late 1935.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered in 1937, distributed by RKO Pictures. It was a smashing success, and was later given an honorary Academy Award for its groundbreaking achievements. It was no typical Oscar, either – the award instead was one statuette with seven miniature statuettes!

There’s one more piece to this vision puzzle…

Over a decade later, Walt’s interest in television began to develop. In 1948 he spent a week in New York with the specific purpose of watching and learning more about television. By the time he returned to the Studio, he was convinced it was just the forum to help promote his work. He even told Studio Nurse Hazel George, “Television is the coming thing.” While other movie studios were trying to think of ways to thwart the coming of television, Walt was gearing up to embrace it. 

 – Keith Gluck, The Walt Disney Family Museum

By being the first studio producer to become involved with the fledgling medium of television, Disney was able to leverage that partnership into a financing arrangement that allowed him to bring another dream to reality – Disneyland.

Walt had a grander vision of what his shows could do on ABC, and how they could be used to promote Disneyland. Despite pressure from the other studios, Walt and Roy Disney signed a contact with Leonard Goldenson of ABC, in which the network put up $500,000 in cash, guarantee $4.5 million in loans, and receive one-third ownership in Disneyland (which it later sold back to Disney).

– J. Jeff Kober, Disney’s Hollywood Studios: From Show Biz to Your Biz

With the opening of Disneyland in 1955, Walt’s vision and imagination took on a reality that people could see, hear, and feel – an experience that changed entertainment forever.

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Walt Disney’s Vision Lesson for Leaders Today

Walt Disney’s unique vision, personalized in the telling of Snow White, demonstrated in the far-reaching aspects of a contract, and brought to life at Disneyland, can be a model for church leaders today.

When God wants change, He affects the heart of the leader first.

To help people see the invisible, the leader must first understand how to unlock the imagination. How does the leader influence the imagination? Through metaphors, blended with the art of storytelling and question asking.

If the leader has any hope of painting a memorable picture of the future, it will be with the vivid and compelling language of metaphor – living language – that penetrates the soul as much as it illumines the mind.

– Will Mancini, Church Unique

What vision is burning inside of you, a vision that can captivate your team, influence the influential, and be brought to life in your community?

What Does Your Church Brand Say?

What do the following have in common?

Uncle Ben, Charlie the Tuna, Morris the Cat, Tony the Tiger, the Pillsbury Doughboy, and the Marlboro Man.

You probably guessed that they are all advertising characters. But did you know they were all created by the same man, Leo Burnett?

In 1943, Burnett met for lunch with Forrest Mars, who had just bought the rights for a new milling process for rice and was looking to market to a wartime economy. Mars had already settled on the name of the product – Uncle Ben’s Converted Brand Rice, named after the owner of the farm that was supplying the rice.

During their lunch, Mars told Burnett he wanted every home in America cooking Uncle Ben’s rice for dinner – even though rice accounted for less than 10 percent of the nation’s starch consumption at the time.

Burnett considered Mars’ ambitious goal, then pointed to the dignified gentleman serving them and said, “If you want everybody eating your rice, you better have somebody real friendly like him serving it.”

Mars took one look at the broad-grinned, slightly balding black man who had been serving them and called him to the table. He made an offer for the man to sit for a portrait, telling him only that he wanted all rights to the picture. The waiter agreed, and in January 1944 Forrest Mars introduced the nation to the now familiar orange box with the picture of “Uncle Ben.”

Burnett believed in selling products with strong yet simple imagery that spoke to people in a friendly manner. His philosophy, later called the “Chicago School,” went on to have a huge impact on American branding.

It’s a great, true story – but what does it mean for leaders in ChurchWorld?

Branding is simply how your church builds relationships with communication tools.

If you want to know more about the concept of branding for churches, start here with an introductory post by Will Mancini on “The Three Branding Strategies for Churches.”

If you want to have a conversation with a talented church design team, learn more about Auxano Design here.

Your church has a brand – even if you don’t know it. Shouldn’t you be the one shaping your brand?