Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Berger, Please Help Me With Vision

Written by: on February 28, 2019

Chapter 4 in Simple Habits for Complex Times: Powerful Practices for Leaders is titled “Create A Clear Vision for an Unclear Future.” [1] Let us pretend together that I asked Jennifer Garvey Berger and Keith Johnston to help me with VISION in my context as Conference Superintendent.

The graphic above is the current vision statement for our Conference. Healthy, Lifegiving, Praying, Prevailaing, Multiplying, Pastors and Churches. Don’t get me wrong, it is a good vision statement. It says a lot of why we exist as a Conference. My predecessors lived this vision out. Of course, it doesn’t fit on a t-shirt like Peter Drucker would recommend [2], but nonetheless, it is good. Unfortunately, hardly a Pastor can remember it in our Conference and probably, neither can any reader of this Blog. I can hardly even remember it, and I am the new Superintendent!

It might be wise to take into consideration what Berger and Johnston said about our age of VUCA: volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity [3], as well as, “The problem for leaders today is that as the world changes so quickly, the future becomes far less predictable, the options become exponentially increased, and the way we need to think about those options shifts.” [4] It may be time for a new vision for our Conference.

The Western Conference of the Evangelical Church is 30 churches, 2 Camps and a Bible College. 8700 worshipers gather on a week-end in our four states (ID, MT, ND, WY). Two churches average around 2000 attenders each, 7 churches are below 50. Our middle church has 106 average in attendance which is only slightly above the national average of 103, according to Outreach magazine [5]. Our Conversion rate last year was 15.3%, not too bad, but only 25% of those were baptized. Average attenders in our Conference attend only 1.8 times a month at most. We are not even keeping up with population growth with an increase in church attendance and Kingdom engagement.

Our authors suggest VISION should include multiple perspectives towards “experimentation” and “safe to fail zones” and “nudging boundaries” and “guardrails”. [6] I am not sure how that applies to church work, because honestly, we cannot afford to fail–eternity is at stake, but I get it. Let’s try some new paradigms! New wine into new wineskins…

The church world is getting more complex and uncertain, for sure. But how do we respond? Berger and Johnston suggest to “engage with complexity, but keep it simple”. [7] They also suggest to map your “polarities” and “attractors” while strengthening the attractors. [8] I would also suggest vision must be measurable to be attainable, at least that is what I learned from being a teacher, coach and athletic director.

So here we go! This is my simple, new and evolving vision for our Western Conference of churches:


The “guardrails”: Faithful to the Word, faithful to the Gospel, faithful to our calling, faithful to our spouse, faithful to our families, faithful to our churches, and faithful to our communities…

The measurable “attractors”: Fruitful with conversions, fruitful with baptisms, fruitful in making disciples, fruitful in prayer, fruitful in planting new churches, fruitful in holiness, and fruitful in sanctifications…

It fits on a t-shirt. It is measurable. It is simple, even I can remember it and I can definitely get behind it.

But is it safe to fail? Our authors suggest building experiments to gauge whether it is safe to fail. How would this work in the church world? Well, thanks to some ideas I gleaned from Trish in our LGP Elite 8 Cohort, at the same time I unveil our new vision (which by the way is next Wednesday), I am going to unveil LEADERSHIP GRANTS of up to $10,000 each for churches and pastors to try to expand God’s Kingdom. The authors suggest these experiments be short term and cheap in the experimental stage [9], hence the dollar amount selected above.

I am looking for new, innovative, outside the box and probably outside the four walls of the church ideas for Kingdom expansion. For instance, BASKETBALL CHURCH. In two weeks, my town is hosting a travel basketball tournament for middle school kids. Over six hundred kids and their families will descend on my community, all in the name of hoops. Our town of 2000 will double overnight with over 2000 visitors. None will be in church that week-end! This same thing is probably happening on any given week end with your church families as well.

Rather than fight against the travel team athletic world, why not come along side it in the name of Jesus. This former coach and college athletic director could do a half hour of church on Saturday night, and a half hour of church on Sunday morning. The tournament organizers have allowed me a gym and the time to do so. Two opening songs, some prayer, and a 10 minute sermon. Then I will give anyone an opportunity to respond to Jesus. Pretty simple, risky, experimental, and boundary nudging. Probably won’t cost me 300 bucks to put on (see my sign below).

Will it be fruitful? To be honest, I am not sure, but I will be faithful. To my call, to the Gospel and to my community…

Was this the most academic posting I have ever done? Certainly not, but I am once again trying to be a practitioner of the material we are being taught. This Blog isn’t the most intellectual (sorry Noll), didn’t contain national book reviews (sorry Adler), is not very theological (sorry Grenz and Olson), and certainly is not full of critical thinking (sorry Paul and Elder).

However, as our authors suggest, these are complex times. Minus well try it. New wine into new wineskins!!



[1] Berger, Jennifer Garvey, and Keith Johnston. Simple Habits for Complex Times: Powerful Practices for Leaders. Stanford: Stanford Business Books, 2016. 82.

[2] Triggers, Jeremy. “Your Leadership Mission Should Fit on a T-Shirt!” Marshall Goldsmith. 2011. Accessed February 28, 2019. http://www.marshallgoldsmith.com/articles/leadership-mission-fit-t-shirt/.

[3] Berger. 8.

[4] Berger. 9.

[5] Evans, Scott. “Outreach 100 Largest and Fastest Growing Churches 2018.” OutreachMagazine.com. October 24, 2018. Accessed February 28, 2019. https://outreachmagazine.com/outreach-100.html.

[6] Berger. 94.

[7] Berger. 32.

[8] Berger. 87.

[9] Berger. 109.

About the Author

Jay Forseth

Superintendent of the Western Conference of the Evangelical Church. Blessed with 28 years as the husband of my amazing wife who I can't make it without. Now three of four in our family are attending University, but both my children are way smarter than me.

14 responses to “Berger, Please Help Me With Vision”

  1. M Webb says:


    Try “HELP2 ME” on the T-shirt. Healthy, Enabling, Lifegiving, Praying-Pastors who Multiply Evangelicals.
    Your F2CP is better, but not catchy. What is your logo or ethnographic image to imprint the idea into your people?
    Outstanding BC poster with the basketball-cross image. Very good and catchy! 1 out of 3 not to bad!
    Great post Jay, I like what you are thinking and where you are trying to go. Being Evangelical and Doing Evangelicalism as Pastors and Churches is a worthy strategic movement. Praying that the Holy Spirit gives wisdom and discernment while guiding you for God’s glory.
    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

  2. Dan Kreiss says:


    Fantastic!!!! You took the principles of this text, found something useful, and put it immediately to practice. Brother, that is academics at its best!! I wish I was there to help you out with Basketball Church. This is genuine leadership. You are not only encouraging your pastors and church leaders to think outside the box, you are demonstrating what that might look like. Even if it ‘fails’ in your eyes it is exactly the type of thinking the Church needs nationwide.

    Keep it up! Your pragmatic approach to this academic program demonstrates your consistent focus on growing the Kingdom of God. Your recognition that ‘eternity is at stake’ is the fuel that keeps you going.

    I want to hear about both your Basketball Church and your sharing the new vision with the conference and any feedback you receive.

  3. Jay Forseth says:


    Will do, I will let you know how they go…


  4. Jason Turbeville says:

    I am excited you are giving the churches the money and the impetus to try something new. I am a big fan of the safe to fail, if you are not afraid of failing you will take big steps for God. Love it.


  5. Trisha Welstad says:

    Jay, I am excited for your new vision statement and Basketball + Church! Very cool. I was going to say that you could nearly just do the terms in white from your vision and call it good. I hope you get some excellent proposals for grants and there are some very fruitful results. Keep us posted!

    No matter that you are not as academic on this post, you are applying the content and obviously keeping our other texts in mind!

  6. Hi Jay,

    Congrats on so many levels! I’m super excited you are trying something on the edges as a safe-to-fail experiment.

    What you are doing with the grants is phenomenal. That’s the vision I see as well for the use of philanthropy: use the funds as incubators for new expressions of outreach and presence. We did that at Stronger Philanthropy with our Spark Initiative with $10k grants for millennials trying new social enterprise initiatives and funded by millennials as well.

    You are asking new questions for your denomination. It reminded me of another small denomination in Canada, the BIC.


    They were a historic, small, rural Anabaptist denomination that had one church (The Meeting House) explode in growth with a new model. That church eventually grew so its membership was HALF of the denomination’s. The BIC decided to embrace this new model rather than compete against it, and it is leading innovative influence for the denomination.

    Don’t be dismayed at your smallness. It’s a gift that you can be nimble and creative without the pressure of extensive bureaucracy that will squelch the innovations.

  7. Kyle Chalko says:

    Love it Jay! I think the idea of small experiments is an excellent. I imagine this faith-filled spirit of trying new things will be contagious to your 30 churches under your leadership. Our district office recently redid their vision statement.

    Well actually I dont know if their “official vision statement” is different, but the new superintdent simply made a great design in the district office with the words,

    “we build pastors”.

    And then below the words is probably a hundred photos of the pastors or churches doing ministry in the district.


  8. Hey Jay, In my parents’ church there has been a basketball children’s minstry for the past few years, and it is having a huge impact. It’s call Upwards basketball, I love your heart and your vision.

    • Jay Forseth says:

      Jenn! That is so awesome. I started Upward Basketball in my church 10 years ago. It has been the most fruitful outreach ministry in the history of our church, except for VBS. Thanks for telling me about your parent’s church!

  9. Shawn Hart says:

    Jay, I absolutely loved one of your last comments; I believe it is the most foundational principles ministers…and for that matter, Christians, should live by;

    “Will it be fruitful? To be honest, I am not sure, but I will be faithful. To my call, to the Gospel and to my community…”

    Ministry is about acting on faith; some will not want it, some will refuse it, some will hate us for it, some will love us for it, and some will never hear it. Sadly, it is the last group that I believe shows if we have been successful or not. We are not here to please the masses; we are here to please God. If we can honestly face Him on Judgment Day, and say, “Lord, I was faithful;” I believe we will be delighted to hear Him say, “Then you were fruitful.”

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