The One Thing You Cannot Delegate: Vision Casting


In the middle of a multi-million capital campaign, Adam Hamilton tells the story of one of his friends, Jim, who took a group of pastors on a skiing trip to Colorado.

They had a great cabin right at the base of the mountains, though the portion of the mountain behind their cabin didn't have any lifts leading up it, nor any ski runs. One of the pastors looked up the mountain and said, "Hey guys, let's take our skis and hike up this mountain. The snow is virgin powder. No one has skied on it before. It won't be easy, but imagine the experience when we ski down!" Several of them chimed in and said, "Okay! Let's do it!" But Jim and one of his friends said, "You guys are nuts! Who in their right mind carries skies and boots halfway up a mountain for just a few minutes of pleasure as you ski down? We'll stay right here by the fire and enjoy our coffee - you go right ahead and ski!" The other pastors decided they'd take the challenge. Jim and his friend watched over the next thirty minutes as these guys hiked up the side of the mountain, skis, boots, and poles slung over their shoulders. The whole way, the two pastors by the fire congratulated themselves on their wisdom and spoke of the stupidity of those fellas hiking the mountain. Then they watched as these guys put on their skis and turned and began skiing where no one else had dared to ski before. As they arrived back at the cabin, these other men were shouting, laughing, and speaking of their great adventure.​ ​ Jim said, "My friend and I could only stand there in silence as they talked of the experience with intense satisfaction. And then one of the men looked at me and said, 'Jim, you missed the very best part of our entire vacation!'"


Adam Hamilton tells this story to his congregation and then challenges them by casting a vision for their participation in their capital campaign.

I know there are some of you who, by nature, are the types that want to sit by the fire. This large project our church is called to bite off scares you. It seems too hard, too big. You can think of a million reasons we should not pursue it. But the rest of us feel this is where God is leading. So it's okay if you don't want to go along. You can even talk about us while we're trying to scale this huge mountain. But my fear is that when we're on the backside, and we cut the ribbon on that new building, and there are multitudes of people whose lives are changed through the years as a result–and the rest of us are celebrating–my fear is that you might have missed the best part.

A wise fundraiser, Adam Hamilton, has done what we call vision casting. Vision casting happens when a leader takes some hoped-for future and vividly brings it into the present. With words, Hamilton reaches into the future, grabs the vision of multitudes of people whose lives are changed and the ensuing celebrations, then invites the people to make sure they are a part of it by acting today.

Being a visionary is something that you, as a leader, cannot delegate to others. This great power requires significant risk. Seeing the future is not easy. But when, as leaders, we refuse to risk and articulate a preferred future, we begin to live with a warped perspective of the world. When we deny our visionary abilities, we live embracing

  • "can't" more than "can"

  • "impossible" more than "possible"

  • "no" more than "yes"


A Three Stooges routine has Larry crying out to Moe, "I can't see! I can't see!" Moe rushes to Larry's aid, asking "Why not? What's wrong?" Larry then smiles and proclaims, "I got my eyes closed!" Then, of course, Moe bops Larry on the head.

Leaders who see their missions fully funded come to see their core task as being visionary. Their job is to clearly articulate a preferred future.

Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind, so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths...so must we...create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Peter Senge says that we generate this tension by "holding [up] a vision and concurrently telling the truth about current reality relative to that vision–to "dramatize the issue so that it can no longer be ignored."

Your organization's vision for the future should be bold and visual - in fact, it should be more than visual, engaging as many senses as possible: the warm glow of accomplishment. When the members of an organization can see and feel a brighter future in clear, tangible images, those images become a magnet that draws them toward that future. A powerful vision motivates, excites, and energizes people. It gives the members of the organization a common and exalted purpose to reach for. - The Thing in the Bushes, Kevin Ford & James Osterhaus

A blind man's world is bounded by the limits of his touch; an ignorant man's world by the limits of his knowledge; a great man's world by the limits of his vision. E. Paul Hovey

Being a visionary creates tremendous enthusiasm and energy in the present about the desired future of your organization.

A vision captures and maximizes the special uniqueness of your organization.

A vision draws people in and calls them to commitment and involvement.

The bottom line is that vision is leadership. No true leader can lead without vision. Great leaders work to understand how that vision always drives what their organizations do (mission).

Your mission may be providing water filters in South Sudan. But your vision could be that Sudanese families always have clean drinking water. Your mission may be providing glasses for the elderly. But your vision could be that grandparents can always read letters from their grandkids. Your mission may be providing transportation for seniors. But your vision could be that senior citizens never again miss a doctor's appointment. Your mission may be providing low-interest car loans. But your vision could be that single moms are always on time for work or never miss a shift. Your mission could be to make exhibits in the Children's museum available. But your vision could be that children's imaginations are ignited. Your mission could be that you teach poetry classes in prisons. But your vision could be that young poets discover their voice. Your mission could be that you fund your community theater's next production. But your vision could be that local kids get a taste of Broadway. Your mission could be to preserve and protect threatened forests. But your vision could be that African Forest Elephants thrive in their natural habitat. Your mission could be to provide mosquito nets for families in SE Asia. But your vision could be that children in Chu Prong sleep soundly every night. Your mission could be to provide service dogs for veterans. But your vision could be that homebound veterans are never without a companion. Your mission could be to provide interview clothes for homeless vets. But your vision could be that homeless veterans always feel confident. ​ ​ (I found this list from a blog that I read and filed; tell me who you are, and I will gladly give you credit).


Need more resources? Be a visionary, see those resources in your future and start talking about them. Describe how they feel. Describe how they impact people. Narrate the excitement. Bring them into today! ​ David

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