Translating Your Vision

One evening when our adult kids were home for Christmas, we entertained ourselves with Google translate. The game is simple. Enter an English phrase and translate it into another language, preferably one that is unusual or obscure. Then copy and paste the foreign phrase into Google and translate it back into English. The results are rarely what you would expect. (Jimmy Kimmel does a version of this with popular songs.)

Communicating clearly and effectively is both important and challenging for church and ministry leaders. How often have you conveyed a key message and then been shocked at how it was misunderstood by others? Probably far more often than you would like.

Asking the Right Questions

Many of you are preparing to give a vision-casting or state-of-the-church message. These are the kinds of messages that are intended to inspire your organization and set direction for the coming year. What can you learn from my humorous experience with Google translate? Here are 3 questions that you need to ask:

1. What do I want to say?

The starting point is for the message to be clear in your mind. If it has too many twists or nuances, it is unlikely to have the desired impact. Write it out. Then keep editing and simplifying until it is crystal clear.

2. What did you hear me say?

This is a question to ask your core leaders after they’ve heard the message. Their honest, unfiltered response will tell you what is and isn’t clear, and will help you know where you need to make improvements before communicating to a broader audience.

3. How will you explain what I said?

Important messages need to be communicated multiple times in multiple ways by multiple people. So ask key leaders how they will share the message with the people in their circles of influence. Listen for places where their interpretation deviates in a subtle way or omits an important point.

It is hard work to cast a clear and compelling vision. It would be much easier to just type it into Google translate—but you know how that will turn out.

Mike Bonem is a consultant, coach, speaker, church leader, husband, and father who loves to help ministries and leaders reach their God-given potential. He is the author of Leading from the Second Chair and 3 other books on ministry leadership. Mike can be found online at

A version of this article was originally published on Mike Bonem's Website