The Directional Tree

At the beginning of the 20th century most Christian ministry was outworked by local denominational churches or overseas missions. In both of these cases what you did was the local expression of the wider organisation. Of course this still applies today in both of these scenarios. After the Second World War this process was interrupted by the advent of more independent larger churches and para-church organisations. Because they were a reasonably new phenomena these ministries spent a lot of time clearly articulating who they were and what they did and this is believed by many to be one of the reasons for the growth of the mega-church. Because of its popularity, this process was also adopted by a large number of local denominational churches. Today the process seems to be less important and the tendency is to search the internet and adopt something from another church.

If you are a local denominational church you will still be more likely to do what denominational churches do because it is easier. But if you are a growing church or a larger church then you should consider or reconsider seriously using the ‘Directional Tree’ to ensure people are clear about who you are and what you do.

The ‘Directional Tree’ helps people who are part of a church to visualise the relationship between values, purpose, mission, vision, specific goals and objectives and the results (the accomplishment of those goals and objectives). It is a holistic perception of the role each of these things plays in contributing to the direction of a church.

Values are the often unwritten assumptions that guide our actions. Our values demonstrate our convictions, or our heartfelt beliefs, and they also determine our priorities. Values are based on principles that we hold dear and that will determine how we will operate in life. Values provide the foundation for our mission and vision which are the basis for formulating goals and setting direction. If these values are not thought through then we can become directionless. If values are not explained when they are written down, they make sense to you but others may interpret then in a completely different way.

Side by side with our values is our purpose, the reason why we exist. Each local church is on a unique journey given to them by God and this must be clearly articulated. The current generation are looking for a cause and won’t buy into what we do until they know why we do it. When people find a cause that is worthwhile giving their whole to, they share it with their friends and the people they love and anyone else who will listen.

Your purpose must be:

  1. Resilient – it is above change. It’s relevant when your vision changes.
  2. Inclusive – anybody can be involved. Everyone can be committed
  3. Outward Focused – it must benefit those outside of the organisation

A mission statement expresses what you do as a church. It should be in place to aid the vision which is how you are going to outwork the mission. It should be expressed in a way that everyone in the church can understand it so they can subscribe to it. Formed out of your core values and purpose, a mission statement must be a real living statement of what is practised and not vague aspirations or ideas. It must be formulated out of your circumstances and not be imposed from outside.


A vision statement articulates where the congregation believes God is calling them to be in the future, what they’re aiming to do towards that in a specific timeframe (usually in 3-5 years) as well as the transformation they desire to see in their church, their community and the world as a result of what they are doing. It will always be grounded in the church’s history, its local, regional and global context as well as the Kingdom of God.

The branches of the tree clearly represent the three to five main streams where this is outworked. They define what is critical and allow other aspects to act in a supporting role. Vision comes from the heart as well as from the head.  A vision statement aligns key players, energizes people to achieve a common purpose, and provides a compass for decision making.

Out of each main stream (each major branch) will flow specific goals, objectives and action steps.

If there is health in every area of a tree – it is planted deep in nourishing soil with plenty of water and vital roots that go deep, a sturdy trunk reaching skyward, strong branches, and healthy green leaves – that tree will bear fruit. That tree will experience effective synergism – its end result (the tasty and delicious fruit) will be greater than the sum of its parts!

An important part of the process is defining what your fruit will be and how you will measure what the quantity and quality of fruit being borne by your tree will say about its health. You must develop your own set of vital signs or indicators of the state of your health – what are the indicators in people, finances or materials that measure your effectiveness? Make sure to build in a system to monitor the vital signs and make adjustments as necessary.

If you obey Jesus and make disciples who make disciples, the community will grow. If you believe Jesus wants you to lead a growing church then the Directional Tree is important to understand and implement. If the world you relate to is mostly made up of Postmoderns then it is wise to work through the Directional Tree with some of these people beside you. They will provide important input for you so you don’t get lost in Modernity thinking.

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