One of the most challenging times to project vision is in the middle of the storm. The impact of COVID-19 on the world, and its impact on Teen Challenge specifically, will be remembered by how we worked through it and how we came out of it. “What will our future look like?” is the question we must now be asking ourselves.
I want to report that I have been so impressed with the Teen Challenge leadership worldwide. In spite of some of the most challenging times in the history of our organization, we have leaders who are standing strong and finding a way to press on and keep the doors open. We have some centers with 75% of their staff and student population infected with the virus and many centers with none who have contracted the virus. Every center, though, has been impacted in some way – by the shutdown of micro-businesses and normal fundraisers, and/or by a drop in donations. Still, it’s amazing that we find a way to overcome and to see beyond today’s issues. Visionary leaders can see beyond the present.
As a leader in Teen Challenge, vision is an important value. The ability to have foresight, to be able to use our imagination to see down the road, to foresee, have discernment or perception is invaluable as a worker in this ministry. Seeing down the road is more challenging, especially in times like we are living today. There is a bit of uncertainty as to what our new normal will be.
In spite of these challenges, we must look down the road and begin to problem solve and envision our future. In some countries, there may be new laws restricting the number of individuals who may sleep in a room and how many may attend chapel in one setting. We will need to consider how we might continue to do our work yet meet the demands of new laws and restrictions. We may end up with smaller numbers of students and less staff to comply with space and distance issues. We may need to make the length of the program shorter to accommodate the changes. We must remain open-minded and we must begin to discuss how we will operate and raise support in this new reality.
In Proverbs 29:18 the Bible says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
Life is a journey and every journey has a destination. Everyone ends up somewhere in life. A few people reach their destination on purpose. Vision is what makes the difference. Leaders are meant to be out front leading toward the desired destination. When God calls us, plants a dream within our hearts, and gives us a picture of the desired future, we walk toward that. And no matter the storm, no matter the challenge, no matter the difficulty, true leaders keep on the path of the vision God gave them. Leaders take followers to places they would not tend to go on their own. They see farther than others see, and they see before others see.
The components of a vision include:
- a compelling picture or image of what the organization can become in the future.
- being feasible and attainable.
- connection to, and articulation of, deeper values and hopes for the future.
- translation into actions and plans that can be, and are, implemented.
- regular and effective communication.
A clear vision, along with the courage to follow through, dramatically increases our chances of coming to the end of our lives and looking back with deep satisfaction, thinking to ourselves, “I did it, I did what God asked me to do and now I can pass this on to the one I have raised up to lead it forward.”
Global Teen Challenge, in partnership with TC centers globally, has the vision to put hope within reach of every addict. We can only do that with specific focuses and clear strategies for leveraging growth. There is no picture of putting every addict in a bed, but there is a picture of offering hope through multiple different ways. We must be innovative in our approaches.
Six years ago I asked a question, “What would it look like to put hope within reach of every addict online?” WOW – that was a big thought and a really big challenge to consider and dream about. We began to work on that idea and partnered with a friend who could help us make that dream become a reality. It took almost two full years of design work, meetings, talking, planning, re-designing, beta testing, and fundraising to make it happen. The vision was the easy part, building the tool to deliver the vision was a miracle. That tool, Sober Peer Enterprise System, and Sober Peer app are today in Teen Challenge centers across America. The app is now available in the App Store. As you read this, we are working on translations into 25 different languages.
Remember this: That God has His hand on this ministry and He has His hand on you. He will take care of you and He will help you address the needs you are facing. I want to challenge you to get on your knees and seek God’s face and His direction & provision. He will meet you in prayer and He will give you clarity for the vision and future. God has everything under control and He has not forgotten you. Stay true to what He has asked you to do and know that better days are ahead.
Jerry Nance, PhD
Global Teen Challenge