Recently, I had a retreat with leaders from Shaping Destiny, a nonprofit organization that I founded over a decade ago. While we had a lot of fun, we spent some time in leadership development opportunities.

What is dreaming within the dream?

One of the concepts I introduced to them was dreaming within the dream. Dreaming within the dream encourages leaders within an organization to look at the larger mission and vision of the organization and come up with ideas and visions of their own for projects and ministries within the larger organization that they are passionate about and want to lead. When done well, a large vision would be accomplished when you put together people with smaller visions which add up to the big vision. Because each of the smaller visions aligns with the greater vision, you would end up reaching the bigger vision as the smaller visions are achieved. The good news is that you will do so with people who are passionate and take personal ownership of their individual areas because they are the founders. It is their baby, and they are following their own dreams. Yet, because they are united by one common larger vision, they will support each other. When done wisely, a little healthy competition can ensue that could spark creativity that goes throughout the entire organization.

Dreaming within the Dream: How to inspire personal passion and initiative within a team

Dreaming within the dream of “Health for all citizens” within a small city

Let me give you an example. Imagine a small city with a vision of “health for all its citizens”. You have a primary care doctor and many specialist doctors. You may also have epidemiologists, pharmacists, nurses, and many other medical professional groups.They all have one goal–to get the city’s people healthy. Yet, each of the doctors has a different passion and vision for their respective area of care. The surgeon loves to cut open the patient and fix things. The psychiatrists and psychologists have their role. The dermatologists, endocrinologists, ophthalmologists etc each have their vision and part to play. Yet, the overarching vision that everyone shares is “health for all citizens” of this small city.

If you look at the city as one large organization that has one big mission and vision to keep the citizens healthy, then you can bring in different leaders–the different medical professional groups–to dream dreams within the one dream — “health for all citizens”. When each of these individual dreams is achieved, it leads to the achievement of the dream for the entire city. A health commissioner for the city may then be in charge with inspiring leaders to dream within the different departments and then coordinating their effort to see the larger vision achieved.

Dreaming within the dream at Shaping Destiny

As I taught my team this concept of dreaming within the dream and encouraged the leaders to dream, one of the leaders spoke up. “I have always wanted to start an after-school program…” Then she continued and spoke of how she was touched by such a program as a child and how she had always wanted to start one later in life when she could put together the resources. As she spoke, I could see her passion. I could see that she was inspired by the dream. She wanted to inspire and empower middle school kids from poor families in the U.S. Growing up in a family that suffered divorce and many challenges, she understands some of the challenges that these kids are going through because she went through them herself. As expected, this dream is a dream within the larger dream of the organization whose mission is to inspire and empower people to shape their destinies. Shaping Destiny had already been helping orphans in the Cameroon for over a decade and was looking for ways to serve the poor in the U.S. as well. Danielle is already doing research and ground work for her afterschool program which will be launched in about two years as a Shaping Destiny ministry with her as founder and visionary of that program.

I strongly encourage all our leaders to dream within the dream and come up with bold visions of their own that will benefit and strengthen the entire organization.

I must quickly say that while I encourage this, it is by no means a requirement. Why? Because some people are gifted with administrative and leadership gifts that enable them to manage and lead already established programs and organizations. The key is to encourage this kind of dreaming within an organization so that no one who is gifted or pregnant with a dream within your organization keeps it in. Those who have this gift need to be encouraged to give birth to it so that they and everybody else will be blessed.

Orphans Promise: Dreaming within the dream at CBN

Terry Meeuwsen is the founder, director, and visionary of Orphan’s Promise, a children’s ministry of The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). In 1993, Terry and her family moved to Virginia beach where she started co-hosting the 700 club with CBN’s founder, Pat Robinson. Because of Terry’s passion for orphans, she and her husband, Andy, have seven children, five of whom are adopted. In order to pursue something she is passionate about, Terry came up with the vision for Orphan’s Promise. This is a dream within the larger dream of CBN. By doing that, Terry didn’t need to leave CBN to go and start a brand new organization to reach orphans. She started a ministry within the larger ministry which she is passionate about and leads. The entire CBN organization supports her as she leads it. Ads for orphans promise air on CBN telecasts every weekday. Because of the win-win relationship that comes when people dream within the dream, Orphan’s Promise is able to do more than it could do alone. Terry continues to work with CBN for over two decades now!

Other Examples of Dreaming within the Dream

You can see dreaming within the dream happening in successful companies like Google, Facebook, and numerous other companies all around the world.

Advantages of encouraging dreaming within the dream in your organization

  1. It inspires personal passion and initiative. Encouraging people to dream, take personal ownership, pursue something they are uniquely gifted and passionate about it while at the same time receiving the support and guidance of a larger organization and group of people they love.
  2. It will prevent unnecessary splits or departure of passionate and talented individuals. If individuals are passionate about something or feel called to do something and room is not made for them to do it within the current organization, they will inevitably move to go and do it somewhere.
  3. Creates win-win and synergistic relationships. By allowing dreaming within the dream, the individual who is called stays and creates a ministry within the ministry that allows her to do what she is called to do without any hindrance or having to leave. By working together, this leader’s work benefits more than it could have if she had gone out to start everything from scratch. The larger organization also benefits because it’s larger vision is being reached. What these two can do together becomes greater than the sum of their potential individual efforts if they had split. That’s synergy!
  4. It expands the pie for everyone. It gives the opportunity for more people with dreams to achieve them. Dreaming within the Dream is about expanding the pie. It is about the abundance mentality, as opposed to the scarcity mentality. It gives equal opportunity for everyone who is gifted to share leadership to the maximum extent possible. Instead of having one leader with the vision at the top telling everybody what to do, you encourage people to dream and exercise their own leadership but the work together to accomplish a common goal.
  5. It enhances leadership development and training within an organization. One of the key requirements of leadership is developing a vision. A leader must be able to develop and effectively cast a vision. He/she must be able to get people to buy into the vision and follow. Dreaming within the dream allows for more leaders–than just the founding leader of the organization–to experience giving birth to a vision and seeing it grow.
  6. It inspires commitment.  Dreaming within the dream inspires commitment from people to an organization or larger cause. As Stephen Covey said, “Without involvement, there is no commitment. Mark it down, asterisk it, circle it, underline it. No involvement, no commitment.” Dreaming within the dream allows people to be part of giving birth to significant portions of the whole ministry. There is no greater way to be involved than that!

Dreaming within the dream and Hiring

During interviews, I recruit team members that have dreams that fall within the dream of our organization, people that are passionate enough about those areas to join the organization and dream within the larger dream. I expect all new key leaders to be able to dream within the larger dream.That leads to tremendous initiative and passion…


Remember, the dreaming within the dream can work for any group. A  team can be a family, a small group of friends, a department within an organization, or the entire organization itself.

Do you want to inspire passion within your team members?

You know what to do. Teach them to dream within the dream!