Understanding the Differences Between Mission, Vision, Strategy, and Tactics

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One of the consultation ministries we provide at Church Answers is to help churches determine their mission, vision, strategy, and tactics. We often find that the first step is defining those four terms for the church leadership.

To be clear, other leaders and experts define these four terms with different nuances than ours. We provide our definitions so we can be on the same page as we work with different congregations.

Thus, we begin with four clarifying definitions. We also provide a current example of each. As we anticipate releasing our new evangelism and outreach ministry in 2023 called The Hope Initiative, we have used these definitions to help churches reach beyond their walls.

Mission

In our work with churches, we define mission as “God’s plan for all churches.” In other words, mission statements are transferable from congregation to congregation. Mission statements declare a high-level and general plan. It is a good beginning point, but it is insufficient by itself.

One church in the Church Answers family has this great mission statement: “We exist because everyone needs the hope of Jesus.” Their statement focuses on Jesus being the hope of the world. It is implicit that the church’s ministry and outreach must show others the hope of Christ.

Vision

We define vision as “God’s specific plan for a specific church at a specific time.” Our definition communicates that this vision is usually not transferrable from congregation to congregation. The vision should consider the specific context of the church and the specific context of the church’s community.

A church in Illinois desired to become a positive presence in its community. They decided that they would find a way to pray for the families in 5,000 homes near their physical location. Their vision was straightforward: “Praying for 5,000 homes in Marion in 2023.” The vision reflected the specific location of Marion, Illinois (not the actual town). The vision was specific in its desired outcome. They planned to pray for the homes in the community. The timetable was specific. The vision would be accomplished in 2023

Using our definition of vision, it would be possible to have more than one vision. We typically recommend that a church work on one vision at a time, but some churches feel comfortable focusing on two or three.

Strategy

Strategy is “a plan of action to achieve the church’s vision.” If we simply say we are going to pray for 5,000 homes in Marion in 2023 without a plan, the vision will not become a reality.

In the case of this church, they decided to use the resource called “Pray & Go” to accomplish the vision. This resource has many of the details or tactics needed to make the vision a reality.

The strategy of the church could then be: “We will pray for 500 homes every month in 2023 except July and December using the resource called “Pray and Go.” To be clear, the church does not have to use an existing resource to accomplish its vision. The resource, however, can be helpful if it takes care of many of the details church members and leaders would have to do.

Tactics

Tactics are the steps, actions, timetables, and responsible persons to carry out the strategy. To be effective, tactics should include deadlines, persons assigned to carry out or be responsible for tasks, and all the other actions necessary to accomplish the strategy,

It is usually not feasible to have a statement of tactics similar to the vision statement, the mission statement, and the strategy. There are far too many details to consolidate into a concise statement. Many leaders find it helpful, however, to create a visual representation of how the vision and strategy will be accomplished. The visual should include all the minute details of the tactics. Again, we often recommend using existing resources since most of the details are almost already done.

God’s Plans

The Bible speaks of the necessity of planning, but only as long as it’s God’s plans. “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans” (Proverbs 16:3, NLT). Good planning is necessary for good stewardship.

The concepts of mission, vision, strategy, and tactics are only as good as their dependence on God. Otherwise, they become yet another human-centered effort that is dependent on futile human insights rather than the wisdom of God.

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