Mission | Vision | Strategy | Values – What’s the Difference?

Mission, Vision, Strategy, Values

Have you ever been confused by the terms mission, vision, strategy, and values?

Join the club.

I’m certainly no expert on the subject. But, in this series of posts, I’ll share my thoughts on each one along with their distinctions and how they can be used in our family ministries.

Throughout the series, I’ll use the analogy of a road trip to help us relate to each term and see how they work together. I’ll also include some common handles and discuss how it all relates to family ministry.

Part 1 – Mission
Part 2 – Vision
Part 3 – Strategy
Part 4 – Values


What question does our mission answer?

Mission answers the question – What is our purpose?

For churches, this one should be pretty easy. It’s not decided by us. God gave the Church (all Christians) our mission when Jesus declared we should “go and make disciples” (The Great Commission).

In the road trip analogy, mission is the reason for the trip

Sometimes people take road trips for no reason other than to spend time exploring. Most trips, however, have some specific purpose. The purpose of your trip might be to get to Disney World. More than that, though, the ultimate purpose is probably to create some lasting memories as a family. It’s the reason you’re on the journey in the first place. Our journey as the Church is different in that we never arrive as we carry out our mission.

What should a mission statement look like?

Our mission statements should be brief, as in 6-12 words. It’s a re-wording of The Great Commission shared above. Here are church mission statements from some well-known churches:

  • Leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ – North Point
  • To turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ – Willow Creek
  • To reach people far from God and teach them how to follow Jesus step by step – Newspring

How does this relate to Family Ministry?

I am of the opinion that a church should have one common mission statement and that statement should be used in every ministry of the church. I don’t think it’s wrong, however, to come up with mission statements for each ministry for example. Something else I’ve seen is where churches make a slight modification of the mission for each ministry. I think that’s okay too.

However, in my opinion, the more complex something gets, the less people remember it and the less they own it. Therefore, I lean towards having one mission statement for the church and not creating separate statements for each ministry.

Action Step

Make sure your church mission statement is clear, concise, memorable and true to The Great Commission. This is the most important of the four items we’ll discuss because without a clear mission it doesn’t really matter if we get the other things right or not.

What questions do you have about mission statements?

How to Test Your Ministry Vision With the 5 Whys


The 5 Whys is a technique designed to help someone get to the root cause of a problem or issue. It was formally developed by Sakichi Toyoda and used in the Toyota Motor Corporation. By asking “Why?” 5 times, they believed the nature of a problem would become clear, along with a solution. Five isn’t really a magic number, as it might take 3 times or 7 times to get to the root cause.

Simon Sinek’s book (and TED talk) Start With Why is wildly popular, mostly because it’s true. People need to know why they should do something before they’re told what to do and how to do it. Why engages their heart while what and how engage their mind. The 5 Whys can help you test your ministry vision in a couple different ways.

Applying the 5 Whys to a Ministry Problem

So, what does it look like to test a ministry problem using the 5 Whys? It could be used to get to the root cause of why something is not lining up with the vision you have for it. For instance, the problem might be people keep showing up late to serve in your environments at church. I mean, that probably only happens to us, but you can imagine what that might be like.

Problem: Too many people show up late to serve

  • Why? – They don’t get ready and leave early enough
  • Why? – They’re tired and don’t feel like getting up
  • Why? – They don’t believe it’s important for them to be there early
  • Why? – We haven’t held them accountable to be there early
  • Why? – We don’t know how to do that in a way that’s encouraging

After going through the 5 Whys like that you might decide you need to start a huddle before services in order to make sure volunteers arrive early. The huddle provides accountability because it’s clear when someone’s late, and it can be encouraging as you cast vision and celebrate wins.

Applying the 5 Whys to Clarify Vision

Another application of the 5 Whys is to use it as a tool to clarify vision. For instance, a volunteer or parent may wonder, why should I work hard to bring my elementary kid to the same service every week? (They like the flexibility to choose any of your 3 services.)

Vision Question: Why should parents bring kids to the same service every week?

  • Why? – So they can be in the same group with the same kids and the same leader
  • Why? – So they can develop strong relationships with their peers and their leader
  • Why? – Kids need a place to belong and a leader who believes in them
  • Why? – Kids learn best in the context of a trusted relationship
  • Why? – They have to feel safe before they will open up, ask questions and be vulnerable

That’s one where you could probably ask 8 or 9 Whys, but you get the point. If we can’t answer why we do something, we either need to figure out the answer or change what we’re doing. The 5 Whys tests our vision clarity and it can be used on something specific (like the example) or something broad, like:

Why is it important for children and student ministry staff to serve on one team together?

Where can you apply the 5 Whys?

How To Grow As A Leader Without Adding More To Your Schedule


In a previous post, I talked about the importance of being a habitual learner in relation to leading a growing family ministry. It is the most common attribute I see in great leaders. One of the ways I wrote that we can become habitual learners is to build it into our existing schedule. That sounds great, but it’s hard to do in practice isn’t it? Most of us are so busy keeping up with the week-to-week needs we can’t find time to pull back and learn something new.

4 Ways to Grow Without Adding More

Here are some ways I’ve found you can learn regularly without adding something new.

Listen to podcasts in the car

This is an easy one. Use iTunes, Stitcher or another podcast app on your phone and subscribe to a handful of podcasts. Every week you’ll have new content that can help you grow and you learn using your existing time. It might take you multiple trips in the car to get through one podcast, but that’s perfectly fine. Here are some podcasts I subscribe to that I would recommend:


You might be interested in the podcast I started for family ministry leaders. Each week I interview a guest who leads in children’s, student or family ministry and we learn the principles and practices they use.

Visit another church

I know this one feels like adding more, but the idea is to visit another church and learn from them during a time when you would already be working (at your church). You can learn so much from visiting another church and you can learn it in a very short time. It might be hard to get away, but it’s worth it. Hopefully, you can learn some tips to apply to your ministry that will allow you to get it to a more sustainable place.

Read Book Summaries

Reading is one of the best ways to learn and grow as a leader. But, here we’re looking for things you can do without adding time to your schedule. Book summaries can help save that time. StudyLeadership.com creates 12-15 page summaries for leadership books and you can subscribe for $7-$10/month. Because the book summaries are so short, you could read them with your team during your regular meeting. Or, you could always have one on your desk for the random few minutes you get here and there that you can’t use for anything else.

GLSnext App

The GLSnext App is an app from Willow Creek that gives you access to tons of videos from the Global Leadership Summit. Some videos are 2 minutes long, others are 6 minutes, and some are the full teaching session. Like podcasts, you can play these at a time when you’re free to listen but have to be focused on something else, like driving or getting ready in the morning. You might even decide to watch one together as a team at your meeting once/month. That would force you to make the other meetings that month even more productive. Not necessarily a bad thing.

I hope these four ideas can be as helpful to you as they have been for me. Like me, I hope you’ll find you really enjoy learning and make it a habit. It’s no exaggeration that 90% or more of what we do in our family ministry is driven by something I have learned elsewhere.

What is your favorite way to learn and grow?

The Secret to Leading a Growing Family Ministry


As everyone who works in ministry knows, it’s hard. You never get it all done and every week there are urgent things that have to be balanced with the important things. In the midst of it all it’s easy to fall into the trap of simply managing what we have going and feel like the ministry is stuck.

All of us want to lead growing children, student, and family ministries. As I use the term growth here, I mean in health and effectiveness. I don’t mean numbers, but we absolutely care about connecting more people to Jesus. A growth in health usually goes along with growth in numbers. In my time serving in the local church and learning from tons of other healthy family ministries, I’ve observed something I think is the secret to leading a growing family ministry, or leading anything to grow.

Habitual Learning

Every great leader I get to know in ministry is a life-long learner and it has become a habit that is completely interwoven in their life. They’re not all the same, however. They learn in different ways and through many different channels. But, they all have a posture of humility and believe they can learn anything from anyone. Here are a few things I have learned about how we can make a habit of learning.

Build Learning Into Your Existing Schedule

I think the reason many leaders don’t have a rhythm of learning is because there is so little time. They’re overworked and treading water to get through each week.

I get that.

So, to start I recommend finding a way to learn weekly by using time that already exists in your schedule. One example might be reading and discussing a chapter of a book each week with your team so the accountability helps you follow through. Build that into your existing meeting schedule even if it means cutting something else out.

Get Around Other Leaders

One of the greatest ways I have been able to learn is by getting around other leaders in family ministry. I can learn so much from a short time with another leader. You can get around other leaders at conferences, on social media, or by emailing them. Sure, some won’t have time to spend with you, but don’t say “no” for them. Some of the best relationships I now have with great leaders started with a tweet or an email.

Ask Lots Of Questions

Get in the habit of asking lots of questions. As you get around other leaders, ask about what they do and why they do it. After that, ask how they do it. Sometimes you might be tempted to share what you do because you’re proud of it. Resist that. Use the time wisely to learn everything from them.

How do you learn?

How do you learn? Is it a habit? What tips can you share about how to make learning a habit?

The 6 Things We Value In Our Family Ministry Coaches


In the previous post I wrote about our plan for developing Coaches within our family ministry team. Coaches are volunteers who lead teams of leaders, as defined in our leadership pipeline. Part of our plan for developing Coaches involves meeting with them regularly throughout the year and holding up the 6 values we believe every Coach should live out.

Family Ministry Coach Values

Coaches in our children and student ministries can have very different responsibilities. Some lead teams of small group leaders while others lead teams that create large group experiences. One thing they all have in common is they lead teams of leaders. Here are the 6 values we created that tap into what they have in common (in no particular order). They’re written in terms of who we want Coaches to be.


Connects with kids/students and knows them. Coaches primarily lead volunteer leaders, but all of them interact with kids and students on some level. We’re interested in Coaches who value that interaction and work to develop those relationships.


Develops their team members and helps them grow. This is one of the more difficult roles of the Coach, and that is to help their team members grow individually. This requires them knowing their team and challenging them to get better.


Establishes a relationship with parents. Our entire family ministry is built on the belief that parents are the primary spiritual leaders for their children and the church’s job is to help them thrive in that role. Coaches should always seek to meet parents and build a relationship with them.


Communicates on time with great clarity. The core essential for every Coach is to communicate with their team. Communicate weekly via email to provide updates. Communicate about volunteer schedules. Communicate with their team individually to serve them best. Being a good communicator is key.


Recruits new people to the team. The best volunteer recruitment happens through an invitation. Coaches should model the importance of that by getting to know people and recruiting them to join the team.


Cares for each team member and knows their needs. We had a little fun with the wording of this one, as you can tell. Every Coach should provide great care for their team members. People might first want to serve out of a sense of mission, but they’ll love serving because of a caring community.

Those are the 6 values we came up with. The job certainly isn’t easy and Coaches will naturally be better at some values than others.

What do you value in a volunteer Coach?