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Missional Planning

Mission vs. Vision

“Vision is overrated!” Really! For a couple of reasons...

First, vision is a catchy concept —particularly in congregational life. It is seen as a panacea in many churches. Having strong vision, it is said, can overcome many deficiencies and grow a healthy church. But, there’s much more to it than that.

Second, and perhaps more understandable: Vision can overwhelm people—the very people it is intended to inspire—when it is not accompanied by a ‘roadmap’ for the vision to be realized. A vision can never really begin to take shape until it gets some traction in an organization. Traction occurs when those in the organization can get a handle on what the vision is about, and they can see enough of it so that they feel some energy around it. This happens through healthy planning at the missional level.

What is Missional Planning?

As visionary planning deals with the question “Where are we going?”, missional planning addresses the question “What will we do while we are on the way?” to that destination defined by the vision. Simply put—the vision is all about what is to be. The mission is about what is to be done to bring the vision to reality.

Mission: Impossible (?)

As a kid, I watched the popular “Mission: Impossible” televisions series. Now THAT was great TV! At the beginning of each episode, Greg Morris, Peter Graves & co. would receive a recorded message from an inconspicuously-located cassette player. The message was intended to communicate to the team the latest assignment—one that would invariably carry a high degree of risk. But always the assigned mission was accomplished by the end of the episode, and a brand new mission would be communicated to the team the next week.

What I love about this show is its illustration of three clear points about mission. First, a mission must have an action-orientation. Mission deals with the issue of what needs to be done for the vision—what is to be—to be fulfilled. Mission is, then, very “verb-intensive”.

Second, a mission must have a completion point. Just as the MI series cast completed their mission each week, a successful mission, to be successful, must be completed! Without a completion point, how can a team know whether they are being successful in fulfilling that mission?

Third, to be successful, the mission should be tailored to the uniqueness of the team or organization charged with carrying it out. Because the assignments were matched to their strengths, the MI team was nearly always successful! Different teams and organizations have different strengths. They should focus on tackling challenges that they are equipped to handle.

Other Implications

These are three key points about mission. For example, a team will likely need to complete multiple missions during a single visionary life cycle. When multiple missions are required, the team will need to determine whether the missions will need to be 'worked' simultaneously or sequentially. These issues, along with the story of Berea Church, a 'not-so-fictional' example of a church moving through vision and mission development, are featured in chapter 4 of Innovative Planning: Your Church in 4-D.

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