Strategy: How You Do What You Do

Remember the last time you sat down to do a jigsaw puzzle? The work proceeds in two basic steps. First, you put the edges together. Finding all of the little pieces with straight edges is the easiest way to begin. As you piece together the top and bottom and sides, the puzzle is framed up within a relatively short period of time.

The second part of the process is now ready to begin, because you have defined the basic shape and outline of the puzzle. Before building the frame, it would have been exceedingly difficult to put many of the middle pieces together. But now, all of those elusive jigsaw shapes and unclear image fragments have perspective and boundaries.

Even though the frame makes the puzzle-building project easier, more work remains. You pick up awkward shape after awkward shape, twisting and turning them and turning again, until you get just the right fit and-snap-the image develops, one piece at a time. After a long journey that may take days or even months, the final image emerges.

Articulating your church’s vision is like working on a jigsaw puzzle.

Auxano co-founder Will Mancini developed the Vision Frame concept to show you how to articulate your vision the same way you would build a puzzle: in two basic steps.

This excerpt of SUMS Remix continues to introduce the Vision Frame, guiding you to first think about the four outer edges – the components of your church’s identity that frame everything else you do. These edges anchor the second part of the process (a future SUMS Remix), which involves the direction of living and articulating the dynamic vision of your Church Unique through the daily work of turning and twisting the pieces of the organization. The edges of the frame are definitive, but the middle of the puzzle is dynamic. The fixed nature of step one, building the frame, anchors the fluid nature of step two, where your vision picture slowly develops into the better intermediate future God has entrusted to you.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Move by Patty Azzarello

Move is your guide to mobilizing your whole organization to take your business forward. Whatever your needed transformation may be: a new initiative, a new market, a new product, your fresh strategy is up against a powerful foe: an organization’s tendency to stay very busy and completely engaged  with what it’s already doing. This book shows you how to cut through resistance and get your team engaged and proactively doing the new thing!

Author Patty Azzarello draws on over twenty-five years of international business management experience to identify the chronic challenges that keep organizations from decisively executing strategy, and to give you a practical game plan for breaking through. Leaders tend to assume that stalls in execution are inevitable, unchanging parts of the workplace—but things can change. At the heart of every execution problem is the fact that there simply are not enough people doing what the business needs. This guide shows you how to get your entire organization on board—remove the fear, excuses, and hurdles—and uphold the new pursuit against distractions and dissent.

No transformation can succeed without suitable engagement from the whole organization, but building engagement can be difficult, uncomfortable, and tentative. This book shows you how to get it done.


The absence of strategy, as Will Mancini defines it, is the number one cause of ineffectiveness in a healthy church. By healthy, he means that there is some foundation of spiritual unity in the church and trust among the leaders.

Unfortunately, many churches think that being more effective is simply a matter of trying harder, being more obedient, or praying more. The battle belongs to the Lord, but the Lord also asks us to prepare the horse for battle. In other words, kingdom effectiveness and missional movement require more than spiritual unity; they require strategic clarity.

The strategy is the piece of the Vision Frame that brings this crucial dimension. This map, or strategy picture, is like a container that holds all church activities in one meaningful whole. Without this orientation, individuals within the organization will forget how each major component or ministry activity fits into the mission. 

Strategies are often stated in end goals. An end goal, no matter how inspiring it is, is not enough. The “Middle” is the important part.

It’s easy to get excited at the beginning and define long-term goals at the end. It’s the “Middle” that’s the problem. It’s hard to keep an organization focused on doing something new and difficult for a long time. Since real transformation takes time, you need a strategy to maintain execution and momentum through the Middle.

A good strategy defines what you will do. What you will do describes what happens in the Middle. While you are in the Middle, without the right measures that define your strategy in a concrete way, you can’t know if you are making progress. And if you can’t see that you are making progress, you will most likely not keep going. Everyone will stay busy with what they are already doing, and your transformation will stall. The leaders and the team need to get fiercely aligned on the specific, clearly defined, resourced, and sponsored outcomes that need to happen through the Middle to bring about the long-term success of your strategy.

A big reason for the stalls that too often occur in the Middle is that many organizations mistake listing end goals as a strategy. You become excited about the wonderful achievement at the end, but there is nothing in the definition of that end goal that tells you specifically what to do, which way to go about it, what problems you need to solve, or what you need to fix, change, stop, or invent to get there – these are all things that need to happen in the Middle.

A strategy must describe what you will do, including how you will measure and resource it. Strategy must clarify specific action.

Patty Azzarello, Move


Strategy Defined

Strategy is the picture or process that demonstrates how the church will accomplish its mission on the broadest level. Strategy answers the question, “How do we do what we do?” It is a flashlight that shows new people clear next steps. It also sets the expectation of involvement for all members.

The strategy is like a container that holds all of your church activities into one meaningful whole. Without this picture individuals within the church will forget how each component fits into the mission. They will be lost in a programmatic soup of good but random activity.

Think of strategy as a pattern of participation. It reveals places and rhythms of being involved. It is the church’s operational logic. It shows how every major environment (time and place at church) is a part of a discipleship pathway. Strategy is the missional map or “where Joe goes” at the church.

Strategy Reminders

  • The strategy defines your unique church model
  • Without strategy, programs are not “vertically related” to the mission
  • Without strategy, programs are not “horizontally related” to one another
  • In most churches, 50% of worshipers do nothing other than worship
  • The two greatest barriers to involvement are, “I don’t know how” and “No one invited me.” Clear strategy removes these barriers.
  • Generally speaking, churches with fewer higher quality ministries have better results
  • Strive for simplicity with strategy – good programs are enemy to great programs
  • Over-programmed churches should chart a 1-3 year alignment journey
  • The vision team should be able to draw the strategy on a napkin
  • Use a visual strategy icon in all church communications 

Gather your team and give everyone a large napkin and a pen. Ask them to pretend that they are having coffee with a key leader in their ministry. Give them 90 seconds to draw a picture of how your church is called to help people mature in their faith as disciples, using as few words as possible. Don’t let them look at each other’s napkin until everyone else is finished, then tape them next to each other on a wall.

Discuss together: How close are they to the same picture? Are the words used the same or different? What steps are needed to clarify a shared strategy among your team?

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 115-3, released March 2019.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<