Thinking Strategically and Thinking Tactically About Reaching the Lost

by Paul on January 12, 2009

I didn’t understand the difference between thinking strategically and thinking tactically until I talked with David Watson.  Now, I know how to understand the big picture and still see what I need to do each day.  That may sound funny, but many people get caught up in the big picture and never attend to the daily details that make the big picture happen.  On the flip side, many people frantically attend to daily details without any understanding of how (or if) they fit into the broader picture.

If we do not think strategically and tactically about reaching the lost we may win a few, but we will fall terribly short of a Gospel Movement that transforms entire communities.

Strategic Thinking

Stratigic thinking begins with the question, “What will it take to (fill in the blank)?”   In my context I ask, “What will it take to reach the Online Generation with the Gospel?”

Notice that I didn’t ask, “What must I do?”  We will tackle that question later.  Instead, force yourself to answer this broader, strategic question.  You might ask, “What will it take to reach the lost in Denver, Colorado?”  Or, “What will it take to reach the lost on the SMU campus?”   These questions force us to think beyond ourselves and our organizations and c0nsider things we cannot possibly accomplish on our own.

Once you identify your main strategic question, ask several smaller strategic questions.  For example:

  • What partnerships will be necessary to…?
  • What tools will be necessary to…?
  • What resources will be necessary to…?
  • What reseach is necessary to…?
  • What barriers stand in the way of…?

And the list goes on.

In my context, I ask, “What tools will be necessary to reach the Online Generation?”  I can quickly make a list:

  • Scripture – hard copy, online text, and online audio.
  • Social networks
  • Computers
  • Internet Connection
  • Blogs
  • Websites
  • Cameras and video cameras
  • Discipleship Materials
  • Cellphones with Texting

And so on.  

Let’s look at another example:  ”What partnerships will be necessary to reach the online generation?”


  • Partners to develop social networking tools, if necessary.
  • Partners to translate websites.
  • Partners to design websites.
  • Partners with people interested in shifting their focus to activities that reach the lost online.
  • Partners to develop online discipleship tools consistant with an obedience-based, Scripture-only approach.
  • Partners to provide Scripture resources.
  • Partners interested in working in the trenches to reach the Online Generation.
  • Partners who can help with online access ministry resources as the needs of online communities emerge.


You can tell that the questions and their answers can go on forever.  You can also see how many answers actually lead to additional questions.  The best thing to do is get in a room with your team, set an hour limit, and see how far you can go.  

Thinking Tactically

Tactical thinking focuses on what you and your team need to do daily to reach the lost.  Tactical thinking begins with the question, “What must I and my team do to…?”  Tactical thinking begins with the strategic questions and dives into what you need to focus on to make the overall strategy happen.  For my context:

  • What do I need to do to develop the relationships necessary to reach the online generation?
  • What skills do I need to develop to reach the online generation?
  • What must I do to raise the prayer support necessary to reach the online generation?
  • Who must I recruit and train to reach the online generation?  How will I train them?
  • How can I build awareness about the needs and culture of the online generation?
  • How do I identify online communities, identify their needs, and meet those needs?

I can break each of these down further and ultimately come up with a statement of something I need to do on a regular basis.  For example:  What skills do I need to develop to reach the Online Generation?

  • I need to be able to communicate effectively online in a written format.
  • I need to be able to use multiple social media tools.
  • I need to be able to blog.
  • I need to be able to troubleshoot basic problems on my computer.

Reduce those to tasks:

  • I will subscribe to two blogs that address effective written communication.
  • I will find and use one new social media tool a month and evaluate the role it plays in online community.  I will share my discoveries with my team the last Friday of each month.
  • I will find and read a book on blogging and subscribe to a blog about blogging.  I will launch my first blog within the next month.
  • I will call (a friend who is really good at computers) and schedule a time to talk about what they do to troubleshoot the problems they run into as they work with computers.

As you can see, some of those tasks are daily, some are less frequent.  These questions focus on me and my activities.  Additionally, each member of my team can answer them for themselves and we can answer them as a team.  

I like tactical questions because their answers tell me what I need to do personally to make things happen, rather than hoping that I’m doing the right things.  I can calendar and evaluate tactics, but my tactics are in turn evaluated by whether they fit into the overall strategy.

As an aside:  If you have too many tasks to finish effectively, then you need to recruit more people to your team.  Also, consider your personality.  If you loath certain tasks, find people who love those tasks and do them well. 

Thoughts? Questions?

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{ 4 trackbacks }

Nav Communications » Reaching the Online Generation
January 13, 2009 at 6:59 pm
Developing an Online Strategy to Reach Nations : Reaching The Online Generation
March 13, 2009 at 11:26 am
Christian Web Conference 2009 : Reaching The Online Generation
April 22, 2009 at 4:34 pm
6 Strategic Elements of Online Ministry and Gospel Planting
August 7, 2009 at 4:17 pm

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mark January 13, 2009 at 8:18 am

Great post. I apply this strategy/tactic layering to our church planting ministry in chicago. Thanks for some insight here!

I’ve enjoyed your blog very much over the past 2 months or so. Yesterday on NPR’s “The Story” I heard of a woman in Montana who had been so emotionally impacted by the World Trade Center attacks that she went undercover and created online personalities hoping to root out online jihadist training communities. Over the years she has brought many terrorists to justice. I’d like to think that your work is of similar importance…only to GOD’s Kingdom, not man’s.

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