It’s time to pull your church leadership together and set some goals. But where do you begin? Before you start setting goals, you need to address a myriad of questions about what you hope to accomplish. We’ve put together 15 questions to help you choose the best goals for your church—and see that they become a reality!
1. What are our current goals and are we meeting them?
The chances are high that you’ve already had some goal-oriented discussions. Before you look forward to new goals, it’s helpful to spend some time looking back at where you’ve been. What objectives did you set in the past? What progress did you make?
If you’re not meeting your current goals, it’s important to ask why. Were they too lofty and unrealistic? Were the steps to achieve your goals unclear? Was there not enough accountability along the way? Were there changes or challenges that you didn’t expect?
Taking a close, unflinching look at past obstacles will help you identify your future goals. But you need to be careful. Any discussion about not meeting goals can make some people involved feel anxious and defensive. Make sure everyone understands that this discussion isn’t about finding blame: It’s about recognizing problematic areas so you can fashion future goals that will be successful.
Once you’ve scrutinized the progress you’ve made on previous goals, you can factor what you’ve learned into the questions going forward.
2. What do we want to achieve?
Imagine that five years have passed and your wildest dreams for your church have come true. What does that look like? What’s different? How would this success impact the way people in your community think about your church? Thinking about the future this way can help everyone visualize what they’d like to achieve.
For instance, you could think: Five years of success looks like a series of effective community outreaches and service projects. This not only would grow our attendance but would help our town see us as a church that’s invested in the community and longs to serve others.
This can help crystallize your vision. After some discussion, the answer could be: We want to infiltrate our city with some purposeful outreach and service projects that communicate our interest in making this community a wonderful place to raise a family.
3. Is this goal attainable?
As you consider what you want to achieve, you’ll also need to think about how accessible this goal would be. You want goals that push and stretch you, but you don’t want goals that are beyond your reach. You need to find the sweet spot.
When churches get together to talk about goals, the discussion often turns to faith. Someone will inevitably suggest that a goal needs to be so grand that you can only pull it off if God intervenes. It’s hard to fault that kind of passion and idealism, but setting goals that you end up unable to meet is hard on a church’s enthusiasm over time. So be careful not to put God on the hook to deliver on a plan that’s too lofty to be feasible.
You need to know that, with all the resources at your disposal, this goal is something you’ll be able to pull off. If it’s not, it’s time to look at whether it can be scaled down to a more manageable size.
4. How does this goal impact our mission?
Hopefully, you’ve already defined who you are and compiled that into a statement that communicates your core purpose and focus. This helps you differentiate what’s important from what isn’t, and gives you a sense of direction.
As you come up with long-term goals, it’s critical that you look at them in light of your mission. Is this goal a reflection of who you are? Would this goal give your mission more shape and definition, or would it be a distraction?
If everyone is sold on an objective that seems outside of your vision, it might be time to think through ways to alter the plan until the target is more in line with your church’s focus. If you’re not sure that your mission and goal can be reconciled, but you’re not ready to give up on the goal, that’s okay. It might mean that it’s time to readdress your mission.
5. Is this goal specific enough?
There’s a certain enthusiasm that happens in a vision-casting meeting. People start throwing out ideas and others ardently join in. Before too long, everyone’s excited! But when it’s all said and done, you probably end up with a goal that’s too vague and overly broad. That’s the last thing you want. Your goal needs to be clear and well defined.
You don’t want to end up with a goal like, “We want the community to know we love them!” This is vague and ultimately unhelpful. Church goals should factor in the following questions:
- What do we want to accomplish?
- Why is this important to us?
- Who will need to be involved?
- What resources will be required?
You want to have a specific, achievable goal like, “By next year, we would like to have an operational food pantry, and in five years we’ll be running a soup kitchen.”
6. How many people are needed to meet this goal?
This question should drive your goal setting and help define it. For example, you want to come up with a goal that every church member feels like they play a role in achieving. If it’s a goal that can be pulled off by the staff without the congregation’s involvement, it might not be a big enough goal.
On the other hand, if you’re setting goals that seem impossible to pull off in a church of your size, you might want to dial it back until it’s something that makes sense for you. Understanding the scope of your goal can help you decide if it’s achievable—and what the next steps should be.
7. Do we have the resources to meet this goal?
Every goal is going to require some resources to pull off. This includes money, but you also need to look at people, time, focus, and space. It’s essential that you make a list of all the potential assets you will need in order to pull off your new goal.
If you feel like pulling off this goal will put you at a deficit, that doesn’t mean that you can’t move forward. You’ll need to have a discussion about how you’ll secure all the necessary elements. If a soup kitchen is your goal, but your church doesn’t have the facilities needed to support one, it’s time to think through how feasible your goal is. Would you need to include other local churches? Is there an organization in your community that would allow you to use their kitchen?
A clear understanding of the required resources will help you understand the scope of this goal and whether or not it’s actually feasible.
8. How else could we be spending our time, energy, and resources?
Churches are responsible for stewarding God’s resources. In the end, everything we have belongs to Him, and we’re responsible for using it the best we can to fulfill His goals. This doesn’t mean that we don’t take calculated risks with the hope of creating a significant impact. It means that we need to carefully consider how we’re going to use those resources.
When considering a goal, it’s essential to think about whether the Kingdom would be better served if resources were used in other ways. This includes weighing the risks associated with our goal against the potential gains, as well as the potential opportunities that you’re going to be turning down.
9. Will we care about this goal in six months?
Every time you set a goal and accomplish it, your church becomes more energized and motivated. Adversely, setting goals that never materialize is an organizational morale killer. There are a lot of churches who seem to constantly change their emphasis and direction, and because of this, people stop getting on board.
If your people are used to the church becoming enthusiastic about a new idea only to change its emphasis in a couple months (or weeks), they’re basically being trained not to share your passion for new ideas and goals.
That’s why it’s crucial that you ask yourself if this is something that you’re going to care about later. As we pointed out in the previous point, whenever you set a goal, you’re saying “No” to some future opportunities. So it’s important to know that this goal is going to be your focus until it’s accomplished.
10. Who will own this goal?
Make no mistake: You’re setting a goal for your entire church, and it’s going to take all hands on deck to make it a reality. But someone still has to be responsible for owning it and pushing it forward. If everyone owns the goal, no one does. So part of this discussion has to be about who will ultimately carry the vision and leadership role for this vision.
It needs to be someone who is passionate about the goal, knows how to get people on board, and is great at delegating. The weight of the entire thing doesn’t need to sit on their shoulders. They can lean on the leadership for direction and advice. It’s just that at the end of the day, they’re responsible for keeping the pilot light lit.
When it comes to the life cycle of this goal, this is one of the key decisions you’ll make. Choose wisely.
11. What intermediate steps are needed to achieve this goal?
Once you have a goal in mind, you need to create a roadmap to get you there. The key to achieving your aim in a timely fashion lies in getting started as soon as possible. Because your goal might be one, two, or five years out, it is easy to delay pressing toward the goal until it’s too late.
Basically, you want to reverse-engineer some milestones. If your ultimate goal is to put together a soup kitchen, you’re going to need to break down all the things that need to be accomplished before then. This could include:
- Finding partners
- Securing funding
- Locating a workable kitchen
- Getting the correct licenses
- Stocking the kitchen
Putting dates on each of your milestones will ensure you’re on track to achieving your goal. The great thing is that every milestone creates more organizational thrust. People get jazzed and others will get on board as it moves forward.
12. When do we hope to meet this goal?
When push comes to shove, goals need deadlines. Without a target date, a goal is just a wish. It’s important to set a date for the completion of the goal and attach dates to every significant milestone. Why?
- Deadlines force you to think through all of the details. Once you know how much time you have to accomplish something, it helps you buckle down and think through all the facets of your goal.
- Deadlines drive you to prioritize. Without set dates, it’s easy to jump from task to task and never really move anything forward. Deadlines require you to choose the most important duties and start working through them.
- Deadlines force you to move on. Perfectionism is one of the most significant time wasters. Limiting your time prohibits you from getting bogged down in an effort to make sure that everything is exactly right. Sometimes it’s important to move on and deal with any outstanding issues later.
- Deadlines keep us focused. There’s something about a ticking clock that pushes us to get to work. Without it, we don’t have the same motivation to trudge onward. A deadline compels us to stay on task.
13. How regularly will we review our progress?
You’ve set a goal and a deadline. Now what?
The next step is to create an auditing schedule. These are meetings where all the leaders involved get together and make sure everything is on track. If you don’t schedule these times, everything can go off the rails with no visibility.
A regularly scheduled meeting to talk about your progress can make the difference between achieving your goals and not. Meeting regularly can help you break down obstacles that are impeding progress, identify resource needs that you hadn’t accounted for, and make note of areas where you may need to find more volunteer support.
So, create a schedule for routine check-ins. Remember: As you move closer to your goal and all the pieces fall into place, you’ll likely have to meet more often.
14. How will we gauge whether or not we are on track to meet this goal?
If you’re meeting regularly, you’ll need to know what kinds of things to look at to make sure you’re on track. Here are a couple things you’re going to need a report on:
- Is everything on budget? It’s almost impossible to set an accurate budget for your goal, especially if it has a lot of pieces. So you’re going to need regular insight into where you’re over and how you’re going to respond. Will you need to have a fundraiser? Will you need to dip into your reserves, or adjust your goal?
- Are we meeting our deadlines for milestones? It only takes a couple of deadlines to fall by the wayside before your whole schedule is out of whack. Monitor this closely to ensure that everything is running smoothly. If it’s not, figure out if it’s a money, time, or manpower issue, then make a plan to fix it.
- Is everyone still on board? This one is a little more abstract. But the person who’s responsible for the goal should have some idea if congregational interest is waning and what needs to be done to get everyone pulling the same yoke again.
15. How will we communicate this goal?
Once you have everything else all figured out, it’s time to make a plan for communicating this goal to your congregation. It’s not enough to simply mention it once or twice from the pulpit. You need to consider the number of ways you can communicate with your congregation about this goal. Here are a few to consider:
- Pre-service slides
- Your church app
- Your website
- Social media
- One-on-one conversations
- Small groups
When it comes to communicating the goal, you want to do it in as many ways as possible. For instance, someone might see something about it on your Facebook page, but they don’t really connect with it until someone in leadership talks to them about it and they get a sense of the passion involved.
You also need a plan to re-communicate it. People will need to hear about this goal over and over. At the very least, share when you reach your milestones. Don’t assume that getting on board once is going to keep them enthusiastic until it’s accomplished.
Creating a Clear Strategy
There’s no secret to creating achievable goals. It’s a fairly straightforward process. With the right discussions, you can cover all the ground that needs to be covered and implement a strategic plan for hitting all your ministry targets.
These questions should give you and your team clarity to set amazing goals and make sure they come to fruition. Walking through these questions will help you discern the process of setting dynamic objectives, taking appropriate action, and adjusting your plan as you go.