top of page

Developing the Right Goals for Ministry.


by Glenn Daman

At the last annual congregational meeting, everyone had different ideas about the what the church needed to do. While everyone agreed that they needed to be evangelizing and discipling people, the church was divided on how to go about doing these tasks. While no one went away angry, there was frustration that little was accomplished. For the church to be effective, they needed to have clear, obtainable goals that focused the ministry of the church. Without clear goals, the mission and vision of the church can easily become muddled in the fog of ambiguity. Proverbs 21:5 anticipates the importance of planning when the sage states, "The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as hast leads to poverty." Careful planning is necessary for success, while going off half-cocked only results in disaster. The apostle Paul demonstrated the importance of both short term (Acts 20:16; 1 Cor 16:5-6) and long term planning (Acts 18:21; 19:21; 1 Cor 16:5-7). The balance between long and short range goals is that each requires the other. Long range goals must be translated into short-term plans and decisions in order to achieve them. On the other hand, short-range goals need to be tied to an over arching plan, otherwise the goals will become disjointed and misguided. One is necessary to accomplish the other.

Strategic planning is not organizational trickery, but the attempt to make present decisions based upon the understanding of God's direction for the church in order to organize efforts necessary to carry out God's plan. Without strategic planning the church can become a hub of activity but not necessarily accomplish any eternal results. Setting goals is the process of developing a "how to" plan for the church.

Step One: Define the Missional Goals

While some regard goals as bureaucratic poppy-cock, they serve to unite the ministry and organize the energy of the people into a common productive direction. The goals of each program provide the clearly defined targets at which the church is aiming to achieve its biblical mission of evangelism and discipleship. Well-written goals will exhibit several characteristics.

1. Goals should be consistent with the mission.

The goals of each program should ultimately help the church in achieving its purpose, mission, and vision. Similarly, the goals should be consistent with the intended purpose of the program itself.

2. Goals should be consistent with the environment.

The particular goals of the program should be consistent with the ministry environment of the church. This comes from the assessment process. The growth rate of the church, the characteristics of the church constituency, the past effectiveness of the programs, the community characteristics, and the current needs of people are integrated into the process of establishing goals. When the goals are consistent with the environment, people will not only see the relevancy of them, but will be more motivated to participate in their achievement.

3. Goals should be consistent with the resources.

Goals need to be consistent with the time availability of people, the financial resources of the church, the materials and facilities owned by the church, the skills of the people involved, etc.. Goals that are not consistent with these resources will only result in frustration and discouragement.

4. Goals should be consistent with the church's organizational structure.

Any goal established should be adaptable to and complementary to the organizational structure of the church. If not, the church needs to either reassess the goals or reassess its organizational structure. While it would normally be advisable to change the organizational structure to adapt to the goal, occasionally it may be necessary to reevaluate the goal.

5. Goals should be achievable.

In planning, it is easy to dream dreams that are unrealistic and unattainable. While the goals of the church should require the church to stretch its faith, it should not be so extensive that it becomes unrealistic. The church should focus upon 3-4 goals rather than a variety of goals that easily overwhelm available resources.

6. Goals should be understandable.

Understandability involves clarity and simplicity. Clearly defined goals that are simply stated will enable people to understand the purpose of the goal and their involvement in its attainment. To be understandable, the goals need to be definable and measurable.

7. Goals should be unifying.

Because the focus of the small church is upon relationships rather than accomplishments, the goals of the church should seek to unite the church rather than divide the congregation. Larger congregations have major and minor goals. The multiplicity of goals rallies support from many different groups who have unrelated and diverse goals within the church. The small church, on the other hand, sees goals in the context of unity rather than such diversity. The larger churches accept the process, tolerating a diversity of goals. The smaller church tolerates the process only to achieve the goals that serve to unify its fellowship.

Step Two: Outline the Objectives

Once the over arching goals of the programs and ministries have been established, the next step is to outline the specific objectives of the goals. The objectives are the more specific statements that are to be accomplished to achieve the goal. The goals will cover what needs to be done for one year and two years. Objectives break the strategy down to what needs to be done in the next three to six months. For each goal, the ministry team should outline two to four objectives that outline the activities that need to be accomplished and in what sequence they need to be accomplished. For example, if the goal is to reach all the unchurched parents of the children involved in the children's program, one objective might be to have a parent's night to acquaint the parents with the ministry. A second objective might be to establish a visitation program. A third objective might be to send home literature for the parents to read.

Step Three: Develop Action Plans

Action plans are the specific tasks that need to be done to accomplish the objectives. Action plans seek to answer the specific questions that need to be addressed if the church is to accomplish its objectives, goals, and plans. Action plans answer the questions: 1. What specifically needs to be done? 2. Who is responsible for doing it? 3. When does it need to be done? 4. How is it going to be done? 5. What resources are required to do it? These action plans are what moves the objectives from the paper to reality.

Step Four: Monitoring

Once the action plans are determined, the final step is the process of monitoring the activities to make sure they are being done. Lindgren and Shawchuck suggest the following monitoring questions: 1. Where are we in the plan? What steps are accomplished? What should we do next? 2. Are the steps being done according to the schedule? If not, what adjustments should be made to get the plan back on schedule? 3. Are the workers doing their job satisfactorily? Are they in need of resources? Do we need additional workers? (Alvin Lindgren and Norman Shawchuck, Management for Your Church, 87) Monitoring is merely making sure that events and people are moving at the pace necessary to accomplish the desired results.

12 Principles for Planning in the Small Church.

Steve Burt, Activating Leadership in the Small Church, Judson Press.

1. Content must be relative to context.

2. The program or ministry must address real needs.

3. Seek input from a wide cross section of the church and community.

4. Use people's talents and gifts.

5. Be on the look out for ideas easily translated or adapted from one small church context to another.

6. Be realistic.

7. Be creative.

8. Balance output with intake.

9. Ministry and programs need to be in line with the church's purpose and goals.

10. Prioritize programs and resources.

11. Build in recognition, acknowledgment, and appreciation.

12. Plan to evaluate and review.


Douglas Walrath, Making It Work: Effective Administration in the Small Church, Judson Press.

Alvin Lindgren and Norman Shawchuck, Management for Your Church, Organization Resources Press.

Alvin Lindgren and Norman Shawchuck, Let My People Go: Empowering Laity for Ministry. Organization Resources Press.

Philip M. Van Auken, The Well-Managed Ministry, Victor Books

43 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page