Ministry Goals: Five Winning Characteristics

Your church will never go where you are not intentionally leading it.

If you want to lose twenty pounds, but never go on a diet or exercise, it will not happen. If you want to retire with a nest egg, but never save and invest, it will not happen.

Churches often say that they want to grow and attract young families, but never make changes and intentional ministry goals that lead to that end. So it does not happen.


One reason is that churches are afraid to change, to think outside of the box. These churches are often in need of revitalization, but are not yet ready. If this is your church, and you think you might be ready to make changes and revitalize, read this article or contact us about Strategic Envisioning.

The other reason is that pastors do not know how to set winning ministry goals. To see long-term, sustained success in ministry, you will need to chart a course to being an expert at ministry goal setting and how to achieve them.

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Here are five characteristics of winning ministry goals:


Winning ministry goals clarify and enhance your church’s mission. For example, if your mission is to “make more and better disciples,” what does that look like in the next quarter, semester, or year? Often churches say, “better worship” or “more discipleship,” but that does not mean anything by itself. Your ministry goals must tie-in to your mission, but it cannot stop there.


Imagine if the official length of a marathon was “long.” Ridiculous! A marathon is 26.2 miles so that runners can judge their own effort and compare it against their competition. If it cannot be measured, it cannot be a ministry goal. Numbers and assessment are anathema to many churches, especially dying ones. Under a false sense of hyperspirituality, churches fear that measurement is unholy. It is not. We cannot be consumed by numbers or assume that big attendance is the same as heart change. However, we also cannot be afraid to measure our goals. Be sure to develop the framework for how you are going to measure a goal before you set it. If it cannot be measured, it is not a goal worth pursuing.


Since it must be measurable, it must also be specific. For example the goal, “grow our small group ministry attendance” is a measurable goal, but it lacks specificity. “Grow our small group ministry attendance by 15% year-over-year” is a much better goal because it is specific. You will know if you hit it or not. All of your goals, even if they are not attendance or giving reliant, should have that same sort of specificity. It is better to have fewer, more specific ministry goals that you can achieve than a long list of vague ministry goals you will never reach.


Measurable and specific ministry goals will not be reached if they are not performance-driven. Every person on your team from the board to the pastor to the staff to the volunteer must understand that their unique participation and performance is foundational to the mutual accomplishment of ministry goals. Job descriptions and annual reviews need to hone-in on performance and performance-based ministry goals. A diet plan and exercise regiment mean nothing if they only exist on paper; their quality is based on what the performance reveals. The same is true for your ministry goals.


Ministry goals are benchmarks that should be designed to be surpassed. Part of their measurability and specificity needs to be a timeline and a deadline. Once these are passed, you need to evaluate and reset the goals for a new timeline and deadline. There should never be a ministry season when no current and updated ministry goals have been set.

Setting winning ministry goals is not rocket science, but it is also uncommon. Churches are happy to settle in, keep doing what they are doing, and only measure their effectiveness with the eye-ball test. The problem is, your eyes will only notice when things are tending towards a crisis.

As you enter your next season of ministry, do something different. Consider your mission. Envision the future you want for your church. Then, create ministry goals that will push your church in that direction. If you don’t, no one else will.

But you don’t have to do it alone. Contact us, and learn more about Strategic Envisioning, our premier six-month strategic planning process that helps you break through barriers and maximize your impact.


Scott Ball is the Vice President and a Lead Guide with The Malphurs Group. He lives in East Tennessee with his wife and two children. (Email Scott).

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