Setting goals can sound like something only people in business need to do. But pastors and church leaders can benefit from knowing how to set ministry goals and reach them in a God-honoring way. Join Eric Miller, director of ministry operations for CE National, as he talks with Ed Short, pastor and CE National church consultant, about how to set missional goals in a ministry context.

Ed starts off by explaining some of the big ideas behind a church’s mission, vision, and goals.
We’ve all had a time when we’ve set goals and did not achieve them or forgot about them.
Based on Eph. 3:20, we know that God is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. So it’s important to set some extreme, God-size goals. However, along with this God-dependence, strategic thinking and planning is needed as well. We must marry the two concepts of trusting God to do amazing things while also setting some strategic goals that support our mission.
It’s easy for us to drift through weeks and months and years just “doing stuff”—just preaching. That’s good, but it won’t “move the ship out of the harbor.”
George Barna says it this way: “If you can’t articulate a clear picture of what you’re seeking to achieve, how can you lead people there?”
Are you driving home the mission of the church? For all churches, it comes down to making disciples, who make disciples, who make disciples. This can sound different for different churches; however, the fundamental mission stays the same.
Vision and a Game Plan
Vision is the unique way your church will fulfill the mission. Ed explains that “your church shouldn’t look like my church.”
A game plan is the current expression of your church’s vision. It will revolve around 5 key result areas:

  • Reaching unchurched people
  • Teaching the Word so they understand who God is and what He wants to do in their lives. When teaching, it’s important to focus on application as much as content—how will this affect this person’s life on a Monday?
  • Connecting people with each other. This is where life-change happens. As much as we would like people’s lives to change through teaching, normally it doesn’t work that way.
  • Coaching How can I equip people to take ownership so that they are making an eternal impact in the lives of others?
  • Developing Leaders

The reason we don’t get to where we want to go is that we haven’t taken the time to paint a picture of exactly where it is we want to go within each of these areas. If resources weren’t an issue, what do you want this ministry to look like in 3 years?
Once you have that picture, then you can begin to assess: How are we doing in light of where we want to go?
In ministry, it’s easy to become so distracted with the “good” that we lose the “excellent.” Sometimes the things that we don’t get to are not urgent, but vital (Stephen Covey philosophy). Things like vision and goal setting and monitoring goals—they’re vital.
Goals give you something to focus your attention on. They help you say no.
The key to ministry is not vision, it’s assessment.
Starting off with a basic SWOT analysis can be helpful (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities for improvement, and threats – potential problems).
Once you do that, you can begin to set some goals. Goals should be:

  • Simple
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

There are three facets to goals: 1) Faith goals—this is the big picture, the “count God in” goals; it’s what we can’t control. 2) Work goals—these are what we can control. 3) “Stupidly simple” goals—what can I do today to move the ball further down the road?
Goals also have subsets under them. Goals have specific things like dates and people to help own it. Actually putting something down on the calendar is key.
We tend to set goals for the year and look at them at the end of the year. What if we set goals and took the time to think through them every three months? How are we doing? Where are we in the process? Then can we learn to adjust on the fly?
If you, as a pastor or leader, give goals to other people, you need to hold them accountable.
Often times if an elder team didn’t meet for six months, it wouldn’t affect the church. That’s because in meetings they talk about personal things like painting the house, getting a dog, or whether a football team won or not. This can be good, but it’s not excellent. Being driven by leadership is vital—how we get there is important.
Let’s talk about the idea of the tyranny of the urgent. How can pastors navigate through goals and implement their strategy while attending to the needs of church people as well? Does it include delegation?
Ed answers that “it’s a both and.” There are certain times he needs to go to the hospital and show up. Other times, he finds it helpful to ask some key questions to get more information and not necessarily drop everything to go talk with someone if it can wait or would be more helpful for someone else to get involved. Ed shares that “delegation is key as sometimes there are people who are better than me and who will be able to help in a more personal way. It could be better if someone else deals with it. I don’t need to be involved in everything. There could be ministry in the church that I’m not even aware of. I don’t need to know everything. It’s important to distinguish between what I have to do and what other people can do.”
Some Questions to Consider:

  • What three things do you do best and how can we capitalize on those? How can you work according to your giftedness?
  • What’s one thing you don’t do very well but you’re doing it? How can we neutralize or delegate that?

Saying yes to everything hinders the ministry. It doesn’t help. We can’t afford to continue to do it.
As pastors we have to own the ministry, but it doesn’t mean we do everything. We can do a few things and do them well.
Goals help you do less, but do the right things. They help you do the excellent things.
Ed Short does consulting for churches and would be happy to talk with you about how these topics relate to your church. Feel free to shoot him an email at

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