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Should Churches Set Goals?

goal setting 2017
Written by Paul Steinbrueck

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Previously, I was a part of a church that put a substantial amount of time and effort into creating a strategic plan each year that included very specific, numerical goals.

I remember one year in particular in which the staff and elders were feeling especially inspired. We thought God was leading us to set a goal of growing our Sunday attendance by a dramatic amount, something like 30% in one year.

We did a lot of good things that year… but increasing Sunday attendance 30% didn’t happen.

That caused me to reflect a lot on church goals. Jesus said in John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them.”  If that’s the case, no matter what a church does, we can’t bring a single person to Jesus through our own efforts.

It seems presumptuous – perhaps even blasphemous – for a church to set goals related to conversions, baptisms, or spiritual growth.

On the other hand, I have also been a part of churches that had no goals.

Don’t get me wrong, there were hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Occasionally, there were plans created for specific events or sermon series.  But the underlying philosophy was, “We want to be led by the Holy Spirit, and we will trust the Holy Spirit for the results.

For those churches, there tended to be little change or movement year to year.

Fast forward 20 years… Over that time I have served as an elder at 2 different churches for more than a decade, led OurChurch.Com for more than two decades, and read dozens of books by Christian leaders. One thing I’ve come to realize is there are different types of goals.

In fact, as I wrote previously, there are 4 types of goals.

Understanding and setting each type of goal is really important.

Of these 4 types, the only type of goal that is controversial is setting metrics or numerical goals.  And even then, I would encourage you not to dismiss numerical goals entirely. Perhaps you wouldn’t want to set a goal for the number of commitments to Christ this year, but is there anything wrong with setting a goal of 1,000 invitations to a Sunday service to the people in your community?  Or a goal of having each elder disciple 2 other leaders this year?

We seldom fulfill our dreams until we turn them into a goal and develop a plan to achieve them. -Steve Keating

should churches set goals?

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Regardless of your perspective on metrics, the other 3 types of goals – objectives, projects and processes – are all a matter of discerning, “What is God calling us to do?

If we don’t pray about these things, ask God for guidance and write down where we sense him leading us, we have a tendency to get distracted, lose our way, or forget exactly what God has called us to do.

Comment and Discuss… Has your church set goals for this year? Why or why not?

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About the author

Paul Steinbrueck

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck.


  • Goal setting comes with evaluation of the preparation for the event (Luke 14:28ff) whether ‘building a tower’ or ‘doing a battle’, etc. etc. Have a goal in mind but also with preparation for the challenge
    ahead. Thanks Paul for the question. My ministry years go back to 1960 for which I thank God.

  • Since my husband and I are senior citizens, most of our ministry is behind us. The Lord has blessed us richly over our 52 years of marriage, raising a family, working, and carrying the gospel wherever the Lord has led. To have the website,, is a wonderful blessing to us, and we pray, to others. We are humbled to know that received a rating of 12 for this past year. To God be all the glory! Amen.

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