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Should Churches Set Goals?

goal setting 2017
Written by Paul Steinbrueck

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Years ago, I was a part of a church that put a substantial amount of time and effort into creating a strategic plan 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 the goal of increasing Sunday attendance 30%…

It 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 for your church. I would recommend against seting 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.


    • Great, this type of article generally comes in handy. I have searched all the text. I think I learned something from. Especially, I like: 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. Thank you for the valuable writing.

    • WOW! Great new article updated! I have my goals in 2017 too 🙂 Thanks for your sharing Paul 🙂 Merry Christmas~

    • Hi, Paul. I like your clarification about different types of goals. I’ve not read or heard your perspective elsewhere, so you’ve introduced me to a deeper understanding of goals. I find your categorization helpful to my thinking. Currently, I see goals in the following progression from big picture to little picture: life purpose & mission > vision > goals > projects > tasks.

      You’ve added to my appreciation that processes are a type of goal. I love to develop and implement workflow processes for automation of those annoying repetitive tasks. Bringing increasing order to chaos is life-giving work for me because I see order as the character of God and therefore a Kingdom way of living. Bringing order to chaos is redemptive—order is a result of Christ’s cross.

      For 2017

      Objective Goals:

      1.Move from the Pacific NW to central Florida—currently on the road making that happen
      2. Find a place to live while I have no regular income
      3. Find a place to live in exchange for labor; grow food
      4. Seek out distinctly spiritual Christian community
      5. Re-establish English & communication mastery training for our children
      6. Erect a new family-based enterprise
      7. Get published
      8. Training for public speaking and performance

      Projects Goals:

      1. Identify communication channels in Brooksville, FL
      2. Attend Frank Viola’s Scribe 2017
      3. Correspond with believers in central Florida who value the ministry of T. Austin-Sparks
      4. Attend Michael Port’s, Heroic Public Speaking in Ft. Lauderdale

      Process Goals:

      1. Continue to invest in a vibrant prayer life that receives answers
      2. Discern where and in who is the Spirit of Christ working?
      3. Who are lovers of liberty?; lovers of what is good about America?
      4. Who is receptive to displacing socialism with the self government of Christ?

      Metric Goals:

      I’ll have to spend time thinking on this level of sepcificity and it seems good to work through that process.

      I’ll print out your post and read it to the family to soliciate their feedback. Types of goals is a good topic for strategic planning and year-end review. Thank you, Paul, for putting thought to this and contributing to the leading of my family for exercising the Law of Liberty.

      • Hi Barry, way to go an setting big goals for 2017! And thanks for sharing your goals in such depth here. I live about 90 miles south of Brooksville, so maybe after you relocate we can connect in real life.

        • Appreciate the open hand and invitation for Christian fellowship, Paul.

          My family is starting from ground zero of rebuilding our family economy and local friendships. A hard reset if you will, and no entanglements with the affairs of this life (think The Matrix). Yet, advancing a witness for Christ that salts and displaces this present darkness—yet not without great cost in the present.

          Yes, I’m all for in-person Christian community and general audience community in the pursuit of distinctly good endeavors.

          I’m following you on Twitter now so I can send you a private message when it makes sense for me to get together.

          Keep up a good work for what is Great about America—the Liberty to govern yourself. That is a fruit of Christ’s gospel in the American Union of Free and Independent States.

    • This is true that there is a big difference between wishful thinking and making our dreams a reality. After reading this article seriously I have become conscious for setting my goals for new year and also can get that enthusiasm and energy that was inside me few years ago for achieving targets. Thanks Paul for recalling.

    • 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.

      • Betty and Carl, may God bless you for your many years of faithful service. It’s blessing to be able to continue to serve you as you serve the Lord and other people.