January 2019
Vestry as Team

Setting Goals—Moving Your Mission Forward

Vestries I’ve worked with want amazing things for their churches. Many express their desire to see a growing, thriving church family where people from all walks of life and generations learn, serve and grow together. Lots of churches have clear and compelling mission and vision statements, and many faith communities understand what they value and protect as a congregation. Churches all over have spent significant time and resources to discern who they are and what God is calling them to be in the world. And that’s great. Mission Statement? Check. Defined Core Values? Check.

But how do vestry teams move beyond the dream, dig in and achieve results together?

Goals are what give your mission legs. Strategic planning is great. Strategic doing is better. So what are the elements that need to be in place to move a vestry from talking about something to achieving results?

Step One: Agree on what success looks like

The vestry (or any ministry team working toward a common vision) should decide upon three God-sized goals that with grit, perseverance, a little bit of miracle and strategy can be achieved in perhaps three to five years. For instance, if your church has identified the need for a feeding ministry in your community and has decided to meet that need, the church might establish a goal to “Feed the hungry.” But that’s just a starting point.

Step Two: Make it S.M.A.R.T.

”Feed the hungry” isn’t a great goal since it can’t really be measured. Or maybe it can, but the definition of success hasn’t been set. To be SMART, your goal needs to be:

S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Assigned to/actionable
R = Relevant
T = Time-sensitive

How about, “Establish a Feeding Ministry?” It’s a step in the right direction, but it could be better still. “Develop and launch a Feeding Ministry that feeds 100 families every week” is much more specific and measurable. That will be important when it comes time to evaluate the progress you’re making toward achieving your goal. Your team needs to be able to tell when you’ve hit your mark.

Step Three: Make it even S.M.A.R.T.E.R.

Michael Hyatt, author, blogger, speaker and former Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers suggests two additional criteria for making goals great. The first, “E,” stands for “exciting.” Let’s face it. If it isn’t exciting, then it probably shouldn’t be a goal. Who wants to spend time and energy moving something forward that doesn’t really energize, engage and excite? Perhaps it should go without saying, but you’d be surprised by the number of boring and misguided goals I’ve seen along the way. Feeding 100 families every week might be exciting to your church. If so, great. If not, then consider ways to make it more exciting. Does the number need to be increased? Should it be turned into a daily ministry?

The second addition, “R,” might be my favorite. It stands for “Risky.” If what you’re trying to do is necessary and it hasn’t yet been done, chances are there is some sort of risk involved (or it would’ve been done before). The church needs to do a better job at being bold and taking risks to impact the world in the crazy, positive ways our culture needs. We can’t afford to play it safe when the world needs us to step up and lead.

How can our goal be risky? What about something like this — “Hire a F/T Executive Director to manage a feeding ministry that serves free meals to 250 people every Monday through Friday.” Wow! Do you see how something like this goal absolutely needs to be a church-wide endeavor? There’s liability involved. It might fail. Agh! But if not you, who?

Step Four: Establish a one-year benchmark for each goal

Now the vestry needs to ask: If we’d like to achieve these three goals in three to five years, what should we be able to accomplish by the end of this year? This step is extremely important, because the goal itself is far too big and overwhelming to put action steps in place. A benchmark should be more manageable, designed to help you move forward in incremental and iterative ways.

Let’s consider our feeding ministry goal. If, “Hire a F/T Executive Director to manage a feeding ministry that serves free meals to 250 people every Monday through Friday,” is our goal, then the one-year benchmark could be something like: “Feeding Ministry Executive Director begins work.”

Step Five: Determine the best next steps

This is where the rubber meets the road, folks. Now your team is working toward hiring an Executive Director for the new ministry. What needs to be done between now and then? Here’s how next steps will help your church hit its established benchmark:

  • The budget is approved for salary and benefits
  • A Feeding Ministry team is recruited
  • The Feeding Ministry team creates a job description for the executive director position
  • A job posting is written and released
  • Applications are reviewed
  • Phone screening interviews are made
  • In-person interviews with 2-3 candidates are conducted

Step 6: Assign next steps and deadlines

After a timeline of next steps has been proposed, assign the goal to one vestry member who will be responsible for moving the goal forward. This person will coordinate the effort and next steps, holding people accountable for completing the tasks they have agreed to perform on time.

Step 7: Trust the plan and work the process

Achieving results comes down to commitment and following the plan. Sadly, too few follow through with what they say they were going to do because life gets in the way. But when a team comes together and laser-focuses on two to three things that really matter to them, then the sky’s the limit. Accountability is another important factor, and effective teams can have open and honest dialog about what progress has been made, what progress hasn’t been made and why.

Action step by action step, you’ll be that much closer to achieving the goals to which God is calling you.

Melissa Rau is the Senior Program Director of Leadership at ECF. She joined the ECF staff in April 2018 and is responsible for overseeing the Leadership Resources area, which includes Vital Practices, webinars and training, publications and the ECF Fellowship Partners program. In addition to overseeing ECF’s existing leadership initiatives, Melissa is helping ECF discern its unique contribution to entrepreneurial and transformational leadership in the wider church.


This article is part of the January 2019 Vestry Papers issue on Vestry as Team