SMART Goal Setting for Ministry

‘Tis the season! Season for what? Goal-setting. Conversations are about to begin that will lead to setting goals that drive a budget to launch another year of ministry. There are many ways to approach this task. The key is to be intentional, engage in dialogue, and write it down.

However, a ministry environment can make this more intimidating. It is so much easier to measure profit, customer retention or sales metrics – but how do you articulate a goal for people impact?

You have probably heard of a SMART goal — it is an acronym that helps us break down what is important and useful in making a goal something that defines the bullseye. The five elements of a SMART goal are:


But tackling these five elements is often overwhelming in crafting a statement that is useful to guide and evaluate ministry. One technique I use with clients is to break it down. Three elements help you write a guiding goal and two elements help you evaluate goal alignment to the mission of the organization or team.

The first part uses the three elements – specific, measurable, and time bound – to craft language that will help you write an effective goal statement. Let’s dig into these three elements a bit more:

Specific – Simple and straightforward statement of what will be done. Emphasizing what will be different when the goal is achieved.

Measurable – Tangible evidence that you use to make sure you are moving in the right direction, hitting your target or key milestones along the way.

Time-Bound – Timeframe that generates accountability and provide feedbacks on progress toward the goal.

A simple statement of intention is a good goal – but it isn’t as helpful in guiding you toward a vision of what will be different or how you will know it is achieved. So, let’s look at a few good goals compared to specific – measurable – time-bound goals:

Clear and measurable statements create a gap – a dilemma – that inspires conversations to guide action throughout the year:

  • How will we do this?
  • What do we need to pay attention to?
  • What are new ways to approach this dilemma?

Now that you have a statement that is specific measurable and time-bound the remaining two elements of the SMART goal (Attainable and Realistic) can be used to evaluate alignment with the mission of the organization or team. Step back and re-read the goal you have written. Use these two lenses to evaluate and align to your statement.

Attainable – A stretch goal, but also attainable in the way it is described with a time-frame that inspires momentum. Think about evaluating this in terms of the time required, energy needed and resources available to achieve the goal.

Realistic – Evaluate how aligned the specific, measurable and time-bound goal is to the organization’s vision, mission and strategic focus. How does the stated goal move you closer to the reality you wish to create? Sometimes I get creative and change this word to relevant. How relevant is your goal to your mission?

I love to walk leadership teams or board of directors through this process of goal setting. If a quick power call would help you explore how this process might serve your ministry, grab a 30-minute phone appointment on my calendar HERE.


Annie Perdue Olson

Annie is founder of Leading Better Together, guiding leaders through the relationship and people challenges that sidetrack ministry. With 20+ years of experience in nonprofit management and pastoral ministry she equips people and teams to work better together. She holds a Master of Arts in Human Resources and Change Leadership from St. Thomas University and received her coaching certification from the Center for Coaching Excellence.

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