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Vital Congregations: Setting Vital Congregation Goals

Why Set Goals

Churches set goals to:

  1. Give clarity and focus to ministry. Clarity and focus connects disciples to purpose and focuses their attention toward the purpose of the church.
  2. Move the church forward. Without goals, congregations can become stuck in a rut, doing the same things over and over without making progress.
  3. Create greater accountability. Goals that are prayerfully developed and discerned with God in mind keep us accountable to the ministry of Jesus Christ. Holy Spirit inspired goals that are achieved make us more like the body of Christ.
  4. Make the congregation better. There is a saying, you do not have to be sick to get better. Good goals make us better. Not for better sake but make us better for serving the community.

Researchers have identified that goals make the difference in success or failure for people of similar backgrounds and educational standards. Studies find that 3% of people are highly successful in their life plans and careers, 30% are moderately successful and 67% just exist. The significant difference for the 3% who are highly successful is that they have written down, specific goals. The 30% who are moderately successful have a general idea of where they are going but don't have any goals formalized. The rest are happy to watch the world go by.

What is interesting is that people in the 30% category only need to put in a small effort to jump into the next group. The secret behind the effort is 'the development of habits and strategies which support the achievement of clear goals'. (GoalMaker, by Kevin Seerup)

What Are Vital Congregations’ Goals

What we measure receives attention. Across the denomination, we want to give attention to, and therefore we will measure: 1) disciples in worship (worship attendance), 2) disciples making new disciples (number of professions of faith), 3) disciples growing in their faith (number of small groups), 4) disciples engaged in mission (number of disciples doing outreach in the community and the world), and 5) disciples sharing their resources for mission (amount of money given to mission). You will note that these are for the most part not activities, but results, fruit of our ministry. Activity is not always the best measure. Measuring activity, for example: ministries done or people contacted, has some value, but it does not indicate if a congregation is achieving the desired outcomes or fruit. A congregation can be quite satisfied with its activity, but if the activity is not producing fruit, then this activity may be the wrong activity, focused internally only or may lack the power of the Holy Spirit. We are measuring the five fruits listed above for the following reasons:

  1. While churches may measure different activities and results, we will have five common measurable fruits/goals so that we learn from one another and focus resourcing on achieving particular fruit. There is synergy and power when we do things together.
  2. These measures are essential for the body of Christ. They were demonstrated in the Acts 2 Church (Acts 2:41-47) and they are areas of a church’s life that are often described in the New Testament.

These measures are core to the values of United Methodism — building up the body of Christ, evangelism and engaging disciples in changing the world, mission.

What Is the Health of Your Congregation

A healthy congregation is a vital congregation. When you go to the doctor, the doctor tests you to determine the state of your health. This may include testing your blood pressure, cholesterol, heartbeat, eyes, etc. From these tests, the doctor can determine the state of your health. Congregations are different from an individual, but we can tell something of the health and vitality of a congregation by looking at certain measures of a congregation - the growth of worship, making new disciples, small group life, mission engagement, and giving to mission. While these do not tell the entire story, they give a good snapshot. Use the VitalSigns dashboard to enter the appropriate information. You will see a snapshot of your congregation’s health for the past five years that will assist you in setting goals appropriate to your past experience.

How to Set Goals

PRAYER: Start with a time of prayer, praying for wisdom and discernment for the congregation and those preparing the Ministry Plan. Give time to developing the plan, gathering together on several evenings or other times which meet your congregation’s needs. Look at the sections of the plan. It might be wise to set the meeting schedule in order to deal with a section at a time, allowing for prayer and discernment between meetings.

WORSHIP: When you meet together to plan and set goals, spend time worshiping, praying and studying Bible passages.

STUDY: Take time to study the bible together. Here are some bible study suggestions that can be used as a tool for bible study together. The Great Commission; Matthew 22:36-40, The Great Commandment; Acts 2, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church; I Corinthians 12, the healthy church is one body and it is the body of Christ; Ephesians 4:10-13, Christ has gifted the church through a variety of gifts; Galatians 3:28, all are welcome in the body of Christ; Luke 10:25-37; the parable of the Good Samaritan; Micah 6:8, righteousness and justice are the expectation for God’s people; Luke 4:17-21, Jesus announces his ministry, which is a calling for the body of Christ today. For examples of planning using the means of grace go to (web page will be released with the official release of the document.)

RESPOND: In the midst of prayerful discernment, answer the questions in the planning guide  as honestly and candidly as possible in order to gain the fullest sense of where God is working in the midst of this congregation and where God might be calling this congregation in the future.

How Will You be Evaluated

The General Church and Annual Conferences exist to serve Jesus Christ by resourcing and supporting the local church. The General Church, Annual Conferences and local churches work together to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

The goals, planning processes, and strategic visioning for vital congregations exist to enable each local church to have a vital future in disciple making. Achieving goals is not an end in itself, but rather a tool to see if what we are doing is producing fruit. The actual process of disciple making, the means of grace, is our main priority. Through goals we are attempting to help each local church be as strong and as vital as they have been gifted, and to vision a future of hope.

The primary use of the goals is to provide opportunities for reflection and conversation for strengthening ministry. Appropriate questions by conferences and congregations include:

  1. After working on your goals and seeing your results, what have you learned?
  2. From your learnings, what will you continue to do?
  3. From your learnings, what will you do differently during the next six months?

What training and/or encouragement can the conference provide to support you in meeting your goals?

Planning Document to Help Your Congregation Set Goals

Ministry Planning Guide (PDF)