How to Set Annual Goals with Your Church Staff

Sam Rainer

January 1, 2017


This month, I will sit down with each staff person at West Bradenton and work through a list of goals for 2017. The meetings will be mundane and unemotional, but completely necessary. Without these goals, the pathway through the year lacks clarity, like a group of people navigating a trip with unstated directions in their heads and no agreed upon route to a particular destination. That’s how horror movies begin.

Annual goals should be more tactical and less visionary. Tactics are the operational steps to achieving a desired end. Your annual goals act like the step-by-step instructions moving the church closer to a broader vision. Think of vision as the place just beyond the horizon and annual goals as the plan for the next leg of the journey towards the horizon.

One of the key roles of a lead pastor (or whoever manages the staff) is coordinating the staff’s annual goals. Below are five steps to setting annual goals with your staff.

  1. Let the staff write their own goals, then negotiate with them. Goals should begin with the staff person. Then you can negotiate with them on the details. If a staff person is incapable of writing goals, then you have bigger issues with that person. If you feel the need to write everyone’s goals, then you’re a micromanaging tyrant. Staff should write their own goals and then negotiate with you on changes.
  1. Require specific goals. Here is a good example: “Start a children’s choir for elementary children during Wednesday programming by the second quarter.” Here is a bad example: “Preach more passionately.” Specific goals act like markers on a map. You will know if the children’s choir begins as planned. You can’t hold people accountable for vague goals.
  1. Make goals measurable. If a particular ministry needs to grow, then determine by how much. By 20 people? Ten percent? These figures are often called lag measures because they indicate performance. Also, you should set ways of achieving this goal. These figures are often called lead measures because they indicate improvement. Here’s an example: I want this ministry to grow by 24 people over 12 months (lag measure), so I will contact 6 new people each month hoping to gain 2 of them (lead measure).
  1. Give goals timelines. Some goals may require an entire year. Other goals may only require a month of time. Make sure the specific and measurable goals have reasonable timelines. Without a stated timeline, an otherwise good goal could languish because of procrastination or apathy.
  1. Hold staff accountable on an ongoing basis. I don’t believe everyone needs a quarterly review. However, a good lead pastor will check in periodically to see where staff stands with their goals. This ongoing accountability can be either formal (through scheduled meetings) or informal (through casual conversations), so long as everyone agrees to the process.

There are two other items to consider as a lead pastor, one on the front end of the year and the other on the back end of the year. On the front end, your job as a leader of the staff is to make sure staff goals complement each other and are not in conflict. Don’t blame the staff mid-year for conflict if you did not properly align their goals at the beginning of the year. On the back end, these goals should become the basis for annual reviews: Did people on staff accomplish their own yearly objectives? This way, no one is surprised by a year-end review.


5 comments on “How to Set Annual Goals with Your Church Staff”

  1. Thanks, Sam. I really like these steps. Super practical. I wish supervisors had done this with me in my staff days.

  2. Todd Stevens says:

    Great stuff, Sam! It made me wonder about the lead pastor’s own annual goals. Would you suggest he review (and possibly negotiate) those with an elder board or lead team for accountability and alignment?

    1. Sam Rainer says:

      Absolutely, everyone needs accountability. And a good lead pastor will seek it out from some source, whether it is elders, a board, or some other group.

  3. Travis says:

    Very cool Sam! I really dig it! I love how you hit the point of making very specific measurable goals. That’s something that a lot of people fail to do, and instead they set something that isn’t really reachable. I just posted a vlog episode on this topic yesterday. Very cool man!

    Here’s the link if you want to give a listen! I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *