Over the years, I’ve come to understand that when we talk about making plans in the church, we may not be speaking the same language. What I call mission may or may not be what you call mission. And the same goes for vision, strategies, tactics, and goals. the definitions for these terms are all over the map. I’m writing this blog post because I’m in the middle of a project about how to be an effective coach and realized there wasn’t a single article on the site that explained any of this. So, I decided to create a quick post and answer the question:

What’s a SMART Goal?

The creator of the SMART Goal description goes back to the November 1981 issue of Management Review by George T. Doran.1 He defined a SMART Goal as a well-defined objective with five parts. A SMART Goal should be:

  • Specific: It targets a specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable: Quantify, or at least suggest, an indicator of progress.
  • Assignable: Specify who is responsible for getting the task completed.
  • Realistic: State what results can realistically be achieved given the available resources.
  • Time-Related: Specify when the result will be achieved.

Sadly, most church goals are so unspecific that the results can be meaningless. For instance, I saw a job description for a youth director the other day and the primary objective was: “Over the Next 12 Months, Grow the Youth Group.” The HR Team gets a bonus point for setting a time limit, but apparently if the youth director can get the collective youth to gain fifty pounds, the objective will be met! Okay, that’s an extreme example, but in reality, the church will be hard pressed to hold the director accountable if there is a single addition to the youth group is twelve months.

So, let’s set a SMART Goal for the new youth director.

Over the next three months, the Youth Director will develop, test, and implement an enticing networking and marketing plan that targets local middle school and high school students and invites them to attend a relevant and appealing faith-based church event.

The first thing you’ll notice is that the goal doesn’t include anything about “growing” the youth group in terms of participant numbers.


Because there’s no way the Youth Director can “make” that happen. S/he cannot force someone to attend a youth event, at least not legally. However, what the Director can do is create an environment whereby someone is more likely to want to attend. (Bear that in mind when you set goals for your pastor … )

That said, let’s look at the goal.

Is it Specific? Yes, the director knows exactly what’s expected, though there is a good bit of freedom in the HOW for getting this done.

Is it Measurable? Yes, we’ll be able to see if a marketing plan goes into effect – and because it will be a “tested” networking and marketing plan, we’ll be able measure whether or not the plan is enticing by interviewing youth outside of the church (or those who come as a result of the plan).

Is it Assignable? There’s no doubt who is responsible for the goal … the Youth Director.

Is it Realistic? IF there is a reasonable marketing budget for the Youth Director to access, then it appears to be. But someone will need to check the budget!

Is it Time-Related? Yep … the Youth Director has three months to get busy developing, testing, and implementing the marketing plan.

These principles can (and should) be applied to any and every goal that the church sets. If it’s not a SMART goal, then it’s not a very smart goal.

1 ___ Doran, G. T. (1981). “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives”, Management Review, Vol. 70, Issue 11, pp. 35-36.

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