How to Use Smart Goals to Grow Your Church

July 18, 2019  •   LPi
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The goal of any parish is to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to as many people as possible — easier said than done, right? It doesn’t have to be. Every parish should take the time to set goals in order to grow their faith community. And of course, to have a goal, you need to have a plan to reach it. Enter the SMART Goal.

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Simply put, a SMART goal is a short statement that a person (or in this case, a parish staff as a whole) makes to lead them in the direction of what they want to accomplish. Having goals written in a SMART format ensures that the goal-setter is clear on what they’re trying to accomplish, when it should be completed, and how it should be done. Following is an example of a goal written out in SMART format, and all the steps that a church would need to take to accomplish it.


As with any idea we’d like to implement, we need to come up with a specific goal. For this example, let’s say that the leadership team at St. Michael Parish would like to increase the amount of people who receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation per week. To make this goal as specific as possible, they need to know about how many typically come for confession on any given Saturday afternoon, and then come to a consensus on how many they would like to receive the sacrament each week.


So let’s say that after a month of observations, it’s been decided that between 15-20 people come to confession each time it’s offered — and it’s usually the same people. Keeping realistic expectations in mind, the parish has chosen the goal of upping that number to 30 percent, with a grand total of 26 people per week. And of those six people, they wanted them to be new faces.


Your goal also needs to be realistic and attainable to be successful. In other words, it should stretch your gifts and talents but still remain possible. By focusing on highlighting the opportunity for confession at the parish, the leadership team at St. Michael’s is pushing the boundaries, but the goal is within sight — so long as it remains relevant with the parish as a whole.

Which brings us to another aspect of the SMART goal … is it relevant?


This step is about ensuring that not only does your goal matter to you, but that it also aligns with other relevant goals. You do that by deciding what the ultimate goal is. For a parish, it is to spread the word of Jesus Christ to the community and beyond. Moving inward, that translates to basic parish membership growth — the more people who attend Mass, the more people who hear the message. So increasing the amount of people who take part in the sacrament of Reconciliation definitely resonates with the ultimate goal.

Another aspect to consider with the “relevant” aspect is whether you have the right people for the job. That is where having an inventory of people’s talents comes in handy. Just because someone has volunteered to spearhead a project doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is the right person for the job. By knowing what kinds of things your volunteers are especially good at, you will be more aware of who should take on what project.


If every goal needs a plan, then every plan needs an end date. Having a deadline to focus on helps “light a fire” within those involved. It also helps prioritize workload and tasks associated with the goal, so it doesn’t get lost, or get so focused on that other essential tasks fall to the wayside.

The staff of St. Michael’s Parish gave themselves six weeks to increase confession attendance. In the weeks throughout, the pastor promoted the opportunity by speaking about it often during homilies, staff added information to the bulletin about the importance of receiving the sacrament, and a few teens in the Confirmation program donated their time to offer childcare so parents could receive the sacrament without having to worry about their kids. In the end, St. Michael’s didn’t just meet their goal of six extra people — they far exceeded it by welcoming 30 additional people into Christ’s gentle and forgiving arms in the weeks following the deadline — and counting!

Has your parish used SMART goals? What was the outcome?

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