Classifications of Goals

The key to setting goals is knowing how to classify them.  While the end goal may be to pastor a large church or earn a Ph.D. there are numerous goals in between to accomplish the final goal.  Recognizing the difference between goals is important in accomplishing them.

Long-range goals

A goal that would require 5 or more years to accomplish is a long-range goal. The ultimate long-range goals would be the life-long objectives one would like to accomplish. Usually long-range goals would be achievable in 5–10 years. One can just about become anything he wants to be, if he works at it for 10 years. A high school graduate could even go all the way through college to a Ph.D. in less than 10 years. One could become a medical doctor, build a business empire, or build one of the largest churches in the world in 10 years or less.

Intermediate goals

Goals for the next 2–5 years might be called intermediate goals. They should contribute toward the long-range goals. Examples of intermediate goals are to complete a graduate degree, to change vocations, or to take a Holy Land Tour.

Short-term goals

A goal that could be accomplished in 1–2 years might be called a short-term goal. This type of goal would indicate you are going to expend a major effort to accomplish it in the near future. It should be a stepping stone to an intermediate goal and contribute toward the accomplishment of a long-range goal. Many personal goals fit into this category.

Immediate goals

A goal that could be accomplished in 3–6 months, or at least in less than one year, could be considered an immediate goal. Many goals can be accomplished in a very short time. These goals also need to be related to longer term goals.

Setting Goals

The Bible tells us, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  Without goals to strive for people languish in indecision.  With goals a person can quickly decide if an action will help them reach their goals or not.  Some goals are simple such as relax and have fun while others are aggressive such as earn a Ph.D. by 32.  Whatever your goals are, they will give you direction to your life.

What is a goal?

  •  Something toward which to aim
  •  A target
  •  A specific purpose worth working towards
  •  A desired outcome that can be measured in terms of progress toward an objective
  •  A statement of faith – how one hopes things are going to be at some time in the future

Reasons for Goals

Goals give direction. Goals provide targets for aiming. A wise man said, “You aim at nothing and you’ll probably hit it.” Goals provide something toward which to plan and work. A person with goals for his life has direction. He will know where he is going, and he will know the way.

Goals provide a standard for choosing activities. Goals are ends toward which a person is working. One chooses activities to be the means to reach the end, and then the means becomes an end. This is an end-means inversion, and it always spells trouble. By checking activities against the established ends or goals, one can avoid unnecessary activities or work.

Goals motivate. Goals held before workers provide an incentive to work harder and longer. An attendance goal for a high Sunday will produce extra effort. A goal established to visit so many houses, or to jog so many miles, can keep one going. Extra resources will sometimes be called upon to accomplish a goal.

Goals provide mile posts. Goals are based on objectives. You may never accomplish an objective, but a goal is a bite-sized piece of an objective. A goal serves as a mile post to indicate how far one has traveled. Sometimes larger goals should be broken down into smaller goals to make the mile posts easier to reach. This is more than direction; it shows one has reached a mark or small target.

Goals provide a measurement device for evaluation. Evaluation is very important. It is the final step in planning. When goals are written, then evaluation is simplified. The goals say exactly where one wants to go and when one wants to arrive. The evaluation process simply finds out if you arrived at the destination as intended. It is impossible to evaluate without goals or standards being established.

Leadership in Christian Organizations

Spiritual leadership will primarily be exercised in a Christian organization. The local church is the basic Christian organization, but other types of Christian organizations do exist. Many parachurch organizations will also fit into this category. Although they are not controlled by a single church or a group of churches, they do exist to serve and give glory to God. Some Christian organizations will be for profit and some not-for-profit. Here are some factors that make a Christian organization different from other organizations.

Christian organizations see themselves as having a special “family” relationship
with the workers and members.

Christian organizations have a given “Bible-based” set of values and priorities. These values are more important than laws of the land, even to a law-abiding company.

The expectations of people involved in a Christian ministry are much higher. They think it will be a “heaven on earth.” People really do expect Christian organizations to be different. Many have been greatly disappointed. In fact, some people have had such unfortunate experiences with Christian organizations that they have said a particular Christian organization acts less Christian than the business world. Money pressures that have too few workers attempting to do too much cause some real problems.

A Christian organization should reflect love for people and concern for the individual. Christian organizations should place a high value on the individual and his personal development and needs. Christian organizations must decide when to put the good of the organization above the immediate needs of the individual.

Many Christian organizations have devotions or chapel services as a normal part of the work week.

The church is different from even other Christian organizations because it must attempt to care for its members, while at the same time use them as workers to accomplish its task. The church must also accept all who volunteer, even if they do not appear to be able to serve, but must be served. James 2, talks of the rich and poor man coming into a church, and tells the importance of receiving all that come. A business that is concerned with producing goods or services that can be sold for a profit on the market place can be easier to manage than a church which is trying to reach, teach, and minister mostly with volunteers.

There are at least two reasons for the difficulty of managing a church. First, Christian organizations usually do not have clear measures of performance. They don’t have a standard of measurement to use in evaluating performance. Secondly, Christian organizations are weak on controls or checks and balances. They are likely to say things like, “This is the Lord’s work . . .” or “We are all Christians here, therefore . . .” and excuse a lack of policies and procedures that would provide controls and checks and balances.

Distinctives of the Christian Leader

What does a Christian leader look like?  There are many similarities between leading in the secular world and leading in the Christian one but there are a few differences that stand out.

A Christian leader considers himself a servant

This must be seen as one of the most significant distinctives of a Christian leader.
There are a number of implications of servant leadership:

  1.  He leads out of relationships, not by coercion.
  2.  He leads by support, not by control.
  3.  He leads by developing others, not by doing all the work.
  4.  He leads by guiding, and not by driving.
  5.  He leads from love, and not domination.
  6.  He seeks growth, and not position.

Jesus said, “I came to serve.” He set an example of the Christian leader by washing his disciples’ feet. He told them, and us, repeatedly that the way to be the greatest is to be the servant of all (Matthew 20:20–28: 23:11; Mark 9:35; 10:43–45; Luke 9:48; 22:26–27; John 13:14). Paul said of Jesus, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! ” (Philippians 2:5–8).

King Rehoboam serves as an example of a biblical leader that failed to apply this principle. He chose to ignore God’s approach to management and tried to “lord it over” his people. Rehoboam asked the elder statesmen of the nation how he should lead the people. They replied, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants” (1 Kings 12:7). But King Rehoboam ignored their godly advice and used his power and authority to manipulate, control, and exploit the people. As a result, the nation rebelled against him and he lost the majority of his people.

 A Christian leader will build up or edify the group

The Christian leader will multiply himself by training others. He will not try to do everything himself, but train and equip others to do the work. Jesus is an outstanding example of the training leader. Most of his public ministry was spent in training the twelve apostles. Jesus was called teacher, and not leader, more than any other name.

Church leaders in the New Testament were told repeatedly that their work was to “equip the saints.” This is a major part of the work of the Christian leader today. He must be developing the leadership potential of those under his authority. Ephesians 4:12 makes it very clear that the work of the pastor is “for the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” God will hold the individual responsible for what he does with what he has, as is shown by the parable of the talents, and also by the statement, “to whom much is given, much is also required” (Luke 12:48). It follows then that God holds the Christian leader responsible for the way he equips his church.

This concept must be a part of all a Christian leader does. When he plans, organizes, guides, and controls, he must consider: “Will this build up the individuals under my authority?” Many actions undertaken by church leaders in recent times have not considered this principle, and they violate a basic teaching of Christian leadership.

Love will be behind all the efforts of the Christian leader

1 Corinthians describes Christian love. The Christian leader will display those attributes. The Bible makes it plain that Christians are to love each other, their neighbors, and even their enemies. When we love our neighbors as ourselves we will find it very easy to follow the Golden Rule.

The Christian leader, when making decisions, attempts to find God’s will, and finds and follows God’s methods

Jesus set a good example in this. In the model prayer He taught us to pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Also in the garden before His arrest He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42).

The Christian leader will always attempt to determine the will of God, and act accordingly. He will be familiar with the scriptures, which will give a lot of direction. No action should be taken that would be in violation of a teaching in the Bible. His concern is not just that this action is legal, or even moral, but that it is God’s will. Integrity and honesty should not be a problem for a Christian leader that is following God’s will. God will never direct a person to do something wrong.

Biblical Leaders

One can talk about Christian leaders all day but the best way to understand Christian leadership is to observe how Biblical leaders led.  Here is an overview of some Biblical leaders.


Joseph was bought as a slave, and yet became a high official very quickly. Later, when put in prison, he quickly became the keeper of the prison. His leadership was very evident to those he served. He was content to do the best he could in all situations. As a slave, and even a prisoner, he worked hard and with a good spirit. He was determined to keep his life pure. His greatest test as a leader came as he helped to prepare Egypt for the seven years of famine. During the seven years of plenty, he planned wisely, delegated responsibility, established policies and controls, and organized the work force in such a way that the country could not only survive the famine, but help other countries as well.


Moses has to be one of the greatest leaders in history. He led a large company of people, who had been slaves for several generations, to leave their slavery and to establish a separate nation. These people had no leaders, no laws – nothing. Spiritually he was a man of faith, vision, integrity, obedience, and responsibility. He had to be able to make decisions; in fact, in the beginning he made them all. He was able to organize the people, select and train leaders, and delegate responsibility to others. The organization he established is a good model with an
excellent span of control at each level.


King David was an outstanding leader. He had an almost unbelievable respect for God’s anointed leader, King Saul. Even when Saul was attempting to kill David, and David had an opportunity to kill Saul, he would not touch God’s anointed leader or allow his followers to harm Saul. That kind of loyalty in a follower can really prepare one to be an exceptional leader. David was a strong spiritual leader. He was not ashamed to be involved in spiritual exercises. He sought God’s blessing, and gave God the credit for his successes.  He was a wise diplomat and won many friends, such as Hiram, King of Tyre.


He was one of the greatest men of prayer in the Bible. The book of Nehemiah is filled with actual prayers and with mentions of prayer. He had compassion and concern for his people. He was willing to accept responsibility. He knew how to plan, and how to carry out the plans. He could see through plots and schemes to entrap him. He was able to think far ahead, as in asking for timber permits, and didn’t just run off and start something. He showed evidence of being a real skillful strategy designer as he contrived how to get the walls built, announced his scheme, involved almost all the people, and got the job done. He was a man of sacrifice, giving of himself and his personal wealth, taking care of others, and refusing to accept the salary that was due to him.


Barnabas sold his property and gave all the proceeds to the church, which was a real sacrifice (Acts 4:36). He showed himself a courageous leader when he believed Saul of Tarsus was really saved and recommended him for membership to the church at Jerusalem (Acts 9:27). He showed unusual ability in selection when he went to Tarsus and had Paul come and be his assistant at Antioch (Acts 11:22–26). However, his greatest moment came when he stepped aside from being the number one man and very unselfishly allowed Paul to take over. The Antioch church had sent out Barnabas and Saul (Acts 13:2), soon it became Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:7), and then it even became Paul and company (Acts 13:13). Throughout this, Barnabas was praising the Lord and serving Him. Very few men can do that. Not many men could start a church, hire an assistant, and see that assistant take over without having real problems.  Later Barnabas stood up to Paul for Mark. Paul and Barnabas broke up over this and Paul went with Silas. Barnabas had given Paul a chance, but he also wanted to give Mark a second chance. He was known as the son of encouragement and this is in fact what his name means.

Signs of Poor Leadership

Just as there are telltale signs of effective leadership, there are signs of poor leadership.  Here are some ways to tell if you are dealing with a poor leader.

Doesn’t understand people

People have certain basic needs. Poor leaders fail to recognize this and use these basic needs when motivating subordinates. People need to be loved and appreciated. They need to feel they belong and are secure. They need to achieve. Leaders need to understand this. Motivation must be based on understanding and recognizing the needs of individuals.

Fights change; afraid of innovation

There can be no growth without change. A leader must be willing to accept change. Change must come in organizational patterns, ways of doing things, purposes, and means of communicating.

Lacks imagination

Creativity is a requirement for effective leadership. The leader who lacks imagination, creativity, and vision will be a poor leader.

Passes the buck

Good leaders accept responsibility. The person who always has someone else to blame for his troubles will always be a poor leader. The effective leader will delegate responsibility and authority, but always be aware that the ultimate responsibility still belongs to him.

Lacks team spirit

Some outstanding contributions can be made by solo performers. These people can be leaders in the sense of being out in front of others. They cannot be leaders in the sense of guiding and directing others. The effective leader will be a team player and will develop a team spirit in his followers.

Loses emotional control

A leader shows he is in control of a situation by maintaining control over himself. When a leader loses control over his emotions, especially anger, he greatly decreases his effectiveness.

Becomes defensive

Ball games are won with offensive efforts. Defense is important, but scores few points. When a leader becomes more defensive than offensive, he loses.

Refuses to take risks

The greater the risk, the greater the potential. That can be a potential for success or for failure. In this world, uncertainty is certain. The effective leader will study a situation, but he will accept some risk in decision making.

Signs of Effective Leadership

How do you know if your leadership is effective?  Here are some ways you can tell by observing other leaders.

Uses time wisely

The effective leader will save time by making the best use of it that is possible. Every person has the same 168 hours to use each week, but some get more done with it than others.

Develops subordinates

One of the best ways to become more effective is by developing subordinates so that they become better workers, then they push the leader up. Numerous books on leadership stress the idea of pushing decision-making and other acts of leadership down to the lowest possible level. This concept is very Biblical. Christian leaders are to edify or build up others. People under the leader are his responsibility in this area.

Has integrity

The effective leader can be trusted. What he says, he will do. This is important in word, in deed, and especially in finances. Some have a false concept that to be successful in business you must compromise your integrity, and that is not true. A part of this is to pay your debts, and some preachers have poor reputations in this area.

Is flexible

A leader needs to sometimes change his plans, his policies, his programs, his procedures, his methods, but he should never change his doctrine (if it was right in the beginning). There is a danger of a person becoming so set in his ways that he is not willing to change, and this can cause his downfall.  However, if a leader appears to be too inconsistent, this can be a weakness.

Learns from mistakes

Some appear so afraid of making mistakes that they don’t do anything. The effective leader will accept the fact that he will make some mistakes. A good concept is to establish a margin of error and not worry about things that are within that margin. It is important that a leader learn from a mistake so that he will not make the same mistake a second time. Thomas Edison said not to call them mistakes, but call it an education. Sometimes the leader needs to admit making a mistake, and then set out to correct it.

Establishes standards

Standards of performance need to be established for all workers so they will know what is expected of them. The standards need to be consistent from worker to worker and even from period to period. Without standards there is no basis for evaluation.

Sets goals and priorities

The goals should be based on one’s vision and objectives. They should be challenging, specific, attainable, measurable, and dated. The priorities are needed to know which goals to work on first.

Keeps on going

The effective leader will not be a quitter. He will stay with a job until it is done. Some jobs will be harder than others, but one should stay with it. The Bible says, “Never tire of doing what is right.” (2 Thessalonians 3:13).  The effective leader will keep on going in spite of weariness and discouragement.

Stays morally pure and clean

This is important to a Christian worker. Those outside of the church may not mind their leaders being immoral, but it will destroy the efforts of a Christian worker. One should “avoid the appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22).

Is a self-motivator

The effective leader doesn’t have to be pushed, but is driven by a force from within himself. Pastors really need to have this, and pastors really want this in their staff members.

Methods of Achieving Leadership

“How exactly does one become a leader?” you may ask.  There are four basic ways that one becomes a recognized leader within the church.  Others may be leaders without a position or title by virtue of the amount of influence they hold within the church.

The leader may be appointed from above

With regard to this “from above” means a higher position of authority, not by God.  In this instance a pastor may search out and appoint a person in charge of the youth or children’s ministry.  The authority that they are given is by virtue of someone above them.

The leader may be elected by the group

Most people are well familiar with this process because they elect national leaders even if they don’t elect their church leaders.  Many churches have a democratic form of government and will vote before hiring a new pastor.  This has an obvious advantage in that people will be more receptive to a new leader if they have input into who is hired.  The major disadvantage is that the most popular choice is not necessarily the best one for the church.  As a rule there will be more immature Christians in a church than there are mature ones and this may lead to a poor decision by voting.

The leader may emerge from the group without formal action taken by the group or a person above the group

There are times that leaders just emerge out of nowhere.  People begin looking to them for advice or things may not get done without their approval.  Joseph appears to be this type of leader while he was a slave and then later in prison.  Those around him saw his leadership skills and gave him more and more authority.

The leader may be directed and sent by God

Leaders who are appointed, elected, or who simply emerge are subject to losing their authority just as quickly.  Leaders who are sent by God have no such trouble as their claim to leadership rests with the Lord.  In Acts 2 the apostles selected Matthias to take Judas Iscariot’s place.  Matthias is not heard about again in the Bible but the New Testament revolves around God’s choice for leadership, Paul.  God may choose to put a person into leadership through appointment, election, or emergence but what is clear is that every church would do well to have the leader of God’s choosing.

The Importance of Studying Leadership

One may wonder why it is worthwhile to study church leadership.  For starters every pastor is in a position of leadership and he should use this position to its fullest potential.  Not every pastor is a gifted leader and that is fine.  Pastors have many different gifts just as there are many different gifts that make up the church body.  But because the pastor is in a leadership position and will be called upon to make leadership decisions it is invaluable that they know what they are doing.

Church leadership is not just for pastors however.  For every pastor there are ten, fifteen, or twenty church members who possess an important position of leadership within the church.  These include board members, commission chairpeople, and even those who have no official title but hold significant influence over the opinions of others.

For these reasons and the ones to follow it is important for all church members to study church leadership.

Leadership can be developed and improved

It would appear that some people are born leaders and while it’s true that some are naturally gifted, this doesn’t excuse the rest of us from studying leadership.  Like any other skill, leadership can be learned.  We can hone our skills through studying and putting them into practice whenever possible.

More leaders are needed in the churches

Perhaps every pastor has bemoaned the lack of leaders in their church.  There are many great ideas that are offered but usually they are thought of with the goal of someone else actually leading up the project, most often the pastor.  There has never been a pastor who has dealt with the problem of having too many leaders and not enough work for them to do.  If there was ever such a problem the church would be growing by leaps and bounds and would have no problem finding work for their leaders.

Supervising volunteers is harder than supervising paid staff

In the workplace supervisors have a great amount of leverage over those under them.  If an employee doesn’t perform up to par they risk losing their job and thus they are going to try their best to do what the supervisor asks of them.  Within the church most people doing the work are volunteers and have no such outward motivation to do as instructed.  For this reason a church leader must be all the more capable so that they will motivate people who are not getting paid for their services.

Church staff personnel are accountable as stewards of the people in their churches

Every person in a position of leadership is responsible to God if to nobody else within the church.  If a person has been called by God to a position of leadership they should have every desire to carry out the duty to the best of their capability.  Only by studying leadership will a person be able to do so.

The Definition of Church Leadership

If you ask ten church members their definition of what a church leader is, you’ll get ten different definitions.  More frustrating is that if you ask ten different church leaders their definition of church leadership, you’ll get ten different answers.  So we must begin by defining what we mean by church leadership.

For the purposes of this site, church leadership can be defined as the process of influencing other people to work together to accomplish a desired purpose.

For starters, leadership is a process.  Leadership does not just happen without effort.  Likewise leaders are not just people in positions of authority, leaders are people who do something.  Leadership often involves not just one action but a series of actions revolving around a plan to achieve a purpose.

Leadership is also about influence.  Real leaders will rarely use the “big stick” method of leading.  Leading by threat will not get far because eventually the people will seek a place where they don’t feel threatened.  Likewise this is not the best way to lead a church as Jesus did not lead through threats.  Instead of threats, a good leader will find ways to convince people that his way is best and will gently bring them over to his side.

Leadership requires people to work together.  Our circle of influence is really pretty small even in the context of the church.  A church leader will only have direct influence over a handful of people but each of those people will have influence over another group of people and the leader’s influence will multiply quickly.  The goal of wielding this influence is to get everyone to work together for a common purpose or plan.

This brings us to the final point about our definition of church leadership; there must be a goal in mind.  In short, a leader isn’t leading if he’s not taking a group of people somewhere.  A walk around the block is not leading when everybody knows where they are going and they all end up where they started.  A true leader is going to take a group of people somewhere that they couldn’t get to on their own.  In the context of the church that may be a successful outreach event, a building project, or a change in the way the church operates.