What To Do When You Fail to Accomplish Your Children’s Ministry Goals


As a Children’s Ministry leader you are constantly setting goals for your programs. Your goals will help inspire you, grow your programs, and meet the needs of the kids in your church. I like using SMART goals because they force you to create well-thought-out goals.


Goals are the short-term steps that will help you reach your vision, achieve your mission, and fulfill your purpose. SMART is a mnemonic – a memory device to help you remember the five components that make up a good goal.


  • They are simply written. They give the what, why, and how of the goal. They are clear to anyone with a basic knowledge of the program. A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general one.


  • There is tangible evidence you have accomplished the goal. You want to put concrete numbers in your goal to know if you are falling behind or are on track.


  • Action steps are built right into the goal – it’s going to tell you what to do. That means that a SMART goal needs verbs.


  • This type of goal motivates you. Rather than dragging you down because you just can’t see how you will accomplish it, a realistic goal challenges you while motivating you because it can be met.


  • Putting a date in your goal creates a practical sense of urgency. You will know by a specific date whether you have accomplished your goal or not. You will also be able to see if you are on track to finish it or if you are lagging behind. Including a date for completion creates internal pressure to accomplish the goal.
  • Don’t give yourself too much time, though, because this can affect your performance. It almost encourages procrastination.

What to do When You Fail

It happens! We don’t always accomplish our goals. So, what do you do when you fail?

1. Take a Close Look at the Goal

Read it over carefully. Was it specific? Was it measurable? Was it actionable? Was it realistic? Was is timely? If the answer to just one of these questions is no, that could be the reason the goal was not met. Try re-writing the goal (with a new timeline of course!) making sure that you include each of these components.

2. Consider Why You Didn’t Reach Your Goal

You may have written a really solid SMART goal and still not reached it.

  • Did you forget about it? Consider using a reminder to track and measure your progress – keep a journal, write the goal on a whiteboard that you see everyday, use a tracking app on your phone or computer.
  • Did you procrastinate? If you are a procrastinator, consider breaking down the goal into smaller steps giving yourself some small task to accomplish on a regular basis that will help you meet your goal. What can you do today, this week, or this month that will take you a step closer to accomplishing your goal.

3. Consider an Accountability Partner

It’s much harder to forget about a goal or procrastinate working on your goal when someone else knows about it and is keeping you accountable.


Sometimes you can re-write the goal and try to reach it again. Sometimes a goal cannot be tried for again. In this case, don’t beat yourself up too hard about it. Give yourself a break. But, also, don’t let yourself completely off the hook. Look at why you didn’t reach the goal and make it a priority to not make those mistakes next time.

Learn more about SMART goals and lots of other Children’s Ministry strategies in The Well Equipped Volunteer Children’s Ministry Handbook.


How to Write SMART Goals

Children's Ministry Goals
Once you know your purpose, mission, and vision, it’s time to create some goals. Goals are the result that you are working towards; the aim.

There are some similarities here to vision, but goals are much more specific. The vision is a single sentence dream for your kids. Goals are the multiple, specific and measurable steps you are going to take to get there.

Goals can be general for children’s ministry or specific to a program. However, since you are creating steps to fulfill your vision, it’s better to be as specific as possible. You will want to create goals for each program you have in children’s ministry that will help you fulfill your vision.

How to write good goals – Be SMART!

Here is an example of a poorly written goal: “I’m going to get volunteers this year.” How will you know when you have achieved your goal? Did you set a time limit on accomplishing this goal? What action are you going to take to get it done? How will you determine that it has been completed? This goal example can be better written if the following criteria are used.


A specific goal is clear-cut. It is precise and definite. It is simply written and clearly defines what you are going to do. It is precise, not general.


A measurable goal is capable of being measured. You can determine if it has been accomplished. How will you know your goal has been completed?


An actionable goal outlines the steps you will take to complete the goal. An actionable goal will have verbs in it like telephone, ask, or teach.


A realistic goal is one that can be done. It might be difficult but it is something that is possible to accomplish. It’s practical in terms of time, opportunity, budget, and resources.


A timely goal has an end date. A timely goal will be accomplished by a certain time. It is a deadline – a time by which you want to have achieved your goal.


So instead of “I’m going to get volunteers this year,” a smart goal would look like this, “On August 19th I am going to telephone 15 prospective volunteers and ask them to serve in the nursery.”

This new goal is specific because it clearly states who is going to do it, when they are going to do it and what it is they are going to do (specific words or phrases in this goal are August 19th, 15 prospective volunteers, serve in the nursery.)

This goal is measurable because it will be completed when 15 calls to prospective volunteers have been made.

It is actionable because the actions taken are clearly stated. You are going to telephone and ask.

It is realistic because it is easily possible to call 15 people in one day.

And finally, it is timely because a date is given. You will know on August 20th whether this goal has been met or not.

Goal Writing Tips

When writing goals avoid words like try, could, and by the end of the year. These words aren’t specific or measurable, or timely.

A well-written goal says what you are going to do and how you are going to do it.

For every goal you write, evaluate it based on these criteria. Is it specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and timely?

These may seem daunting at first, but as you accustom yourself to writing goals this way, you will find it easier and easier. You will also quickly see the wisdom in well-written goals. You will find you need to write new ones as old ones are accomplished!

Purpose, Mission, Vision, and Goals in Children’s Ministry Series:

Introduction – Purpose, Mission, Vision, and Goals in Children’s Ministry

Do You Have a Purpose?

Is Your Mission a Secret Mission?

How’s Your Vision?

Purpose, Mission, Vision, and Goals in Children’s Ministry

Purpose Mission VisionI can understand the temptation to jump right in. You are the new children’s ministry leader at your church or maybe you are the Sunday School Superintendent or maybe the pastor has asked to you take on the VBS program at your church. Whatever it is, the temptation is to jump right in and get to the fun stuff. But when you give in to that temptation, you don’t take time to think about why you are running this program or what you hope to accomplish.

Maybe you have been leading children’s ministry in your church for a while. Maybe you have been doing VBS for years. Maybe you have been teaching Sunday School for as long as you can remember. You’re plugging along. Things are going fine, but when you stop to think about it, you are not really getting anywhere. Chances are you know the purpose and mission of your ministry, even if it’s not written down anywhere. But maybe you don’t have a vision for that ministry or maybe you haven’t fleshed out your vision. Maybe you haven’t created any goals that will help you accomplish big things in your ministry.

Purpose, Mission, Vision, Goals

Children’s ministry is so important that any leader needs to take the time to start at the beginning and outline the purpose, mission, vision, and goals for the ministry (no matter how long they’ve been at it!)

Some of you might be groaning, but this isn’t just boring paperwork. This is the fun stuff! This is where you get to dream big for the ministry you are involved with and more importantly for the kids you are serving.

This is where you get to answer big questions like “Why does this ministry exist?” and “What are we going to do?” and “How are we going to get there?”

For any ministry you are involved with, whether you are leading or volunteering, it’s important to know why you are doing it and what you hope to accomplish. This is where you get to figure out the big picture and help others see the big picture.

In this series, I’m going to explain what purpose, mission, vision, and goals are and why they are important for your ministry.
The series will start with purpose. The big question to ask when figuring out purpose is “Why does this ministry exist?” Next, we’ll move onto mission and ask, “What are we going to do?” Third is vision, “How are we going to get there?” And finally, I’m going to help you write some goals that will help you fulfill your purpose and make your vision a reality.

Purpose, Mission, Vision, and Goals in Children’s Ministry Series

Introduction – Purpose, Vision, and Goals in Children’s Ministry

Do You Have a Purpose?

Is Your Mission a Secret Mission?

How’s Your Vision?

How to Write SMART Goals