Monday, February 9, 2015

Goals for a UU church

A friend wrote an email and asked my about goals for the church. Here is my response. Your comments are welcome.

You ask a good question about goals. There are two aspects to be considered.

1. Is the goal measurable? In other words, how would an observer know when the goal as been achieved, or to what extent it has been achieved? Using this criteria, the "goals" you describe above aren't goals because they are not stated in measurable terms.

2. There are outcome goals and process goals. Outcome goals are the results, the deliverables. Process goals are putting the mechanisms in place to bring about those results, to achieve those goals. I call this idea the WHAT and the HOW.

To use your words, you might say, "our goal is to have 25% of the 100,000 people living in the Brockport area report on survey that they use the UU 7 principles as the guiding criteria by which to make ethical decisions in the past year." That's a goal that can be measured to determine the degree of achievement.

A process goal to achieve that outcome goal would be - "we will provide educational and marketing services to educate the 100,000 people in the Brockport area over the next year so that at least 50% of them will say when surveyed that the know what the 7 principles of UU are". (Whether they will adopt these 7 principles to guide their ethical decision making remains to be seen, but they can't use them if they don't know what they even are)

For good organizational performance, all members of the organization should know explicitly what the organizational goals are. Implicit understanding is not helpful and often leads to demoralization, confusion, and conflict. Commitment to goal achievement is what keeps people engaged in a common effort. ASSUME makes and ass of u and me as you know.

To complicate things further, maybe more than is necessary for this discussion, but let me add anyway, that there are efficiency goals and satisfaction goals. Efficiency goals deal with engaging in the activities to achieve the goals cost competitively. In other words an organization might say, "We know that we can achieve these goals, and we know we can put the activities in place, but can we do it cheaply enough to be affordable or can some other organization do it more cheaply? An organization might set as a goal a more efficient way to achieve the goal and thereby surpass its competition.

Satisfaction goals address the fulfillment of the major stakeholders requirements and expectations. So a high performing organization must achieve its measurable goals in an efficient way that is customer satisfying.

Don't let this model overwhelm you. It makes good sense and works if you take it a step at the time.

I think the church could have many goals that would enhance it's viability. The first and most important is to provide inspirational, uplifting, empowering worship services. HOW could the church do this in a way that attracts, engages, and retains attenders? There are many factors but I think the most important are an uplifting message from the pulpit, good music that enhances the message, and creation and re-enactment of meaningful ritual that connects to peoples lives. There would be many ways to develop a metric to measure the production of these elements in worship, but the most significant measurement probably is attendance, and then you could ask, "attendance by whom"? Do you want older, mature adults, or young unmarried adults, or children, and families, etc. Many churches as you know have different kinds of services, the "traditional service", the "contemporary service" , the "children's service" etc. The churchof course, at this point doesn't have the resources to diversify its worship offerings, but it can make an intentional decision about what kind of worship service it wants to provide for what kind of audience/participants.

W. Edwards Deming, the great Total Quality Management guru said, "If you don't know where you're going any road will take you there." The destination needs to be explicit otherwise how would you know when you have arrived or how far off your target destination you are?


David Markham


  1. Very interesting. This approach seems to have promise. Often goals seem to be heartfelt but have no substance.

  2. Very interesting. This approach seems to have promise. Often goals seem to be heartfelt but have no substance.