Vectors not Smart Goals

Vectors have magnitude and direction

In long range planing with churches, I have begun to use the word vector instead of goal or objective. The Goals/Objective language is borrowed from the business world which thinks in terms of profit being the underlying greatest good that all things serve. I cringe every time I hear a guru tell church people to adopt SMART goals. We have Christ to serve, and our driving long-range vision is the great commission, that we make disciples in all contexts and among all peoples for the transformation of the world. All of this is done with an attitude of authentic love for those outside the church, never treating them as objects to be manipulated for our own ends. Authenticity often gets lost when we set goals and adopt metrics to keep us tracking towards our business objectives.


The word “Vector” is borrowed from the sciences. Math and physics people use vectors to describe forces that interact with objects or people. Every vector has both magnitude and direction. We have within the church, a movement by the holy spirit to witness abroad about the love of God. This vector leads us to develop strategies to bring new people to Christ and the church. In each local church, this vector has a certain magnitude or intensity, often related to the degree of spiritual passion in the church. 


We also have another vector that leads us towards organizing and providing structures where our people can be nurtured towards effective discipleship. This force propels us to schedule worship services, develop small groups, engage our people in mission work, teach ethics and stewardship, etc. This fulfills the “make disciples for the transformation of the world” component of our call. I like the Methodist credo, organizing to beat the devil. In every local church this, too, has a certain magnitude. Where it is weak, the church declines.


Instead of setting goals or objectives, we should develop way points that build first one and then the other of these essential vectors. The Holy Spirit always adds these two vectors (not balances), leading the church outward and upward.


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