By Tim Massengale
The young man sat across the desk from his elderly pastor. His face was burning with embarrassment – it was certainly not one of his finer moments. He stared at his hands, then down at his shoes, then out the window – in fact he wanted to look anywhere other than at the sad, gentle face of his pastor.
He loved his pastor. He had been born into this church. His parents were solid, active members. Week after week he had heard this wonderful man of God teach and preach the Word with strength and boldness. He would do anything for him. He respected and admired him. He felt a lump rise in his throat, which he then tried to clear.
The old pastor broke the silence. “Well, Rick? What’s it going to be?”
Rick was in trouble. He and three of his church friends had jimmied the lock in the church kitchen and helped themselves to the stash of candy in the freezer that was set aside for the bus kids. He hadn’t really thought of it as stealing – at least not until now.
Rick looked up. “I’m sorry, sir. I’ll do whatever I need to do in order to make this right. Please don’t take me out of youth choir. I’ll use my own money and replace all we took, I promise.”
The old man nodded slowly. “What you did was wrong. I think you see that now. But what I want to talk to you about is even more important. Rick, you’re almost eighteen. You will graduate from high school this year. What do you plan to do with your life? Now you just seem to be drifting. I’ve been watching you and I’m concerned that you seem to have no plans or purpose. Have you thought much about your future?”
Rick took a deep breath. “Yes, sir, I have been meaning to talk to you about that. But I’m not sure this is a good time. Once I graduate, I want to go to Bible College if you will let me. I know you have to sign for me to go – and I really want to go. You know how much I love music. I’m thinking I might want to major in Music and oversee the music program at a church like Brother Rollins does for you.”
“That’s a wonderful goal, son. But there’s more to being a music director than just head knowledge and skill. You need to be setting some solid goals for your spiritual life as well – and ministry goals, too. I hired Brother Rollins to oversee our music ministry but he is much more than that. He does hospital visitation. He teaches home Bible studies. He’s involved in our Men’s ministry and as you know, he teaches our Junior High class on Sunday morning. He’s a gifted musician and singer, but he’s also a Christian and a soul winner.”
The old pastor paused and let that sink in. The young man was nodding his head slowly. “So how about you, Rick? Do you have any goals and plans to improve your walk with God this coming year? I’m going to have to see more than just a desire to sing and play keyboards if I’m going to sign your Bible college application. What are your goals and are you making them a part of your daily prayer time with God?”
The young man looked puzzled. “What do you suggest? I guess I haven’t given much thought to it.”
“Well, son, as you may remember, I went to Bible College too. But before I went I was active in many areas of my home church. I helped out in Sunday school – taught the Junior Boys. I rode the Sunday school bus every Sunday morning and went on Saturday bus visitation every weekend. I had taught several home Bible studies and even won a friend from school to the Lord. Like you, I was in youth choir and I played the bass guitar. I also had preached several times in youth service. Church was my life and serving God was my passion. I knew I wanted to work for God long before I went to Bible College. After I graduated, I assisted my home pastor for five years. My wife and I then evangelized for three years. I pastored two churches before coming here to take Life Tabernacle. We’ve been here twenty-two years and we have seen the Lord bless this church with revival and growth.”
The old man paused and leaned forward in his seat. “Do you know why I’m telling you all of this?” He did not wait for the young man to answer. “I’m telling you this because I have always had clear and definite goals in every phase of my ministry. From the time I was a young man my Dad would help me set worthwhile goals every New Year. He would then encourage me throughout the year and commend me when I obtained them. I learned the value of goal setting and have applied it to every aspect of my ministry.
“Solomon said in Proverbs 29, ‘Without a vision, the people perish.’ The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3, ‘I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.’ These great leaders knew the importance of reaching for the plans and purposes of God in their life.
“So how about it, Rick? What are your goals for 2012? What are you reaching for? Does your life have clear purpose or are you just looking for the next chance to have fun? What do you want to do with your life?”
Rick leaned forward in earnest. “Will you help me, sir? I’m not sure exactly what I should do, but if you will help me, I want to make this next year my best year ever. I want to…” His voice trailed off in a waver and a tear trickled down his cheek. He swallowed hard.
The old man smiled.
The Need For Clear Direction
Remember in Alice in Wonderland, when Alice came to the crossroads that led in two different directions? It was here that she met the Cheshire cat and asked him for advice:
“Cheshire-Puss . . . would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t care where . . .” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
From out of that toothy grin came words of truth. As the old saying says, “There is nothing more discouraging than to not know where you are going, because you never know when you get there.”
How sad for a church to wander without direction or purpose!
Churches and Goal Setting
Someone once said, “He who has nothing for an objective usually accomplishes it.” But the opposite of that is also true: “He who has a single minded determination toward a fixed objective usually obtains it.” So, what is your church reaching for? What are your growth goals for 2012?
Does the church have any business getting involved in the process of goal setting? I would have to answer emphatically ‘yes!’ A goal is simply a picture of something absolute that we wish to obtain in the future. To put goal setting into a more Biblical term – a goal is nothing more than a statement of faith. Faith is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Few principles in the business world have a more Biblical foundation than that of goal setting. When Paul said “I press toward the mark. . .” he was writing as an example to us. We, too, need a ‘mark’ – we need a goal.
Goals vs. Objectives
Effective goal setting begins first with objectives. Goals and objectives are two different things. Objectives define our reason for being, our ultimate hope, the purpose for our existence. From the Bible we discover two key objectives for the church. These are: (1) Win the lost, and (2) Perfect the saints.
These objectives do not qualify as goals because they are not measurable in themselves, but rather, give us a clear direction in which to move. Anything we, as a church, engage in that is outside of these two objectives can become a distraction.
The difference between a goal and an objective lies in the fact that objectives are general and goals are specific. For a goal to be a goal, it must fulfill certain criteria.
- Your goals should help you reach your objectives. A pastor must examine each activity and ministry of the church with a critical eye. Is it reaching the lost? Is it perfecting the saints? Could our time be spent more productively in some other way?
The church is not a social club. The church is not a public service organization. With the limited resources that we have – time, money, manpower, and facilities – we must be a good steward and utilize them in the most effective manner.
- You must believe you can obtain this goal. Goals are sometimes set so high that they are unrealistic. Unrealistic goals can cause discouragement. But the reverse of this is also true. Goals set too low fail to inspire. The key is whether you believe you can reach it. The scriptures abound with challenges to reach for the impossible, feel for the intangible, and see the invisible.
Verily I say unto you, if ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed . . . nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matt. 17:20). “Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23). “According to your faith be it unto you” (Matt. 9:29). Don’t set your goals on what you hope you can obtain but on what you absolutely know you can obtain.
- A goal needs to be measurable. Everyone must be able to tell that the goal has been reached — ie: the mountain has been climbed, the ocean has been crossed, and the giant has been slain. If we don’t make goals measurable, we rob people of their sense of accomplishment.
- A goal needs a date for when it will be accomplished. We must know what we want done and by when we want to do it. “Let’s double our Sunday School attendance,” doesn’t mean very much until someone says when (and, of course, how). A goal without a date is not a goal, it is simply a dream.
- A goal needs to be claimed by someone. Everyone’s business becomes no one’s business. The question is not whether we all believe in the goal, but who believes in it enough to make it happen.
- A goal needs to be supported by a plan. To fail to plan is to plan to fail. Each step of the plan can actually become a goal within itself. This plan needs to be in writing and each step dated for completion.
- A goal needs be supported by the necessary resources. We need an understanding of what it is going to cost in money, facilities, time, and other resources. Jesus warned of the danger of starting a tower without first counting the cost (Luke 14:28)
Seven Steps To Reaching Faith Goals
Using the following steps any church or ministry can set some realistic goals for the coming year:
- After much prayer – set your faith goals. Remember, these are not your goals; they are the Lord’s – what He wishes you to achieve. Not MY will, but THY will. Much prayer should be behind your goals. To paraphrase Earl Nightingale, “Pastors don’t have any trouble achieving goals; they only have trouble setting them.” Put them in writing.
- Break the faith goal into progression points. First into yearly steps, then into monthly steps. For instance, to grow from 100 to 300 in five years is only three people per month. Break it down. Set your dates. Yard by yard, life is hard – inch by inch, it’s a cinch.
- Develop a plan of action to reach your faith goal. A plan of action should include both offensive and defensive strategy. First, the offensive – make a step-by-step plan to take you from where you are to where you want to be. Then second, the defensive – list your barriers or problems that might hinder you from reaching your goal. Develop a strategy to overcome each. Follow your plan. If your plans are not working, revise them.
- Develop the resources and people needful to obtain your faith goal. What and who will be needed to reach that first step or solve that first problem? Share the dream and commit your people. An army poorly equipped is an army doomed to fail.
- Regularly evaluate your progress toward reaching your faith goal. Church growth consultant Lyle E. Schaller states, “The person who has a systematic approach to the future and a frame of reference for evaluating alternatives has a tremendous advantage over the person who functions without either.” Systematic evaluation is important. We must periodically stop and ask: “How are we doing? How far have we come? What barriers have we encountered?” Problems are bound to arise. Don’t abandon your workers to struggle with these problems alone. Obstacles may stop us temporarily, but only we can stop ourselves permanently. We are made overcomers through Jesus Christ.
- Testify and talk about your faith goal. From the abundance of the heart, the mouth is going to speak. If this goal is really in your heart, you will talk about it, preach about it, and testify about it. Use group planning and discussion to insure commitment. Get others involved. Celebrate each milestone of success.
- Fast and pray about your faith goal. All things are possible to them that believe. Commit to pray for your goals every day.
Do It Now!
I often recommend that a pastor take a few days off each year to just pray and dream. Review your goals of last year, evaluate your present position, and determine your future plans and goals. I have come to realize that I cannot always do everything that I want to do. But I must do everything that God wants me to do. Herein lies wisdom, and the establishment of the priorities that guide our lives. Remember: Great churches never sought to be great. They just followed the vision God gave them and did what had to be done.