Clarify Your Goals



What do you want your Sunday School to be like five years from now? Ten years from now? Fifteen years from now? If all obstacles were removed and there was nothing to hinder, what would you like your Sunday School to look like then? Think about it. Make your list.

The reason I am asking this question at the outset of this chapter on goals, is because Sunday School leaders tend most of the time to be concerned with the immediate, the “urgent.” They don’t have time to project themselves five to ten years into the future. They don’t tend to plan ahead like this. I would like to have you think through why and how you establish Sunday School goals.

Why Goals Should Be Set

You are a Sunday School leader. As I see it, a leader is somebody who sees beyond the present, sees beyond what other people can see. A leader needs to be over the crest of the hill with his vision, just far enough ahead of those he is leading so his perception allows him to see what nobody else sees, yet not too far over the hill so those who follow him can still see him. That, to me, is a leader. A leader is involved in goal-setting–looking at both the immediate and the far future. He needs to determine: what could be done in the future for improvement? What are the priorities? When you’re studying goals you will need to say, “Since we can’t accomplish everything, what can we do?”

As I look at Sunday Schools, what I seem to see is that churches are very much like individual Christians. A church is a composite of personalities. I would say that Christians, like churches, are either like posts or trees. The difference is obvious. A tree is something that is growing. It is alive. The minute you cut a tree down it stops growing and starts rotting. Trees are rich; they are productive. I love to be around trees. They enrich the scenery. When you see a church like that–a Christian like that–they are beautiful to behold. They are growing, dynamic, exciting. God is doing a magnificent piece of work in and through them.

Then there are the posts. They may look good on the outside but they are not rich because they are dead. Some churches are like that. They have what you might call an edifice complex. When you get inside and see the lives of the people you realize how lifeless and hollow they are.

Some Sunday Schools support people, hold them up, make them great. Others need to be supported. So you could say that every church is like an individual Christian–either like a tree or like a post. What makes the difference? Being alive and growing!

1. Start stretching to grow.

In I Timothy 4:7 we find that we are to “exercise ourselves unto godliness.” What does that have to do with goal-setting? When you’re in training you are stretching yourself or “exercising yourself.”

Stretch yourself even if it causes pain. Expand your capacity. Expand your capabilities. Expand your aim. This is what Paul said to Timothy and what he no doubt would say to your school.

By identifying your capabilities you can define who you are. Then you can determine how you can grow. Then you can determine what your goals are.

Here might be an example of stretching yourself. Suppose I would hand out a gospel tract to everybody in a meeting and say, “During this week hand out that gospel tract to somebody, or leave it someplace where someone will pick it up.” Some might be a little uneasy doing that but I think the majority in a Christian audience would do it without too much pain.

The next step would be, “Take the gospel tract and present that tract to a friend who doesn’t know Christ.”

Some would say, “I don’t know if I can do that.” Others would say, “I can do that.”

Take a third step. “Take the tract, give it to someone who needs Christ. Explain the plan of salvation, confront him with the claims of Christ and ask him to bow his head and ask Christ to be his Savior.” Now we are stretching a bit! The person who would readily agree to steps one and two might back down on step three!

Stretch your capacity so you will be more godly, is Paul’s aim for each individual and each corporate body.

Take the idea of friendships. There is a certain group of people in your security group. It’s a mutual admiration society. Then there is a whole group of people you don’t like-maybe you can’t stand! Those are
the kinds of people with whom you feel very insecure and you don’t particularly want to make friends with them. But stretch yourself! Do the thing that is hard to do. Make friends with those outside your area of security. Don’t do just what you normally do. Do the abnormal.

That is all part of goal-setting. Goal-setting is saying, “I am this person; I am this Sunday School; this is our capacity. This is what we are; this is what we do. This is what we want to do.” You take it in steps. If you told all of your Sunday School teachers that you expect them to make a personal call on every one of their students, what response would you get? Goal-setting says, “This is who we are; this is our capacity; by God’s grace we’re going to be this.”

2. Considering four kinds of goals.

There are four kinds of goals you ought to be working with

(1) A numerical goal. This is what most of our goals are. We think in terms of numbers. Although the book of Acts talks a lot about numbers we should think in terms of more than numerical growth.

(2) An organic goal. An organic goal indicates something living. This is a goal to grow spiritually. This deals with the various stages of spiritual maturity.

(3) Conceptual expansion. This thought may surprise you a lot. It has to do with my perception–your perception–of the “riches of grace in Christ Jesus.” It is critical for you to have a concept of the riches of grace of Christ Jesus. The principle is, our perception determines our action. Our behavior is a reflection of what we see. In other words, if I would say, “We’re going to have a Christmas program and I want someone to be in that Christmas program,” who would volunteer? The person who thinks he would look good on stage would probably volunteer. The way we perceive ourselves determines how we act. If you want insight into self-image, it is dealt with in the book of Philippians.

Conceptual expansion is critical. What are you trying to do in Sunday School? Trying to get a lot of bodies there? Or do you want something to happen to the people who are there?

(4) Incarnational goal. This goal may also surprise you a little bit. It has to do with conversion. I believe in three conversions. (Now hear me out.) First, being converted to Jesus Christ, when I by faith acknowledge Him as the only Savior and accept Him as my own Savior. Second, I had to be converted to the body of Christ so I would be committed to other members of the body. The third conversion is being converted back into the world. If you’re converted to Christ, then become an active member of the body of Christ, and penetrate the world for the cause of Christ.

That is a significant goal.

What are we doing to the people in our churches to see that they grow incarnationally? That’s what Christ did. He moved into the world for our good. After we have been converted to the body of Christ we ought to move into the world for the cause of Christ.

If you haven’t thought about the incarnational goal, how in the world can you anticipate having a growing Sunday School–when you are only talking about new buses, new teaching aids, and not live issues? Then you are talking E numbers, not growing people.

Suppose back some fifty years ago you went into the office of the president of a railroad, say the B & O Railroad. In the course of the conversation you would ask him, “What do you do as president of this
railroad?” He would no doubt have replied, “We’re running a railroad.” Now suppose he would have been so goal-oriented that he would have said, “I’m in the business of transporting people” (rather than running
a railroad). Do you know who would be running the airlines today? Why did so many railroads go bankrupt? Because they were “running a railroad”–thinking of nuts and bolts–and not concerned with the goal of transporting or meeting the needs of people.

The Process of Setting Goals

I have stressed the importance of goal-setting to this point; now let’s talk about the process.

What I want you to see is that goal-setting always follows finding out who we are, identifying our problems, then setting the strategy, and making our commitments.

So the process is:

1. Ask yourself some questions.

Don’t even think of starting to set goals until you have answered these questions. Then you can think about where you want to go and where you ought to go.

(1) What are we now?
(2) What ought we to be?
(3) Where do we want to go?
(4) How are we going to get there?
(5) Who will get us there?
(6) At what point in time will we get there?

In my book, Make Your Sunday School Grow Through Evaluation (Victor Books), I ask Sunday School leaders some questions, such as, Who are we? What are our resources? How much energy do we have? What kind of leadership do we have? What is the history of our church? What is the age breakdown of the church? What has been the record of our growth or decline–and so on? There are so many things to consider. I’m talking about the composite that makes us; that makes our church.

2. Set your strategy.

Now we set in motion what we call our strategies.

I asked you to write down what you hope to be, and quite possibly you have never done that before. Here is where we get into problems. We are-present-oriented. You show me a group of visionary people and I’ll
show you a group of excited people. “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” I think this means that the congregation dies first, then the lost perish, for when people have no vision, they die. We have the vision; we should have a goal in mind. Then we anticipate what we are going to do. If you think about running the Sunday School, oiling the machinery, etc., and not where you are headed, then you are in

God has a mission for the church. That mission is to penetrate the world with the gospel. The mission is unchanging, but we’re all distinctly different. Don’t try to be like some other church and school. Find what kind of mission your particular Sunday School should accomplish. Why did God put you there in your particular locality?

Now you are ready to set goals. I can’t think of anything more valuable now than giving some checkpoints as you start to do so.

(1) A goal must be specific What exactly are we going to do? Who is going to do it? When? Etc. “This year I will work with all junior boys in an effort to have each one be able to quote letter perfect the weekly memory verse at least 40 Sundays.” Note all the specific details in a specific goal.

(2) A goal must be realistic It must be within my reach I have found if a goal is beyond the reach of the people, they probably are not going to work on it. So analyze, “Can we possibly accomplish this?” Start with short-range goals and eventually work toward the long-range goals.

(3) A goal must be consistent with abilities. If I would say to you, “I want all my teachers this coming year to visit all of their students,” welt you can say that is specific, and it is realistic, but it is not consistent with their abilities. Thus, a more reasonable goal would be to say that this year I’m going to train my teachers so they will know how to make house visits, and I’m going to motivate them to do it.

(4) A goal must be compatible with overall objectives If our goal is to reach families with the gospel and to integrate them into the family and life of our church then everything we set as a goal ought to be consistent with that goal. So if we run a bus ministry, then it is not reasonable to try to reach only children through that bus ministry. It becomes reasonable only if we go to the homes of the children we reach and begin to win the friendship of the parents with a view in mind of winning them to Christ also. Be sure to check all your goals against your overriding objectives.

(5) A goal must be meaningful to each person involved

People perform goals in proportion to the clarity of the goal and their ownership of the goal. The leader is the motivator; the goal is to be theirs, not yours. I can’t expect all the teachers to call on all their students this coming year if that is only a command that is passed down from a mighty “potentate,” the superintendent. Somehow they must be involved in establishing that for a task they are going to be doing this coming year.

(6) A goal must be measurable. The goal about the junior boys is measurable. You can tell if all the class has memorized their memory verse on 40 of the 52 Sundays. 3 Did you catch the point? It would be
accomplished only if each one did it letter perfect. When you set an attendance goal, it ought to be measurable. “We plan to have a net growth of 10 percent over this coming year” is not enough. It ought to
state the Sunday the goal starts and the Sunday when it is finished. You also need to be sure that you are going to count the same groups of people you did during that same time a year ago.

3. Make your commitments.

Be specific and define who will accomplish your goals and when and where they will be completed.

Goals are very healthy for a school and its staff. It keeps your workers from being lethargic; it makes them spiritually productive because it always keeps them stretching their capacity and capabilities. A school that is growing tends to be an exciting place where people love to be, and that in itself will have a great impact
upon its growth. A school that sets goals is going to please the Lord, because the Lord is anxious to see His church grow numerically, conceptually, organically and incarnationally.