Setting Goals for Outstanding Success
By Robert Schuller
Lack of goal setting
Set successful goals and you will succeed. Fail to set successful goals and you can be assured of failure.
Success or failure starts at this point, for goal setting is nothing more than planning ahead. And when you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Putting it another way, when you set no goals for growth, you set your goals for no growth!
The terrible truth is that tens of thousands of churches around the world today are experiencing no growth simply because nobody established any growth goal. I have talked to pastors of churches in Hong Kong, Japan, India, Korea, Greece, Europe, the Middle East and America. I have read hundreds of Self-Study Guides of ministers and church leaders who enter our Institute for Successful Leadership. And I can report that few pastors and few churches have set any firm, clear-cut goals for growth.
Now this is an unforgivable sin for a person who is supposedly a leader in the movement which is commissioned to go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15).
What are the reasons for this lack of goal setting?
Transiency of pastors
Perhaps the biggest single reason is that the typical pastor comes to the church without the determination to stay there long enough to make it a great church. I have done enough private counseling with ministers of all denominations to report that the majority of ministers accept the call or assignment to a church with the expectation of staying on only until something better comes along.
Others look upon the church that is financially self- supporting as a “success.” They see their goal as nothing more than “greasing the machinery” and keeping the machine going. Obviously, such an attitude is not going to produce a dynamic evangelistic spirit which will produce the new blood which keeps the church lively and exciting.
I am certain Garden Grove Community Church would not be the church it is today if I had not been deeply impressed earlier in my life by two persons. One of these, as I previously mentioned, was Dr. Raymond Lindquist, of First Presbyterian Church, Hollywood, California, who challenged us never to take a church “unless you can envision spending your life there.”
At this same time I was asked to write a term paper on George Truett. When the assignment was given to me, I hadn’t the faintest idea who he was. But I soon found out, and I’ve never forgotten it.
George Truett accepted a call to a small Baptist church in Dallas, Texas. He took the long look and envisioned spending his life there. And he did! He devoted more than forty years of his life to this congregation. As a result, he was able to think long thoughts, plan great dreams and set enormous goals. It is no wonder that, when his ministry was terminated, he left behind the largest Baptist church, and perhaps the greatest Baptist church, in America. The real proof of the success of his ministry lies in the fact that now, many years after he has gone, the church continues to grow in a vital and dynamic way.
So it was, through the comment by Dr. Lindquist and the inspiration of Dr. Truett, God gave me the desire to find a church where I could devote my entire lifetime.
Fear of failure
Another major reason for lack of goal-setting by church leaders is the fear of failure. When I had established a clear mental picture of the walk-in, drive-in church that I hoped to build, complete with fountains, landscaping and tower, I was a very excited young man. Remember, goal-setting is a major source of enthusiasm, and enthusiasm is all-important for success.
I did not dare at first to reveal my dream publicly. I had a dream, you see, but it was not yet a goal. Why not? Because I kept it a secret and only dreams that are publicly announced become goals.
I was afraid that if I announced my dream and accepted it as a goal to be sought, I would run the risk of failure. And the fear of failure, perhaps more than any other single factor, is the reason why the average human being does not establish challenging goals for himself.
Let me tell you what cured me of my fear of failure. I was visiting an eastern church on a preaching assignment. There, in that great church, I saw a calendar with this slogan written across the top of that particular month: “I’d rather attempt to do something great and fail than attempt to do nothing and succeed.”
That did it! I suddenly realized that “not failure but low aim is crime.” Since then, I have never been afraid of publicly establishing and announcing great goals.
Overcome your fear of failure. As one of my books states, there are seven ways you can do so. I do not believe that God will ever scold you for having attempted to dare something for Him. But I do believe that some of us will stand before God someday and be accused of having had too little faith.
Lack of Self Confidence.
Still another reason why people resist setting goals is their own lack of self-confidence. At this point I urge you to read most carefully my other book, Move Ahead with Possibility Thinking. You can accomplish anything you can imagine, providing your goals meet certain principles. You can, in fact, test the success potential of your goals before you actually launch them. If your goals meet the following criteria, they will succeed, if you only have enough nerve to announce them, begin them and never give up.
Test Your Goals
Test your goals in this way: ask these three questions to determine whether your goals are wise and attainable.
Is this a problem-solving goal?
Does this goal, this dream, solve human problems? This is the test of practicality.
The terrible thing is that most people begin by asking the question: “Can I afford it? Do we have the money?” This is the last question to be asked.
The first questions must always be: “Would this be a great thing for God? Would it be a great thing for Jesus Christ? Would it be a great thing for our community? Would it help a lot of human beings? Would it solve a lot of human problems? Is anybody else doing the job right?
If your goals would help to solve human problems, move ahead to the next question.
Can this dream, my glorified goal, be pacesetting?
Obviously, if another church or several churches in your community are already succeeding in doing what you hope to do, then you can expect some rough competition. I was enormously encouraged to build our walk-in, drive-in church and was confident of success because this was the only walk-in, drive-in church in all of Orange County. I have said that we have succeeded, not because we are so smart, but because the competition just didn’t exist!
If your glorified goal, your exciting dream, is pacesetting, you can be assured of enormous publicity. As a result, the people who stand to benefit by your services will know you’re in business. And this is all- important, for people must get behind any goal to make it succeed. No man is an island. Even the artist who works completely alone on a canvas needs customers to buy his paintings or he will starve.
If your goal passes the first and second questions, then move on to the third question.
Can this goal be exciting, really exciting, to people?
Obviously, if it fails to excite people, they will not get behind the project. And people will get excited about goals if they see that these goals are really practical, and if they will help human beings who are hurting. People will get excited about goals if they see that these goals can be creative and can lead to something beautiful.
I tell the members of my staff that I will listen to any suggestion if it has a superlative in it. If it is the “first”, or the “longest” or the “shortest” or “newest” or “oldest.” If it excels, it will attract attention because it is an award winner, then I know that it has excitement-generating potential and will become relatively easy to sell.
The goal of a walk-in, drive-in church was established firmly in my mind as a guaranteed successful idea because it passed the above three questions. People who are physically handicapped, or have mentally retarded children, or want to avoid crowds, or are mourning and given to crying in a sanctuary, or wish to maintain their privacy, these are some of the people with problems who are benefited by a drive-in church. Obviously, a walk-in, drive-in church could solve human problems.
Furthermore, there was nothing like it in the United States, or for that matter in the entire world, so it was pacesetting. I could be assured that I would get the attention of many people. And I would need the attention of many people in order to attract the support that would make success possible.
Beauty as a goal
Beauty is practical as well as desirable! That’s why I could envision the walk-in, drive-in church being de- signed so attractively, so beautifully, that people would be magnetically drawn to it. People run away from ugliness people run to beauty. Beauty excites. Beauty generates enthusiasm. Beauty marshals enormous support. I envisioned reflecting pools, fountains, green grass with splashes of flower gardens. I envisioned award-winning, futuristic architecture.
Set membership goals
So test your dreams by the above questions and begin now to set growth goals for your church. But how do you begin! First, determine what the unchurched population of your community is today, what it will be ten years from today, twenty years from today and fifty years from today. Your local chamber of commerce will have studies that will give you the answers.
Then ask yourself this question: “What percentage of the unchurched population from our community could we win into our membership if we had a tremendous staff, marvelous facilities including surplus parking, and a program for all ages?” In arriving at your answers, you can assume that people will drive as far as twenty miles one way if you are near a major freeway. Or most people will be willing to drive twenty minutes to a church that has the goods!
For myself, I find that twenty minutes, or twenty miles, or ten stop lights is the limit of my tolerance. And I believe that this applies to many people in our modem society. In arriving at the population of your potential parish zone, draw a radius of twenty minutes driving distance, or ten miles if there are several stop signs or stop lights.
Perhaps you should establish a goal of canvassing door-to-door, all of the homes in your community. Then actually draw up a mailing list of all of the non-churched people in your territory. When you have done this, you will know more realistically what the prospects for your church membership growth will be. Do not assume that thousands of homes are too many to canvass.
In the early days of our church, when we had less than 200 members, we canvassed 14,000 homes in only two weeks. It can be done very simply. All we did was have one person ride down every street while his wife drove the car. He wrote down the name of the street and the number of every house. Forty addresses appeared on a sheet of paper from the top to the bottom. And so a total of 350 sheets with 40 addresses on a sheet amounted to 14,000 addresses.
We recruited thirty-five teams of persons and gave to each team ten sheets with forty addresses or 400 calls to make. They did this in two Saturdays. They simply went from house to house and asked one brief question: “Are you an active member of a local church?” If the answer was “no” they made a simple check mark on the sheet, left an invitational brochure and moved on. The names and addresses of all the unchurched people were placed on a stenciled mailing list and we had the beginnings of a tremendous field that we could work!
No matter how small your church is, you must begin by setting membership growth goals. If you have a very small church, you can begin by keeping on your desk a list of all of the prospective members of your church. I did this for years. If you don’t have a prospect list on your desk, then go out and call from door to door to build a prospect list! And begin by working the prospect list.
Then establish quarterly goals to win people to Jesus Christ. Really, the secret of winning people to Christ and into a growing membership of the church is so very simple! Success starts when you start to set goals!
How large should a church ultimately be? The answer to that question must be based on the unchurched population of your community. Calculate what percentage of the unchurched you can reasonably expect to win in the next twenty or thirty years, and let this determine your ultimate membership goal. The ultimate potential membership of your church, based upon prayerful expectations of the maximum number of unchurched people you can win to Christ out of your large community in the next thirty years, should be the only basis upon which your membership goals are established.
I cannot urge too strongly that word, ONLY! No other criterion should determine your membership goals. Not the theories of some writer. Nor the ideas of some �management consultant.� Nor the seating capacity of your sanctuary. Nor the size of your parking lot! One factor and one factor only sets the membership growth goals. And that is the number of unchurched people in your community!
Set Attendance goals
Now that you’ve set membership goals, establish church attendance goals. Up that goal! If your sanctuary is almost filled, plan two services. Let your goal be to fill the church twice. When you force yourself to establish these church attendance goals, you will be forced to think of possible ways to raise the attendance. This will force you to think in terms of better programming, better public relations, better advertising and more aggressive door-to-door calling. Up that church attendance goal right now!
Set program goals
Now begin to work on program goals! And how do you establish goals for programs? You might find yourself stimulated by reading material that comes from your denominational headquarters.
But let me give you a very practical assignment that is the best advice anyone will ever give to you on establishing program goals for a successful, growing church in your community:
Have your secretary (if you don’t have a secretary, you’d better get out and make your church grow large enough so you can afford one!) block off two weeks in your calendar when you will attend no committee meetings, accept no public assignments, and perhaps have your board bring in two guest ministers for two Sundays.
Allocate these two weeks full time toward the following project: begin by calling door-to-door in the immediate vicinity of your church. You have called on some of these homes before, but you are going to call now with a different purpose, a different motive, and a different question.
You are going to ask: “Do you attend our church regularly? Have you ever attended it? Do you attend any other church?”
If they give you a negative answer, you will reply by saying: “I’m delighted to hear this because I’m anxious to find out how I can improve this church and make it such an exciting church that intelligent and wonderful people like you will want to come. You are obviously an intelligent person, so you undoubtedly have good reasons why you don’t attend the church. Would you please tell me what they are? And could you tell me what our church could possibly do to help in any area of your life? Is there any program that you would be interested in?”
Generally, after you have asked the first one or two questions, the answers will be forthcoming. I did this years ago and it was an eye-opening experience! 1 heard criticisms of “typical sermons.” And I heard criticisms about other gaps in the church program. The criticisms of the unchurched persons in my community became a major learning experience!
If you will spend two weeks calling door-to-door in an ever-widening circle, beginning from your church property, and will listen with an open mind, then indeed you will have the education of a lifetime! Listen to the individuals you talk with, listen to them carefully.
Do not be defensive! In spite of all that you have ever been taught, assume, for one humble time in your life, that you may have been wrong about a lot of things! So, listen to what the unchurched are saying and you will find out where they are hurting, where they are frightened, where they are worried. Take careful notes. Keep a daily diary detailing your calls.
After two weeks you will know what kind of a church program you have to design to meet the needs of these people in your community. You will know what kind of messages to give in order to bring them into the church.
Not only will you be enlightened, but you will be mentally and socially prepared to establish program and sermon goals. You will even discover what kind of staff members should be added to your church.
Set new goals
Never allow anything to keep you from setting new goals once the old goals have been attained. Where there are no goals, then and there the seeds of death are sown. The dullest, deadest and most unpleasant time in my life came when, after fourteen years in the Garden Grove Community Church. I found my forty years, goals accomplished!
Victor Frankl said in a lecture once: “The is must never catch up with the ought.” When the Israelites traveled across the wilderness, they never caught up with the cloud by day or with the fire by night. There must always be the tension between the unreached goal and the present state of affairs. When there are no challenging goals, then death has already set in.
If anything blocks the way to establishing larger and more challenging goals, then by all means remove these obstacles to growth goals! Growth-restricting barriers must be removed at any cost or the seed of death is planted. Our original church property was ten acres in size. This allowed for 700 parking spaces off the street. When the parking lot was filled twice on Sunday morning, I could see cars drive in and out and storm away because they could find no parking space.
We had a growth-restricting problem. Either we would create more parking or growth goals would be unattainable. At a price of one million dollars, we removed the problem of inadequate parking. We bought ten acres of land next door. It was one of the smartest things we ever did in the history of our church!
When our sanctuary was enlarged to its maximum seating capacity of 1700, and when it was filled to over flowing in two morning church services, we had another growth problem which threatened the realization of our goals in increased membership. As a result, we determined to solve this growth-restricting, goal-frustrating problem at any cost. We were prepared, if necessary, to destroy the entire sanctuary to build a larger one if need be.
It would be a sin, we felt, to allow a building made out of glass and steel and aluminum to frustrate the winning of more people to Jesus Christ! We would not surrender leadership to a chunk of real estate. So we solved the problem by announcing three morning church services and I began preaching at 8:30, again at 10:00, and again at 11:15 A.M.
As this book goes to press I am in the process of raising $4 million to build a larger sanctuary seating four thousand persons. Why? Because there are still over 500,000 unchurched people in a 15-minute radius of our church! We have an idea how many unchurched people we can win in our community! On that basis we need a sanctuary seating four thousand to hold them all!
Other than our commission from Christ, the challenge of the unchurched people more than anything else, sets the goals in our church. And if that should ever change you will see Garden Grove Community Church begin to die.
Set goals beyond goals
By all means, set goals beyond your goals. And if there are any obstacles in the way that would keep you from establishing larger goals, realize that these obstacles must be removed at any cost or accept the fact that the seed of death and decay is already planted. If you can’t afford to pay the price of removing your growth-stifling obstacles, then be prepared to pay the price of “not being able to afford it” and that price tag is death!
What this means is that you must become a possibility thinker to succeed! In setting your goals, believe that anything is possible if it can solve human problems and if it can be a great thing for God.
Use possibility thinking to set your goals. And now use possibility thinking to dream up all of the possible ways to reach what may seem now to be an impossible goal!
Excerpted from ‘Your Church Has Real Possibilities!’ By Robert Schuller
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”