Are you a goal setter? A new year is often a time when persons put some thought into what they hope to accomplish on the blank canvass of a fresh calendar. Whether engaged in with intentionality or as a passing musing while on a long drive, there is something about looking out the windshield into another year that prompts us to reflect. In doing so, we may consider what we want, need, or hope to accomplish with the gift of this next year. Setting a few goals can make a difference toward these thoughts becoming more than mere wishful thinking.
Perhaps you’ve heard about SMART goals? SMART is an acronym that can help one realistically establish direction in goal setting. SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound. These are the kinds of goals that can propel an individual or organization forward. For example, let’s say I have a goal to get in better physical shape in 2023. Phrased in this way, the goal is admirable, but not too particular from the general “wish” of many people. If I want to improve my goal in a way that fits the SMART framework, I might edit it as follows: In 2023 I will work to lose 10 pounds by June 1, while following a heart healthy diet, exercising 45 minutes 5 days a week, averaging eight hours of sleep per night, using a health app on my smartphone for accountability. With this wording, I’ve created a specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound goal.
I promise you that there are multitudes of folks with good intentions contemplating gym memberships as the new year begins, but those with SMART goals will likely follow through on those intentions at a much higher rate than those without. So, if this is true of our behavior individually, what about congregationally? Should we, as a church, have goals? Would it help for us to be as specific and thoughtful about our ministry goals as we might be concerning our individual goals? What does a SMART church goal even look like?
We will never know if we don’t attempt to formulate one. Would such a conversation energize your leadership team? Could you, as a leader, bring up the topic and invite others to collaborate with you around it? I’m guessing almost every congregation might benefit from some goal setting in one area or another. Here are some potential general arenas of ministry that might be ripe for goals: Evangelism (introducing others to a relationship with Jesus Christ), Discipleship (helping believers grow in faith formation), Stewardship (educating and shaping disciples in their practices of giving), Missional expression (taking steps as a congregation toward greater outward expressions of ministry with the community), Fellowship (working to build relationships, provide tools for reconciliation as needed, and strengthen true expressions of covenantal community).
Any of those general ministry areas would benefit from reflection on Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound goal setting. So why not have the conversation? Pick one or two areas of ministry that you feel led to work toward together in 2023 and begin formulating goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Be sure to incorporate times of prayer (collective and individual) into the process, so the goals that emerge are led of God. In this process you will unleash imagination, energize participation, and realistically set direction for the coming days, weeks and months.