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Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

—Matthew 5:16

Create a Roadmap & Timeline for Transformation

The fourth step in the process of coaching CHANGE, navigate, moves congregational mission, vision, and values into congregational goals. Goals that focus on the ABCs (attendance, buildings, and cash) are not God’s primary goals. Rather, they are the fruits of living faithfully, allowing God’s light to shine through us. The Great Commission challenges us as Christians to “go . . . and make disciples.” Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount reminds us of the importance of practicing and passing on our faith every day, everywhere. The reason for setting goals is to make a difference for the glory of God in the short period we’re on this earth.


CASE STUDY & KEY LEARNINGS

During a break at a session retreat, a very goal-oriented pastor expressed his frustration with what he perceived as my leisurely pace in helping his leaders establish goals for the next ten years. We took a brief walk outside, and I reminded him that the goals set in the past were his goals and were never owned or acted upon by the elders. I reminded him that many of the elders perceived the goal-setting process as a sham and weren’t interested in setting goals that would never be discussed again and most likely never be achieved. I stated that my intention was to find a new way forward in setting goals that were connected to the congregation’s mission, embraced by its leadership, and could be realistically achieved. My final comment to him before the break ended was, “Help me understand why it’s so important to set goals when they’re never reviewed and rarely achieved?”

When the retreat ended, that congregation’s elders did have a list of specific goals, but it wasn’t a ten-year plan. After spending time in prayer and Scripture and spending time revisiting the congregation’s mission, values, strengths, and weaknesses, leaders created a narrative or storyboard that described what their ministry might look like in five years. This led to a laundry list of possible goals that went through three rounds of prioritizing before their top three goals surfaced. In small groups, the leaders spent time identifying strategies for fulfilling each main goal and then placed the action items in the order they’d be addressed. Our final exercise was to assign a point person to each action item, along with a due date for completion, to ensure accountability. When I think about that retreat experience, and what the congregation achieved that following year, I come away with five significant learnings:

  1. After reviewing the mission, values, and data gathered, the elders put on prayer shawls and spent time in silent and corporate prayer, and took time to pray after each decision that they made. Prayer matters!
  2. Spending time creating the narrative or storyboard of their preferred future helped leaders visualize the change, mobilized them to action, and spawned individual ownership of the collective goals. Vision matters!
  3. The lead pastor was willing to let go of past behaviors and assumptions and embrace a new way of exercising leadership. Leadership matters!
  4. The big picture vision may have energized the leaders, but it was clarity and specificity about the next steps and who was responsible that moved ministry forward. Next steps matter!
  5. The plan became a living document; it was constantly reviewed and updated. It didn’t suffer the same fate of most strategic plans, which once created are then stored in a congregation’s library, not to be referred to again until five years later. Flexibility matters!

Select a Route to Your Preferred Destination

As a former youth worker I quickly learned that trying to caravan —drive a group of kids using several different vehicles—to the same location was a futile exercise. I’d lose two cars at a stop sign. Many times I thought the group was following me only to find out it was some stranger’s car that looked like the car that was supposed to be following me. As I became older and wiser, I started giving every driver a map to the final destination and the phone number of that location. Setting goals is like giving every driver a map—we need to be very clear about the final outcome and very flexible as to how everyone gets there. Here are ten tips that I found to be particularly helpful to both individual leaders and congregational teams in achieving congregational goals:

  1. Make a firm decision. Before setting any goal, ask those involved, “On a scale of one to ten (ten = very!), how committed am I to achieving this goal?” If the collective answer is not an eight or higher, seriously reconsider if you should be listing it as a goal.
  2. Get priorities in order. Unexpected things always show up in our lives that cause us to reshuffle our plans. Plan ahead by determining “which balls to drop” if necessary. Make sure you create sufficient margins in your life so that every slight delay or interruption doesn’t result in deferring one or more of your goals. Congregations have a tendency to keep adding programs and ministries without eliminating anything. This is a recipe for burnout and mediocrity. Leaders are responsible for making decisions, which involves “killing off” programs and ministries in order to say yes to the most important things. We can’t have our cake and eat it too if we’re going to do our best work on building the kingdom.
  3. Write down the goals and keep them handy. List your goals somewhere that you’ll see them on a daily basis. I keep my goals on my iPhone and usually review them when I’m waiting in line or at a stoplight or when I have a few moments of downtime. A leadership team in Texas hands out church business cards to team members at the end of their meetings and has members write down the monthly team goals on the back of the card. Team members are encouraged to carry the goals with them everywhere, review the goals daily, pray for those in charge of each goal, and consider how they can support the goals that are listed. The Reverend Ron Qualley, lead pastor at Lord of Life Lutheran Church, in Fairfax, Virginia, keeps his personal and professional goals in his wallet and looks at them several times a day. I’ve been amazed at how much he accomplishes in a given year, and I attribute much of this success to his staying focused on his goals.
  4. Determine how you’ll categorize goals. You may wish to categorize your goals by project, by geography, or by leadership teams. I categorize my goals chronologically. I have a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annual, and “someday” goals. My “someday” list includes goals and ideas that I don’t want to forget about, yet I also have no intention of acting upon them for at least a year.
  5. Revisit your goals on a monthly basis. Think about them. Are they realistic goals ? Are you spreading yourself too thin ? Did you set goals just for the sake of it or for the wrong reasons? Have situations changed that would deem certain goals no longer a priority? For leadership teams that meet monthly, I recommend that you list your goals as part of your meeting agendas to ensure that they are discussed every time you gather.
  6. Identify your next steps. Every goal should have a next step with a deadline. I suggest that individuals review next steps at least weekly, and that congregations review their next steps on a monthly basis.
  7. Track your progress. Make sure your life and ministry are going in the right direction by tracking your progress daily. I list my progress on goals using an online journal, and I find it energizing to see the goals I set for the year being realized. Tracking the progress being made on goals should be part of every meeting agenda for all congregational leadership teams. If deadlines are being missed or projects are delayed, then there needs to be conversation about how to get back on track.
  8. Involve others. Consider using an outside coach to accelerate your efforts. Talk to others who have gone down the same path you’re exploring and learn from their experiences. Invite others to pray for you and your ministries.
  9. Use Wiki-Boards or Google Docs for shared goals. I’m a fan of shared Google Docs where team members can view and edit various ministry plans and projects. It’s a great way to encourage accountability, where team members describe their progress on particular projects or goals. Have participants bookmark the web page to facilitate easy access to the site.
  10. Take time to consider who else you might support: Don’t get so wrapped up in your own goals that you forget how you might support the goals of other lay leaders. A church staff I used to be part of had a ritual of praying for each team member’s monthly, quarterly, and annual goals. These goals were posted on the walls of the conference room where they met each week. As part of their closing prayer, they took two minutes of silence to pray for each other and the goals they had posted on the conference room walls. The pastor commented that this weekly ritual was a simple yet profound reminder that “we’re all on the same team and have a common goal of building God’s kingdom.” He ended by stating, “Just as it’s hard to pray for those we don’t know, it’s hard to collaborate with each other if we don’t know each other’s goals.”

Set SMART Annual Goals

To frame conversation about setting annual goals for a congregation, I usually ask leaders, “In light of your mission, core values, and strategic plan, what do you hope that you will be celebrating a year from now?” After gathering everyone’s feedback and then spending time prioritizing and combining the goals that have been listed, we begin by addressing just one major goal at a time, walking through the SMART goal-setting process:

  • S Make sure the stated goal is specific, addressing the six W questions: Who? What? Where? When? Which? Why?
  • M The goal must be measurable or it’s not a goal. If you can’t determine whether or not the goal has been accomplished, then it’s not measurable.
  • A The goal must build in accountability. Assign a specific individual to take ownership for fulfilling the goal. Most accountability problems within congregations are due to not assigning a person to be responsible for the goal.
  • R The goal must be realistic. Don’t sabotage your efforts by setting the bar too high. It’s simply demotivating when leaders consistently fail to reach their goals due to unrealistic expectations.
  • T The goal must be timely. In my experience if you don’t set time deadlines for your actions, you simply don’t achieve your goals.

Once you’ve completed the SMART goal-setting process for that one goal, the next step is to break down your goal into minigoals that can be accomplished within the next ninety days. After you’ve completed this step, leaders will then spend time breaking down the ninety-day goals into thirty-day tasks. After all the goals, mini-goals, and tasks have been listed, I suggest reordering the list of goals and tasks so that items with the earliest due dates are listed first. Please note that your annual SMART goal document is a working document that needs to be reviewed and updated monthly, with new thirty-day goals being added to the list.

Suggestions for Setting Goals

  • Break thirty-day tasks into bite-sized pieces. Encourage individuals responsible for thirty-day tasks to schedule daily and weekly action steps that will help them reach their goals in a timely manner. Remind people that we can’t do a project—we can only do the next action. Encourage meeting conveners to contact leaders throughout the month to see how they’re coming with their projects. If you don’t know what to do on a daily basis to achieve your goal, then it’s not a goal—it’s a fantasy!
  • Aim for good, not perfect. Sometimes we set the standards unreasonably high, which prevents us from even wanting to start. Balance your desire for perfection with the need to get things done. Does it really have to be perfect to create value?
  • Remind people of the why. The why behind what we do is what keeps people motivated. The why should relate to how lives are being changed as a result of tasks we are working on. It will be easier to sustain momentum for a goal or task if the transformative reason behind it is readily apparent.
  • Refuse to procrastinate. Don’t put off until tomorrow the things that you can do today. Start something today that matters. Procrastination only leads to regret. When I lose steam on my projects, I often read these words attributed to Mark Twain for encouragement: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

QUESTIONS TO RAISE WITH YOUR LEADERS

  1. Does your congregation have a history of setting goals? A history of achieving them?
  2. If your congregation sets goals, do most people in the congregation know what they are?
  3. Do you have a good process for assigning and tracking goals to ensure they are accomplished?
  4. Are goals and actions steps regularly discussed at staff meetings? Leadership meetings?
  5. What might your congregation do differently as a result of reading this chapter?

SAMPLE MINISTRY PLANS REFLECTING SMART GOALS

Annual Goal: Enhance Our Congregation’s
Welcoming Presence to Visitors

  • 30:  Create an undercover greeter job description (Ken)
  • 30:  Schedule extravagant hospitality training dates (Kari)
  • 30: Recruit a trainer to facilitate the hospitality training (Kari)
  • 30: Create a draft of hospitality training objectives and methodologies (Mark)
  • 30: Assemble a website review team (Steve)
  • 90: Complete website audit report to council with recommendations (Steve)
  • 90:Present final draft of hospitality training plans to council (Mark)
  • 90: Train staff and council members in undercover greeting methods (Ken)
  • 360: Launch updated website that is user-friendly for visitors (Steve)
  • 360: Train 90 percent of hospitality team members in extravagant hospitality skills (Kari)
  • 360: Equip paid and elected leaders to be undercover greeters (Ken)

As you coach leaders in your congregation, you may wish to encourage teams to begin by using Tool 25, “Monthly Progress Report,” to highlight the progress they’re making on their goals and the next steps they are taking in the coming month.

Annual Goal: Enhance Our Congregation’s
Welcoming Presence to Visitors

  • 30:  Create an undercover greeter job description (Ken)
  • 30:  Schedule extravagant hospitality training dates (Kari)
  • 30: Recruit a trainer to facilitate the hospitality training (Kari)
  • 30: Create a draft of hospitality training objectives and methodologies (Mark)
  • 30: Assemble a website review team (Steve)
  • 90: Complete website audit report to council with recommendations (Steve)
  • 90:Present final draft of hospitality training plans to council (Mark)
  • 90: Train staff and council members in undercover greeting methods (Ken)
  • 360: Launch updated website that is user-friendly for visitors (Steve)
  • 360: Train 90 percent of hospitality team members in extravagant hospitality skills (Kari)
  • 360: Equip paid and elected leaders to be undercover greeters (Ken)

As you coach leaders in your congregation, you may wish to encourage teams to begin by using Tool 25, “Monthly Progress Report,” to highlight the progress they’re making on their goals and the next steps they are taking in the coming month.

Annual Goal: Enhance Our Congregation’s
Welcoming Presence to Visitors

  • 30:  Create an undercover greeter job description (Ken)
  • 30:  Schedule extravagant hospitality training dates (Kari)
  • 30: Recruit a trainer to facilitate the hospitality training (Kari)
  • 30: Create a draft of hospitality training objectives and methodologies (Mark)
  • 30: Assemble a website review team (Steve)
  • 90: Complete website audit report to council with recommendations (Steve)
  • 90:Present final draft of hospitality training plans to council (Mark)
  • 90: Train staff and council members in undercover greeting methods (Ken)
  • 360: Launch updated website that is user-friendly for visitors (Steve)
  • 360: Train 90 percent of hospitality team members in extravagant hospitality skills (Kari)
  • 360: Equip paid and elected leaders to be undercover greeters (Ken)

As you coach leaders in your congregation, you may wish to encourage teams to begin by using Tool 25, “Monthly Progress Report,” to highlight the progress they’re making on their goals and the next steps they are taking in the coming month.

Annual Goal: Enhance Our Congregation’s
Welcoming Presence to Visitors

  • 30:  Create an undercover greeter job description (Ken)
  • 30:  Schedule extravagant hospitality training dates (Kari)
  • 30: Recruit a trainer to facilitate the hospitality training (Kari)
  • 30: Create a draft of hospitality training objectives and methodologies (Mark)
  • 30: Assemble a website review team (Steve)
  • 90: Complete website audit report to council with recommendations (Steve)
  • 90:Present final draft of hospitality training plans to council (Mark)
  • 90: Train staff and council members in undercover greeting methods (Ken)
  • 360: Launch updated website that is user-friendly for visitors (Steve)
  • 360: Train 90 percent of hospitality team members in extravagant hospitality skills (Kari)
  • 360: Equip paid and elected leaders to be undercover greeters (Ken)

As you coach leaders in your congregation, you may wish to encourage teams to begin by using Tool 25, “Monthly Progress Report,” to highlight the progress they’re making on their goals and the next steps they are taking in the coming month.

Annual Goal: Enhance Our Congregation’s
Welcoming Presence to Visitors

  • 30:  Create an undercover greeter job description (Ken)
  • 30:  Schedule extravagant hospitality training dates (Kari)
  • 30: Recruit a trainer to facilitate the hospitality training (Kari)
  • 30: Create a draft of hospitality training objectives and methodologies (Mark)
  • 30: Assemble a website review team (Steve)
  • 90: Complete website audit report to council with recommendations (Steve)
  • 90:Present final draft of hospitality training plans to council (Mark)
  • 90: Train staff and council members in undercover greeting methods (Ken)
  • 360: Launch updated website that is user-friendly for visitors (Steve)
  • 360: Train 90 percent of hospitality team members in extravagant hospitality skills (Kari)
  • 360: Equip paid and elected leaders to be undercover greeters (Ken)

As you coach leaders in your congregation, you may wish to encourage teams to begin by using Tool 25, “Monthly Progress Report,” to highlight the progress they’re making on their goals and the next steps they are taking in the coming month.

Annual Goal: Enhance Our Congregation’s
Welcoming Presence to Visitors

  • 30:  Create an undercover greeter job description (Ken)
  • 30:  Schedule extravagant hospitality training dates (Kari)
  • 30: Recruit a trainer to facilitate the hospitality training (Kari)
  • 30: Create a draft of hospitality training objectives and methodologies (Mark)
  • 30: Assemble a website review team (Steve)
  • 90: Complete website audit report to council with recommendations (Steve)
  • 90:Present final draft of hospitality training plans to council (Mark)
  • 90: Train staff and council members in undercover greeting methods (Ken)
  • 360: Launch updated website that is user-friendly for visitors (Steve)
  • 360: Train 90 percent of hospitality team members in extravagant hospitality skills (Kari)
  • 360: Equip paid and elected leaders to be undercover greeters (Ken)

As you coach leaders in your congregation, you may wish to encourage teams to begin by using Tool 25, “Monthly Progress Report,” to highlight the progress they’re making on their goals and the next steps they are taking in the coming month.