One of my favorite stories regarding the value of goal setting is about a study done of the graduating class of Yale University in 1953. Only 3% had written down goals. Twenty years later, in 1973 a follow up study was done. It was discovered that this 3% with written down goals were worth more, in financial terms, than the other 97% combined.
But modern psychology did not invent goal setting. Paul referred to goal setting in this famous passage:
What do goals do for us?
Goals benefit us in a variety of ways. They make us more productive. We get more done. Goals simplify decision making. When faced with a difficult decision, we simply ask the question: will this move me away from or toward my goal?
Goals make life fun. They make life into a game, a sport, an adventure. We are not just stuffing envelopes; we are trying to stuff X envelops in Y amount of time. The goal makes a game of it and turns a routine task into a sport.
Goals put a man on the moon. Goals help us to lose weight, get out of debt, and grow our Sunday School. Goals help us to do what we want to do with our lives.
Three kinds of goals
Goals take on a variety of shapes and sizes. We have the big picture goal of a grand vision for our lives. More useful are specific, time oriented goals. As we reach these specific, time oriented goals, they help us fulfill the big dream.
Goals are sometimes written in terms of outcome: I want to sell so many widgets this year. Better goals are written in terms of behavior you can control: I want to make so many presentations this year. Realistically, we need a bit of both. We want to sell so many widgets so we need to make so many presentations. But, if we make the presentations and don't reach the outcome goal, we need to rethink the methods.
This is just where many churches, I believe, get in trouble with goal setting, if they do any goal setting at all. They either set a goal for outcome (attendance of X) with no specific goals in terms of behavior (we will give Y Friday nights to Jesus), or the goal is written strictly in terms of behavior (We want to make Z number of visits) without evaluating with the behavior gets the results we want.
In church, we call this faithfulness: "I know that no one is responding to ______________ (name your methodology) but we just keep being faithful. Clearer thinking calls that insanity--doing the same things expecting different results.
God has given us a predictable universe. It is called the law of sowing and reaping, and it is in the Bible. You reap what you sow. This is why if you plant a Saddleback style church in a Saddleback like environment you will get Saddleback style results. This is roughly what you see in churches like Northpoint in greater Atlanta and Fellowship Church in Dallas.
Similarly, if you use methods that didn't work last year and you use the same methods this year, you can expect to get the same results. You get the same results, by the way, even if you pray about it, in the same way that a farmer that plants corn and prays for beans will get corn. Never use spirituality to contradict God's law of sowing an reaping.
So, we need big picture goals, we need behavior goals and we need to short-term outcome goals.
Goals and failure
I was talking to my kids about goals the other day and one of them quoted a line from the movie, Dodge Ball. It went something like, "If you never set goals, then you can never fail, and that feels pretty good."
I disagree. You are going to fail whether or not you set goals. The difference is, if you set goals, you can discover the failure in a timely manner and do something about it.
If I don't set any goals as far as health and losing weight, it is true that I will never get on the scales and be frustrated that I haven't lost more weight. In fact, I may never get on the scales at all. But I will still fail to be healthy. Lack of goals don't make me healthy; they just keep me out of touch with how bad it is.
One of the great things about goals is you are able to see your failure. In fact, if you achieve all your goals, you are probably not setting your goals high enough. The great thing about failure is you you can make corrections.
My goals and yours
Here are some of my goals for 2005:
Here are some goals I recommend for every Sunday School teacher:
Here are some goals I recommend for every church:
What are your goals for next year? Write me at email@example.com
A big goal for all of us
My big life vocational goal is to see Southern Baptists reach 20 million in small group/ Sunday School attendance by the year 2020. I'd like to ask you to give yourself to this goal as well. We can do it through groups that double every two years or less. I need you to double a group, and teach others to do so.
Dream great dreams for God. Dream no small dreams. Dream big dreams, dreams worthy of our big God.