The crowd at my local YMCA is getting thinner. And I’m not talking about waistlines. Approximately six weeks into the new year many who set the goal to “lose weight and get in shape” are no longer working on that goal. The thinning crowd is one example of how stating a goal is easy, but reaching a goal will require more of you than you thought. The same is true for your pastoral ministry. Someone, somewhere once said, “Goals are dreams with deadlines.”
What then are some ways we can keep our dreams alive?
First, intentionally set clear goals. Whatever your goal is, it must be clear. Clear goals have three criteria. First, goals must be specific. State exactly what you want to happen. How should this time next year be different from today?
Second, goals must timely. You must impose a deadline for your goal. Without a deadline, the goal lacks urgency. Without urgency, a goal will always be something you’ll get to, someday.
Third, you must be able to measure your goal. What qualitative and quantitative metrics can your goal be measured by? What counts gets measured. Clear goals are specific, timely and measurable.
Second, intentionally build some accountability. To reach your goals is it critical that you are accountable to someone. Even if that someone is yourself.
The simplest way to hold yourself accountable to your goals is a piece of paper and pen. On your paper write down your goal then track every action you take to reach that goal. For example, one of my goals this year is to make three-to-four intentional pastoral care contacts every week. To keep myself accountable to this goal I have used a spreadsheet software to generate a form with two columns a row for each week. The first column is labeled “intentional,” the second “impromptu.” At the beginning of my week, I write down who I want to intentionally contact for pastoral care purposes. In the “impromptu” column I track all those unexpected moments of pastoral care. This crude analog system has both held me accountable to my goal and has captured those unanticipated moments of pastoral care the Lord had already planned that week.
The point is simply this. Whether you have a person or a piece of paper you need accountability to reach your goal.
Lastly, intentionally reflect on your progress four times a year—weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually. Take time every week to look at what was accomplished and left undone from the previous week. A time of weekly review is most effective on Sunday afternoon, evening, or first thing Monday morning. Every month look at the progress you making towards your goal. If you are tracking some data you should be able to see some form of progress.
Additionally, take some time before the beginning of every quarter to pray and plan. You really need to reserve half- to a full-day three times a year to do this. Then once a year schedule time to step away from the busyness of ministry and life to seek the Lord, reflect on what has happened the previous year, and set goals for the coming season. For example, set time in December to pray and establish goals for the coming year. In March, June and September take time to review and plan for the coming quarter.
Carving time to plan is very difficult for busy people because immediately they think, “I have too much to do to set aside time to do that.” However, taking this time has over and over again proven vital. Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” The time invested to prepare for the next season of life and ministry will create great return. Isaiah 32:8 reminds us that, “He who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands.” Take some time to plan.
Setting and reaching goals in your pastoral ministry will require more of you than you first thought. You must not only establish clear goals but also a process to regularly and honestly hold yourself accountable to reaching your goals. The key difference between reaching your goals and seeing them fall by the wayside is your system of accountability and regular review.