GPS is a wonderful invention.
All one has to do is either type in (or speak) a destination, and step-by-step directions are provided to get there.
I must say, however, that I often pull up an overview map that shows me the “big picture” of how I will get there as well as some perspective on the arrival point. I like clarity about where I am going to end up.
Author Lewis Carroll wrote, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Before you depart on a journey, it is a good idea to know where you are going.
As a church makes decisions about the change it wishes to initiate, there should be clarity about the desired future before planning on how to get there.
This is the desired goal the church is working toward – more engaged worshippers, expanded ministry to the community or a great commitment on the part of participants to Christian formation, for example.
There will always be those who resist setting goals. Several objections often surface.
First, there is the argument that the church is a spiritual concern, not a business endeavor, and goals are secular.
These people overlook the fact that the church has a bank account, a budget, pays staff, follows fire codes and so on.
Certainly, the work of the church is spiritual in nature rather than profit-generating, but this does not mean that there should not be clarity and a direction for the work of the church.
The Gospels indicate that Jesus had a clear idea of where he was going and stayed the course to the end.
There are any number of examples of believers who set goals in their own lives for Christian growth and service. Goals can be very spiritual.
Second, some argue that we don’t know what the future holds, perhaps citing James 4:13 about the uncertainty of the future.
This is a good argument, but there is nothing to prohibit us from modifying or changing goals to meet new challenges and circumstances. In fact, to do otherwise would be foolish.
Third, there is always the situation where someone says, “We did that years ago, but those goals were just put in the file and forgotten.”
The problem here is not in the process but in the execution. Goals give us direction, purpose and a challenge to plan.
Once we set our goal, we begin to design ways to reach the goal, using all of the creativity and curiosity that we can muster.
If there is a fear of trying something new or attempting an especially challenging goal, it might be helpful to conduct small “experiments.”
When we experiment, we are making a low level commitment to try something new, but we can learn things even when the attempt is limited.
For example, if the church is thinking about adding a worship service, leadership may suggest that a first step might be to do some interviewing or a survey to see who would be interested in attending or leading the new service.
A more extensive experiment would be to do a pilot offering for a couple of weeks as a “test run.” The next step might be to schedule the service for a limited period of time – three to four months – to see if it gains traction.
Each step can provide more information about the best way to pursue the goal.
Goals stretch us and encourage us to try new things for the Kingdom of God. They open new doors for ministry.
Ircel Harrison is coaching coordinator for Pinnacle Leadership Associates and is associate professor of ministry praxis at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. A version of this column first appeared on his blog, Barnabas File, and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @ircel.