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As we approach a New Year, thoughts turn toward the future and what’s next. If you’re having an end-of-the-year connect with your group members in-person or online, ask them: What does God want to do in and through our group this next year / season? Once you get a sense of what this looks like, create a plan that’s driven by goals for achieving that vision.
There’s nothing unspiritual or unbiblical about goal-setting. Setting goals is a way to pursue the things the Lord puts in our hearts to do for His glory. It’s more about worshipful surrender than humanistic self-sufficiency. Proverbs 16:3 embodies the spirit behind this spiritually-submitted goal-setting: “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” Plus, it would be hard to read through the book of Acts and argue that the Apostle Paul was not a goal-setter, considering he said, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me…Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12b-14).
If you don’t know where to begin with your goal-setting try these fundamental questions:
- Who are we?
- Who do we want to become?
- How do we get there?
- How do we bring others along with us?
Goals will help people to envision desired outcomes of your group and the motivational steps to get there – they tell you the “how” and “when” of your small group’s life together. These practical guidelines can help you formulate your goals with your group:
- Ask each person how they want to grow early in your small group’s new or next season of life together. You might want to encourage your group members to use a tool like the Spiritual Health Assessment and Spiritual Planner beforehand to help them assess their “vital signs” and target areas where they need to grow stronger.
- Involve everyone in the process of formulating and refining your small group’s goals and talk about how they tie into each person’s vision for personal growth. Take it a step further and talk about how each group member can champion aspects of your goals based on their God-given spiritual gifts.
- Your goals will stick and be inspirational if they are S.M.A.R.T.: Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, Timely. (In his book, Planning Small Groups With Purpose, Steve Gladen shares about how to do this for every part of your small group ministry.)
- Make your goals faith-stretching, but attainable so that your small group members will be encouraged to help one another pursue them. Be clear and simple – your group members shouldn’t have a hard time recalling and articulating what success looks like.
- Check-in with your small group members about how their personal growth goals are coming along and use that as an opportunity to recast your group’s goals (vice-versa).
There are several benefits to taking the time to develop thoughtful goals with your small group because it…
- Fosters group interdependence (as opposed to individualism) as each one supports one another toward the same objectives (Ecc 4:9-12; Acts 4:32a).
- Cultivates community, coordinates ministry, and instills a greater sense of meaning and purpose to your small group meetings (Philippians 2:2).
- Focuses your small group’s priorities and directs the investment of its time, energy, and resources.
- Provides a reason for rejoicing as your small group fulfills its God-given purpose.
- Stimulates creativity, endurance, and transformation in your small group as you move closer to the goals you’ve fashioned together.
God uses goal-setting in transformational ways in the lives of the people who make up your small group so find out what He is already at work doing in your group…then organize for it! The Lord will guide you and your group members as you collaboratively and creatively work out His plan for your small group! We should not be shy about setting goals as long as we are seeking His will and committing our way to Him (Psalm 37:5).