Goals Are Good, Initiatives Are Better

by Frank Bealer

The goal was clear. There was one objective, stop the soccer ball. With both goalies injured, and only minutes left in the game, I found myself shifted from my regular position as midfielder to goalie. The other team was set up for a penalty kick. If the ball went in, we lost. If I could stop it, play would continue. (An important side note, I had zero experience as goalie.)

As the opposing team’s best player walked out on the field and all eyes in the stadium were on us, the referee blew his whistle. In a matter of moments, the fate of the game would be decided. A second later, I looked down to find the ball in my hands. The other player had struck the ground as he was kicking, and the ball gently rolled my direction as though it had been pushed by a toddler. Goal achieved!

Our team was excited. I was ecstatic. Play continued and within moments the game was over. We lost. I couldn’t stop the next powerful shot that came my way. Goal NOT achieved.

You’ve probably recently set some goals for your ministry—an attendance goal, a retention goal, a first time guest goal, a volunteer goal, a connectivity goal. In only a few months, you’ll determine whether you achieved those goals or not. It can be uplifting and discouraging and not incredibly helpful.

I’m learning that having goals simply isn’t enough. What’s underneath those goals is what matters. I’m not referring to intention. I’m assuming your reasoning is sound, and your intentions are pure. I’m talking about initiatives. Initiatives are the measures you take to reach your goals.

Let’s work through an example that demonstrates the importance of initiatives.

Goal: Grow our student ministry to a regular attendance of 75 students (10 week average).

In December, you sit down with your supervisor and team to evaluate the year’s success. You only averaged 67 students weekly. Goal NOT achieved. You then begin to evaluate your strategies to determine why your goal wasn’t reached. There are any number of things you could blame: your Lead Pastor retired causing a significant fluctuation in attendance; a new campus was launched and several families were sent out as part of the launch team; a change in schedule moved all high school football games to the night of your programming . . . the list goes on and on. If you’re not careful, this end-of-year assessment will be ineffective and discouraging. You’ll leave the meeting with new goals that may or may not be attainable and a plan to try harder next year.

On another note, the opposite could also be true. You may have achieved your goal with little to no responsibility for your success.

Herein lies the problem with goals. They don’t give us enough to evaluate. Initiatives bridge the gap between where we are and where we want to be by providing clear steps to pursue our goals.

Let’s take a look at our previous example, but this time start by putting clear and measurable initiatives in place.

Goal: Grow our student ministry to a regular attendance of 75 students (10 week average)

Initiatives:

  1. Call every first time guest within 48 hours of attending. (This will allow us to get feedback and make an immediate connection.)
  2. Have every small group leader update rosters monthly. (This will help us make sure students aren’t falling through the cracks.)
  3. Equip students with three business card invites and three social media images to use to invite their friends to church. Update quarterly.
  4. Take strategic steps during our big summer event to connect first time attendees with other students in the same season of life. (Through marketing, group placement, talking points, follow up, etc.)

In December, you sit down with your supervisor and team to evaluate the year. You only reached 67 students. Goal NOT achieved. Unlike before, now the conversation shifts towards appraising your initiatives. Did you complete your first initiative? Yes. Did you complete your second initiative? Not really, we started but never really followed up with group leaders. How about number three? Yes, sort of. We handed out the business cards, but never put together a social media strategy. What about the final initiative? No, never did anything with it.

Now the conversation shifts from, “What went wrong?” to “Why didn’t we complete these initiatives?” If you completed all initiatives and still did not achieve your goal then the problem lies in the effectiveness of your initiatives. At least you have a starting point for next year. Essentially, you are removing the independent variables from the equation and focusing on what you can control. If you look back at the first example, you will see how the initiatives to grow the student ministry can be executed despite all the other circumstances.

I’m convinced goals are better when supported by initiatives.

Take a look at your goals, and build out initiatives. See what you can accomplish if your steps strategically move you toward your goal.

Frank is the family pastor at Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, overseeing staff, volunteers, and curriculum development for more than a dozen locations. He is driven to develop leaders to reach their full potential. Frank is married to Jessica and together they have three children. Find him online at leade3.com or Twitter.

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