I’m not much of a video game buff. I find them, largely, uninteresting. There are a couple, two to be precise, that I have to be careful with though. These are story driven games whose quests draw me in with a very specific strategy: A long-term goal led along by short-term goals. In these games there is a long-term goal (the quest) and the player completes the quest by completing short-term tasks. I can be a pretty task-oriented person, and I get drawn in by the story through the various goals. When I look at how I lead the church I have to wonder if I couldn’t take a lesson from this and be more effective leading and growing the church by simply setting and communicating clear goals.
Think about this, every great story has its roots the The Story of God’s gospel: An almighty, loving God betrayed by his creation for whom he makes great sacrifice to redeem and rescue. It is the most compelling story ever to unfold, and the church has it! It seems that, especially in our day, we have trouble engaging church members with that story and seeing them grow in maturity. I believe this is due to a lack of goals that help this amazing narrative come alive for them.
As followers of Jesus we need to understand where Jesus is leading us, personally. The long term goal, generally speaking is the same: to become like Christ. How we communicate that long-term goal to our church fellowships will vary, depending on the character of each fellowship. How we understand that long-term goal will vary, but we need to prayerfully consider what God is doing, long-term, in our lives and our fellowship so we can communicate that to our congregations and hold up the expectation of each person attaining to that goal.
This is a marathon, not a sprint. The long-term goal could take years to realize, and that can create a real problem. We started a Bible study on Sunday mornings. The goal was to read through the New Testament. The plan was to read a chapter a week, but as they got into it the pace slowed down, sometimes spending three weeks on a single chapter. They began in January with about 25 people (a huge group for our little church). As I write this in August, they just finished Matthew and have about 4 people still attending. If you have had classes or programs that have run more than 10 weeks, you probably have experienced the same phenomenon. When the end is so far away that they can’t see it, the group loses momentum and motivation, and people drop out. The long-term goal is vital, so we cannot allow that to happen. We need to maintain momentum and motivation through short-term goals along the way.
Short-term goals build confidence and enthusiasm as members and church fellowship experience victory and success. In his book, Be A Motivational Leader, LeRoy Eims says, “Breaking a project down into small, bite-sized units that are reachable keeps people going…It is important to help people attain some goals, to give them the sense of accomplishment, and help them gain momentum.” As we walk with people through achieving short-term goals the not only gain measurable success, but they learn to trust the leadership, they experience God more deeply, and learn to see the process of growth and development which they can employ for their won walk, or lead others through.
How would you define and communicate the long-term goal of your ministry? What expectations would you set, generally, for the members of your church fellowship? What short-term goals would you set for helping the membership reach that long-term goal and how can you structure the church to make those goals accessible and attainable?