Goals Are Good, Initiatives Are Better

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.