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Tag Archives | goals

GUEST POST: Plans Change, Goals Remain

Making goals and setting plans to achieve those goals is a valuable task for anyone who wants to learn and grow to become a better them. But an important part of making goals is being open to a different road toward achieving those goals. Plans do not always work out as planned, life happens and sometimes God sees a better direction for you to get there and plans fail.

Just recently, I was denied admission to my college of choice. I may have been denied admission, but my ultimate goal has not been denied. This is a time for me to look back at what steps toward that goal have been set and with God’s guidance, tweak them some. For example, I had plans of moving, working and getting established in a new city over the Summer, then start school in the Fall. Although sometimes plans failing means a complete re-evaluation, the plan here hasn’t changed much at all. Still moving, still working over the Summer…only with the new plan, I will reapply until I gain admission, have longer to establish my son and myself in the new city, and work until I receive admission. All of which leads to more cash flow and less of a rush getting established before school!

See, God has a way of working all things together for our good. Even if I did not realize the good in this plan, there is good in every one of God’s plans. God sees life from a unique perspective that we cannot grasp. He sees situations with eternity in mind, not just the here and now. That’s why Jesus was able to bear the cross for our sins. Because He wasn’t looking at the pain, He was looking at the victory to be won! When plans fail, don’t give up on the vision God has given you. Seek God for the new path you should take. “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” (Proverbs 21:5)

What encouragement can you give to someone to keep going after their goal even after their original plans have failed? 

Ashley Fordinal is the Children’s Church volunteer at Family Life Church in Sulphur Springs, TX.

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New Goals For The New Year

I used to start out the school year with the attitude, “This is the year!”.  This would be the year I:

  • Get better grades.
  • Ask out that girl.
  • Make varsity and start.
  • Make the honor roll

And each year, maybe one of those things would happen.  In the new year I would have a similar attitude.  I would exclaim, “This is the year!” This would be the year I:

  • Get in shape.
  • Ask out that girl.
  • Lose weight

And each, year maybe one of those things would happen.  It wasn’t that I was bad at setting goals, I just couldn’t keep them.

If you want your ministry to grow and move, it’s going to need you setting goals.  It’s going to need you dreaming big and casting vision.  The problem is that many of us hold back from dreaming big or setting new goals because it’s intimidating.  The idea of failing at your goals can be embarrassing and deflating.  To overcome those feelings you need to look at how you approach your goals.  To set proper goals and keep them for the new year make sure you:

  • Write Them Down: When you write down a goal you give it weight.  It becomes tangible and real, which means it’s hard to ignore.  Whether you write down your dreams in a journal or a post it in front of you, make sure it’s recorded and not forgotten.
  • Put Together A Plan: It’s one thing to dream, it’s another to work towards achieving them.  To reach your goals it’s important to put together a plan.  That plan might involve research or setting mini goals that lead to the big one.  No matter the plan make sure it’s there to help you move forward.
  • Share It With Others: Sharing your goals (And your plans) with others brings you accountability and additional resources.  Tell someone or a group of people what you hope to do.  Give them permission to ask you about it.  Someone might have a connection or ability to help you achieve them.  People will cheer you on and help you through the challenges.  Get them out there.
  • Celebrate Small Milestones: As you get closer to achieving your goals, celebrate.  Buy yourself a special coffee drink or throw yourself a party.  Share your accomplishments on social media and create some hype.  The more excitement around a goal the more you will build momentum.
  • Pray On It: It seems so obvious; however, it cannot be repeated enough.  Share your goals with God and see how He’ll work through them.  You might have the right intentions or a great vision; however, no strategy.  God’s going to give you that strategy.  He’s going to give you the resources and people you need to accomplish them, you just need to work on trusting Him.

Setting goals are easy, it’s keeping them that’s the challenge.  Make sure you take your dreams and give them weight.  Do not hold onto them secretly, and trust that God is working through you to accomplish them all.

What goals do you have for the new year?

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Making Prayer Lists


I have gotten to spend the last two New Years with my wife. She is awesome by the way. We started this tradition last year and we continued to do it again this year. Basically what we do is into Starbucks and I get my regular iced coffee with two pumps of vanilla and Kristin will get a grande iced 4 pump vanilla chai with no water extra ice in a venti cup (complicated I know) and we will go to the local park with a lake and reflect on the last year of our lives and talk about how we would like to see God move in our lives in the coming year. This has quickly become one of our favorite traditions that we get to do as husband and wife. I take out my Evernote app on my phone and we take a look at last years list and we begin to go down it and start to cross off all of the things we put down as prayers that we have seen God answer in the last year. One of the best ways to see how much God has truly moved in your life is to be able to really look back and see how God has answered your prayers. Writing them down helps you in this process.

Then we make a new list for this year and just start listing our goals/dreams/prayers of both of our lives. It could be something simple or it could be something what we deem impossible and we would need God to pull through in a huge way. It doesn’t matter. If it’s on our hearts it’s on the list. We then take a few minutes and pray for those things on the list and thank God for the answered ones from last year, and every month or so we open it up again and we will add new things on there as the year goes on. It’s probably not the best way to do it, there are probably better ways to do it but it works for us so far and we really enjoy it so I thought I would share and maybe you can try it with your spouse if you have never done it or if you are single it’s still a great exercise to do as well.

I highly recommend it. When it comes to a year, goals, and prayers one of the best things you can do is talk about them with someone you care about and then give it to God who handles all of those things.

Here is how we break down our list:

  • Places we want to go to and visit or see. We want to go to New York on vacation, just us two.
  • Personal goals and prayers. We both have members in our family who don’t know Jesus and we hope we can be a light to them and look for opportunities to minister to them. We also have been trying to buy a house for a year, so that’s a big one.
  • Spiritual. I want to do a 24 hour get away/prayer/fast thing just to reflect and spend some intense time with God. I never have done something like that before.
  • Ministry prayers and goals. I want to make it a goal to meet with 1-2 leaders a week. 1-2 students a week for one-on-ones.

It’s easy, but beneficial. I challenge you to try it if you don’t already. If you do, what does your look like?

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Get The Creative Process Flowing

One of the challenges I feel in youth ministry is to constantly produce messages, activities, small group questions, videos, and reflections.  In order to stay ahead of the curve and come up with different ideas and components my volunteer team and I need a creative process.  It allows us to stay fresh and relevant in an ever changing world.

To produce a growing and moving youth ministry you need a creative process.  Along with producing materials you need to make sure you have a system dedicated to brainstorming ideas and thinking outside the box.  The question is, “What does this system look like?”  Your creative process should include:

  • Making Capturing Ideas A Habit: You need to create an idea bank.  In other words make sure you are capturing, writing and recording every idea that comes to mind.  Whether it’s using software like Evernote or traditional methods like a notebook, make sure you get it down. You might not know what to do with it right away; however, it could be something useful for later.
  • Building In Time To Dream: When you give yourself permission to day dream, you allow ideas to percolate and grow.  Building in time to dream might mean quiet time in the morning or doing something mindless like washing the dishes.  Slow yourself down, reflect, think and again make sure you record whatever comes to mind.
  • Setting Deadlines And Goals: The creative process takes a lot of intangible disciplines; however, it also takes firm ones too.  Create deadlines for projects so that the sense of urgency will move you forward.  It’s easy to get stuck on an idea and the risk is overworking it pass perfection.  It’s similar to over seasoning a sauce, too much time and you might ruin it.
  • Delegating And Clarifying Action Steps: You might come up with all the ideas on your own; however, you need people to help you make them happen.  Whenever brainstorming make sure there is a next step, even if it’s just to revisit an idea.  When you have action steps it assures that ideas are never lost in the pages of a notebook or subfile in your computer.
  • Creating Accountability: Have people check-in with you or your team to see how the project or idea is coming.  Give them details like deadlines so that they can remind you what’s coming up.  Sometimes you might feel like holding back on an idea because it’s personal.  Having accountability will encourage you to share the idea and be bold.

To be truly creative means having a creative process.  Create mile markers and a framework for the flow.  Be intentional about what you do and dream big.  By having a creative process you’ll help your ministry grow into a movement that is impacting in lives.

What’s a part of your creative process?

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Fresh Start for Everyone

The start of school is a fresh start for our students. New clothes, new school supplies and another chance to start over at school. I happen to think it is a great time for us, youth workers to try some new things too.

Each Fall, I seem to start to get into a similar ebb and flow…a routine. It can be easy to get in a rut. I posted a list of reminders for myself- things I wanted to be about EVEN when the “routine” takes over my days.


I chose daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly reminders or goals. These goals are about being intentional as a shepherd, staying creative, cultivating relationships and about growing as a leader.

Daily- Praying and caring for students – this year I am focusing on praying for 5 high schools that surround our church.

Weekly- Encouraging leaders and students with written notes – 5 students//5 leaders

Monthly- Celebrating our leaders at our midweek gathering, trying something new in our Sunday programming, read a new ministry book (What are you reading right now?)

Quarterly- Intentional hang time with interns- focusing on the females on the team, review and evaluate our Sunday programming


I’ve hung them above my computer, that way I see them every day and I am reminded of the things that are important in the middle of the chaos.

What are you trying new right now? How do you keep growing in the midst of the craziness of youth ministry? What are specific ways that you remind yourself of your goals?

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Setting Goals For Small Groups

I am a goal setter. It’s how I can tell if I am successful in what I am doing. I think successful small groups are the ones that set goals for the year. A lot of the time, leaders do not really set goals for the small groups they are leading. They just simply meet. Which is great. Which is part of it, but not all of it.

When leaders set goals for their groups, they know what they are striving for. When students set goals for the group, they know what they are striving for. Goals can be different for each group, leader, and student but going on for the year without goals you will never know if your group is growing the way you want it to grow.

Here are some great goal ideas leaders and students to go through the year:

Numerical Growth Goals: As a leader I love to see something grow. Setting a numerical goal might be something you and your group want to do. Maybe you want to see more students come to your small group. So put it out to your students in the group that you want a 3 person growth by the end of the semester. Set that goal. Have the group go for it.

Scripture Goals: Set what books of the Bible the group wants to go through and in how much time. Maybe it’s a goal to memorize a Bible verse a week. Students can help come up with the goals in the beginning of the year and see if they can reach them before the summer time.

Serving Goals: Have you and your students set a goal on how many serve projects they want to complete for the year. You can check to see what your church has to offer for local community service. I do have to say, the times I serve with my boys are some of the great moments our group has had. It pulls them out of their comfort zones and right into being the heads and feet of Jesus.

Parental Goals: Being a small group leader of students means you are going to be dealing with their parents. Think of some parental goals you might want to set for you as the leader. Some goals I set for myself with my parents is to make sure I send out an email with our study materials once a month. To make sure to talk with them every time I drop one of them off somewhere of if they are being dropped off somewhere.

Setting goals for your group will help you determine growth and to see where you have been. I would suggest you and your group set some sort goals to make sure you are growing in some way.

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5 Steps toward the death of “to-do” lists (part 3…final)

Okay…so today’s post has pushed me to my WordPress limits. As a rookie blogger/formatter, I’ve tried my best to make this happen to answer your questions and show you this process and it’s not pretty…but, here goes.

For any of this to make sense, it would be best to refer back to part 1 and part 2.

Now, I’ll attempt to show you a graphic for each of these steps (oh, I wish I had a WordPress assistant…actually, any type of assistant would be nice):
1. I determine my roles
2. I list my weekly goals under my roles
3. I project a time for each goal
4. I block out my meetings and/or programs
5. I assign a time slot for each of my goals

I chose the above 5 steps as the clearest way to explain it (as I thought they were the most sequential and the easiest way to follow), but I prepare my personal calendar in a slightly different order, and I’ll walk you thru my process and try to answer your questions at the same time. Obviously, if you choose to try something different than the never-ending to-do list, you will have to massage these steps (and make up your own) into something that works best for you.

I have my roles already determined
This is the master page that doesn’t change. I’ve relied on the same roles for years. You’ll notice MYLC, it stands for “Making Young Lives Count” which was the name for my “outside of the church/ministry world” gig prior to Simply Youth Ministry.

I block out my meetings and/or programs
Many of these are weekly programs that are constant, some are newly assigned meetings that I’ve previously set up, and some are simply “blocks of time” that I know I want to keep open. For example, this week, I know I’m keeping open two lunches for some of the boys in my small group. I don’t know which guys I’ll be meeting with yet, but I want to leave a couple time slots open (which I’ll schedule at my small group tonight). At this point, there are no to-do’s listed…just programs and scheduled people meetings.

I list my weekly goals under my roles
When I spend time to prepare my week, I refer to a simple sheet of paper where I gather all the things that I know I need to do or the ones I want to do (which could be called a to-do list). But, instead of writing everything down in a long list and using that as my to-do list, I assign every action to one of my roles. This is what it looks like (prepare to be underwhelmed).

It’s a very simple form and I use this form to transfer over the essential items that I want/need to accomplish during the week. I know I can’t do everything, so I just choose the ones that are the most important.

I project a time for each goal
I don’t have a graphic for this action mostly because I’ve added this step over the last few years (since PDYM was published) to help me be more realistic for the final step. Previously, I would try to cram several “to-do” items in a 1 hour time slot and then be frustrated that I didn’t get everything done. Now, I add a projected time-allotment for each item so I can’t “fool myself” as easily.

I assign a time slot for each of my goals
This is my final step. The big idea here is that if I don’t treat these projects as a time appointment, I will end up doing the easiest ones first and the difficult (and often most important ones) ones will pressure me at the last minute. This pressure not only adds unneeded stress to my life, but it assures the action doesn’t get my best attention/focus.

Okay, there it is. I had a youth ministry friend recreate this form (kind of) in an excel spreadsheet that you are more than welcome to download here. If you’d like to create other tools (or a more accurate excel of the above form) that you think would be helpful for ministry leaders, I’ll be happy to attach them.

Here are the questions I heard you asking in part 1 & 2:

Tucker: “I’m very curious about how I can transfer this list to my phone and therefore my calendar.”

Me: I don’t know. I’m old school and love paper. My gathering list is a mini-piece of art that doodle on and live from. I do transfer all of my appointments to my online calendar so I have long-term record of them.

Alice: “I’m interested in how long this takes you each week to do.”

Me: Now, it takes me 15-25 minutes every week. When I first started, it could take me up to an hour (and save me several hours of non-productive pain). I actually had Cathy help me with it because I wanted to make sure I had all of the family events on the calendar. She enjoyed participating with this process because she could weigh in on things. Plus, when I didn’t manage my time it added stress to our family.

Nathan: “When do you sit down and do this?”

Me: Either late Sunday night or some time Monday. I prefer to do it Sunday so I don’t have to think about anything on my day off, but if Cathy and I take a little time for  calendar discussion on Monday, I’ll quickly make it happen.

Jeremiah: “I’ve recently added the step of at least logging my hours to my calendar. So the number of hours I work on ministry items isn’t just some fuzzy number I pull out of the air.”

Me: I LOVE this idea. I’ve been doing that for 20+ years because I don’t want anyone to ever question my schedule. If people want to know what I’m doing with my time and who I’m with, it’s well documented. Way to go!

Carter: “I am usually working out of the urgent/important box of my life which, at times, takes the focus off the big picture and the passion seems to fizzle. How does this schedule help plan for the future to get you out of that box?”

Me: This has been the greatest tool to help me be future-oriented. If I don’t give future projects a specific time…they never happen and my life is simply managed by what’s most urgent.

Brendon: “How did you determine which [roles] got more and which got less?”

Me: When I was working full-time in the church (my goal was 50 hours a week) I tried to give each of the 5 “work” roles 10 hours each. It was not always that neat and tidy. The “developer” role (which was where I was most creative) always seemed to get the short end of my time (usually replaced by the urgent).

This isn’t the perfect system! But, it has kept me from being managed by the urgent of my job and everyone’s expectations. It also puts me in control of my time and doesn’t allow others to control my time. If it’s helpful…great. If not, I’m sure you’ve got a great system that works for you.

If you have other specific questions, I’ll respond in the comment section (as I probably won’t do part 4). Hope this helps!


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5 Steps toward the death of “to-do” lists (part 2)

The goal for this series of posts is to give you an opportunity to reconsider the traditional “to do” list in place for some actions that may help you be more productive. For this specific post to make sense, be sure to read the context in yesterday’s post.

Here are the five strategic steps that help me become more time effective and productive. Here they are:

1. I determine my roles
2. I list my weekly goals under my roles
3. I project a time for each goal
4. I block out my meetings and/or programs
5. I assign a time slot for each of my goals

1. I determine my roles (see yesterday’s post)

2. I list my weekly goals under my roles
Time is the great reality inducer. Since time is limited every week, it’s obvious that everything can’t be accomplished. This is where it becomes important to prioritize what is most important to accomplish during the week. Since I’ve already identified my five primary roles (see yesterday), I use those five roles/headings to collect everything that needs to be done (imagine it as a “master to-do” list where I gather everything that needs to be done). I don’t prioritize them when I write them down (on the “master to do” form), I just make a quick discernment where to place it (either under pastor, teacher, leader, administrator, or developer). Then, on Sunday night or Monday morning (when I plan out my week) I simply pick a few of the items from the list (the most important ones) and put them under my roles for the week (this will make more sense when you see my form tomorrow).

3. I project a time for each goal
Once I write my goals under the roles I’ll quickly add a time number to each one (i.e. 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, etc…). I’m definitely just going with my gut and guessing a realistic time. I’ve learned it’s best to overestimate since my projects/tasks usually take me longer than I think they will. By giving it a time allotment I can best place it as an “appointment” on my calendar.

4. I block out my meetings and/or programs
Before I put any of my goals on my weekly calendar I make sure that I’ve got all my scheduled meetings and/or programs (including personal/family commitments) already blocked out. Those blocks of time are obviously not going to allow me to accomplish any of my goals, so I take those time blocks off the table. After I do this, it’s amazing how full the week already looks.

5. I assign a time slot for each of my goals
This is the last step I take in this calendar/time-management process. I know what I need to get done during the week, I know how much time is available during my week, and I begin assigning the goals to open time-slots.

By going thru this process, I assure that I make time for my top priorities and do so within a realistic time frame. These steps allow me to control my time and not be at the mercy of what everyone else wants to do.

Tomorrow (if I can figure it out), I’ll present screen shots of the actual steps on my calendar, I’ll let you download the spreadsheet I use, and I’ll answer specific questions that you may have (I’m sure this is a little confusing).

So, what doesn’t make sense? What are your questions?


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5 Steps toward the death of “to-do” lists (part 1)


Ministry never stops! There always seems like there’s more to do…more people, more projects, and more tasks. Add all of those elements into a busy week that has regular meeting and program times, and you’ve got for a very full schedule that’s difficult to manage. How do you manage everything? Most of my ministry friends attempt to tackle their work week by relying on the traditional to-do list system.

While creating and maintaining a “to-do” list is better than forgetting all that needs to be done, I’m not a big fan of working from these lists. While a list can be helpful, here are 3 reasons I don’t find them real beneficial:

• Every task on the list feels like it gets equal weighting,
• I usually attempt the easier tasks first (and not the most important ones),
• Since the list continues to grow, by the end of the week, it feels like I didn’t accomplish much.

For about 20 years now I’ve taken five strategic steps to help me become more time effective and productive. Here they are:

1. I determine my roles
2. I list my weekly goals under my roles
3. I project a time for each goal
4. I block out my meetings and/or programs
5. I assign a time slot for each of my goals

Over the next few days I’ll go into more detail about each one.

I determine my roles
This was a very beneficial step when I first started working like this. I took some time to really think about what I do and came up with five different roles. Once I identified these five roles, they rarely ever changed. These are the ones that seemed to make the most sense in my job at the church.


Pastor: Even though my title was youth pastor (then, youth & family pastor, then youth & family & teaching pastor) I identified this role as time during the week when I would spend my time with teenagers, parents, make hospital visits, etc….

Teacher: This was the time I would spend in preparation for my teaching opportunities throughout the week. I would usually teach one or two times a week and needed to block out time to study, think, illustrate, and construct messages.

Leader: This included relational time with leader types—teenagers, volunteers, and staff. It also included time for strategic planning and steps to move the ministry forward.

Administrator: This was my least favorite role but one that could dominate all my time if I allowed it to. This included email correspondence, budget, details, follow-up, meeting program essentials, working thru “piles” of stuff that accumulate and need to be dealt with, delegated and discarded.

Developer: This was my most favorite role! It was also the role where I would usually steal time from if I just had too many things to do from the other four roles. I love to create, write, and make things. Simply Youth Ministry grew out of this role (all my books, devotionals, curriculum, etc… came from my developer role).

These were just my work roles. In addition to my work roles, I obviously had personal roles too (Christ-follower, husband, dad, friend, self).

I’ll continue tomorrow. In the meantime, what are the roles you see yourself “playing” within your ministry?


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I know all the arguments for January 1 being a day of new beginnings, do-overs, and fresh starts. New Years Day makes a very logical starting point for habits, goals, and commitments. But, for me, this global day of change triggers a “not again” feeling within because of so many past experiences with goals and the failures that follow. Here are just a few examples of goal-setting and failure:

Bible reading: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to read the Bible in a year starting January 1! I’ve read Genesis more times than most scholars. With a 3+ chapter a day requirement, falling just a little behind is rough (as is trying to catch up and get thru Leviticus in one-sitting).

Diet/exercise: It never fails, I’ve always got some plan to drop 10-15lbs (“six-pack by summer” was a 1998 motto…now it’s, “avoid diabetes by December”). I own as many diet books as Oprah…and, I’ve even read them. I lose a few here and there, but I always gain it back.

Reading: One year I set a goal to read a book a week. Seemed realistic at the time, but by the end of January I was still on my first book. I remember one year when I was writing a lot that I determined that I wrote more books than I read. This year I’m still setting reading goals, but I’m choosing thinner books.

Now, I’m throwing blogging into the new year mix of goals! The adventure of blogging seems like it will fall along the same lines as the above three failures but with a public twist. Blogging looks like it will also require intense discipline and consistency goals, but if I fail at this new adventure… it’s much more out in the open than my “regular” failures.

Friends have said, “Doug, it should be easy for you to blog since you’ve written a lot of books.” I don’t see it that way! When I write books I don’t have daily deadlines and I also don’t have to design and administrate a website too. I spent so much time in December figuring out this WordPress site that I didn’t give much thought to blogging. So, when 2011 comes to an it will be a publicly obvious if this new venture leads to another failure (actually, we may even know in a month). I hope not, but I also know myself pretty well…so, we’ll see.

Which one describes you? (1) Mr/Ms GoalsTooHigh, (2) Mr/Ms NoGoals, or (3) Mr/Ms RealisticGoals? Let me know (also, chime in on the poll).

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