Over the last couple of years I’ve stumbled upon a nonlinear approach to goal setting that has greatly impacted my life for the better by changing my behavior, and thus transforming my life. The simple drawing below represents not only how I set my goals, but how I tackle them. They are arranged in spiritual, personal, and public domains.
1. What am I doing
2. Why am I doing it?
3. How am I doing it?
4. When am I successful?
5. Where is God taking me?
Please note this is not a life planning process. If you are interested in a life planning process, you will want to check out Will Mancini and David Rhodes’ personal vision and life planning process at www.lifeyounique.com. I have confidence in both of these men and am a huge fan of their process.
I chose these three domains and eight areas because it’s how I view my whole life. While they are not exclusive to me, they are unique to me. You may choose to define your domains in a different way and have eight very similar or different areas within these domains. At the same time, I do think each of these domains and areas are important to each one of us as we pursue living a whole and fully integrated life. My spiritual anchor for this holistic and integrated approach to goal setting is the teachings of Jesus. In John 10:10 he declared, “The thief comes to still, kill, and destroy your life. I have come that you might experience life to the full.”
While my napkin drawing is the original way I write my goals, I also borrowed from Michael Hyatt’s and Daniel Harkavy’s in Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want. Here’s the four-step process I use.
The biggest benefit from this approach to goal setting is, what I believe to be, the holistic and integrated nature of it. Here’s what I'm learning.
To help, I’m including a sample of my goal setting for one of the eight areas of my life. You will note this process is robust and involves an investment of your time and hard work to complete, but it’s well worth it.
As a ministry team what is the one thing you could do over the next year that would change the trajectory of your church forever?
For many of us it would be to develop and implement a Leadership Pipeline that builds a culture of leadership development that generates an abundant harvest of reproducing leaders.
Imagine for a moment never having to say, "I don't have the right leaders" or "I don't have enough leaders". What if the next few months could eliminate the need to look outside your own leadership pipeline for your next strategic staff hire? I'm convince it can.
In 2013, Mac Lake and Will Mancini of Auxano joined forces to develop a Leadership Pipeline Development process for churches. This process focuses on building a culture of leadership development and emphasizes four essential components of an intentional leadership development strategy.
During the six-month timeframe, churches benefit from…
Join us in Atlanta beginning in March 2017 to create your own Leadership Pipeline. It's time to eliminate the excuse “we don’t have enough leaders” or “we have all the wrong leaders” again. It's time to never having to look outside of your best volunteers for your next hire.
Recently I had the opportunity to host a younger friend that I’ve coached through the years, in my home. While we were on an afternoon run he asked me to share with him some of my life’s lessons that had impacted me the most. More specifically the question my friend asked was, “Tell me about what you've learned that I need to know”.
As we begin a new year, I’ve found myself reflecting on his question. I thought it might be helpful to share my list with you. These simple practices are now hardwired in me. I guess you could say they are what make me who I am. I’m convinced that they have and continue to change the trajectory of my life for the better.
Starting each day with these practices makes my life and those around me better. They motivate me to face each day as an exciting journey. God is writing a story in each of our lives and he gives us the resolve and resources to influence that story for the better.
Here’s what you need to know!
Aim for 80%
This practice I’ve learned from my experience with fitness. Over the last few years I have hit most of my fitness goals. That hasn’t always been so. There was a time when I was failing when it came to my own physical vitality. I tried numerous diets and workout routines with no avail. That has all changed.
I no longer diet. Instead, I studied nutrition and developed a healthy lifestyle. I’ve eliminated most sugar and gluten related products from my life. I eat food rich in protein, healthy carbs I get from vegetables and fruits, and I include healthy fats. I do this day-in and day-out or at least 80% of the time.
This doesn’t mean there aren’t times in my life that I aim for 100%. As a lifestyle, I know that I’m not going to be 100% all the time. However, as a discipline, in most things I can be 80%, and 80% has the potential for changing the trajectory of my life and putting a win in the win column.
Aiming at 80% can be applied to numerous areas of my life. Hitting 80% of my savings goals is better than failing at 100%, and giving up all together. The same is true in my consulting practices. If I can get a 100% of a team of visionary leaders to agree at 80%, we can keep things moving until we get to 100%.
Perfectionism can lead to failure. It tends to immobilize us and frustrates almost everyone around us. Aiming at 80% allows us to extend a little grace to all. Aiming at 80% may be actually what you need in your life to get unstuck and move forward toward achieving your goals.
Overthinking is simply thinking about something too often for far too long. This may not be your issue, but it certainly is mine. It can be as innocent as planning a trip or making a simple purchase. Other times it can be much more complex and leave us stuck in an unhealthy place.
A good example of my overthinking is my tendency to plan every detail of a trip when I travel with family and friends. At times they love it, but other times it drives them over the edge. They poke at me by suggesting that I don’t even need go, since I’ve already taken the trip - referring to my over planning.
While some overthinking is helpful, not all overthinking is created equal. Overthinking can have a negative effect on our lives and those around us. If you are an over thinker, it is easy to obsess over decisions that need to be made, relationships that need to be healed, and experiences from which you need to move on.
Several years ago I became convinced that I needed to resign from my position as a pastor in a local church and invest my time helping other individuals, organizations, and churches succeed. On a Tuesday morning, in my early morning reflection time, I finally reached a point of clarity that this was indeed what I needed to do. That morning I shared with my wife my new insight and my resolve to make the change. She quickly confirmed it and promised her support. At 2pm that day I resigned.
Why did I resign so quickly? Because I knew I would overthink my decision if I didn’t. I knew I would spend the next days, weeks, months, and literally years thinking about making this change. Instead I resigned that day. I didn’t have all the answers, but I made the decision and this decision, I’m convinced, changed my life for the better. It wasn’t easy. I failed along the way. I had doubts along the way, but, I acted and it made all the difference.
Express Gratitude Often
As I write this we are beginning a new year. The previous year has been a difficult one. As I scan through my Facebook feed I realize I’m not alone. While I refrain from posting my personal life on Facebook, others I know feel the need to share. I do appreciate my friends that do share because it helps give me perspective. Life is difficult. Jesus tells us that in this world we will have trouble. He wasn’t kidding! Yet in spite of whatever you and I have gone through, we have much for which to be grateful.
Practicing gratefulness by expressing those things we are grateful for unlocks our heart and creates a more generous and thankful me. Most mornings, during my time of reflection, I send out a simple text to my spouse and grown children that simply states things for which I’m grateful. I do this for myself and I do it for them.
During some really tough times I need perspective. I need to see the good in the midst of the bad. I need to be reminded that “all things do work together for the good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Roman 8:28). I also want my wife and children to share that perspective.
I’ve learned this practice from many sources, but specifically my son. While he was in the army he spent 15 months deployed in eastern Afghanistan. During that time he spent most of his time on patrol. Most of those months he slept out in the open and ate one meal a day. On several occasions he came close to losing his life. When he returned home I noticed that he constantly expressed gratitude for just about everything. He was so grateful. What I learned was that gratefulness is not about our circumstances, but a condition of our soul. Our greatest expressions of gratitude often flow out of our most painful experiences. Our adversity gives birth to gratitude.
Pray With Your Spouse Daily
This is one of my favorite practices. It is so simple, but I’m convinced that it has shaped my marriage and changed my relationship with my wife for the better. Each morning Tami and I face each other, hold hands, and pray a brief prayer together. Usually our prayers are less than a minute long and are fairly predictable. Yet at the same time this is the one practice that I believe has changed our life together the most.
I think it has had this profound impact for several reasons. For one, it’s hard to pray with someone when you are mad or have unresolved issues. This is true even for a brief prayer. In 37 years of marriage I can think of only two or three times that we didn’t pray because of conflict. Whenever we have had conflict where we didn’t pray, that conflict was resolved by noon. Another benefit of our daily prayer time is whenever something was going on in our lives that required a more focused time of prayer we already had a space in our lives for it.
Always Lead With Truth
This one is a little harder for me. I’m a truth teller. I value telling the truth. At the same time, I struggle to always lead with truth. For me, I have to work on my truth telling; I don’t want to hurt your feelings. Sometimes I want to withhold information or my opinion. At the same time, I think if you asked my friends if I am a truth teller, they would tell you that is one of the things I do well. You don’t have to be wired or like truth telling to be truthful. Some of us simply have to work at it.
On the other hand, my wife is a natural truth teller and because of it I respect her opinion or input more than anyone else. When I’m struggling with something, I will sometimes ask her to speak truth into a certain situation or me. I trust and need her perspective. I have affectionately nicknamed her ‘the judge’. It’s not that she judges people. She is a very gracious person toward others, but she sees black and white and is gifted in calling it out.
Truth telling is important for a number of reasons. Some of these reasons are obvious, while others not. Truth brings to light whatever is in the dark. Even though this truth often hurts, it is also this painful truth that heals. Truth is essential to healthy relationships and a healthy life.
Always leading with truth involves being truthful at every level. If you have an issue with something or someone, be truthful about it in the right way. If you are caught in mistruth or half-truths of other’s relationships, bring everyone together in the same room. Invite others to speak truth into your life. We all have blind spots in our lives where we could benefit from skilled truth tellers.
Lead With The Golden Rule
There are two ways to live our lives. We can live in a way where it’s all about us or we can live it in such a way that it’s all about others. The Golden Rule is about treating others the way we want to be treated. What an incredible principle. We all know how we want to be treated; therefore, treating others good is innate. I didn’t say it was easy, but when it comes to how we treat others, we are without excuse.
I find myself living my life in both ways. There are days that I move through life so fast, anything and everything in front of me is in my way. Its those days that I just steamroll over everyone and leave a wake of brokenness behind me. This is an ugly and narcissistic way of living life.
On the other hand, there are days that I am more aware and intentional about living out the Golden Rule. It’s a beautiful thing when I find myself deferring to those around me. Living out the Golden Rule can be as simple as letting incoming traffic merge into my lane ahead of me. This isn’t a typical response in Atlanta where I live.
For me living out the Golden Rule mostly means being aware of people around me and treating them with honor and respect. I treat them with honor and respect because that’s the way I like to be treated. Sometimes living the Golden Rule can be challenging and difficult. We live in a messy world. We live in a world where there is hurt and pain. When I feel that I am violated or mistreated, I want to lash out. When I am the one who violates or mistreats, I want to experience grace. Living the Golden Rule is about extending the grace that I so much want to experience.
Living the Golden Rule is life giving. I never feel more alive than when I am intentionally living the Golden Rule. Not only that, but I see people all around me coming alive.
Work On You Daily
It’s been said many times, you can’t lead others until you lead yourself. Several years ago I made a transition from a leadership role in large organization to a local church. The first thing I did in my new role was sought out advice from those who were experiencing success. It won’t surprise you that the advice I received was “grow the leader…grow the church.” For the next six years I spent my time doing everything I possibly could to see that our senior leader was growing. At the end of that season our church grew from 500 to over 2000 in weekend attendance.
What we learned during that incredible run was that we had to work on us if we were to lead a growing organization of any kind. It wasn’t enough to work in it all the time. It was just as important or more so to work on it. Our first responsibility as a leader is to work on us. Whether you are a mother who is leading three little ones at home, a student leading a drama team, a chief executive leading a large company, or a pastor leading a church, it all begins with leading ourselves.
For me, this means working on nine areas within three different domains around which I’ve built my Life Plan. The following diagram represents these three domains and nine areas. I break them down like this:
I set specific goals in all nine areas beginning with my Spiritual Domain and moving out. I tend to focus on the mastery of one area at a time. I focus on the area that needs the most work first.
I have also come to realize that winning in all these areas is a marathon, not a sprint. Mastering all nine areas is a life long journey. When I come to the end of my life, I think it would be appropriate to simply say, “At least he was working on it.”
Working on it involves working on me every single day of my life. This is my most important responsibility. I really don’t have anything to offer my family, friends, or those I coach and consult, until I work on me.
Recently, Tami and i were able to get away for a vacation. It came at a time when we were somewhat overwhelmed by difficult circumstances. We considered canceling our trip. Finally, at the last minute we chose to go.
Each morning we shared an extended breakfast time talking about the things we were most grateful for. Beginning each day this way was life changing in spite of our circumstances. It changed the outcome of our vacation and made us so much better.
Today is a special day when we come together with family and friends and simply express thanks.
We are grateful for you and all that you do to advance His kingdom.
We are grateful that the gospel is a good news announcement that God, in Christ, has redeemed us, is renewing us, and ultimately will restore all things.
I just finished a new ebook I'm calling One-Hour Theology and thought I would post the concluding paragraph that sums up the entire book. The big idea behind it is if you only one hour to disciples a brand new disciple "what would I tell them or what would I want them to know"?
My question for you is "what would you tell them or want them to know"?
If I only had one hour with a brand new disciple “what would I tell them or what would I want them to know”? I would want them to know the gospel is the good news, that in Christ, God has redeemed us, is renewing us, and ultimately will restore all things. A disciple is a follower of Jesus Christ who is learning to live like Jesus, love like Jesus, and leave what Jesus left behind. The Church is a people on mission together planting the gospel, making gospel disciples, and then forming new gospel communities around those disciples.
Somewhere I picked up the line, “Your vision will always outpace your resources.” Can you relate? Do you find yourself in the position where you always need more money for more ministry? For the majority of us the answer is a resounding YES! When it comes to money there always seems to be more month than money. Unfortunately, great opportunities come and go simply because we lack the resources to take advantage of them.
What if it doesn’t have to be this way! What if the issue isn’t a lack of available resources? What if the lack of resources is a leadership issue? For many of us I believe this is the case. Let’s be honest. Many of us lack the skill and competency to move from a deficit to an abundance of resources for kingdom impact. It isn’t that we are bad leaders. It just happens to be where we are at and the good news now is we can do something about it. Where do we start? Why not determine that the one big thing for this next year is going to be moving our financial needle from deficit to abundance. Here are some thoughts and best practices on getting there.
Start with Vision Clarity
When I assess the causes I’m giving to, there is always a clear and compelling vision behind it. I have no question what problem my resources will help solve. One of the ministries I support is a fast growing church planting movement among the Iranians. One way I can support them is by providing New Testaments at the cost of $6.00 each. For every New Testament we put in the hand of an Iranian, there are five to six Iranians who come to Christ.
Often when I do vision clarity and generosity work with churches I tell them this story and ask them, “What’s your Iran?” General appeals for resources get a general response. Abundance begins when we give people a compelling reason to give within the local church. People want to be a part of something significant. They want to do more than turn on the lights. They want to solve a problem that creates a better world.
Budget on Last Year’s Income
It doesn’t stop with vision. If we are going to have an abundant harvest of resources to invest in the kingdom, we must look at how we operate. A common practice in setting the church budget is to take last year’s receipts and add a certain percentage to that number based on anticipated growth in attendance and giving. If last year’s income was $500,000 we may anticipate a 10% growth in giving, so we set our new budget at $550,000. This is not necessarily a best practice or even a good practice.
What if instead we budget on last year’s income or even went a step further and budgeted on less than last years budget? What if instead of budgeting on $550,000 or even $500,000 we budgeted on $450,000?
What if while we budgeted on $450,000, our giving grows to $550,000? Now we get to live in abundance. Instead of fighting for budget we have a surplus to invest in the kingdom, margin for the lean times, and/or a head start on the next big capital need.
Rethink Your Percentages
In addition to budgeting on last year’s numbers, we need to rethink how we spend our budgets. We have found a consistent model for budget planning that allocates 50% on staffing, 25% on facilities, and 25% on ministry and missions. Whenever our staffing cost goes up, it has to come from somewhere. If the cost of our facilities increases, then a church has to cutback on ministry, staffing, raise additional dollars, or they enter into a deficit.
Driving down your numbers can be another way of creating an abundance of financial resources. Some churches have found the best way to do this is by lowering their staffing cost. This doesn’t mean that they pay their staff less and reduce the level of their benefits. It simply means that they expect staff to equip volunteers to lead ministries.
These churches often operate with 35% to 40% of their budget going to staff. This is radically different than how I was taught to budget. We budgeted to grow by adding staff even when we couldn’t afford it. We would rationalize it by saying things like, “A good staff member always pays for himself or herself.” Maybe you can relate. To be completely honest, it seldom or almost never worked out for us. We usually ended up cutting something or someone we deemed less strategic. It was the constant proverbial rearranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Develop a Robust Leadership System
You can’t reduce your investment in staff without developing a robust leadership system. To do this we need volunteers that can lead. Paul put it this way, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13, NIV).
In our work with churches across the nation it’s common to find an abundance of volunteers, but a deficit when it comes to volunteers who are actually leading. Churches that are able to dial back on staffing have an intentional process in place to raise-up an abundant harvest of leaders who can serve in strategic places eliminating the need for paid staff in certain places.
Create a Generous Disciple Pathway
At the end of the day we will never experience abundance if we don’t develop generous disciples. Disciple making at its core is about worldview transformation. We need to disciple people to think about their resources differently. For abundance to take place, we need the mind of Christ. A generous disciple pathway will help disciples navigate toward this new mindset regardless of where they begin. Imagine an intentional pathway that helps occasional givers become regular givers, and regular givers to become tithers, and tithers to become extravagant givers.
If we did this alone it would have an incredible impact on our ability to impact the kingdom. At the same time let’s face the fact that creating generous disciples without the other practices may not lead to abundance. Abundance is the result of a discipline approach that includes all of the practices mentioned above.
Chances are your financial systems are perfectly designed to get the results you are currently getting. Making lasting changes aren’t a matter of doing business as usual. We often believe that change is the result of our wills. Unfortunately, we don’t know what we don’t know.
Lacking the skills or competency as a leader to create abundance isn’t a failure. Failing to reach out to those who can help you learn new skills or competencies can be. Don’t be a leader that says that you will figure it out and don’t. There’s too much at stake.
Start by using the Generosity Dream Tool to dream a new generosity dream that includes an abundant harvest of resources for kingdom impact. Don’t stop there. Reach out for help! Make creating abundance for kingdom impact your one big thing this year. I promise you that it will have an incredible impact now and in the future.
Want to know more about moving from financial deficit to abundance? Start a conversation with our team.
Sociologist Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist introduced us to the term moralistic therapeutic deism. They came up with this term as a result of a study funded by the Lilly Endowment called “National Study of Youth and Religion” to describe the spiritually of today’s youth. You can learn more about their study in their book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (2005).
You may wonder why I would begin a short blog on preaching by introducing this concept. Unfortunately much of our preaching or at least my preaching has reflected this, or perhaps our youth reflect our preaching. The essence of moralistic therapeutic deism preaching is that we give them a little morality. It’s therapeutic in that it makes them feel better, and we back it up with a little God or little god.
Can you relate? Let’s get confessional! Let me suggest an alternative to this approach when it comes to our preaching.
Why not preach the gospel-centered messages?
First, let me suggest that gospel-centered preaching isn’t talking about relevant stuff and making a beeline to a gospel invitation. That may have gospel in it, but it’s not what I’m referring to when I suggest that we should take a gospel-centered approach to our preaching.
Second, gospel-centered preaching begins with a basic understanding of the gospel. I hear people ask all the time, “Isn’t this elementary?” The answer is no! This is fundamental and foundational. The gospel at its core is an announcement of what God has already done. Much of our preaching outside of the gospel offers some good or sage advice, but it’s not the gospel. It’s not an announcement that God has redeemed us, he is renewing us, and he will ultimately restore all things.
Third, the gospel is the story of God from Genesis to Revelation. It’s the meta-narrative of creation, rebellion, rescue, redemption, renewal and restoration. When we preach a text it should always be taught in the context of the gospel or it is ultimately being taken out of context. When this happens we always revert to either moralism or relevance.
Finally, the gospel is all we need. For years I understood I was saved by grace. I understood that I had nothing to add to God rescuing me from sin. However, I thought that once I was saved by grace I had to work really hard to grow. I had a grace plus works mentality. Since then I have discovered that I’m not simply saved by grace, but I grow by grace as well. In other words the gospel is all I need. If this is indeed true then this alone should shape the way we approach the responsibility of preaching. If I don’t give you the gospel I don’t have nothing to give you, regardless of how eloquent I sound or dapper I look. Is this not what Jesus is telling us in the following parable, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come” (Mark 4:26-29, NIV).
As a disciple maker "when are we successful" is one of the question we ask the leadership of the churches we work with. Another way of stating it is "What does a disciple look like in our context?"
This is a question that I've spent hours pondering. I've read through the Sermon on the Mount a thousand times. I've poured through the entire New Testament time and time again looking for the right metrics.
In a recent conversation with David Rhodes a fellow disciple maker it all came together for me in my context. From the vantage point of my own unique passion for simplicity, my context of working with pastors in the US and around the world, and my own unique community or faith tribe here's the metrics that came out of my conversation with David.
- Hears the voice of God and puts it into practice.
- Reflects the character of Jesus and is becoming like Jesus.
- Has a kingdom vision and is living with a sense of purpose.
- Is part of a larger redemptive community and extends it to others.
- Helps other do the same by reproducing themselves.
Pretty simple and it should be. What do you think? What's your metrics for success? What does a disciple look like in your ministry context? What makes your metrics unique?
There’s a kind of resurrection that occurs. We walk in darkness. It’s our natural state. We are born into it. At first we are unaware. Slowly it becomes more and more apparent. Seeing, we don’t see. Hearing, we don’t hear. Nor do we understand. Then something happens. A light shines through our darkness. This light reveals our darkness. We must choose. This light is the good news announcement. God did for us what we could not do for ourselves. In that moment we recognize that we are more wicked than we ever imagined, but God is more merciful than we could ever deserve.
In that moment we stand on the threshold of the Kingdom of heaven. We ponder our dilemma. We repent...in that moment we have a change of mind. In that moment we see things differently. In that moment our hearts are changed…we are given a new heart.
We have entered the narrow path. We have been redeemed. Purchased with a price. Like a merchant seeking the finest of all treasures and finding it, God sells all to purchase us. The purchase price is the life of Jesus, through the shedding of His blood.
We are overwhelmed. Our tears are met with a humble prayer. “Oh Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” In that moment He already has. There is now no condemnation. Nothing can separate me from God’s love. I am more than a conqueror. We all are!
Now I walk in the light. I no longer have to earn God’s approval. Like I could in the first place. I now have God’s approval. God’s approval is the essence of my new heart. It’s why I now walk in the light.