“GOOAALLL!!!” I am not a soccer fan, but it was hard not to be caught up in watching the worldwide phenomenon which was the world cup this summer. Even more amazing was to watch people watching the world cup when their team scored a goal, and the frenzied celebrations that took place across that home country. Town squares, bars and homes erupted into huge celebrations, people sang, laughed, celebrated.

It made me think of the passage in Luke 15:7: “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” NIV

If humanity can get that passionate over a soccer ball, how much more passionate should we be when it comes leading people to Jesus Christ? If you are reading this, I am guessing you have a group of incredible kids depending on you to lead them into the next school year. As I write this, I am praying that God overturns a mountain of blessing on you as you make a plan to take care of and lead your students. Your job is critical as you model for your students what it means to live out the Gospel of Jesus in a world that needs to hear it.

Let’s take a look at a few tips that might make setting goals for your upcoming year impacting and effective.

Start with prayer.

Proverbs 3:5-6 New Living Translation (NLT): Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him,  and he will make your paths straight.

In some translations the words are “direct your paths.” Either way, this verse tends to come out once a year at confirmation and then filed away for later. I would encourage you to pray on this verse daily as you ask God what he wants for your group. Too many times we make our plans, and then ask God afterward to bless them. That sounds kind of backwards to me. Pray about it. Give God the chance to lead you in a direction He wants to go.

Create a ministry plan

I have talked with dozens of youth leaders about how they don’t have enough budget money for their given ministry. There are ministries out there that are woefully underfunded, but more often than not, when I sit down and ask them about their ministry plans, they just stare at me.

If you walk into a church board meeting at budget time with no real plan to bring students to a higher level in their faith, or more to the point, bring more students to the faith, you are walking out of that meeting empty handed. If you are going to start a restaurant, and you go into the bank to ask for a loan without a business plan, I guarantee you are leaving the bank with no cash. You need to create a ministry plan for the year.

Answer this question for yourself. How are my students going to be different at the end of this year as opposed to where they are now? Then ask yourself what kind of events and resources it will take to achieve that. Then put together a simple budget that connects dollars spent with what goal you are going after. When you have all that, set a date in which you will invite a board member to sit down with you at the end of the year to see how it all worked out.  Walk into the meeting with this entire plan prepared in advance. This is something that a leadership board, or a Pastor, boss, whomever can respond to.

Bottom line is that many in your congregation gave sacrificially towards the church budget, and they deserve to know that their money will be spent wisely.

Get more than just your kids on board.

Take the goals you have set yourself and the youth ministry and spend time getting multiple leaders on board. It doesn’t even matter if they sit on your governing board. Take the time to have a cup of coffee and bend their ear about what the youth are doing. You will find that a few things will happen.

They will be impressed with your initiative and drive and many times want to join in and help you. They will talk to other leaders about your ministry area positively, and buzz will grow. They will give you wise feedback on what needs improvement, or what might look shaky. They will defend you from the alligators when it comes time. Their ownership in what happens with the youth will increase, and more people with a vested interest in students is always a good thing.

Set inspiring goals.

When you are looking at your goals, ask yourself if they are inspiring.

Uninspiring:        We will put $1000 in the budget for a new flat screen TV in the youth room.

Inspiring:             We will improve our ability to engage students in Bible class by adding the ability to use multi-media during the Bible study in the youth room. For that we are budgeting $1000.

One goal focuses on a learning objective, and one focuses on a material thing. You can guess which one wins the day when it comes to budget time.

Are we playing with students or training the next generation?

When I arrived at my current church I killed off a very popular annual trip to an amusement park. I did it because I couldn’t figure out what stuffing ourselves full of junk food and riding roller coasters had to do with Jesus.  I took some heat, because it was fun, and parents liked their kids being entertained for a day during summer, but I wasn’t worried about what God was thinking.

Take a look at your overall schedule. With the events you do, are kids learning and growing? If not, it is time to refocus the event, or chuck it all together.

Don’t covet other ministries

Churches have a terrible habit of setting their goals based on what the church down the street or the church in Relevant Magazine is doing. Instead of going after want God wants, we pigeon hole a goal meant for another ministry into our plan. What works great for a larger church may not work in your setting. When you see a program or strategy that you like, try to focus on the overall concept rather than just trying to repeat it verbatim in your ministry setting. All throughout Scripture, God talked to His leaders differently. I can’t find an instance where God said to Peter, “Hey! Do you see what Paul is doing? Go do that exactly in a new town.”

Work to establish a track record

A goal is not complete unless you can come back at a later point in time and tell whether or not it was accomplished. I recently worked with a brand new church worker to our church body and our congregation.  At my church everyone on staff has to sit down and lay out their goals at the beginning of the year, so their department leaders and the congregation can tell at the end of the year if we made any progress. This process was pretty terrifying to him, and he was pretty reluctant to do so.

The reality is that God gave us a command to “Go and make disciples.” God didn’t ask, He commanded. There is no way for us to know if we are following that command if there isn’t a way to measure progress. There also isn’t a way for us to make a change in strategy if something isn’t working or effective, if it was never measured in the first place.

Another positive way to look at measuring your goals is this: If you set a goal with a church board,  meet that goal at the end of the year, and then are able to sit down and explain what God accomplished, what do you suppose will happen next time it’s budget time? It will go better because you will have proved that you are a good investment.

Go forward in faith

As Christian leaders we should be bold. The advantage we have daily is that God has already won the battle, and He is over our shoulder everyday spurring us on.  He is the one walking ahead of us clearing the way! It’s time to get busy!