Goals Are Good, Initiatives Are Better


Transcript from the Discovering Leadership Podcast

The goal was clear. My son wanted to make his mark. It was his first year on his high school football team, being new to the sport his playing time had been pretty limited, but today would change everything. He’d received the nod from his coach. He’d be starting. For two days prior to the game, all he spoke about was making his first major tackle, maybe even a sack. Either way, their county rival would feel the wrath of Micah Bealer. He texted me on game day with a request. “Everyone is drinking this new performance drink that is way better than Gatorade or Powerade. It’s on a whole new level. I gotta have one. Can you pick it up and bring it to me before the game?” Now, if you have a teenager you know that requests like this are pretty common. I agreed to pick it up after work and get it to the field as soon as possible. All he needed to do was text me the name so I could figure out where to purchase it from. About an hour later I was sitting in a meeting when the text from my son came through. I glanced at my phone, and couldn’t help but laugh, out loud. Is Pedialyte the performance enhancing drink of the future? I used to buy this stuff for him when he was a sick toddler.

Today on the podcast: action.

As the new year begins, you’ve set some goals for your organization, 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 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, 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.

Here in 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.

Let’s take a look at our previous example, but this time start by putting clear and measurable initiatives in place. 

     Goal: Grow our student ministry to a regular attendance of 75 students (10 week average)


  1. Call every first time guest within 48 hours of attending. (This will allow us to get feedback and make an immediate connection.) Starting January.
  2. Have every small group leader update rosters monthly. (This will help us make sure students aren’t falling through the cracks) Starting February.
  3. Equip students with 3 business card invites and 3 social media images to use to invite their friends to church. Starting April 2016. Updating quarterly.
  4. Take strategic steps during our big summer event to connect first time attendees with other students in the same season of life. (Through marketing, group placement, talking points, follow up, etc.) Starting August.

In December, you sit down with your supervisor and team to evaluate the year. You only reached 67 students. Goal NOT achieved. Unlike before, now the conversation shifts towards appraising your initiatives. Did you complete your first initiative? Yes. Did you complete your second initiative? Not really, we started but never really followed up with group leaders. How about number three? Yes, sort of. We handed out the business cards, but never put together a social media strategy. What about the final initiative? No, never did anything with it.

Now the conversation shifts from, “What went wrong?” to “Why didn’t we complete these initiatives?” If you completed all initiatives and still did not achieve your goal then the problem lies in the effectiveness of your initiatives. At least you have a starting point for next year. Essentially, you are removing the independent variables from the equation and focusing on what you can control. If you look back at the first example, you will see how the initiatives to grow the student ministry can be executed despite all the other circumstances.

I’m convinced goals are better when supported by initiatives.

Take a look at your goals for the upcoming year and build out initiatives. See what you can accomplish if your steps strategically move you toward your goal.