Jan 06

How to make this year a significant year

Do you ever get to the start of a new year with an excitement for the year ahead, but feel also tinged with a dullness of heart at the thought of yet another year? Perhaps last year was hard work, exhausting and you don’t feel much changed over the year or you don’t feel like much progress was made. Youth ministry can be hard as there are not necessarily obvious goals or achievements to be met, unless we get into the numbers game where we measure how many young people came to our groups, got baptised or came on residential trips.

The reality is that, more than likely, you did make significant progress last year and the ministry is deeper, stronger and more nourished than it was twelve months ago. Well done! But there is something you can do to stop this feeling repeating each new year. That something is to set big, bold, daring, risky goals for the year ahead.

Some youth leaders don’t want to set goals as they feel it means they are taking control rather than letting God lead. I understand this fear but I think God can be in our planning. Goal setting is pointing the ship in a direction and then setting sail. It gives us a map to check regularly against to see if we are still on course. It doesn’t mean we can’t change the destination half way along, but it does mean we get out of the dock! It also opens our eyes to see more of what God might want to do with us as we find ourselves looking more for opportunities and possibilities.

So here are 5 simple steps to setting some exciting goals for the year ahead. Block off an hour or two, go somewhere quiet where you can be alone, and work through these steps:

1. Review last year

If you haven’t already, take a look at my post from the end of last year on reviewing the previous year and learning from the good and bad of it. Reviewing is a vital part of the process as it helps us to connect with our feelings for the last twelve months, the highs and lows, the frustrations and the successes.

2. Pray

It is essential that we seek God for his goals for us for the year ahead. How might he want the young people to grow in the year ahead? What does he want you, as the leader, to grow in? Commit this time to him and for his Spirit to guide you.

3. Set SMART goals

What would you love to see happen this year? What would make the big differences in your ministry? What have you wanted to do for a while but just not got around to? Think about different areas of your life: ministry, young people, your personal development, your spiritual life, your family, etc. What are changes you most want to see this year? Don’t set small goals but goals which will stretch you and have a significant impact. Setting goals for all the important areas of your life is important as we are whole people, not compartmentalised people.

Look to have no more than 7-10 goals in total, any more and it is very hard to keep track.

In order for the goals to take root in our minds, I find it helpful to write them as SMART goals. This is a well-known formula for goal setting and stands for:

S- Specific – e.g. ‘start a mentor scheme for young people’, rather than ‘support young people more’

M – Measurable – if it’s not measurable, how will you know if you’ve achieved the goal?

A – Actionable – it must be something that gives you specific tasks to help you work towards it, otherwise how can you make the goal a reality?

R – Realistic – I think good goals should take us out of our comfort zones (that’s where we grow) but if they are unrealistic we have no chance of achieving them and will lead to frustration

T – Time-specific – put a date when you hope this goal will be reached. This enables us to measure how on track we are with working towards the goal.

4. Write down why each goal is important to you

I think one of the main reasons people don’t keep new year’s resolutions is because they haven’t thought enough about how the end result will make them feel. We want to exercise more, read our Bibles more etc but we don’t consider what difference it will make. Go back over your goals you’ve just written down and write down at least 1, but maybe more, reasons why this goal is important to you. How will you feel when it’s achieved? What difference will it make? How will God be honoured through it? These reasons will motivate you to keep working towards your goals and make you more determined to reach them.

5. What’s your first step?

Goals won’t magically be achieved simply by writing them down. Sad, isn’t it?! So your final step is to write down the one thing you can do as your first step towards reaching each goal. It may be very small and seemingly insignificant, but massive goals are best reached by taking one small step at a time.


You should now have a list of 7-10 goals for the year ahead, together with motivations and first steps. Now, all you have to do is get on with each of those first steps and then write down what the next step will be.

Of course, you might not reach all your goals and that is totally fine. The purpose isn’t necessarily to do that but to make sure we are consciously moving forward and growing. I think you will be surprised by the difference goal setting might make.

What goal would you love to reach this year? Please leave a comment below to encourage others.