By Brian Jennings
How can we set good new year goals as a family?
A few years ago I set two goals for the year: 1—Finish my book manuscript. 2—Keep the little basket for my wallet and keys tidy. One year later I figured 50 percent wasn’t bad. A manuscript was done. My basket, on the other hand, only stayed clean for a few months. (Has anyone seen my lip balm?)
Most of us have experienced the energy, focus, and fulfillment of chasing worthy, dream-catching goals. We’ve also experienced the disappointment of striking out or entirely forgetting what goals we’ve set.
Jon Gordon talks about the need for telescope and microscope goals. We need goals that require long-term vision. Getting a college degree, planting a vibrant church, or raising a loving family probably won’t be achieved in a calendar year, but these set the direction of our lives. We also need smaller goals that support our larger goals. Raising your high school GPA next semester, selecting a city to plant your church, or choosing a nursing home to visit as a family once a week can launch you toward the bigger. We need both, and we need to choose goals worth pursuing.
Whether you’re setting goals for yourself or your family, practice the ABCs of goal setting:
Our goals ought to spur us on toward love and good deeds (just as people are called to do in Hebrews 10:24). The person who says, “I want to be a better neighbor,” may have an equally compassionate heart as the person who says, “I will share a meal with six different neighbor families this year”—but the outcomes will be drastically different. We need specific goals that drive us to action.
Jon Weece’s book Jesus Prom motivated me to think about verbs: “A hypocrite is nothing more than a noun without a verb. Lovers who don’t love . . . Givers who don’t give . . .” Set goals with God-honoring action verbs. Don’t settle for try to be closer to God or be a better parent. Instead, set goals such as memorize James 1 or take each child on a breakfast date once a month.
“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). Any goal, whether it be related to your friendships, health, finances, or anything else, will be truly worth pursuing if it’s grounded in Scripture.
I’m driven to be more disciplined with my eating and my exercise if I set a goal. Last year I pursued the goal of running the Tulsa Run 15K faster than I had the previous year. I’m 41 and my times go the opposite direction if I let nature take its course. I often thought about the goal before ordering lunch or at the end of a practice run. The key with goals like that is to make sure they’re ultimately about Christ and not us. There’s no room for ego building. Running helps me have more energy for my family and ministry; it makes me happier (just ask my wife, Beth); it quiets my soul. When I run, I enjoy listening to sermons and praying for missionaries. I remember Paul’s words that while physical training holds some value, spiritual training holds value in all things (1 Timothy 4:8).
Reading Scripture, being quiet, and asking Christian friends for input are great ways to make sure your goals are biblically centered.
My goal to keep my basket clean may have been well-intentioned, but it didn’t exactly capture my hopes and dreams. We all need some goals that drip with possibilities. Could your family goals nourish your souls or change someone’s eternity? God remembered Cornelius’s gifts to the poor (Acts 10:31). Don’t you want to do things that stay at the top of God’s memory? Don’t you want your goals to spark enthusiastic conversations in Heaven?
Resist the temptation to settle for easy goals. Yes, you want your goal to be attainable—yet only with God’s provision. If you can do it on your own, it’s too small. Choose a goal that’s bigger than your family’s comforts. Choose a goal that drives you to your knees. Choose a goal that you’ll only achieve with God’s mercy and help.
Once you’ve chosen your goals, make sure they don’t fizzle. Put them on your prayer list, write them on your calendar, plan small steps, and ask others to hold you accountable. Chase them with all you’ve got, and when you see God’s work, celebrate. May God bless your family as you honor him with your goals.
Brian and his wife, Beth, and their four children live in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he preaches at Highland Park Christian Church and writes (brianjenningsblog.com).