Staying Out of the Gutter

How Setting Goals Can Help You Reach Your Target, Brett Allen

Taking my kids bowling is a blast. They are still young, so without the bumpers, every ball ends up in the gutter. With the bumpers in place, however, I get to experience the joy on their faces when they get a strike. It’s not just for the kids– some of my best games have been with the bumpers up!

Success in youth ministry is a lot like bowling with bumpers in place. You have a target, you know what you want to accomplish… but getting to that point can be a challenge. Your target (vision) is like the bowling pins. If you have been in ministry for any amount of time, you have experienced “gutter balls” when it comes to trying to hit your target. Think of setting goals like having the bumpers up. If you set the right goals, they will keep you on track to hitting your target.

Hopefully you have a target or vision for your ministry. If not, you need to establish this first. Once you have your target, your goals will help you get to your target. Leadership expert Michael Hyatt talks about S.M.A.R.T.E.R goals by establishing seven criteria.[1]


– A specific goal identifies exactly what you want to accomplish.

Bad example: We want to reach the young people in our community for Christ.

Good example: We want our students and leaders to have 300 unique Gospel conversations with their family, friends and classmates this year.


– Your goal should be laid out in such a way that you can track and measure progress.

Bad example: I want our youth leaders to spend personal time with God.

Good example: I will connect weekly with our youth leaders to encourage them and hold them accountable to the goal of having personal devotions at least 5 times per week.


– A goal should call you to do something.

Bad example: Leaders need to stay connected with the students in their small group.

Good example: Leaders will connect with every student in their small group at least once a month through a text, phone call or card in the mail.


– It should stretch you, but not too much.

Bad example: Increase average attendance by 2 percent.

Good example: Increase average attendance by 10 percent.


– It needs to have a date attached to it.

Bad example: Have 300 unique Gospel conversations.

Good example: Have 300 unique Gospel conversations by May 31, 2021.


– You should be excited about reaching the goal.

Bad example: Build a leadership team.

Good example: Build a team of leaders that love being together and have quarterly fellowship time just to hang out.


– It must align with your values and vision.

Bad example: I am going to keep leading the youth ministry and also take on the leadership of the men’s ministry and the music ministry.

Good example: I must be careful that new goals do not take away from my vision.

Your smarter goals should not just fit one of these criteria, they must fit each of them. Now is a great time to set goals for the ministry year coming up. You will probably need more than one goal in order to accomplish your vision but don’t have too many. No more than 5-7. Once your goals become habits, then you can consider adding more or re-establishing what your goals need to be.


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