3 questions to make 2016 better than 2015

Fresh starts offer such hope. New possibilities. New dreams. New opportunities to define who you are. New possibilities to get to know others better. New possibilities to get to know God better. A fresh opportunity to let things go.

Seize fresh starts for all they are worth.

A new year is an excuse to start some things fresh.
Where do you need a fresh start? A fresh charge up a new mountain?

Here are 3 quick questions to help you become better in 2016 than you were in 2015. Take time to reflect on each of these.
I’m not talking about better circumstances, necessarily, it’s not about better stuff or having better people around you. It’s about a better you – being a better friend, boss, co-worker, parent, spouse, student, teammate… It’s about being more faithful to Jesus where He’s placed you, where you study, work, live and play.

So here are 3 questions to make your 2016 better than your 2015 was:

1. What do you want to do differently in 2016 than you did in 2015?
Explanation: In other words, where did you learn something the hard way? What did you learn and how will you apply it going forward? Where do you have some regret and what could you do differently? Where do you feel you missed out on something? Where do you have a sense of failure? What could you improve on? What would you like to do differently going forward? Experience and reflection really are our best teachers.

2. What do you want to keep doing in 2016 that you did in 2015?
Particularly in terms of your character, what are you proud of from 2015 and want to carry with you and continue to do in 2015?
Explanation: Where did you improve over the last year and want to continue that practice/habit? What tough situations did you navigate well and what can you carry with you from those experiences into 2016? What worked well in 2015 that gives you some principles you can carry into 2016? We do have to be intentional about guarding and developing our character. We do have control over our character, even when circumstances are out of control.

3. What new things do you want to do or accomplish in 2016?
Explanation: We always need new goals to strive for. What’s the new thing for you in 2016?
Is it to spend more time with your family? – how? when?
Is it to get healthy? –how? –when?
Is it a work/ministry goal? –how?
Is it to grow closer to God? -how?
Is it to get to know your neighbours? –how?
Is it to make more friends at the gym/work/playground/school/church? –how?

May God meet you and lead you in your reflection.
May you be full of hope as you enter 2016.
May you see God do more in and through you than you could ever imagine.

Happy New Year!
-Renée @r_embree


How to help your home be porn free

This week we have a guest blog post from Jon Dixon, Pastor of Next Generations & Families at New Minas Baptist Church in Nova Scotia. This is a follow-up to last week where I shared “Why you need to talk about porn at your church”. Jon has been intentional about talking about porn in his ministry, so he is sharing his helpful thoughts and great resources to help us in this area.

Here’s Jon…

They walked in the room, laughing and talking, tired from little sleep the night before. The story they were about to hear wasn’t one of their choosing. They were unaware of what God was about to reveal to them. The lights dimmed and the video started, capturing their attention abruptly. As the video finished, you could have heard a pin drop in the room; every movement of each person echoed in the room. Many looked at their own feet rather than face the eyes of the person taking the microphone. This was our experience at a youth conference at New Minas Baptist Church this fall. This is what we expected to happen when we addressed the topic of pornography.

“Pornography dishonors the image of God in an individual by treating him or her as a sexual object to be consumed… the current porn industry has capitalized on the commercialization of human sexuality as a commodity… pornography takes human sexuality out of its natural context… and makes it a product to be bought and sold.” [abridged from William Strutters, Wired for Intimacy, page 19]

“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!” [Romans 1:24-25, ESV]

At the youth conference, we heard two stories from adults who were formerly addicted to the viewing of pornography. God has rescued this man and woman and is now allowing their stories to be told as an inspiration to others who are trapped in this addiction. Several students and leaders chose to trust Jesus and began a journey towards healing that weekend.

Over the past several years, I have met person after person who has a story to tell about pornography. Almost every story I’ve heard has similar features. The stories sound like this: “When I was young, I was tempted; as I got older, I got deeper into my sin. I tried to get out but I couldn’t; I needed God to rescue me.”

I used to wrongly believe that pornography was only an issue for sinful men who were far from God. I have come to believe now that pornography is an issue for everyone, male and female, of all ages. If we are honest, it is only a matter of what degree we are currently being tempted by pornography and if we are currently giving into that temptation.

As I have worked with adults and youth who have struggled with pornography, what I have discovered, not surprisingly, is that this is a secret sin that almost everyone struggles to defeat on their own. Like many addictions, simply giving it up ‘cold turkey’ doesn’t work for most people. The power of God, the Holy Spirit working in the life of a person is the solution. Real repentance from sin leads to real redemption from any addiction, pornography included.

The temptation to view pornography in any form is the result of the desire to lust after what we do not have. This was true in Moses’ day [Exodus 20:17] and is still true today. Scripture tells is that “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.” [1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV] In order to fight against the temptation to view pornography, we have to stop hiding in the shadows, believing we are all alone. Pornography, unlike many sins that have a more public face, is a sin and a temptation that lives in our private lives. Every time I walk alongside someone fighting against the sin or the temptation of pornography, I recommend accountability – a choice to no longer remain alone in the temptation, to no longer allow the sin to live in the dark. The Bible clearly says: “a person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” [Ecclesiastes 4:12, NLT]

Accountability in the fight against pornography takes several forms but technology is a great place to start. There is software for all of our devices to filter what we don’t want to see and to let trusted friends know when we are struggling. The power of having trusted people in our lives, who love us and are willing to walk alongside of us against the temptation we all face, is enormous. I am so blessed to have two people in my life whom I trust completely, ask me about my life, family, faith, calling, and ask about my current temptation with pornography on a regular basis. These two men receive weekly reports from Covenant Eyes [the accountability / filtering software I currently use] about my online activity.

As you consider how to put accountability / filtering software in place to help you and your family, take a look below at my summary of some of the best options:

• Open DNS [www.opendns.com] is a free product that changes the settings on your internet rotor [either that your purchased to received from your internet provider] to prevent access to pornography. Essentially, this provides a filter for your whole home network – which means that any device accessing the internet in your home is filtered. Any phone with its own data plan and using that data plan in your home will be unaffected by OpenDNS.
• X3Watch [www.x3watch.com] is a product from XXXChurch, an outreach ministry to those involved in the pornography industry. X3Watch provides both free and premium [paid] versions of its software which work on PC & Mac and Android and IOS.
• Covenant Eyes [www.covenanteyes.com] has been serving those struggling with pornography for years and also offers software for PC, Mac, Android and IOS. The cost of this software is a little more than the cost of X3Watch, but the software seems to be updated more regularly. [Note: The Android software offers accountability only, no filtering, the other platforms include both accountability and filtering.]
• Two other products, are Safe Eyes [www.internetsafety.com] and Net Nanny [www.netnanny.com]. In my opinion, Covenant Eyes [which I currently use] and X3Watch are better choices with better features; however, please investigate all options and choose what fits you and your family the best.
• A couple other simple things that every person with internet access should consider: Go to www.google.com/preferences and set filter preferences and install an add blocking web browser extension like Ad Block Plus [https://adblockplus.org]

For those who are reading this and asking, “What about my children?,” a few things to consider:

• Almost every youth that I have spoken with over the past several years has said something like: “My fall into sin from the temptation of pornography happened when I got my first iPod.” As you considering buying your son or daughter a new iPod, phone, tablet, computer, consider their soul and their ability to fight the temptation of porn – put accountability, good parenting, and good software in place to protect them.
• For young children, take a look at apps designed with their protection in mind. Kidoz [http://kidoz.net] offers pre-filtered content for IOS, Android and PC. This is an example of the many resources that you can consider. Another example is YouTube Kids by Google.
• Another product which will arrive in Canada in 2016 is Circle by Disney [https://meetcircle.com]. This new product looks like a fantastic option for families! You can read a review of Circle here: http://www.challies.com/resources/protect-your-family-with-circle

For those looking for a more in-depth, step by step guide to how to implement all of these things, Tim Challies, a popular Christian blogger, has written an excellent and extensive article on how he protects his family. Read it here: http://www.challies.com/articles/the-porn-free-family-plan

Pornography is everywhere in our world today. As Christians, especially as Christian leaders, we cannot keep our heads in the sand and pretend that it’s all going to go away. We must acknowledge that the temptation of pornography affects all of us and we must choose to put in place the accountability and filtering that we all need to help us to flee from temptation! Choose to be accountable to trusted friends so that you can fight temptation together! Choose to put protection in place for your family! Choose to glorify Christ!

“So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light…” [Romans 13:12, ESV]

Thanks so much Jon! @jondixon

I’d add, and Jon agrees, while accountability tools are very important it does not negate the responsibility of parents and leaders to teach youth and children how to live in a world where porn can be so accessible and the sacredness of human life and human sexuality can be so devalued. The two go together, we put software in place, but we also raise up kids that know how to act and react in a world where porn and degrading attitudes towards others can easily hit them in the face.

As always, we welcome your comments or questions.
-Renée @r_embree

I want a bigger sandbox! How to NOT get stuck in maintenance ministry

One of the easiest and saddest states to fall into in ministry is maintenance.
Your passion is dry.
Your heart is no longer in it.
Ministry has become routine.
It is more like taking your turn in the schedule, filling in your spot, than it is about fulfilling a dream.
You wonder what difference it is truly making.
You push through the motions.

This can happen whether you’re paid in ministry or a volunteer.
I’ve been through seasons of maintenance.
It’s awful.
Instead of the joy that can come from being a part of what God is doing in the world, it feels life draining.
Yet, we can get stuck in maintenance. We can even get comfortable there, because it makes everything predictable. We fulfill our duty, but we miss our purpose.

We were created for so much more.
Maintenance feels so wrong because it is wrong.
To quote Horst Schulze from the 2015 Leadership Summit “It is immoral to hire (or call) people to fill a function. Hire (call) for dreams, to be part of a purpose.”
We all desire to be a part of a purpose that is bigger than ourselves.

When you start falling into maintenance in your volunteer role or ministry role, how do you begin moving back to a sense of purpose? How do you get unstuck?

This will NOT solve everything but I want to share one question and one tool that can be a part of the conversations to get you out of maintenance.

The one question –What positive change are you passionate about bringing where you are?
This helps move us out of maintenance to consider the change God wants you to bring. You are where you are for “such a time as this”. How can you be a part of bringing change that would help the larger vision? How can you be a part of bringing the change that God wants for your organization/church/ministry/camp?

The one tool – The Sandbox. This is a tool I picked up from John McAuley at Muskoka Woods. After you’ve been in any ministry role for a while it is very normal to start wanting a bigger sandbox! It’s natural to want to be stretched a little and try some new ideas, new areas of ministry or new projects. In other words, it’s natural to not want to get stuck it maintenance. It’s natural to want to make sure you don’t fall into just fulfilling a function in the ministry and instead are allowed to keep experimenting and pushing towards a larger purpose. It’s natural to want a bigger sandbox.
I’ve seen this especially be true for Youth Pastors and Associate Pastors after a few years in a role.

The challenge is how to have a fruitful conversation with your supervisor or whoever you’re responsible to (deacons, key volunteer, staff person, boss…) that will help you understand if they are ready to let you take on something new, more or give you permission to significantly change something.

Have the sand box conversation.

The Sand Box

Explain how you are feeling ready to try something new and more.
Show them this sandbox and invite them into a conversation about these four areas to see if they are ready to trust you.
Track record – have you proven you are trustworthy in what you have been given so far? Is your track record one that shows you are a faithful and good worker?
Responsibility – have you taken responsibility for what is already in your portfolio and done it well? Have you taken responsibility for both successes and failures in your ministries?
Experience – do you have some experience in this “new” area?
Training – do you have training in this “new” area? Or are you teachable and ready to learn?

What having the sandbox conversation can do is either:
1. Help you and your supervisor see you really are ready for more. You are ready to try this new idea. This will be the case if each of the 4 areas of the sandbox are answered positively.
2. Help you and your supervisor see where you still need to prove yourself, grow and learn to be ready for more. At least now you have a focus, an area to grow! I have found even this has helped me stay out of maintenance as then I have an area to focus on for growth in my leadership and service.

You were made to be part of a purpose. You were made to be a part of God’s purposes in the world.
Don’t waste time fulfilling a function.
Don’t waste too long in maintenance mode.
Find your bigger sandbox.

I truly believe God is up to a bigger purpose in Atlantic Canada. I truly believe God is inviting us to be a part of what He is doing to change Atlantic Canada one neighbourhood at a time.
I invite you to be a part of fulfilling that purpose.

-Renée @r_embree

Helping Teenagers (or Anyone) in Crisis

Every teenager needs someone in their corner. Someone that wants the absolute best for them and will stick by them no matter what twists and turns life throws their way.

There are a tonne of crisis teenagers may end up facing in today’s world – bullying, self-harm, addictions, abuse, depression, suicide, death of friends or family, divorce of parents, eating disorders, hazing, questioning their sexual identity, addictions to pornography, break-ups…The list could go on.

As followers of Jesus, one of the most beautiful opportunities we have is to walk faithfully with teenagers through crisis. It is not easy, but it can make such a difference. It can infuse God’s hope into a situation.

One of the things that will change our neighbourhoods is learning how to care for each other well, especially during times of crisis. We have a God who is close to the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

I’m so thankful when I think about all the caring youth workers, parents, teachers, pastors and coaches spread across Atlantic Canada, ready and willing to walk with teenagers through their hurts and heartaches. Thank you, you are making a difference!

Here some pointers on walking with teenagers (or anyone) in crisis:

  1. Listen well – invite the teen to tell you more of their story. Listen well, with all your best active listening skills. Listening communicates immediate care and support. Ask lots of non-judgmental, open-ended questions that show you care and are interested in what is going on in their world. E.g. Why have you been feeling that way lately? How’s that affecting you? What will be that like when you…? What’s it feel like to…? What do you think will happen if this keeps going on?
  1. Normalize and magnify – access how serious the situation is and if they need immediate intervention and help. With teenagers I listen with an ear to help them “normalize” and “magnify”. Sometimes my roles is to “normalize” what they are feeling. Sometimes a teen feels a circumstances is a really, huge, ginormous deal, but actually everyone goes through it and I can reassure them that they’ll be ok and will get through it. My role is to be a calming presence. This is not to minimize what they are feeling in any way, but it is helping them recognize when this is a situation that will quickly pass. Other times my role is to “magnify”. When a teen is saying “it’s no big deal” but as they share their story I hear it needs to be a big deal. When I hear how much it is affecting them and/or others my role is to “magnify” it and say things cannot go on this way because I care about you.
  1. Support – point the teen to more help, resources and other people that can help them in this journey. It might be professionals, counsellors, pastors, it might be someone who has gone through something similar, it might be a website, it might be an accountability partner or mentor. Help the teen make a plan to connect with the appropriate supports.
  1. Ask – Ask what role they want you to continue to play. How can I be helpful to you? Where do you want this go next? Where do you want to be a year from now in this journey? Unless they are in danger or something is happening that you have to report, give them power to say what is most helpful. This will involve them in the process and help them start to take some control of their circumstances. You are a partner in helping them towards healing, you are not the Saviour.
  1. Be discerning in involving parents – with children parents should be quickly involved. With teenagers we have to be a little more discerning depending on the situation, the age of the teenager, the relationship with the parents, the parents’ potential reaction, the parents’ personal involvement in the situation, and our relationship with the parents. God will give you wisdom. Whenever possible I encourage a teen to talk to their parents directly themselves. If it’s a situation where you deem it necessary (e.g. risk for harm is high or abuse is involved) to talk to the teens parents, at least let the teen know you will be talking to their parents and why. Otherwise you are breaking confidences with a teen who trusted you. Ask the teen questions like: what do your parents know about this? How do you think your parents would react? How could your parents support you in this? Would you be willing to talk to your parents about this?
  1. Infuse hope – encourage, encourage, encourage. When someone is in crisis hope is a scarce commodity. It can be hard to see the way out. Keep encouraging the teen of the hope you see in their situation and encourage them in the steps they are taking, even in the step they took of talking to you. Be the light in their darkness, to let them know you believe in them and God’s work in their life.
  1. Follow up – check-in with the teen particularly around the helpful steps they wanted to take. Pray for the teen regularly. Do your homework and educate yourself more about the crisis they are facing and what life is like for teens today.

Here are a few resources to help you:

  • Centre for parent/youth understanding (CPYU) http://www.cpyu.org/ In fact Walt Mueller the founder of CPYU will be talking about “Five Pressing Mega-trends in Youth Culture” that we must address on November 6, 2015 at the Canadian Youth Workers Conference in Atlantic Canada http://www.cywc.ca/moncton-nb/
  • A book – “The Youth Worker’s Guide to Helping Teenagers in Crisis” By Rich Van Pelt and Jim Hancock
  • Marv Penner is coming to Acadia Divinity College to teach a one-week intensive course called “Counselling Adolescents and their Families” on June 6th to 10th, 2016. You can either audit the course or take it for credit at http://www.acadiadiv.ca/

Hope this helps as you continue to be good news in your neighbourhood.

-Renée @r_embree  


12 conversations you need to have with every grade 12 student you know

I sure feel for grade 12 students. They must get asked a million times “What are you doing next year?” That is an awful lot of pressure.
I remember being in grade 13 (no, not because I failed a grade, but because I went to high school in Ontario back in the day when they had grade 13) and it felt like I was deciding the ENTIRE rest of my life and I even had that extra year to figure it all out.

Take the pressure off. Students finishing high school are in no means deciding the rest of their lives. For each of us, if we are honest, life has been a journey. It is actually relatively easy to switch majors or programs at University/College, to change specialties or even change careers. “They” tell us most of us will hold several jobs in our lifetime. (e.g. http://www.workopolis.com/content/advice/article/how-many-jobs-do-canadians-hold-in-a-lifetime/)

You know, while I was asked a lot about what I was doing after high school for studies or a job, I was not asked once what I was doing for my faith. Not once.
Were you asked?
Are grade 12 students today asked?
I could write a whole book on transitioning your faith from high school to life after high school. Instead I’m going to suggest a few needed conversations for parents, leaders and mentors to have with students finishing high school.
I’m not an expert on this, but here’s the questions (in no particular order) I think we need to be discussing with our grade 12 students. Let me know what I’ve missed. Plus, grade 12 students, let me know if this is helpful or not!
And, a hint, as we have these conversations – parents/leaders, let’s do more of the listening and let the students do more of the talking.

1. Where will you plug into Christian community when it’s not with the youth group (or whatever regular things you’ve been doing in high school) anymore?

2. If you’ll be going to a different church after high school –
a. What will be weird about being at a new church?
b. What do you look forward to in checking out a new church?
c. What will you miss about your church now?
d. How will you work at getting connected in a new church?
e. Is there somewhere (church, Christian community) we can go to visit together ahead of time? Is there someone we can meet ahead of time?

3. What are your values? Name 10 things that you do not want to change about you in the next 4 years.
a. How will you keep those values?
b. How will you respond and what will you do when those values are challenged?

4. a. What is important to you about your faith? (Not your leaders’ faith or your parents’ faith, your faith)
b. When no one is watching to see if you go to church or is there to get you up in time to go to church, what do you think your reaction will be?

5. Who do you want to stay connected to from your home church? From youth group? From your high school friends? How will you stay connected?

6. How can I be helpful to you as you make this transition?

7. When you’re completely free to do your own thing and no one is holding you to rules or guardrails on a weekend – what do you want your weekend to look like? How will you decide what your weekend looks like?

8. Who will you run to when you are stressed or in trouble after high school?

9. So far in your life, what are the most significant things that have helped you grow and be strong in your faith? From looking at that, what can you learn about what helps you grow the most? How can you incorporate those things into your life after high school?

10. As you look ahead to your first year after school…
a. What worries you?
b. What excites you?

11. How do you recognize God’s leading in your life?

12. What are your dreams?
a. Where would you love your life to be in 10 years?
b. What do you think God’s dreams are for you?

Plus, here are two great resources for you:
1. An event, if you’re in Atlantic Canada called Potential Impact, that is a retreat just for grade 12 students to explore God’s call on their lives http://baptist-atlantic.ca/event/potential-impact/
2. A book and e-book put out by the CBOQ called “Transitions: Ensuring Faith Formation in Children and Youth” http://cboqyouth.ca/sdm_downloads/transitions/

Hope this helps.
-Renée @r_embree


Which one? Selecting the right materials for your kids’ or youth ministry

One of the most common questions I get is how do I select the right curriculum for my children’s ministry or youth ministry?
There are a plethora of options for curriculum, materials and video series and more all the time.
Do a search for children’s curriculum or youth ministry resources and you’ll come up with a long, long list of results.
So, how do you know what’s right for your crew?
I’d suggest working through a series of questions with your key leaders to see which curriculum or approach works best for your group in this season.

1. What is your goal? Over the course of the year and then the next five years what is your goals for the kids/youth in your group?
A note here, this goal should line-up with rest of your church family in some way. If your church family has a goal of connecting with its community, the kids’ ministry needs to think through how it meets that goal too. If your goal is to invite those that are far from God close to God that will look different than a goal that is to take those that know God deeper with God. Are you looking to connect more with those that are in your community and you have not made connections with yet? Are you looking to connect better with those already coming to your church? Whenever you look for curriculum look for materials and opportunities that enable your goals.

2. What are the demographics of your group?
a. What is the size of your group?
b. What is the age range of your group?
c. In terms of their journey towards or in Christ, how would you categorize your group?
d. Are their lots of special needs in your group?
e. Are you looking for materials to do as a large group, all together with different ages? Small groups? Both?
Curriculums and materials are often very clearly broken down by ages and size of group. If you know the answer to all these questions before you go searching it’ll help you select the right one for your group.

3. What are your big rocks? In other words, what are the 4 to 10 things you want to make sure the kids/youth in your group learn and experience by the time they move on from your group. I’ve found identifying these so helpful when then I go looking for curriculum or materials. Now I know the big things I’m looking for and I can search for them in the materials that are out there, rather than having the curriculums dictate to me what the big rocks should be. By the way, when prayerfully settling on your big rocks it can be incredibly insightful to ask the kids/youth what big things they want to discuss or be rooted in before they graduate from the program.

4. Does the curriculum fit with the rest of your church/ministry? How closely do you want it to line-up with the rest of the church? There are curriculums that have adults, youth and children all working through the same material at their age appropriate level. Is this what you are looking for? Why? If not, what overlap and connections do you want with the rest of your church family?

5. How many volunteers do you have and what is their preparation and leadership capacity? While you want to stretch people in their leadership you do not want to break them and you do not need to reinvent the wheel!

6. Does it point beyond itself? Let me explain this one. I mean it in 3 ways:

a. Does it point beyond the lesson to Jesus? Is it easy to see how God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is the hero, the Saviour, our leader or is it simply telling some nice stories and presenting other heroes? Even if it is presenting wise ways of living and helpful, applicable advice (which is a very good thing, especially with youth) does it help people see Jesus more clearly?

b. Does it point beyond the lesson to helping kids/youth live their faith (the lessons) out the rest of the week? Does it have Vitamin A (application)? This is so important! We are not told to make little Jesus scholars, we are invited to join Jesus in making disciples, those that follow Jesus in their lives. I’d ask does the curriculum equip kids/youth to live for Christ where they live, study, work and play?

c. Does it point beyond the lesson, in allowing leaders to connect it to discussions or activities they could do with their parents or families? How much do you want the curriculum to make this easy for you and your leaders and how much do you want to do this yourself?

7. Lastly, you do need to consider cost. However, if you have a limited budget, do not let this discourage you in any way. There are actually a number of really good free options and free videos available. I have also seen extremely effective ministry being done with leaders purchasing a good age appropriate Bible and using that as their guide, as they build activities around each story, each week.

I hope as you work your way through these questions it becomes easier for you to see the right materials for you and your group.
If you’d like to talk through specific resources or recommendations feel free to drop me a line.

Have I missed anything? Any important guiding questions you’d add to selecting curriculum?

-Renée @r_embree

Setting Ministry Goals like an Olympian

There is just something about Olympians and World-class athletes that draws me to them. Their dedication, their passion, their willingness to work hard, and their singular focus. I don’t regularly watch sports, but there a few times when I can’t stay away – the Pan Am games, the Olympics, and World Junior Hockey for instance.

I was especially thrilled to see how our track and field athletes did at the recent Pan Am games. I grew up a little in that world, so it got me thinking about Canada’s progression in that sport, and how we’ve gotten better. It got me thinking about the significant difference it can make when we get intentionally focused on getting better in an area. Imagine what it would mean if we poured just as much energy and thought into joining God’s activity in the world.

The biggest thing I admire about these athletes is their ability to set a goal, often years or even a decade in advance, then go after it with all they’ve got. They willingly sacrifice other things to pursue this goal. We could learn a lot from that about being willing to follow our King.

“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8

I’m reminded of the fact that we often overestimate how much we can get down in the short-term and underestimate how much we can get done in the long-term.

More dreams die from fear than from failure.

We keep our dreams hidden. We don’t voice them. We don’t write them down. Or we float them out there, but then get lost in other things and don’t know how to intentional start working towards them day by day, week by week, month by month.

I invite you to give your dreams voice! Set down your goals and let them me know. Make a plan to accomplish them.

Growing up in track world, we always set goals. We wouldn’t think of going into a new season or year without setting short-term and long-term goals.  We knew where we wanted to be by the end of the season and the end of the year. We knew the hard work it would take week by week, day by day to get there, but we had a goal worth working towards.

I discovered something a little weird when I stepped into church world. It was like some seemed to think it was too “worldly” or too ambitious to be setting goal and be clear on your goals. Where did this come from? This does not make sense to me. Yes, we need to absolutely invite God into our goal setting for our lives, ministries and leadership. Our goals are not for our own selfish reasons, but to join God in what He’s doing in the world, to glorify Him. But, leader, please set goals. It is not more spiritual to fly by the seat of your pants. This mission God has entrusted to us is too important. God is involved in helping you set the right goals. God does have the propagative to change your course and change your goals as you go. Setting goals helps you and I be like the Olympian. It helps us and others we lead know what we’re aiming for and motivates us all towards the same cause. It brings clarity and focus, as we scatter seeds for the Kingdom. Goals are essential to achieving dreams.

Here’s some questions to ask and one method that I find helps me clarify goals:

  1. Where does God want the ministry and those you lead to be in 5 years? (Or if that is too far ahead for your context, try it using 1 year from now)
  2. Why? Why is this important to you and the team? I find this motivation question really helps me when the going gets tough, I can go back to it and say, I know God led us to this goal and I know it is worth it! I like to write down the Scriptures God highlighted to support this goal.
  3. How are we going to get there? What will it mean we have to do each day, each week, each month, each year? Start with your big long term goal, where you want to be 5 years from now, and work backwards add the things that will get you there. Where do we want people to be after this sermon series? In 12 weeks? In 1 year? What do we need to pray specifically for, for this goal to be achieved? What support and resources do we need?

Focus on what is in your control. Do not focus what is not in your control. There is a lot in our control. It also takes faith, to trust the God who laid this on your heart is the God who will accomplish it, as you join Him in the daily work and daily trust.

Let me simplify it even more….

Picture a triangle, where your long-term goal is at the top….


Here’s an example. In youth ministry I had a long-term goal of developing leaders from within the youth ministry, from the students themselves. So here’s what the triangle would look like….


You’ll notice a few things…

Everything in the triangle supports the top, long-term goal. They’ve got to be clearly connected and feed into each other. Start at the top and work backwards.

The base is wider than the top because it is actually the things at the bottom that take more of our time, energy and focus.

Invite God to be at the very centre of this.

Start with just making one triangle. Then I’d say have one triangle for each major area you lead.

Ask God, with your team, where He want to take you – your staff, your team, your camp, your youth group, your church. God has big dreams for His Church! God has big goals for His Church! As we say, “God, I’m willing to do what it takes to get there”, God will accomplish more than we could imagine through us. God doesn’t underestimate where we can be in 5 years. Don’t let your dreams die in fear. Don’t let your dreams die by lack of focus. Invite God to bring His dreams to life as you set your sights on Olympic size dreams for the Kingdom.

-Renée @r_embree