When a Wish Isn’t Enough

In our church calendar year, this is the time all teams fill out their “Team Planning” forms. We use them for the purpose of setting budget priorities for the new year and making sure that our ministries are all moving in the same direction.   The truth is, sometimes we get a little sloppy and just fill them in like we did last year and then plan on operating the way we’ve always operated.

On these forms, we are asked to write our goals. I’m convicted that on one of the forms I filled out last year, no real progress has been made. And then I have to ask, “was there real effort made?” I guess I have to be honest, other things crowded out these goals and pushed them to the bottom of the pile. But as I look at them again I have to ask, “are these really ministry goals, or ministry wishes?”

Think of it this way. If I had the goal to have a $1 million, there are things I would start doing (earning money) and other things I would stop doing (spending money)! A goal is something I act on so I can achieve it. If I wished for $1 million, I would either do nothing, buy a lottery ticket, or encourage a family member to “glory.” Each year I could put this down as my goal, but unless I did something to move in that direction, it is really just my wish.

If you have goals for your life or your ministry that have gone unchanged year after year because no real progress has been made toward them, then they are probably wishes not real goals. How do we make sure our goals are goals?

1. Measure your goal with Scripture. Sometimes we don’t work at it because we’re not convinced this is what God wants. So we have to determine, is this what God wants for your ministry or your life? Why does He want it? Does it align with other things we know He wants? If not, it is probably a personal wish. Pray about this. Talk to others.

2. Define it clearly. “I want a better prayer life.” “I want a happier marriage.” “I want to see more people come to Jesus.” These are so general that unless we further clarify, there is no way we can move forward. How will you know when you achieved the goal? Once you achieve it, what will you go after next?  Sometimes we don’t like clarity because it brings with it accountability.

3. Determine specific steps you will take to move forward. I wanted to improve my pattern of praying for my church this year. I set up a page on my iPad where I put 5 church family names on the list each Monday. I pray for those families during that week. I look at it throughout the week. And I pray throughout the day. It isn’t a perfect plan because I’m not perfect. But it has helped greatly this year. If we’re going to improve in anything, we have to determine some things we can do.

4. Evaluate your progress. And then ask others to evaluate your progress. If we aren’t honest about lack of progress, we can let goals slip into simple wishes that we hope will come true. If you’re on a team, make sure you do this as a team. Because everyone needs to own the goals.

5. Re-make your list often. This year, I’ve been using a grid that I heard about from Bill Hybels. He calls it his 6×6 list. Every six weeks, I highlight six things I need to accomplish. This helps me focus. It helps me choose what’s more important. And I’m seeing some progress in areas that have gone by the wayside before.

6. Lastly, find some freedom in removing goals. Don’t just keep adding more goals. We have each only been called to do so much. And we have to put aside the temptation to just pile on. If a goal has become a wish, take it off your list right now. If it is important, pray about it and see if sometime in the future God wants to put it back on. Wait for a time when God puts this back on your radar or when it fits a growth edge in your life. For a ministry team, maybe it is time to minimize our goals so we can maximize our impact.

Let’s make a decision today, more goals, fewer wishes. Because the truth is, in God’s Kingdom wishes don’t come true, hopes do.



  1. There is a great book called “Off Balance” written by a Christian author for a secular (business) audience. The author is Matthew Kelly. He addresses both the values necessary to “be the best version of ourselves” and gives very specific detailed plans regarding how to set goals, take action towards them and properly measure them. I have recommended it to a variety of people (from Christian to atheist) I encounter through my work and always find those who read it love it. There is do doubt that we move forward in things that we measure.


  2. These are great tips, Pastor Jim. I’ll admit that goal-setting has never been my strong suit; these should help me move out of mediocrity in that area!


  3. Might also add that priorities change. Life, business, they are fluid and complex rather than merely complicated. Not making progress on a goal may have been exactly the right thing. This goes to the point of reevaluating often and noteing when and why priorities of goals change. God bless brother.


  4. I like this post! I was thinking of the terms “goals” and “wishes”. I think another element that hinders us from accomplishing “goals” is that it may be something that needs to be done, but not something we are personally passionate about so it often takes the back seat to the day to day grind of things we are more passionate about. The better thing to do may be to delegate the “goal” to someone who is passionate and gifted to move that ball down the court!

    In my head… I call it ministry “ideas” (good thought with no plan to implement) and Ministry “goals” having a plan in place (WHO is going to do WHAT by WHEN and HOW)

    I have far too many ministry “wishes”… thanks for the post


    1. Thanks Jacob! Good point about delegating. One of my challenges as a leader is to help people own the vision themselves, rather than having them do what I think should be done. It seems that is when the passion has been transferred — or tapped into.
      And you’re right, many of us have too many ministry “wishes.”


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