If You’re SMART You’ll Build your Goals on STONE

By Dr. Scott Rodin    

A major part of any planning process is goal setting. We likely all have goals, but what makes a good goal? One prevailing approach is to be sure your goals follow the steps outlined by the acronym SMART. Simply put, good goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. I have worked with many Christian organizations over the years who felt this was the ultimate formula for setting good goals.

While there is much to be commended about this approach, I continue to be challenged by how radically different kingdom values run to our prevailing cultural norms. When Jesus went from village to village proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God, the picture He was painting was of a culture dramatically set apart from the common ways of viewing life. He made audacious claims about this new culture like the meek will inherit the earth, the first will be last, to lead you must follow, to be filled up you must empty yourself, to experience victory you must surrender, and so on.

I’m also learning that kingdom values are not limited to our personal lives. They pervade every area of our life including our work. How then would the pursuit of kingdom values impact the way we work, relate to others, budget and…set goals?

That led me to question just how smart SMART goals are in the context of our kingdom values. As I thought through each one, I was challenged to ask whose values we were pursuing? Are these goals meant to build our kingdom or God’s? Do they help us pursue God’s way or ours? Do they require us to trust in God’s leading or justify relying on our own strengths? Do they ultimately bring glory to God or just add to our leadership resume?

Even further, I tried to apply the SMART approach to the plans God gave to some of the greatest Biblical leaders. Try it for yourself, apply the SMART formula to God’s call to Abram (Genesis 12), God’s sending Moses to free Israel (Exodus 3), or God’s leading of Gideon into battle (Judges 7) for example. It seems much of the time when God is truly leading His people, His directions are far from specific, His process defies measurement, His goals seem unattainable, His ways seem unrelated to the tasks at hand and His timeline seems out of synch with the storyline. Yet through this leading, God’s work is done God’s way for God’s glory.

Troubled by these questions, I pondered what a goal setting process might look like if it were based on kingdom values alone? Perhaps they would focus less on making us look smart and more on our commitment to build our plans on solid rock, or in this case S.T.O.N.E. Here is what it might look like.

Goals Built on S.T.O.N.E. are:

  • Spirit-led: from prayer, discernment and an intentional process of hearing God’s voice
  • Transformational: able to be used by God for His kingdom purposes
  • Obedience-based: requires our surrender and obedience and trust
  • Non-Linear: takes us on a journey of faith that may go where we least suspect
  • Eternal: consequences have eternal value

Take a look at these two lists in comparison.

  • SMART Goals are Specific: we know what we want to accomplish and can state it clearly and precisely
  • STONE Goals are Spirit-led: we walk by faith in the direction God leads us but we may not know the specifics of God’s intended results
  • SMART Goals are Measurable: we can apply metrics that we use to assess our success in achieving them
  • STONE Goals are Transformational: this is God’s work done God’s way, so we must measure what we are responsible to do but leave the outcomes to God
  • SMART Goals are Attainable: we only create goals we know we can achieve
  • STONE Goals are Obedience-based: God asks only that we obey His leading even when He takes us down paths that seem impossible
  • SMART Goals are Relevant: these goals make a demonstrable difference in the work today
  • STONE Goals are Non-linear: we may not see the correlation between God’s leading and the impact it might have in our world, but we walk with trust in the God who leads
  • SMART Goals are Timely: they are set within clear time limits and measured accordingly
  • STONE Goals are Eternal: we consider the eternal value of these goals not just what may take place in our time frame

Hopefully this comparison can help us see the significant difference between these approaches. This may not mean we have to choose one and throw the other out. What I would propose is that we base our goals on STONE and then incorporate the SMART approach where it can add accountability and clarity. The key is making sure the STONE approach is what drives us and let the SMART approach fine tune where it is helpful. 

Are your goals built on STONE?

Dr. Scott Rodin    

Dr. Rodin is the Founder and Content Expert of the Center for Steward Leader Studies. He also serves as President of Kingdom Life Publishing and Rodin Consulting Inc.

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