The Power of Setting SMART Goals for Your Christian Faith
As Christians, we know that setting goals for our faith can help us actually prioritize growing in our faith and personal holiness. When we set goals, it helps us avoid apathy and mediocrity.
Goals are helpful because they help train us. St. Paul wrote on many occasions about the importance of training in faith, of devoting ourselves to the teachings of Christ and His apostles.
Anytime we want to devote ourselves to anything, we are wise to set goals. Goals help us move from a vague idea to practical growth. They give us a way to track and measure our growth without becoming overwhelmed. SMART goals are a wonderful way to have a clear, measurable path forward in your faith.
What are SMART goals? SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. When you set a SMART goal, you set goals that meet these criteria. This type of goal is helpful because of its specificity.
Applying SMART Goals to Your Faith
But how does this apply to our faith?
For example, if I wanted to fast more, I could set a general goal of “fast more” this year. Is fasting more measurable? “More” is a little bit ambiguous but, especially if you don’t fast regularly, it’s possible that “more” could be measurable. Is it attainable? Yes. Is it relevant? Yes! The problem is that “fast more” isn’t a specific goal or a time-bound goal.
Fasting more isn’t very specific because it doesn’t give you an amount of fasting nor is it time-bound because it doesn’t give you a timeframe in which to complete your goal.
We could make this goal SMART by adding in specificity and a time frame and changing the goal to read, “Fast twice this month.”
Now this goal meets all of the criteria of a SMART goal. You can clearly look at the end of the month and determine if you’ve fasted twice.
Can You Set SMART Goals for Prayer?
What about something like prayer?
Often, this is an area where we set ourselves up for failure by creating unattainable goals like, “Pray for an hour every day.”
Now, is this goal specific? Yes. Is it measurable? Yes. What about attainable? This is where we’re running into problems. Depending on your lifestyle, it might be hard to work in an hour of prayer into your schedule. If you don’t have a regular habit established of praying every day, going from 0-60 minutes might not allow you to develop a consistent habit, especially if your days already feel full!
For someone who was not praying regularly, transforming this goal to be SMART would look like creating a goal similar to, “For the next 2 weeks, pray for 10 minutes every morning.” This goal could become even more specific if you took out the work of determining where to start by saying, “I’ll spend 5 minutes praying a Psalm and 5 minutes in spontaneous prayer.”
The Benefits of Setting SMART Goals in Your Faith
I’ve written before about how goals can apply to a wide array of Christian practices and spiritual disciplines. SMART goals are no different!
Pick 2-3 areas where you need to grow, and start getting specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound goals to grow. When you have a map of where you’re going, it makes it easier to get there!
Having a plan in mind actually makes it easier to develop habits of holiness. Setting goals for hospitality may seem like it’s taking the spontaneity out of opening your home, but chances are it’s making it clearer and easier for you to develop the habit which will only enhance your ability to do so spontaneously. If you’re not in the habit of regularly opening your home to others, it’s easy to miss or shake off the prompting of the Holy Spirit in specific situations.
On the other hand, if you’re in the habit of regularly opening up your home to others, it makes it easier to say yes. It’s easier because you’re on the lookout for the opportunity to invite people to participate in something you’ve already decided to make a priority. It also helps because it’s not something new or overwhelming. If others are regularly in your home, it takes the pressure off of trying to make sure things are perfectly clean and dinner is on point! If you open your home once a year, it feels like a much bigger ordeal than if you’re having others join you for food and fellowship a few times a week.
The same goes for prayer, Bible study, service, fasting, or virtually any other spiritual habit. The more we make a clear effort to incorporate these practices into our lives, the more they become unconscious habits.
Setting SMART goals is a good way to start the development of this habit.
What are 1-2 SMART goals you can set for your faith this week? Share below in the comments and I know will be praying for you!