How to set an effective growth goal

Have you ever got excited about starting something new? I recall many times in my life where I feel inspired and look forward to beginning a new work, only to find myself in a situation where what I’ve started is overwhelming. Then the excitement wears off and I find myself stuck in the same situation I was in before I started. I’ve often found myself like this with my quiet times. This is why it is important to be careful to set an effective growth goal.


How to set an effective growth goal
You’ll remember that a growth goal “is a goal that focuses on your knowledge of God, His plans, purposes and how these relate to you.” Because we’re seeking to grow in our understanding of the Lord, His plans, and purposes and how these relate to you, an effective growth goal means meaningful engagement with God’s self-revelation to us in His Word. We considered reading the whole Bible and just parts of it and we also looked at different Bible Reading plans in order to begin to consider how to do this.[shareable]An effective growth goal means meaningful engagement with God’s self-revelation to us in His Word.[/shareable]

Remember that we need to set SMART goals, goals that are:

When we don’t account for these things our goals can become overwhelming and we often fail to achieve them. Let’s work through how to use the SMART formula to set an effective growth goal.

Be specific about your goal.

Just because a growth goal is more generic than a heart goal, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be specific.

Recalling that a growth goal focuses on your knowledge of God, His plans, purposes and how these relate to you, pick one of these areas that you want to focus on in this goal – or better yet a subset. For example, you might want to consider the sovereignty of God as you read, or you might want to see how God describes evil, or perhaps you want to see how God demonstrates and relates His goodness. Pick one or two things.

Be specific about the parameters of your Bible reading plan too. Include how long you will take on this goal, look up the end date and note it.

Write down your goal in a journal as specifically as you can, and include both the scope of your goal and the purpose of setting it. Here are some sample goals:

  • To read the Bible chronologically in 1 year and grow in my understanding of the sovereignty of God
  • To read the gospels right through from Matthew to John and grow my knowledge of the compassion of Jesus
  • To read the Old Testament history books in 6 months and grow in my understanding of God’s holiness

Make sure the goal is Measurable

If your goal is specific, it is very likely to be measurable in the sense of time and scope. If you are aiming to read the entire Bible, you can gauge your progress by marking off your reading in one of the PDF’s listed here.

However, you also want to make sure your actual growth is measurable. A good way to do this is to commit to taking notes on a daily basis about your reading. If you’re looking at God’s sovereignty, write down how you saw God’s sovereignty in your reading. Note how it was manifested and what the consequence was in the situation in question. Sometimes this will be harder than other times since we don’t see God exert His sovereignty explicitly in every passage. However, we can often infer it from other aspects in the text.

For example, In Psalm 32 David is expressing what it was like for him after he committed adultery with Bathsheba, but before he has repented. He recognizes that God’s hand was heavy against him (Ps 32:1-2) – this is an expression of how God was sovereignly acting in that situation. Later in the same Psalm, David appeals to God, “Let everyone who is godly pray to you when you may be found…” In his prayer, David is asking God to sovereignly move the heart of the godly to pray when they can. Application questions then flow out of this, such as, “David prays as if God can move people to act, do I do this? How should I do this? And what is David’s desire for these people and how does this align with God’s desire?”

As you think about what you read and write it down, you’ll be able to track your growth over time. I encourage you to go back over your notes once a week and summarize what you’ve learned that week, highlighting the one or two biggest things you’ve seen and how they are relevant to your life. Each month, you can look back at these summaries and recall what the Lord has been teaching you and how you’ve applied it.

Set a goal that is achievable

I’ve said this before, but I need to be reminded. Don’t overcommit. If you’re not consistent in your quiet time, don’t set a goal to read the entire Bible in a year. Instead, set a goal to become consistent in a daily quiet time of at least 10 minutes. 10 minutes sounds insignificant, but you’ll be surprised how effective just 10 minutes a day will be if you consistently use the time well. In fact, if you use the time well, you’ll want to spend more time.

If you are already consistent in your daily quiet time, an achievable goal could (should?) require you to spend more time each day or it may just mean being deliberate about the reason why you are following a certain reading plan. Make sure your goal is to focus on something that will help you grow and you can achieve.

At this point, I would also encourage you to think about the time of day that is consistently achievable. Later, I will make a case that you should set aside time with the Lord as the first thing you do in the morning, but for now, make sure you have a set block of time every day that you can reliably use.

Ensure there is a relevant reason

Purpose motivates. If you don’t have a reason to do a quiet time that is relevant, you won’t be motivated to do one. This is why I often used to get excited about setting a goal to read through the Bible, and then struggle to complete it – I didn’t have a good reason for picking that goal. The goal itself became the reason and goals aren’t motivational, they are aspirational. Reason is motivational. Relevance is everything when it comes to continuity and consistency.Purpose motivates. If you don’t have a reason to do a quiet time that is relevant, you won’t be motivated to do one Click To Tweet

The big overarching reasons for reading the Bible, and therefore for setting growth goals are these:

  • The God of the Bible is majestic in glory, power, goodness and mercy. He wants us to be amazed, astonished and to marvel at Him.
  • We become like what we worship. God’s goal is to be glorified by His creation, as we glorify Him, we become like him – which means we grow in holiness.

When it comes to you and me personally, part of the reason why we struggle with holiness is that our understanding of God is not as clear as it needs to be. So, what area of His glory do you need to grow in? Focus on growth in the knowledge of His will (Col 1:9) means understanding who God is, what He is doing and why. The more you grow, the more you will be transformed (Rom 12:2).

The question is, in what ways do you need to grow in the knowledge of God? Do you struggle to comprehend God’s goodness? That’s a good place to start. Do you struggle with His control over all things and take matters into your own hands? Start there.

Have clear time boundaries

There are two aspects of having time-bound goals in quiet times. On the one hand, be conscious of how much time you want to commit to each day. I find that if I set a goal for how much I want to read, my mindset changes so that I want to read as quickly as possible. When the time doesn’t pass quickly enough, I’ll get frustrated, but more importantly, I won’t benefit from what I’m reading like I need to. If I determine to set aside an amount of time, the issue of passing time goes away and I can focus on the best use of that time. Therefore, when you set your goal, make sure you set aside the required daily time to achieve the goal. Remember, the goal is not Bible reading itself, but the reason you are doing the reading – spiritual maturity.The goal is not Bible reading itself, but the reason you are doing the reading - spiritual maturity. Click To Tweet

Secondly, we want to have time boundaries in order to limit how long we will focus on a certain goal. Again, keep it achievable. Setting a 1-year goal may be more than you have the discipline to achieve. A 3-month goal might be easier, then set a 6-month goal, and after that, perhaps you might like to set a 12-month goal, by which time you’ll have much more confidence that you can complete it.

If you follow this simple guide, you’ll find that over time you’ll be increasingly successful in your quiet time consistency, and you’ll enjoy your quiet times more. Not only this, but you will see the growth in your knowledge of the Lord, which is reflected in your increasing maturity and character.

What’s your growth goal?