Not goals for the New Year, but something better.

ImageI like goals.  I find I get stuff done when I set goals.  But when I am honest, I would admit that many goals I set I do not accomplish.

I think this is an issue in our local congregations and denomination too.  We say our mission (our goal) is to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”  I imagine most of us in the United Methodist Church would say this is a good and important goal.  But what happens next?  A whole lot of nothing. Not because we don’t care but because we don’t know what to do.

I think we lift up the goal but that too often we lack a system to bring it about. 

Think about it.  If I set a goal to “lose weight” but don’t have a system to bring it about, will it just happen?  Doubtful.  But if I set the same goal and develop a system of exercise and a food plan, will I succeed?  More likely.  

I believe our biggest issue with “making disciples” is that we don’t have a system. 

A great article at addresses this.  In “Forget Setting Goals.  Focus on This Instead-”we are invited to focus on our systems.  The author, James Clear writes, “Goals can provide direction and even push you forward in the short-term, but eventually a well-designed system will always win. Having a system is what matters. Committing to the process is what makes the difference.”  

 For local church pastors the problem is often a lack of time to work on a system.  In today’s world, pastors are responsible for more and more, we all know that.  So, how do we move forward?

 First, some history.  Historically we had three types of gatherings in the United Methodist Church:

1. “Societies” which most closely resemble today’s churches with preaching and music.

2. “Classes” which most closely resemble today’s small groups – 8-10 people gathering.

3. “Bands” which mostly absent from today’s churches (and honestly, were not real popular during Wesley’s time either). These were groups of 2-3 people that met to work on “besetting sins” (which is a phrase we should certainly work on bringing back for 2014….smile).

Important to understand is that in Wesley’s system, both discipleship and mission happened in “classes” not “societies.” Today’s small groups (the closest we have to “classes”) often do not focus on discipleship and mission but learning and study.  Learning and study doesn’t make disciples (meaning that they are not sufficient).  Here is a great article on this, “Misleading Beliefs of Small Group Ministries.” 

 So how do we move forward? Where do we find a system to make disciples that is lightweight and low maintenance (so that we will do it and it won’t be hard to manage no mater how big or small our church may be?).  Since 2012, I have been leading small Discipleship Huddles.  Here is a video.


For me, 2014 will be a continuing refinement of this material.  I will be working on the systems and hope to share it with you.  In February an online Google Hangout Huddle 1 will begin – it is free and open to all who want to grow in their discipleship within the UMC. Let me know how I can assist you in the New Year.



– Rev. Nicole Reilley