One thing I have noticed about Sessions and leadership teams across the presbytery is that we are most reluctant to name concrete goals for our churches. Now I understand the fear of naming a goal or a vision. We don’t want to feel like a failure if we don’t reach them. We believe there is nothing more defeating than naming an outcome and coming up short. I believe, however, if we don’t have a destination we will never get anywhere.

What are we striving for?

The main purpose of naming a goal is to offer a challenge and/or something to which to strive. Without a specific goal in mind our tendency as churches is to maintain the status quo and at our usual, comfortable pace, which almost assures that nothing of any consequence will happen.

The Ministry Plan team of the Committee for Development and Vitality is working with churches to name a specific goal(s) and then to help them devise a plan on how they will work toward reaching those outcomes. We are not asking your church to come up with something new as much as having you envision where you would be in three years if your efforts are successful. For instance, consider a church that is trying to get its members to be more open about sharing their faith with others. Some related goals would be that after three years there would be a regular testimony time in worship and a small group ministry would be developed to support and encourage faith sharing. Merely thinking about where you would want to be will give you something with which to aim. Without a goal it is too easy for our efforts to get sidetracked and sabotaged.

Help is Available

Perhaps you have heard about SMART goals, that is, goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. These are the kind of goals our team is seeking the churches of Albany Presbytery to make for themselves. As a trained congregational coach I can work with your team to help devise a plan to get from where you are to where you want to be. This is exactly why I am your Associate for Congregations.

This past year many of us read “Canoeing the Mountains” which used the story of Lewis and Clark’s expedition as a metaphor for the church.  Lewis and Clark were commissioned to find a water route to the Pacific. Of course, they did not find one. But because they were working toward this goal they made tremendous other discoveries along the way. Without a goal in mind we simply plod along and never discover new ways to be the Church of Jesus Christ. God expects more from us.

About Rev. Dr. Tim Coombs

Tim Coombs serves as co-pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Scotia, NY with his wife, Rev. Kathleen Gorman-Coombs and leads a New Worshiping Community, Parallels ( He also worked on staff at Albany Presbytery for over a decade. Besides his work for the church, Tim is a storyteller, biker, guitar player, and intern to his cat, Sharpie. You can reach Tim at:

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