Movement: A culture of constant personal and corporate growth and improvement is enabled through effective change management, self-development and a leadership pipeline

Short Term Low Goals: A Little by Little Approach to Change

In Exodus 23:29-30 God says, “I will not drive them out before you in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little, I will drive them out before you, until you become fruitful enough to take possession of the land.”

Here God shows himself to be purposeful and strategic as to how to bring fruition to His promises to His people.

He had a pace in mind that would enable them to not be overwhelmed by too much change, too soon. A pace that would allow the conditions to ripen, for the people to experience successive victories and mature in their ability to handle the changes His promise would bring.

Admittedly, this is not the approach I prefer when I am in charge of monumental change. My heart cries for quick gratification of the benefits and a fast deliverance from the pain of the change.

This passage suggests that quick and fast may not be in my best interests, or that of the organization I lead. It appears that God, in His wisdom, prefers to provide deliverance gradually, equipping me for the change and enabling me to more fully appreciate the journey.

Breaking Big Changes Into a Series of Small Ones

In a previous post, “By the Inch it is a Cinch – The Incremental Approach to Change,” we talked about the benefits of introducing change gradually, by degrees, in stages or small steps. A similar, yet distinct approach is the use of short term, low goals to break big changes into a series of small ones.

Examples we are familiar with include:

  • The Alcoholic Anonymous mantra of “only one day at a time”
  • Weight loss programs with the goal of losing 50 pounds at the rate of one pound a week
  • Strength training programs with goal of lifting 50 additional pounds by adding one pound of resistance a week
  • Marathon training programs with the goal of running additional distances each week
  • Retirement savings programs that start with the goal of setting aside $10 a week

In each of the above examples the strategy is the same……..break a larger end goal into smaller chunks over shorter periods of time.

The reasoning is that a large goal can seem insurmountable and discourage even the most resolute. On the other hand, smaller goals over a longer period of time seem more doable and provide encouragement as each smaller goal is achieved.

Using Short Term Low Goals in the Church

Opportunities abound to use this approach in the church, especially when seeking to modify engrained personal behaviors. Examples include:

  • Challenging members to read the Bible through in a year by providing a daily Bible reading plan
  • Challenging members to learn how to fast by starting with half a day and working their way up
  • Challenging members to increase the length of their quiet time by 30 minutes a day in 5 minute increments
  • Challenging members to grow to a tithe by increasing their giving by 1% annually

Setting short term low goals is also helpful when implementing church vison, projects and goals. Examples include:

  • Approach a goal of 20 church plants over 10 years by setting a goal of two per year
  • Approach a three year goal of a $225,000 increase in giving by setting a goal of a $50,000 increase in year one, a $75,000 increase in year two and a $100,000 increase in year three
  • Approach completion of a master plan in several phases over a ten year period
  • Approach a goal to increase the number of mission trips and projects by 50% over 5 years with the goal of a 10% increase each year


There are clear benefits to breaking large changes or goals into a series of smaller ones over shorter periods of time. Those benefits include:

  • The change doesn’t appear so daunting
  • People are more likely to believe the change is achievable, positively impacting their attitude and their actions
  • The change initiative is less likely to get “stuck” or “stalled”
  • There are more opportunities to celebrate the impact of the change as milestones are met
  • People are encouraged to continue forward as milestones are met
  • Momentum builds and broad acceptance of the change increases as each short term goal is achieved
  • Achievement of each milestone, phase or short term goal provides new input that informs how to proceed with the next step of the journey

The idea of taking intentional small steps to accomplish a goal is not exactly a new idea, as we see below:

Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs – Henry Ford

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret to getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks – Mark Twain

It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward – Chinese Proverb

Posted on February 2, 2015

Jim Baker

Jim is a Church Organizational Leadership and Management Coach, Consultant and Trainer. Throughout his career Jim has demonstrated a passion for showing Pastors and Ministers how to use organizational tools for church and personal growth and health.

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“For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5