Putting Big Dreams Into Boxes

Every day we are bombarded by messages, advertisements, people, telling us to get out of the box!
We live in a culture that celebrates innovation, free thinking, and “the next best thing”: all of which come from “getting out of the box”. Being outside of the box is, indeed, a great place to be, but can only take us so far.

I have worked with, served alongside, sat in class beside, and been ministered to by incredible, powerful leaders who just couldn’t seem to get their dreams off the ground. Big events, new services, and even small changes were all too often lost in the sea of dreams, hoping that the Lord would mysteriously and miraculously make our dreams come true.

So how do we prevent this? How do we get these dreams off of the ground? It’s really quite simple: Instead of trying to eat the elephant in one bite, we break it down into manageable bites. To get our big dream off the ground, we must put these big dreams into boxes.


The first step of putting your dream in a box is to simply define the box. What’s your goal? What’s your dream? SMART goals are great for this step: for a goal to be SMART it must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Each of these five letters creates another “dimension” of your box.

For example, if you want to plan a community outreach event for the coming summer, you may define your smart goal as:
First Church will host a car show in June 2016 at the local park to reach the 40-and-up age range that our church is seriously lacking. We would like to have 25 cars involved in the show, and attract 100 visitors. We will fund the event with a portion of our outreach budget and will advertise through the local newspaper to attract our target audience.

Next, with our smart goal in mind, we begin laying out the individual “pieces” that need to fall into place to make the dream happen. Do you have a location, budget, supplies, volunteers, etc? Will you need vendors, sponsors, or advertising?

In the case of our last example, some of the steps might include:
(1) Contact the city about reserving a portion of the park in June 2016; (2) Work with executive pastor, or others on staff, to discuss budget for event; (3) Contact women’s group and student ministry about serving food at show; (4) Contact local paper about advertising options; (5) Enlist volunteers at church to support event; etc. etc. etc.

Once we get our pieces worked out, the next step is creating a timeline for the dream. Some dreams may be so far off that it seems crazy to create a timeline: why would you create a timeline for something that’s two, three, or four years away? It’s simple: a timeline gives us something to measure our progress against, a driving force when we lose purpose and a simple form of accountability. The easiest way to make a timeline is to line up the pieces in the order they need to happen in, and work backwards to assign dates to each individual piece.

For our example our timeline may look something like this:
—Discuss budget with staff: November 2015 at annual budgeting meeting
—Contact city about reserving park: January 1, 2016 (earliest park will allow us to reserve)
—Contact local paper: Late March 2016 (We want to advertise for two months before event)
—Speak with women’s group and students: April 2016
—Enlist volunteers from church: Early May 2016
—Event date!: June 2016

So now that we’ve got our goal, our pieces, and our timeline, it’s time to get cracking! This is perhaps the hardest step of all. For the free-spirits among us, sticking to a plan for an extended period of time is a total drag. For others, life happens: we get busy, lose funding, lose volunteers, lose momentum. The easiest way to keep on track is simply creating a periodic checkpoint to check your goals in comparison to your timeline, and either (a) playing catch-up if need be or (b) revising your timeline, as necessary.

Do you struggle to get your dreams off the ground? Do your dreams have a box?

Post contributed by Kelsey Leis, HGC Executive Administrator.