Yesterday, I made a bold statement, but I don’t know that many of us would actually disagree with it:

The next five years will reflect the quality of this past year of college ministry, whether we like that fact or not.

The harder thing is deciding that this statement will, in turn, radically affect the way we set goals for each year.

When I did a nationwide review of ten Chi Alpha ministries for their national office, I remember one of their college ministers – a “lifer” whose ministry at North Dakota State had a longtime impact – shared this in stark terms. As I wrote in the resulting book Chi Alpha on Campus,

[Brad Lewis] recognizes that students’ continued spiritual success after graduation will prove the worth of their campus ministry experience. He expressed the hope to call FM Chi Alpha alumni five years after graduation and “find them serving or volunteering … in a Spirit-filled church, married to a godly spouse, raising godly kids, with their finances in order, affecting both their workplace and their neighborhood for Jesus.”

I remember sitting in Brad’s office that day when he brought up the idea, unprompted by me, that their ministry’s success (or failure) would be judged by a telephone call five years later. And it was what he said next that made that idea a little more concrete:

“When you have that target to shoot at, it tells you what you need to be instilling in people’s lives now,” Brad explained.

That’s the kicker, right? We have to make those long-term targets explicit, and then we have to translate them into aims we carry out each year.