How To Set Goals For Your Church That You Will Actually Achieve

This post has been adapted from episode 6 of our podcast. You can listen to the full podcast here, watch the video below, or keep reading.

Kevin Fontenot: Hey, I’m Kevin Fontenot and I’m here with Scott Magdalein. We’re your hosts of the Thriving Ministry Team’s podcast where we’re talking about all things related to church leadership, development, discipleship, and training. And, today I’m really excited about the topic that we’re gonna be going over. We’re gonna be talking about goal setting, something that I really enjoy doing. Something that I’ve been practicing more and more this year. But, before we dive in, I wanted to share a little bit of a special offer with you guys, the listeners of the Thriving Ministry Team’s podcast. We’re giving 50% off your first month of TrainedUp.

Kevin Fontenot: If you’re not familiar with TrainedUp, it’s the company behind this podcast. Scott and I work there all day every day helping church leaders to better equip their teams with online training. We do this with a simple online training tool with over 600 library videos. They’re really simple, practical, easy to use that you can import with a single click. Also, in limited room for customization with your own videos, with adding in custom questions, things like that. So, if you want to try it out you can get 50% off your first month of TrainedUp. Just use the Coupon code “Thriving,” go to, use that coupon code “thriving,” get 50% off that first month, and you’ll be good to go.

Kevin Fontenot: But let’s go ahead and shift and talk about what we’re gonna be talking about today, which is goal setting. And, this is something that you know I really like to discuss, I like to talk about because so many people are kind of apprehensive to this topic, and this is … In the past, I’ve been apprehensive to it, and I’ve kind of gone the way of just choosing not to set goals. But, this year is one of the first years where I’ve really gone in and set personal goals for myself that I think that I’ll actually achieve. At least the majority of them that I’ve created. I created about seven or eight healthy goals for myself, some of those related to health, my relationship with my wife, my spiritual health as well as some financial goals as well. Did you create any goals this year, Scott?

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Scott Magdalein: Personal goals, I created … Okay, so my goals and my personal goals tend to be discipline oriented instead of like reaching marks oriented. So, like one of my goals is to run three times a week, and I’ve done pretty good. There’s been a few weeks where I’ve gotten down to two times a week, but there’s also been a few weeks where I’ve done four, just because of the way that like a running schedule works out. Doing runs on the weekend and stuff.

Scott Magdalein: So, running schedule’s been one, and I’ve made it … I don’t know if it’s a goal, but a new discipline or breakfast is a vegetable drink, which was really hard in the beginning because I hate vegetables and the drink itself tastes like grass. Like, it tastes … like, if you’re a baseball person and you know the smell of a baseball field that’s been like freshly cut? You walk out there and it smells so good? But like imagine that becomes a drink, and you drink it. That’s exactly what it tastes like, which it was really rough the first, like in January. But now it’s like my morning breakfast.

Scott Magdalein: So, which is great because it’s all … sorry, I got off on this tangent. It’s replaced coffee for me in the morning. I still drink a coffee in the afternoon, but it kind of has this pick me up, kick me up kind of thing.

Kevin Fontenot: Kick me up? I like that.

Scott Magdalein: So, yeah my goals are typically more like discipline related rather than like some metric out in the future, so.

Kevin Fontenot: Gotcha. Cool. And I think a lot of people kind of have those discipline based goals that they’re trying to hit, and it’s a little bit more difficult to create kind of the aspirational specific goals for some of the things that you’re trying to do. We, at TrainedUp, we have some goals that we’ve created for ourselves as far as what we want to do this year for the amount of people that we’re serving, the amount of resources that we’re putting out. We love creating those goals. But, a lot of people are apprehensive to the thought of goal setting in general, because they just see it as an exercise that doesn’t really work. They’ve set goals in the past, don’t see any progress about it. They set these goals and nothing ultimately changes.

Kevin Fontenot: And, I’d love to hear your thoughts on why you think most ministry leaders set goals and nothing kind of happens with them?

Scott Magdalein: Yeah, well I mean I think the number one reason is because goals typically are set as part as some exercise from a boss as like an assignment from a boss, and they don’t mean much to the ministry leader themselves. And so those kind of goals, if they don’t mean anything to you, if they’re not tied to something really that you care about, then you’ve got no motivation to reach toward those goals. You know? So, like in the past I’ve set goals related to personally, I’ve set goals related to weight loss but I don’t really care about weight loss. Like, I care about being healthy, I care about not being winded when I play with me kids. I care about being able to go for a swim and be able to make it all the way across the lake kind of thing.

Scott Magdalein: I don’t really care so much about my waist size, although I guess I’m supposed to and it’s correlated. So, which is why in the past my goals that are related to things I don’t care about, I never reach them. But, goals that are related to things I care about I tend to work harder at them. And I seem to like be reminded of that goal because I care about the thing that the goal is related to. And so, to me the number one pitfall to goal setting for ministry leaders is setting goals around things you don’t care about.

Scott Magdalein: So, like for example, in ministry I know we all care about like the number of people in our ministry. But, some people, that’s not a motivating factor for them. Like maybe a children’s ministry leader … it’s difficult to really make change, or to really increase the number of children that are in your ministry because it’s related to so many other factors in your church. So, the number of kids in your ministry might not be something that is particularly motivating to you.

Scott Magdalein: But, there are things that can impact that number. So, whereas a traditional goal might be to set, you know “I’m gonna add 10%, I’m gonna grow 10% in our children’s ministry this year,” That number is such a nebulous kind of like, difficult thing to visualize. Whereas a goal that might impact that would be helping to increase the number of mentions about our children’s ministry online, and how people talk about our children’s ministry online. So that, you know, relates to how we train our volunteers to make sure that they … our parents have a good experience, and how we structure our children’s time to make sure that the kids are just super stoked to come back and they beg their parents for it.

Scott Magdalein: So, there are peripheral goals that you can set that impact high level goals, even the goals that you might not care about. So, those are just a couple of things that I would say. Make it hard-

Kevin Fontenot: Yeah, I think that’s a really good one as far as people setting goals they don’t really care about or don’t really mean a lot to them. Kind of piggybacking off of that, I think another one of the pitfalls that normally happens is people will set the goals, and they just set them and forget them. They don’t think about them. They write them down on a piece of paper, they hand it in to their boss, something like that. Or, they start out at the very beginning of the year with the natural shift in time, and they get excited about their goals for maybe a week or two, and then ultimately it’s just a piece of paper in their desk, or a note on their computer. They never think about it again.

Kevin Fontenot: And, that’s been a big shift that I’ve had to do in my own life of thinking about these goals that I’m setting for myself, instead of just thinking about them 12 months from now of the goal that I want to be at, and the things that I’m trying to achieve. I have to really personify that in every month, in every week, set those kind of micro goals leading up to it. Because then it helps me to see if I’m on track, if I need to double down on something, if I need to put more effort into it, if maybe I need to ease up on something so I can kinda shift my focus and attention to some of those other goals. So, I think that’s a big one that we typically overlook a lot.

Scott Magdalein: Yeah, absolutely. I call those runaway goals. Those are the goals that are too far out into the future to feel it, to feel like the pressure of trying to reach it. So, that’s a great tactic, even what you mentioned is like breaking that far away goal. Because some goals have to be far away. Like, if I want to be able to run a half marathon, that’s a long way off go, but it’s hard to visualize that, but if I make that “Well, this month I’m gonna run a 5K, and so I’m gonna work my way up to running a 5K.” Not like zooming through a 5K, just finishing a 5K.

Scott Magdalein: And then I do that, and then I can say “Well, I’m gonna run five miles by the next month” then I’m working my way toward that runaway goal. But, if my runaway goal is my only goal, then man it’s so easy to get discouraged on the way to it. It’s just too far away, and often because it’s so far away we set them as like really big goals because we’re like “Oh, surely in year I’ll be able to run 13 miles,” but it’s just so hard to eat that elephant, you know? Because it’s so far away and so big.

Kevin Fontenot: Yeah, definitely. I was listening to a podcast with Michael [Hyad 00:08:28] and Donald Miller this past week, and they were kind of talking about goal setting. Because I don’t know if you know Michael Hyad, but he’s kind of the guru of goal setting. Every time I hear him talk about goals, and planning, it just kind of gets me a little motivated for some of the things I want to do in my life. And, he was kind of talking about this principal, and this idea kind of related to what we’re talking about. Of setting goals too far into the future, because when we’re talking about goals that are super far into the future, we can’t really personify them or can’t really even grasp their meaning.

Kevin Fontenot: Because like you said, 13 miles in a year surely I can do that, but that’s talking about like a future self that doesn’t really impact us today at all. But, if I’m thinking about myself three months from now, I can still kind of visualize who that person is gonna be in three, four months. It’s a lot harder for me to visualize that person in seven, eight, nine, 12 months from now because that’s a long period of time for us to kind of just skirt through and try to figure out if we can achieve those things or not.

Kevin Fontenot: So, being able to kind of move them down to that level of three months, four months, five months, really allows you to kind of personify that. Of, you know who that person is going to be in three months because it’s based on those actions today where a person in six, 12 months from now it’s a lot harder to grasp who that’s going to be in your life. Even when we’re talking about ourselves.

Scott Magdalein: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. One more thing before we jump onto the next … kind of move onto the next thing. We’re talking about weaknesses or pitfalls of why we miss goals. One more is that we tend to … it’s easier to set lagging goals. So, we set goals that are more easily measured at the end of an initiative instead of being able to be measured as you go. So, a good one is an attendance record or something like that. It’s a lagging metric that is indicative of a lot of things that lead up to it.

Scott Magdalein: So, that lagging metric is usually like, we call it in the web world a vanity metric maybe. But, it’s one of those things where it’s nice to have metric, but there’s a lot of valuable metrics that would lead up to it. So, it’s much more valuable, much more effective to set goals into things that effect of impact that lagging goal, rather than just kind of setting that vanity metric by itself and then forgetting about the things in between it that lead to it.

Kevin Fontenot: Yeah, that’s really good. You know, you and I were talking a couple of weeks ago about some of the goals that we’re trying to do for TrainedUp as far as the number of people we’re serving and things like that. And, you had mentioned that you have a hard time shifting from estimating to goal setting, and you kind of air on the side of estimating instead of goal setting. So, what’s the difference? Why is that important? Talk us through a little bit of that.

Scott Magdalein: Yeah, so, it’s probably like a weird bad habit that I picked up at some point. Where, all right, so the context of this is at the beginning of this year we were talking about how many churches can we be serving by the end of the year? Like, actively serving by the end of the year with our online products, and consulting coaching, and that kind of stuff. And, my first inclination was to go to our dashboard and see what our growth has been over the last six months and then say “Okay, well if we maintain that growth then the next six months we’ll be here. Okay, so this is our goal.”

Scott Magdalein: And, based on our past growth, our future growth is gonna be … if it stays the same that’s what our goal’s gonna be. And, that’s like … and then of course Kevin was like “Well, that’s not a goal, that’s an estimate. That’s you just saying ‘Okay, well I think we’re gonna be there’ instead of saying ‘I want to be.'” The whole point of a goal is to push you. The whole point of a goal is to push you beyond what you’re just gonna naturally do anyway just if you keep doing what you keep doing.

Scott Magdalein: So, I guess … I don’t know where it comes from. Maybe it’s like a place of safety. Where if I just set our goal within reach, where I can already reach I know I can reach and I know that I can hit it and so that I know that we can have a party at the end of the year. Versus like, if we set a goal that’s too out there, then if we don’t hit it then I’m gonna be disappointed. So, I guess that’s my pitfall. My weakness in goal setting is to set goals that look more like estimates and end up being too weak.

Kevin Fontenot: Gotcha. And, I think people typically fall on either side of it. So, I typically go on the opposite side of that where I set these crazy goals for myself that just seem completely out of reality, and out of touch. So, I think we work well together, Scott because we kind of meet somewhere in the middle on that. Where you don’t let me set things that are way too crazy, even though sometimes we set them and are surprised when we actually hit some of those goals.

Scott Magdalein: Now, I was about to say … I was like you do set some crazy goals, but I will say when it comes to guessing or estimating what’s gonna actually happen you tend to be right way more often than I’m right. And you tend to be right, and it’s surprising to me because you’re on the high side of like estimating how many people we’re gonna be able to serve by the end of the month. Or, how many demos we’re gonna do by the end of the month, that kind of stuff. And, it’s … you’re much more accurate which is surprising to me. Every single time I’m surprised, which is … I guess at some point I’ll become not surprised by your accuracy.

Kevin Fontenot: Well, I promise it’s not sort of witch craft, so don’t try to do any Salem witch trials or anything like me, put me out on a log in a lake or anything like that. I think it’s really important for us to set those goals that maybe don’t make a little bit of sense. Because goal setting ultimately is going against what the status quo is. Kind of what you talked about. You kind of have an estimate of what’s gonna happen in the future, some of those estimates may be a downward trend. They may be just an equal footing of where you’re at now. But, then there’s the other side of it where it may be 10%, 20% higher just naturally based on your growth rate and your organization. some of the goals that you’ve set, some of the things that you’ve seen in the past.

Kevin Fontenot: It’s really easy for us to naturally just go with those goals. “Oh, we just want to hit that,” and kind of the really practical side of that is figure out what that estimated date is going to be in six months from now, a year from now. The time frame of you setting that goal, and add 10 to 20% to it. Don’t get super crazy where you’re trying to make these goals where they’re completely out of reality, and they don’t have any sort of basis in the real world. But, they still need to be a stretch. They need to be something that are aspirational that we’re trying to work towards. They should be something that requires us to grow not only as an organization, but as individuals as well. And Scott, you’ve kind of eluded to that aspect of all these little things kind of work together towards us hitting those larger goals that we’ve set.

Scott Magdalein: Yeah, so for me there’s … again, I’m by no means the best goal setter. I have my own shortcomings when it comes to that. But there are some best practices that you can follow that I try to follow myself. I try to remind myself when we’re going through these goal setting exercises. Even for TrainedUp, but also for my church and that sort of thing. So, it helps when I … I’m really terrible at goal setting when I don’t write things down.

Scott Magdalein: So, if I’m just kind of sitting here ideating through goal setting, I’m terrible at it because of the way my brain works. I have to write kind of an outline of what we’re trying to accomplish, where we’ve been. And then again, like one of those things where okay, I can place an estimate, make an estimate of where we’re gonna be and then increase it by 10%, or increase it by whatever amount seems like an appropriate amount. That we can reach for.

Scott Magdalein: So, for me writing it down helps a lot. It also helps for me to break it down into categories. So, like whereas we may have one big, over [inaudible 00:15:47] goal, it helps to break it down into different areas that effect over [inaudible 00:15:51] goal. So, if as a company we want to serve 800 customers by the end of x months, then we would break that down into then the demos we might be doing. And, the number of coaching sessions we do, and the amount of content we put out and that sort of thing. So, it kind of breaks it down into the things that effect that upper, that top goal.

Scott Magdalein: Then of course, for me, and this is … I’m laughing because this is the kind of inside joke in TrainedUp that I tend to be like a Chicken Little about things. And so, we’ll set goals and then they’ll be stretch goals, and then those goals throughout the course of the month or the year or whatever … we are doing well on some weeks, and then we’re not doing well on other weeks and it’s going down. And, I tend to be like “The sky’s falling, we’re not gonna hit our goal. We’re not gonna hit our goal,” kind of person. And, that really doesn’t help anything or anybody.

Scott Magdalein: So, like we actually even in our slack account … slack is the tool we use to chat as a team. Kevin made a special Chicken Little emoji that whenever I get negative, he posts … he quietly just posts the little Chicken Little emoji and it reminds me “Scott, you’re being negative for no reason.” So, the point of that is to be positive about your goals because being negative about goals is not really gonna help anything. Being positive also helps you to think creatively. It helps you to problem solve whereas being negative about a goal or what you’re trying to reach can kind of undercuts at the knees any kind of work you’re gonna do to try and reach that goal.

Kevin Fontenot: Yeah, definitely. I love the Chicken Little emoji. I had to use it on myself last week, just because I started getting down about a certain metric that we were trying to track with the [inaudible 00:17:27]. So, had to use it on myself and kind of reevaluate some of those goals and where we were at as far as hitting some of them. But kind of going along with that, we’re talking about best practices now. That’s one of the reasons I really love doing this podcast because we’re not just talking about theoretical things. We want to talk about things you can actually implement. So, I’ve kind of eluded to this point of setting up specific goals for yourself, but being able to track them over time and breaking them down into little pieces.

Kevin Fontenot: You talked about the Chicken Little effect, and it’s really easy to kind of get down from week to week based on what those numbers are. But, one of the things that I found myself doing a lot more with some of the goals that I’ve set is I’ve been able to go in and kind of track on a monthly basis how I’m doing. And, based on that I know what type of adjustments I need to make. So, one of the things I’m starting to implement now is kind of doing a little bit of a daily reflection on how things are doing. Then that leads to weekly reflection, and a monthly reflection. Just because it allows me to kind of see how I’m trending on certain things. It’s really easy for us to kind of go the way of looking back at it three months at a time and trying to figure out what went wrong when we don’t hit a goal, or don’t hit a certain metric that we’re aiming for.

Kevin Fontenot: That becomes a lot harder for us to do if we’re thinking about it on a daily basis, or a weekly basis because than those things are top of mind for us. We know what we’re working towards, we’re thinking about those goals every single day, we’re thinking about what we can do today. What’s the one little thing that you can do today or this week that will move the needle towards hitting that goal? And that’s been one of the biggest, best practices that I’ve implemented in my own life to kind of try and hit goals a little bit better.

Scott Magdalein: Yeah, that’s a good point. And, like you kind of mentioned that you have this place where you’re able to go back and look at how you’re doing at the goals. But, the only way you’re able to do that if it’s written down. And, that’s perfect because like you can’t keep track of a goal if it’s not written. I know it’s obvious, but you can’t keep track of a goal if it’s not written down somewhere because it’s gonna be floating in your head somewhere and there’s lots of other things in your head that you need to be keeping track of.

Scott Magdalein: What’s also great though is as a ministry leader, you have a team that you’re also leading toward that goal. So, if you have it in a spreadsheet where only you can see it then the rest of your team is trying to keep that in their head, and I promise your team is not gonna keep it in their head. So, what I like to say is also like if it’s a team goal, then the goal needs to be team visible. It needs to be visible to everybody on your team, and there’s a couple of ways you can do that.

Scott Magdalein: So, churches, you might not have a central bulletin board for all your volunteers where they go to look at the goals for the year or whatever. So, a couple of ways you can keep it visible to your team is to mention it on a regular basis. So, mention it in regular email communication with your team, mention it in onboarding training when you have new volunteers that join. Just say “This is the goal that we’re trying to reach this year, and this is what you’re gonna be helping us reach toward.” It gives them kind of an anchor point of what they’re being a part of, what they’re reaching for.

Scott Magdalein: Also, my favorite part of … my favorite time to reiterate goals as a ministry is on Sunday mornings when we do our Sunday morning pow-wow kind of thing when we talk on Sunday morning before service starts. Is as we’re taking a prayer request, doing prayer for each other, celebrating what God’s doing in that ministry and in the church, and also reiterating what our goals are and what we’re trying to reach for together as a team. So, keeping that goal visible for everyone in the team helps keep it top of mind, and really helps people to glum onto it and make it part of their every day thought process.

Kevin Fontenot: No, I think that’s really great. It’s … one of the things that I help co-lead small groups at my church, and this is something that we’ve had to do. So, we do a monthly huddle in our groups, and we actually had that monthly huddle last night. So, we’ve set some goals as far as what we want to achieve number wise, as number of group leaders, number of people we’re pouring into, things like that. And, we’ve kind of set those based on people in small groups to the number of people that are actually attending our church. That’s kind of how we’re measuring kind of our effectiveness there.

Kevin Fontenot: But, we completely relaunched our small groups about a year and a half ago, and we really focused in on making sure that we’re helping people to grow. That’s kind of our biggest aspect that we’re looking towards now. So, I the past our groups were really relational. We gave a lot of leniency as far as what people can do, what they can teach, and we’ve really kind of honed in on that because we’re working towards specific goals. So, for us as a team, we’re meeting every single month. We’re kind of going over those goals, we’re talking about what we can do today that’s leading up to those goals that we know we want to hit two, three years from now. And we’ve really broken it down to these simple steps.

Kevin Fontenot: So, for us this year, for all of our small group leaders, we want them to be able to go in and pick someone in their group that they’re actively pouring into their lives on a weekly basis. So, outside of small group they’re meeting with this person, they’re trying to disciple them, they’re really trying to raise them up as a leader and they’re kind of their one person. So, the navigators have this really great idea of “Who’s your man?” And “Who’s your woman?” And what that means is simply “Who’s the person you’re pouring into, who’s the person you’re discipling and you’re raising up as a leader?” So, we’ve kind of adopted that same mentality, and so every single month we’re coming into these meetings. We’re talking about that aspect of you know what progress are we making today to kind of lead us to those goals? It’s been really helpful for us to kind of not just think of these aspirational goals that are two, three years away. But, how we can actually make an impact on our daily basis in our small groups.

Scott Magdalein: That’s awesome, that’s awesome. I mean, being able to break down goals like that … again, we’re going back to this over and over again, but the reason we go back to this is because it’s the biggest pitfall I think. Especially when creating organizational goals, or team goals is that these goals tend to be too big and too far out there and hard to accomplish because they’re not broken down into more accomplish-able small pieces.

Scott Magdalein: Before we … I know we’re getting kind of to the end of our episode here, before we cut off I want to mention here that there’s a TrainedUp course that covers this exact topic. It’s a video course, it’s four parts. Takes about 15, 20 minutes to get through it, to watch all the videos and answer the questions. It’s already done for you in your TrainedUp library, so with the TrainedUp account, you just go in and import that course. It comes with the video and the questions. It’s done and all you do is just share it from there.

Scott Magdalein: With the new feature that like the password-less login feature that we just rolled out, your volunteers, your leaders won’t even have to figure out how to log in or create and account or anything like that. It’s just automatic and done for them. So, you can take some of the stuff we talked about today, and a lot more in depth and a few other areas as well for that course. Put it in front of your leaders, put it in front of some of your [inaudible 00:23:58] leaders and it will help them to start thinking strategically about how to create goals without giving them like a really specific, solid, overly structured method for doing it. They can still think creatively within their own mindset in how to create their own goals, but the course kind of goes over some of the best practices, pitfalls, and ways to communicate goals for teams. So, that’s in our TrainedUp library.

Kevin Fontenot: Awesome. I love that you created that course because it’s a nice one to have where you can just kind of import it, and go, and print it out to your people. That’s one of the biggest things that we’ve done with TrainedUp, is try to think through these ideas that every single church leader needs in their arsenal. We’ve created a ton of resources like that so I love that, and with that you can use the coupon code “Thriving” to get 50% off that first month if you’re not currently a TrainedUp customer. So, that’s a great resource for you guys to kind of-

Scott Magdalein: And, 50% off your first month. I’m gonna interrupt, 50% off your first month. But also, we have a happiness guarantee. So, if you sign up and in the first 30 days it doesn’t work for you for whatever reason, no questions asked you can let us know, and we’ll cancel and refund even that 50% off. So, you get a 50% off, but also you get a refund if it doesn’t work for you. So, there’s no risk.

Kevin Fontenot: And I heard another rumor with that as well. You’re doing coaching calls now with new sign ups, right?

Scott Magdalein: I am, yes. So, we’re offering coaching calls with all new sign ups with either Me or with Kevin. Usually it happens with me, and what I do is I walk through … it usually takes about 30 minutes. Upwards of an hour, depending on what you’re challenges are. I’ll work with individual ministry leaders or with entire staffs. It’s really awesome to work with entire staff though, because we get to cover a lot of different ministry areas and kind of look at the challenge of training from different angles. What we do is we talk through not just what the challenges are, but how to implement TrainedUp and kind of address those challenges with TrainedUp. Also, with the context of other training scenarios in their church.

Scott Magdalein: So, I really enjoy those coaching sessions. We do several a week just because it keeps me close to ministry leaders and opens my eyes to more challenges than just what I personally face in my own ministry.

Kevin Fontenot: That’s really awesome. And that’s one of the things that we love doing. We love getting to connect on those coaching calls, we love getting to have conversations with just pastors and ministry leaders that aren’t even necessarily using TrainedUp, and we get to have tons of those conversations every single week. So, if you have questions, if you have comments about some of the things that we’ve been talking about, please go to Start a conversation with us. Scott or myself will answer those, and we answer every single one. No chat goes unanswered, we love getting to talk back and forth with ministry leaders. We have people that jump on sometimes and mess with us inside chat that know us well. Those are always fun to get.

Kevin Fontenot: But, head over to Let us know if there’s any questions, any comments. Maybe share some of your goals with us. So, head over to, share some of your goals with us, ask us some questions and that’s gonna be it for today’s episode of thriving ministry teams. We hope to see you guys next week.