Relationship Goals Study Guide
A goal is the result or achievement toward which effort is directed. Take away the goal, and what good is the effort? Imagine a target archer with a bow and arrow. If he doesn’t have a bull’s-eye target, he can aim and shoot if he wants, but the arrow is not going to hit anything purposeful. So, what’s the point?
Many of us don’t have our aim directed when it comes to relationships. We take whatever comes. We do whatever’s comfortable. But we don’t really know where we’re going or why.
Don’t believe me? Have you ever known a girl who dated pretty much any guy who happened to show an interest in her, without ever stopping to think about the kind of guy who would really be right for her? Or a couple who have dated for a long time and have gotten so comfortable with it that they aren’t making any move toward marriage? Or a married couple who have let their former passion turn into a mere partnership for child rearing and home maintenance?
And it’s not just romantic relationships. How about a parent who doesn’t have any plans for how to stay close to his kids as they turn into adults and leave the home? Or somebody who moved into the neighborhood a year ago and still hasn’t made a single move to get to know her neighbors?
Maybe you’re the kind of person who somehow has never gotten around to making conscious relationship goals and has just fallen into the relationship ruts. But more than likely you’ve got some kind of goals, targets, or markers of success in mind when it comes to relationships. That’s better. Still, even if you do have targets, I want you to be open minded about whether these are the right targets. You might need to reexamine them. Because, see, it’s possible to have a target for your arrow that’s the wrong target.
Let’s say you’re single and ready to mingle and you’ve made a list of things you want in a significant other. One could be “He’s got to be at least this tall and make this much money,” or “She’s got to have a cute face and a tiny waist.” This shows that most of our lists tend to be a little (or a lot) superficial and might reflect, not what we actually need in a partner, but more of just what we want at the time.
Or let’s say you want to make more friends. Whom are you interested in knowing better? Is it just because they’re good looking, have money, or have surface similarities with you? What about what’s on the inside of them?
It’s good to take aim at relationship goals. That’s a whole lot better than just passively letting society or the media or our family experience teach us how to do relationships. But we also have to make sure we have the right goals, ones that will contribute to the life we ought to be leading.
God will help us find the right target for our relational arrows. And it will be better than we could find anywhere else.
Culture’s views on relationship are a moving target. Culture says marriage looks like this in one decade, then like that in another decade. The term dating used to imply physically going out somewhere. But now we have “Netflix and chill,” and you don’t have to be committed to anybody to cross the line into private areas.
God wants every single one of us to have successful relationships, but we have to have a goal that is stable enough for us to aim at. So, let me point out to you that the only thing that is unchangeable, unwavering, and immovable is the Word of God. Isaiah 40:8 tells us, “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” So, I dare you—no, I double-dog dare you—to let the standard of your relationships be God’s Word, even if it’s just for the time it takes you to go through these five sessions. Let’s just see what would happen in our hearts, minds, and lives if we would follow the stable, biblical model of relationships instead of following our own feelings or other people’s examples.
In your Relationship Goals group, you can take aim at new relationship goals that will help you fulfill your purposes in life and keep you in line with God’s eternal truths. I don’t care how old you are, how many relationships you’ve had, or what your current relationship status is—you can do relationships differently. You just need the right goals, ones that will enable you to get a W.
How to Use This Guide
This participant’s guide works in a lot of different situations, including in small groups, in book discussion groups made up of either single or married people (or both combined), or by a dating or married couple who want to grow closer. However you choose to use this participant’s guide, I hope that you will maximize your experience by using it alongside the book Relationship Goals.
If you’re studying Relationship Goals in an established group, you probably already have a clear sense of how your meetings should be organized and conducted to fit your context. But if you want a little more direction, here are some suggestions to get you started.
The Group Experience
To encourage conversation in your Relationship Goals group, try to keep the group size to no more than a dozen people. Meet in a place where you can sit comfortably to discuss the questions. There’s enough material for about an hour of meeting time, though you can shrink it or stretch it if you need to, depending on how your group manages the discussion time.
This whole journey is about progression, not perfection. It’s important that you have a place to share honestly. So, more than anything, make sure that you’re in a group of people you trust. God doesn’t bless who you pretend to be. He blesses who you really are.
The Session Format
The sessions are designed to follow a simple format. You’ll find an introduction you can read, opening and closing prayers, and a starter question that will help to get the conversation moving. Then you’ve got three steps:
Step 1: Personal Need—a simple activity or some questions that will help you identify the personal relevance of the topic for you, individually.
Step 2: Group Discussion—a menu of discussion questions designed to help the group understand and apply truths from the book Relationship Goals, supplemented with Bible studies that will help you dig into relevant passages.
Step 3: Action Step—your turn to decide what kind of relationship goals you are going to aim for in response to what you’ve learned in the session.
The Group Leader
One person should serve as the facilitator of the group sessions. This isn’t junior high, and there’s no need for anyone to lecture or dominate the group. But someone should take responsibility for keeping the discussion rolling.
Even if someone has had more experience in relationships, I encourage everyone to value everyone else’s experience. The leader of the group should see this as an opportunity for service that can be done only with humility and compassion. You don’t have to be a relationship expert; you are just helping to facilitate the conversation.
This study is all about relationships, right? So, make these sessions an opportunity for building relationships among the group members. Spend time getting to know one another, encouraging and praying for one another. You might want to have your discussion over a meal or serve snacks. By the authority invested in me as a pastor and the author of Relationship Goals, I hereby give you permission to make your group fun!
Reading Schedule for Relationship Goals
If you haven’t already read the book Relationship Goals, do so as you work your way through these sessions.
• Chapter 1: Read before session 1.
• Chapters 2 and 3: Read before session 2.
• Chapters 4 and 5: Read before session 3.
• Chapters 6 and 7: Read before session 4.
• Chapters 8, 9, and conclusion: Read before session 5.
Some Special Advice: Be HOT!
So many people who are looking for a relationship are trying to find a girl or a guy who is hot. And they try to look as hot as possible themselves so they can get attention. “Bro, she’s smokin’ hot!”
For the purposes of this discussion group, let me suggest that you forget how you look or how smooth you act and try to be HOT—humble, open, and transparent.
Your group is going to be talking about relationships. Singleness. Dating. Sex. Marriage. Divorce. It’s going to get personal fast. It might get pretty hot in the room! And so, you might be tempted to hold back on your own personal story or what you’re thinking and feeling or the mistakes you’ve made. That’s your right, if that’s what you want to do. But once again I’ve got a dare for you: be vulnerable and share openly with your group past the point where it feels comfortable to you, because that’s where you’re going to expose parts of your heart that need healing. You can’t walk in freedom until you walk in truth (John 8:32).
Or here’s another way to look at it: We all want to become more in our relationships. But before we can become, we have to be. Be is the beginning of be-come. We have to deal with where we really are first. Positive transformation comes afterward.