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5 Church Leadership Lessons I Learned from Moses’ Father-in-Law

I know that’s not a very intriguing or sexy title…no clickbait there. However, to this day, the best leadership book I’ve ever read is the Bible (and like you, I’ve read a lot of leadership books). One of the most interesting leadership interactions I’ve ever read about is out of Exodus chapter 18.

Moses is actually pretty early in his personal leadership development and along comes Exodus chapter 18, which turns out to be a crucible moment for Moses. It’s one of those moments where Moses’ leadership grows exponentially. Exponential leadership growth, or crucible moments, are usually a result of pain in our lives, and in Exodus 18 Moses is experiencing all kinds of leadership pain. In fact, it was so painful it affected his family so badly that his father-in-law had to step in. Not a great moment for a son-in-law.

Usually we are the lid to our own leadership

“The next day Moses sat to judge the people and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening.” Exodus 18:13

Moses was his own worst enemy, and the worst part is he didn’t even see it. He had led himself into a corner. Every decision had to go through him. He chose control over growth. He could control everything if it came through him, but by doing so he stunted his own personal leadership growth and prevented himself from being what the Israelites needed him to be. At first, for a new young leader that may make you feel important and valuable. But like Moses you’ll quickly learn that when you’re running from sunup to sundown, that kind of approach can lead to some very unhealthy behaviors in your life and actually hurt the Church.

We all have blind spots

“When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this that you are doing for the people?’” Exodus 18:14a

Moses had a blind spot. He was doing something that wasn’t good for himself and it wasn’t good for the people he was supposed to be leading. And by the way, it also wasn’t good for his family…that’s probably why his father-in-law butted in. We all need people to butt-in from time to time and hold up a mirror to help us see things that we just can’t see on our own. When people hold up a mirror to your leadership is your first inclination to listen and ponder or fight and offer excuses?

You don’t have to lead alone

“’Why do you sit alone, and all of the people stand around you from morning till evening?’” Exodus 18:14b

Leadership by its very nature is exclusive. After all, how many CEO’s of Amazon are there? How many CEO’s of Apple are there? I think you get my point. However, just because leadership is exclusive doesn’t mean it needs to be lonely. Those are two different things. While it’s true that the leader has decision making power and carries weight that others in the organization don’t, it doesn’t mean they need to do that in isolation. It’s never good to sit alone in leadership like Moses was. Bad things happen when leaders become lonely.

You’re not the only one who can do it

“Moses’ father-in-law said to him, ‘What you are doing is not good.’” Exodus 18:17

When church leaders buy into the lie that says, “no one can do it as good as me,” all kinds of bad things happen. You suffer, everyone around you suffers, and the mission of Jesus suffers, You suffer because you carry more than you are called and designed to carry. People around you suffer because they carry less than they are called and designed to carry. The mission of Jesus suffers because less people are involved in the mission and as a result the reach of the Gospel is diminished. Are you carrying out your calling, or have you picked up things that it’s time to let go of?

The help you need is probably right under your nose

“So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.” Exodus 18:24-25

Often, we can’t see the solutions God is providing us because we’re more focused on being a victim and find a solution. Moses had become a bit self-absorbed and had a bit of a “woe-is-me” attitude. As soon as Moses started looking around to see what kind of solution and resources God had provided him and got his eyes off of himself things started working for Israel and for Moses. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and playing the part of a martyr, take a different approach and find a solution.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing

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Getting Your Church Staff Team Unstuck

You can have a great vision, but if the team isn’t healthy and high-performing, the church won’t experience health and growth.

More than ten years ago (gosh that’s hard to believe) I started The Unstuck Group. This was after being a part of several great teams both before and during my life in ministry. My sophomore basketball team wasn’t so good. I cheer for some teams that aren’t so good. (I’m looking at you…the Cleveland Browns.) But, when it comes to my workplaces, I’ve been on winning teams.

I think my experience being a part of great teams clouded my perspective about helping churches get unstuck. I thought all we had to do was help churches align around vision, strategy and action plans. If we did this, it would lead to healthy, growing churches.

In many cases, that was true. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work in every situation. What I learned was this—

you can have a great vision, but if the team isn’t healthy and high-performing, the church won’t experience health and growth.

For the first 10 years of The Unstuck Group, we’ve been solely focused on church health, but that’s about  to change.

A couple of years ago I started talking with my long-time friend Lance Witt about helping us design a process to help teams get unstuck. Since then, he’s written a phenomenal book on that topic. The book addresses both the health and performance of becoming a high impact team.

Then, last December, a group of us got together and started to map out a new process to help teams live out the principles Lance wrote about in his book. We designed Unstuck Teams to address these aspects for having a higher impact team:

Any leader worth his or her salt will pause right now a do a little self-assessment. Which of those six areas are a strength in your leadership? Which of those six are weaknesses? Here’s a hint. Your team will reflect your leadership in all six of these areas.)

In my experience, it’s rare to find a team that’s firing on all cylinders in each of these areas. I’ve worked with teams who are healthy, but lack in the area of performance. I’ve worked with teams who appear to be getting results, but team is not healthy and relationships are strained.

In some instances, it wasn’t about health or performance at all. Instead the culture was  toxic or the structure wasn’t well-defined. Employees didn’t know who was responsible for what. Some didn’t even know their own roles and responsibilities. As you can imagine, none of these gaps set the team up to have a significant impact. And when the team is not right, the church will never be healthy.

After designing the Unstuck Teams process, Lance joined our staff full-time. I wish Lance could join every team full-time. He not only writes and trains leaders on these topics, he lives them out. Lance is an incredible leader. (I would use that “he’s smoking what he’s selling” cliche, but Lance is from Colorado. I don’t want you to take it literally.)

Over the last six months, Lance and the team have been fully developing the tools to address the six aspects of high impact teams. Then they started test-driving everything. That included piloting the new Unstuck Teams process with four distinctly different churches. Our entire team gathered in Phoenix this past December to get a preview as well. I know I’m biased, but it’s an unbelievable process.

This probably will not shock you. My strengths as a leader are around performance, systems and structure. I really have to work hard at the health side. I have to be intentional about what it takes to create the right culture. I can lead in those areas, but it’s not my natural wiring. I have to really discipline myself about how I invest my leadership capital in those areas. I want to make sure those aspects of our team don’t suffer.

My suspicion is that you are no different than me. In some of these areas you have strength as a leader. In some of these areas there is weakness. Those areas of weakness can prevent your team…and your church…from having its greatest impact.

Over the next weeks and months, you’re going to hear more of my voice on this topic. You may get tired of hearing my voice on this topic. I’m willing to take that risk. I know the health and performance of the team will dictate a church’s Kingdom impact.

In other words, if your church is stuck, it might be because your team is stuck. You don’t have to remain there. Let us help you take a step forward in your leadership while we help your team get unstuck.

Through the Unstuck Teams Process, we can guide you to lead staff teams that love working together and get stuff done—spiritually, emotionally, and relationally healthy, as well as productive and high-performing

You can learn more what the Unstuck Teams Process would look like in your church here. If you’re interested in starting a conversation, let’s talk.

Tony Morgan is the Founder and Lead Strategist at the Unstuck Group. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He’s written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com.


Posted in Leadership

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5 Lessons I’ve Learned Leading Through Church Mergers

In a recent article about “Multisite Church Trends in 2020” I mentioned an increase in church mergers, “With church attendance declining in the US and the pipeline of people jumping into ministry shrinking, mergers are going to pick up steam.”

While I’ve had the opportunity to consult and coach other churches through the merger process, I’ve also had the opportunity to personally lead through a couple at the church I serve at.

What follows are a couple of lessons I’ve learned along the way. Here’s to hoping you can go to school on my experience.

People transfer culture and ministry DNA, operational practices, support and institutionalize it.

After both churches affirmed the merger through a vote, we encouraged people who attended our original location to go to the new site if they lived in that area. We had a lot of trust built up over time with our people, and so they did. But then they came right back. While we were saying that we were one church that met in multiple locations, people came back to the original site and expressed the exact opposite. They said that the new location didn’t look, act, or feel like us. Just because we offered the same ministry “programs” at the new location, it still didn’t feel like “us” yet. Much of that trust that we had built up with our people was eroded because we didn’t follow through on the promise that we were making that this new location was us, when it honestly just wasn’t yet. Just because a joining church votes and technically becomes an extension of your church in a new community, there is still a lot of work to do on that campus to help it become “you.”

Team values are more important that organizational values.

The fastest way to change the culture of the church is to change the culture of the staff team, which sometimes means changing the actual people on the team. The church staff and volunteer leaders are the culture carriers of the church. In one particular merger we ran into the hard fact that the kind of person who can be on staff at a fast-growing, problem-solving church where new people are meeting Jesus is drastically different than the kind of person who is on staff at a church that has been plateaued or in decline for many years. They’re inherently different kinds of people. While we believed the same things about Jesus and the Bible, we were still different kinds of people with different cultures. We initially took the approach to retain and train the staff members of this joining church. This approach unfortunately turned out to be too idealistic. In the future we would transfer existing staff from established campuses to the new location and allow them to carry our culture with them. These tenured staff intuitively know how we make decisions, how we behave, how we talk, what we value, and how we treat and lead people because they’ve been living in it for so long.

The lead church culture needs to wash over the joining church culture.

New people who “transfer” from the original or sending campus to the new campus (joining church) along with new people attending from the community need to outnumber the people who remain as a part of the joining church. The “original” people from the joining church can no longer be the majority or loudest voice. It’s important to remember however that even a small minority can create a lot of pain and damage if they have a loud enough voice. These moments will come, and they will require clear and steady, kind but strong, directional leadership.

Physical space dictates behavior.

Never underestimate the fact that physical space tells us how to behave. The physical space at one new campus that came through a merger simply was not the same as the physical space at the original campus. It took a couple of years and a lot of financial resources to change that. We’ve demolished three buildings, renovated others, and completely rebuilt a children’s ministry facility. There’s more to do, but it finally feels like “us.”

A big impediment to integration is spiritual atrophy.

There is an often-overlooked spiritual component to a merger between a lead church and joining church. When a joining church has a history of being plateaued or in decline for a long period of time, a protection mindset sets in. This often occurs when a church moves into the “maintenance” phase of the church lifecycle and becomes insider focused. They start making decisions based on who they are trying to keep rather than who they are trying to reach. On the surface this may come across as merely an issue of strategy, style or preference. However, insider-focused churches actually experience spiritual atrophy that requires significant work, pain, and spiritual break through to change.

If a church merger is in your church’s future, I’d encourage you to reach out to the Unstuck Group and bring in some outside help. Our team combined has 100+ years of experience leading in churches with successful multisite strategies. We can guide you to assess multisite readiness, build your model and strategies, and align your staff and structure to the strategy…that goes for mergers too!


Posted in Leadership

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Multisite Church Trends in 2020

Over the course of the past decade, I’ve talked a lot about multisite on this blog. If you dig around on this site, you’ll find no shortage of content on all things multisite. Recently, Tony Morgan, the founder and lead strategist for the Unstuck Group, and I had a conversation about some things we’re seeing in multisite strategies for the coming year.

What trends are emerging? What strategies are tried and true? And what are we seeing that might bring some help your campuses thrive? Tony and I share our thoughts—

Multisite Trends

“After many (some very public) churches opted to shut down, or spin off campuses as individual churches, it seems some have been led to believe or state that the ‘multisite movement’ is dead.” We’ve been using the ‘multistuck’ language for a while, but multistuck is now officially a trend. I’d assume this is for lots of reasons. But many churches had a tendency to jump on the multisite bandwagon, following other leading churches without really ‘counting the cost’ in advance—and I don’t just mean financially—and it gets them stuck.” — Paul

“I’m also seeing an increase in church mergers. With church attendance declining in the US and the pipeline of people jumping into ministry shrinking, mergers are going to pick up steam.” — Paul

Live vs. Video Teaching

“We need to stop arguing about video teaching and saying things like ‘It won’t work in our town or part of the country.’ People aren’t becoming less accustomed to screens in our culture. Bad teaching is bad teaching and bad video presentation is bad video presentation, but video teaching works everywhere. Rural multisite also works.” — Paul

“With rare exceptions, we’re seeing clearly that having different live teachers at different locations will eventually divide the church.” — Tony

Multisite Models

“I’ve seen churches use church planting principles to launch a multisite campus. That usually ends up with the wrong leader in the wrong location in a church that will eventually become independent.” — Tony

“Letting different campuses have the freedom to change ministry strategies to fit their ministry context is a recipe for disaster. It will divide the team and eventually divide the church. If the ministry context is so different that it requires a different strategy, then choose to churchplant rather than multisite.” — Tony

“Churches that hope to scale beyond just two or three campuses need to pay attention to their model to make sure it is financially sustainable. The more independent the campuses, the more it’s going to cost.” — Tony

“While there are a lot of ways people are trying to do multisite, not all multisite models or approaches are created equal. Some work (more people meeting Jesus and growing) better than others. I think many churches and church leaders are still confused about what multisite is and isn’t.” — Paul

Multisite Mistakes

“The biggest reason that multisite campuses fail is that they launch too small. Again, this is an indication that the church is trying to use a church planting strategy to do multisite.”  — Tony

One last thought… If your church is thinking about going multisite, you really should consider bringing in some outside help. That’s not just personal bias…that’s Kingdom minded. Without clear strategies for ministry, multisite, expansion and execution, multisite can get churches multistuck. We see it all the time at the Unstuck Group. Our team combined has 100+ years of experience leading in churches with successful multisite strategies. We can guide you to assess multisite readiness, build your model and strategies, and align your staff and structure to the strategy. Interested in learning how it works? Check out our Multisite Unstuck Process. Ready to start a conversation?  Let’s talk.


Posted in Leadership

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Top Posts of 2019 #1: “5 Keys to Growing your Church in 2019”

Thank you for going on this journey with me of counting down my most popular posts from 2019! It seems fitting that my last post of the year will be looking back to the first post of the year where I shared this list of helpful strategies to help your church grow in 2019. I hope it did.

I’ve never met a church leader that didn’t want things at their church to to change for the better. They want more people to say yes to following Jesus, they want people to become better friends with God, and they want their churches to think more about people outside of the church than those already in it.

The trouble is while most church leaders want this year to be better than the last, they don’t want to do anything different.

I’ve said this many times before, people (including you…and me) always want to change their circumstances, but they never want to change their lives. But everything gets better when we get better. Families get better when fathers and mothers get better. Students get better when educators get better. Organizations get better when leaders get better. And churches get better when church leaders get better. But better doesn’t happen by trying harder, it happens by trying different. It happens through change…but change is painful. Don’t let anyone tell you any different. It’s always easier and more comfortable to stay where you are than to change and move forward. But if you want to grow at some point you’ve got to stop doing what’s easy and start doing what’s right.

So, to that end, here are a couple ideas that will help you create change this year at your church…and maybe even in you.

Create Accessibility

One of the greatest changes you can make in your church to get different results is to make Jesus and His teachings more accessible to people who don’t know Him. Another way to think about this is to ask yourself or your team, “How accessible is everything at your church to people who are unfamiliar with Jesus and the Church?” How accessible is your website, signage, language, parking lot, building, kids and student ministries, worship services, and teaching to people who are unfamiliar with Jesus and His Church? Most churches simply make it too hard for people to meet and follow Jesus. They don’t do it on purpose, they’ve just forgotten what it is like to be unfamiliar with Jesus. And guess what will happen when you create more accessibility to Jesus? More people will meet Jesus…and isn’t that kinda the point?

Lean into Constraints

You probably have a list of reasons (or excuses) why you can’t grow. Barriers to the future or anchors to the past that are keeping you from getting to the future. Make a list of your top 5 constraints and figure a way through them or around them. You constraints may even be the thing that help you innovate and come up with a solution you would have never otherwise come up with on your own. To that point, one of the top 3 reasons the church I serve at went multisite 6 years ago is because the original location was nearing a point where it would be fully maximized. Today we’re reaching more people for Jesus than ever because we had a facility constraint that forced us into a new solution (multisite) that is helping us reach new people for Jesus than we ever would have or could have at that one original location. Your biggest constraints may just turn out to be your best friend.

Allow Hope to Die

Stop hoping things are going to change at your church. Hope doesn’t change or produce new results at your church. Action does. Specifically, new action. Hope is not a strategy. Too many church boards and church leaders are sitting around praying and hoping that Jesus would do something new and powerful in their church this year when He already did something new and powerful 2,000 years ago on the cross. He’s simply waiting for those same church boards and church leaders to have the same kind of courage He did and lead things forward.

Draft some new Players

If you want new results at your church, then it may be time to shake up the team a bit. New team members bring new experiences, expertise, ideas, and questions with them that aren’t currently on your team. You become who you hire and sometimes one or two new team members can help shift the entire locker room on a team.

Listen to Fresh Eyes

Sometimes you simply need fresh eyes, someone from the outside to help you see things differently. Sometimes you need an outside voice to say some things that you want to say but can’t. And sometimes you’re just stuck and need help. If that’s your church, then maybe the best step you can take to change things at your church is to engage the Unstuck Group. We help churches grow their impact through church consulting and coaching experiences designed to focus vision, strategy and action.

Taking new and different action will get you different results. And if you need a little help getting unstuck then connect with us at the Unstuck Group, we can help this next year be the best year of ministry you’ve ever experienced!


Posted in Leadership
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