5 Mistakes that Fast Growing Churches Make

fast growth

If you’ve ever been a part of a fast growing church you know how much fun it can be. New people who are unfamiliar with Jesus begin attending, friends are bringing friends, you’re adding new staff members, you’re building buildings, you’re starting new ministries, and most important of all people are meeting Jesus and being baptized. Often times in a fast growing church it can feel as though you have so much momentum that as long as you don’t do anything drastically wrong you’ll ride that wave of momentum forever.

Over the past 19 years of full-time ministry I’ve been fortunate to personally work at some fast growing churches. And now in the past few years working with the Unstuck Group I’ve had the privileged to watch churches take courageous steps to get unstuck and begin experiencing significant growth for the first time in years.

If you’ve been in ministry for any length of time you know that momentum won’t always be on your side, growth won’t always be taking place, and things won’t always be up and to the right. Often momentum is lost when things are at their best because churches don’t know how to behave when things are going well. In fact below are the 5 biggest mistakes I’ve seen fast growing churches make.

1. They Implement too many Policies

To borrow an idea from another post I wrote called “Why Policies are Bad for your Church…” Policies are rules that shrink the box of creativity, problem solving, and big ideas. Policies set the standard for how we do what we do every time we do it. And that’s fine if we’re on an assembly line making cars. You want consistency in that situation. But disciple making is not the same thing as making cars. Too many policies will stall the growth of any organization, including your church.

2. They Fail to Prepare for Lean Moments

During seasons of fast growth churches are notorious for living “hand to mouth,” and leveraging every dollar in an attempt to ride the wave of momentum and keep things going. Not only is this thinking naïve, it’s an unbiblical approach to finances. Take a quick read of Proverbs and you’ll find plenty of encouragement from Solomon (the wisest & wealthiest man to ever walk the planet) to save for a rainy day.

3. They Overreach

Bill Gates the Co-Founder of Microsoft once said that, “Success is a lousy teacher. It reduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” Winning can be addicting and it lulls you into thinking that you can’t lose. As a result many fast growing churches overreach. They extend further than they can support and bite off more than they can chew. As a result of their lack of discipline they unknowingly undermine their own growth.

4. They think the Staff Team will Continue to keep pace with the Growth

While it would be great (and romantic) to keep the same staff team that got you where you are, unfortunately it’s not always realistic. It’s not strange that a particular staff person is exactly what’s needed during a certain season or stage of growth. But it is a rare thing that those same team members are able or willing to go through the necessary personal changes to continue to lead as the ministry becomes more complex as the church grows.

5. They don’t know Why they’re Growing

If you don’t know why you’re growing right now you won’t know what to do when the growth begins to slow, or worse it just flat out stalls or begins to decline. You’ll begin to grasp at straws, mimicking others methods that have experienced success instead of leaning in the core cultural identity and vision that God has given you.

Photo Credit: only alice via Compfight cc

Posted in Leadership


How many People should be Volunteering at your Church?

Did you know that there is a direct connection between the amount of money a church invests in staffing and the number of people who volunteer? What we’ve discovered in our research at the Unstuck Group is that the as a church increases its spending on staffing the number of people volunteering decreases.

Translation: if you want more people to volunteer at your church you may need to spend less on staffing.

What we’ve learned through our experience and research is that the average church in America is mobilizing 43% of their adult and student population in volunteer opportunities. The reason it is so critical for churches to address this and take steps to move their culture in the right direction is because volunteering is discipleship. It’s not about filling roles and getting ministry done through people. It’s not about what we want from people, but rather what we want for people. Mobilizing people into volunteer roles is the ministry of pastors and church leaders. It is discipleship. Because volunteering and living an others first life is the very essence of what it means to live like Jesus.

Interested in learning more? Download the ebook “Vital Signs: Meaningful Metrics That Keep a Pulse on Your Church’s Health” or consider engaging the Unstuck Group to do a Ministry Health Assessment with your church to discover the health levels at your church and develop a plan to move things forward.

In the meantime below is a free exercise you can do with your team to begin addressing the volunteer culture at your church:

Continue Reading…

Posted in Leadership, Volunteers


20 Ways Church Leaders can Help their Church become more Generous


I’ve been around very few church leaders that didn’t wish their people would become more generous. But very few church leaders have defined a strategy to help their people take steps to become more generous. Fortunately last week I had a conversation with the Leadership Coaching Network that I lead about generosity and they came up with this great list of 20 ways church leaders can help their churches become more generous!

1. Preach about Money

Most pastors start to twitch when the idea of preaching about money comes up. But few things are more powerful than doing an annual teaching series or quarterly sermons where you help people biblically connect the dots between following Jesus and generosity.

2. Celebrate Wins & Connect them to Generosity

What you celebrate gets repeated. Help people understand that the life change that people who are far from Jesus are experiencing through the ministry of your church is directly connected to the generosity of the faithful followers of Jesus already at your church.

3. Be Prepared for a Significant Gift

If someone were to drop a 6 or 7 figure gift would you know what to do with it? Do you already have a strategy?

4. Make it Easy for People to Give

No one carries a checkbook anymore, so come up with simple modern methods for people to give to your church. For instance a reoccurring automatic online withdraw, stocks, property, bill pay, text to give, giving kiosk, and be prepared to help large donors consider tax implications.

5. Say Thank You

Pretty simple. You’d be surprised how few churches simply say thank you, not just from stage, but through a personal handwritten note.

6. Intentionally Set Up the Offering in the Worship Service

Don’t just receive an offering during your worship service. Take a moment to help people understand what is happening and what happens through their generosity.

7. Receive an Annual Missions Offering

Model generosity through receiving an annual generosity offering where 100% goes to a cause that is connected to the unique vision of your church.

8. Host a High Capacity Donor Dinner

Identify and invite high capacity donors to a dinner to say thank you and help them understand the vision that Jesus has given your church and their part in it.

9. 90 Day Giving Challenge

Challenge people to begin the spiritual habit of giving for 90 days…and get this…provide a 100% money back guarantee. Literally.

10. Tell people to Take Money Out of the Offering Plate

During the offering tell people that they can take loose cash out of the offering plate if they are in financial need.

11. 5th Sunday Benevolence Offering

When there is a 5th Sunday in a month take the lose cash from the offering and use it to meet the physical needs of people in the church.

12. Require Giving for Membership

Literally require people to give in order to become a member of your church…and yes that means checking to see if they give.

13. Model Generosity through Stories

Tell stories of people who have been generous and share the results and impact of their generosity.

14. 1st Time Giver Letters

Send a personal handwritten note to say thank you to people the first time people give to your church.

15. Send a Thank You to Generous Givers

Send a personal handwritten note to say thank you when people give a generous gift to the ministry of your church.

16. Send Out a Mid-Year Contribution Letter

Send a mid-year contribution letter to everyone who has given to-date to the ministry of the church, including wins and stories of life change.

17. Provide Financial Training

Help people learn how to handle their money through training opportunities like Financial Peace University.

18. Annual Commitment Cards

Each January encourage your church to fill out an annual commitment card indicating what they are planning to give this year.

19. Legacy Giving

Provide the opportunity for people to write your church into their will or living trust.

20. Provide a Creative Annual Report

Create a visually intriguing annual giving report and send it to every donor. Include stories, pictures, and info graphics that share wins and how money was spent this last year at your church.

Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation


If You Want to Grow, Stop Thinking Like a Small Church

For years we’ve been hearing (and seeing) that the average American church has fewer than 100 people in regular attendance. If you spend your time in ministry leadership circles, blogs and conferences, it would almost be easy to forget that the megachurch is a rather new phenomenon, and that hundreds of thousands of smaller churches are still engaged in ministry every week. To be sure, many are closing their doors for the final time every week, as well. But thousands are also launched each year, meeting in whatever space they can find, trying to reach the lost and grow and pursue their unique vision.

At The Unstuck Group, we talk to a lot of pastors from churches of all different sizes. We know firsthand that megachurches don’t have the “exclusive” on passion for reaching people with the love of Jesus. In fact, churches of different sizes have different strengths and challenges.

One of the growth-inhibiting habits most difficult for a smaller church to break is the habit of thinking like a small church.

And with that in mind, we have been working on a brand new consulting service for a while, and I’m excited to finally unveil it.

GrowthSolutions is our new service designed to help leadership teams at smaller churches who want to take intentional steps towards growing their church to 500 and beyond in weekly attendance. This consulting experience gives fresh perspective and tools to handle the challenges related to growth and health, strategic planning and maximizing resources.

We believe healthy things grow – in size, impact and effectiveness. (Sometimes unhealthy things grow, too — tumors come to mind. You don’t want to grow like that. A healthy church makes healthy disciples.)

We’ve already gotten started with about a dozen churches across the country and are looking forward to sharing their stories with you in the coming months!

Click Here to learn more about GrowthSolutions from The Unstuck Group.

Posted in Leadership


Why People don’t Financially Invest in your Church

I recently read Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate by Clif Christopher. It’s a quick read that you can get through in one sitting, but it’s full of principles that you’ll come back to over and over again. There are a lot of reasons why people don’t give to churches as much as they used to. This book does a great job of helping to identify those reasons but it also gives pastors and church leaders steps they can take to move things in the right direction. If you’re a church leader and you haven’t read this book…you should. Here are some of the key ideas that stood out to me from my reading:

1. There is more Competition than ever for Charitable Dollars in America

The number of non-profit organizations is increasing every year and as a result competition for charitable dollars is increasing. It’s not that people are less charitable; it’s just that they’re directing it to other places than the church. “Since 2001, giving to religion has shown a rate of growth of 3.6%, while disposable income has increased more than 8%. People have the money and they continue to give. Religion is just no longer their charity of choice.” Church leaders should be asking themselves, “Why?”

2. Nonprofits know Why people Give while Churches just think people should give out of Obedience to the Scriptures

Multiple research studies have shown that there are three key reasons that people give: (1) A belief in the mission of the institution, (2) A high regard for staff leadership, and (3) Fiscal responsibility of the institution.

3. Nonprofits communicate from a position of Strength while Churches communicate from a position of Weakness

Nonprofits rarely, if ever, communicate about finances. What they communicate is stories of life change, real results from the investments that others have made in the nonprofit. Then they ask for more money. Churches don’t talk about results (probably because truth be told not many are actually producing many life changing results) instead they talk about their needs and how they are behind budget or need more volunteers. People with the ability to significantly invest in the Gospel work at your church don’t want to throw good money after bad. They are looking for a return on their investment, and rightly so. The Scriptures teach us that Jesus is too.

4. The Pastor should know who gives what

I know this may sound off to some but listen…(1) It will help them raise more money to fund the work of the Gospel [different people have different gifts and roles to play in the body of Christ] (2) It helps determine if what the church is doing is actually working. [people give to and support what changes their lives] (3) It allows the pastor to say thank you to donors [the church is notorious for not saying thank you]. Most people whose hair stands up at this idea simply don’t want their pastor to know what they give because they’re not being generous and following the Bible’s teachings on finances.

5. Help people Give

Many people want to obey Jesus and be generous with what they have to advance the Kingdom of God through the local church. Unfortunately many of those same people have not used the money that God has given them very well up to this point and they’re not in a position to be generous. Does your church have a plan or resource to help people learn how to manage what God has given them in a God honoring way?

6. The best way to raise money for your church is to DO YOUR JOB!

Peter Drucker wrote, “A business has discharged its task when the customer buys the product, pays for it, and is satisfied with it. Government has discharged its function when its policies are effective. The nonprofit institution neither supplies goods, services, or controls. Its product is neither a pair of shoes nor an effective regulation. Its product is a changed human being. The nonprofit institutions are human change agents. Their ‘product’ is a cured patient, a child that learns, a young man or woman grown into a self-respecting adult; a changed human life altogether.” In other words when your church consistently shows how lives are being changed, when marriages are healed, addicts find freedom, people fall on their knees and follow Jesus – people will support your church.

Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation
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