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10 Keys to Managing Change in a Church

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Leading through change can be difficult. Leading a church through change can be near impossible. Churches in particular have a tendency to resist change because they get trapped by the comfort of past success, practices and traditions. It takes an incredible amount of wisdom, the art of timing, and plain old courage and grit.

Many churches I talk with want different results; they actually want to see more people meet Jesus and follow Jesus this year than last year. Unfortunately, they just aren’t willing to change, let go of old tactics and take a different approach.

Recently I had a conversation with a church staff team that is courageously leading their church through change. Here are a couple of things that came out of the conversation.

1. No Change is Perfectly Executed

No matter how well-planned change is, how good it looks on paper, or how much sense it makes in your head it’s not going to go the way you think it’s going to go. There is going to be a surprise. Something is going to take more or less time, cost more or less money, or be more or less difficult than you planned. Point is, work hard, plan your work, work your plan and then be flexible.

2. Communication is Key

During change management, communicating the right message to the right audience at the right time is essential and can take a lot of time. There are multiple audiences to communicate with including the church staff, the church board, lay leadership, volunteers, and the congregation to name a few. Some churches due to their polity and structures have even more groups to get on board.

3. Everyone Carries 2 Buckets Around with Them

Everyone carries around 2 buckets with them, a bucket of water and a bucket of gasoline. One fuels change the other puts it out. Water fuels change because it douses the fire of resistance. Gasoline puts change out because it fuels the fire of resistance. Anytime your staff listens to complaining and says, “I understand how you would feel that way” without redirecting them it pours gasoline on the situation and validates the complaint.

4. What about Me?

Most people are fine with change as long as it doesn’t affect them. One thing you can do to get on the solution side of positively leading through change is simply think those thoughts ahead of time. What are people going to embrace or reject about the change you’re trying to implement based on how it’s going to affect them (real or perceived), then address those pressure points.

5. It isn’t Easy

You know all those church conferences, books and blogs you read full of stories about how some pastor just turned things around at their church, “Jesus just paved the way.” Yea, it’s never really that easy. Change is hard, it takes time, and requires grit and courage. It is not for the faint of heart. Anyone who tells you any different hasn’t actually had to lead through change before.

6. The Ripple Effect

Change has a ripple effect that you often don’t seen until much later. It’s almost like painting one wall of a house you move into. It leads to another wall and another. And of course, then you need to change the flooring, the faucets, the cabinets, etc. Then it’s time to start on the outside of the house…ugh. Bottom line…change has a ripple effect.

7. The Minority can have a Majority Voice

In a season of change a small group of people can have a loud voice and make it seem like everyone is against you. The silent majority is typically with you and those who are positive about it rarely say they’re positive about it. It’s the negative few that always bark the loudest.

8. Lead Different with Different People

Remember what you read above? That communication is key in a season of change? Well it’s also key to remember that you don’t communicate to and lead every group of the same way. Anyone who has more than 1 kid knows you don’t parent every kid the same way…so why would you try to lead every group the same way?

9. Small Change can Reveal Big Issues

One small seemingly harmless change can tell you something about your church. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen church leaders try to change something that seemed small and innocent to them not to realize that they were stepping on a landmine that blew up. Make sure you truly understand not just what you’re changing things to become or how you’re going to change them but what it is your actually changing and why.

10. Training vs Challenging

Sometimes people don’t have the right information and they don’t understand why they should get on board with the change. Other times people don’t want to jump on board with the change because they have their own agenda.  Either way it can appear that people are digging their heals in and fighting you on the change you’re trying to make. What you’ve got to do as the leader is find out if they’re fighting due to ignorance or obstinace. You train ignorance and you challenge obstinance.

Interested in learning more about leading through change at your church? Check out these helpful articles.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing, Testimonial

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4 Reasons Why Multisite Costs More Than Church Planting

It would be easy to think that a multisite church is more cost-efficient than church planting. However, there’s more to consider than meets the eye. For the past 6 years I’ve had the opportunity to serve at Sun Valley Community Church in Arizona and see the church grow from one site to five during that time. As we’ve gotten those campuses launched and running, one of the things that I’ve learned is that multisite is usually the more costly option of the two.

Thinking about launching a multisite church? Here are some things you should consider:

1. Technology:

The quality of the teaching is what brought your church the ability to go multisite; now, it is important to deliver that same quality experience – this time through video. Video teaching technology is more expensive than the typical cost outlay that a church plant would incur. Additionally, the replication of the worship service with lights, sound, musicians and more calls for a larger investment than that of a church plant.

2. Branding:

For a church to experience the amount of growth needed to go multisite, it has likely been operating for a couple of decades. This provides many years to build the brand, figure the dos and donts, your audience and your quirks. As you go multisite, it is important to maintain the same personality and culture. Simply, this calls for a higher financial investment to provide the same experience as a church that has functioned for a number of years.

3. Staffing:

In most church plants, the staff is required to raise support for the first one to three years. In multisite, the financial model must pay the salary of the staff members, in addition to the public launch of the church. The initial costs for one year of multisite operations could easily range in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

4. Consistency:

In a church plant, everything begins from scratch. It is a fresh beginning. However, in multisite, environmental consistency needs to be replicated. After all, you have created a culture worth replicating.

Most church plants have the support of a partner church or denomination over a certain scope of time. In multisite, once you birth it you’re on the hook for the operations, staffing, technology, etc. until that new campus can become financially self sustaining.


Wondering if you’re ready for multisite? There’s more than cost to consider. Follow this link to learn about the Unstuck Group’s multisite consulting process and get our 9 Multisite Readiness Checkpoints guide for free.


Posted in Leadership

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What Volunteers Want From Your Church

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If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written on developing effective volunteer teams at your church then you’ve probably heard me say that I’ve never met a church leader who said that they had enough volunteers. In fact, the opposite is typically true. Having too few volunteers is one of the most frequent complaints and pressure points I hear from church leaders. Most of the time it’s not due to a lack of effort or trying. It’s usually due to taking the wrong approach with volunteerism in the church.

That being said, below are 5 things that the people who volunteer at your church expect from you. They may say it or not, but they want it. And if they don’t get it, it will probably keep them from volunteering at your church.

1. Easy Process

Joining a volunteer team should be easy, but unfortunately at most churches you have to jump through a bunch of hoops to serve. Have you said yes to following Jesus? Have you been baptized? Are you a member of the church? Have you filled out a volunteer application? Have you been through a volunteer interview? Have you been through training first? Sounds exhausting…not very easy. While you probably need to know Jesus to lead, you don’t need to know Jesus to serve. Develop an easy process for people at your church to serve and I bet you’ll end up enlisting more volunteers and developing more leaders.

2. Clear Communication

This one doesn’t have to be that difficult but you wouldn’t know that by the way many churches behave. Following up with people in a timely manner isn’t a strategy, it’s simply polite and the right way to treat people. Let volunteers know where they need to go the first time they serve, what time they need to be there, who will meet them, what to expect their first time and then thank them afterwards and ask the about how their experience was.

3. Meaningful Ministry

Joining a volunteer team gives people the opportunity to do something meaningful with their lives! Most people don’t volunteer because they dream of managing administrative details but because they want to make a difference in people’s lives. Do the administration for them so they have a great experience ministering to people!

4. Be a Part of the Team

Everyone wants to be a part of a team where they feel valued and have friends. Volunteering is quickly becoming one of the first steps that people take at a church. It’s so much less intimidating to join a volunteer team than it is to show up to a stranger’s house and talk about your feelings and the bible. Volunteer teams are a great way to help new people get connected to your church and build new meaningful relationships!

5. Resources and Training

No one likes to be put in a position where they feel like they don’t know what they’re doing. One of the easiest ways you can build trust with volunteers is to give them basic training and resources to help them be fantastic at what they’re doing.


Posted in Leadership, Volunteers

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2 Big Leadership Questions you Probably aren’t Asking

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I want to thank my dad, David Alexander, for this guest post. Retired from a career with the Department of Defense in which he oversaw billions of dollars of government assets and hundreds of employees, today he enjoys fishing, his grandkids, and driving my mom crazy! Love you dad, hopefully some of your leadership experience rubbed off on me. And hopefully this post helps church leaders think a little differently about leadership.

Do you know who you work for?

Seems like a silly question, I know. Let me explain… I was once asked to work for the Under Secretary of The Navy for Research and Development for a few months in order to help with the work load. While there I worked for the Deputy Under Secretary, Rear Admiral Dave Oliver. My first assignment was to give a briefing about our lab facilities on the west coast to the new Under Secretary who was a new appointee under the Clinton Administration.

The Under Secretary had a very large office as far as Pentagon standards and had a great view of the Washington monument.  There were a number of Navy Captains, high level civilians as well as the Under Secretary in the room. Just before my brief, my boss, ADM Oliver told me to be sure to introduce my self and explain I was on loan from the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command to ADM Oliver. He was standing in the back of the room and had a smile on his face. As I started my brief, and introduced myself and who I worked for, the Under Secretary stopped me in mid sentence saying, “Mr. Alexander, I want you to understand, you don’t work for ADM Oliver you work for me!” Sometimes people, especially political appointees, feel the need to flex their positional authority mussels. The ADM was now laughing and trying to hide it and pointed at me from the back of the room. Nothing wrong with positional authority, sometimes it’s a way to get things accomplished. ADM Oliver totally set me up and he thought it was very funny. But there’s a real lesson here. No matter how large or small an organization, in which you serve, you need to know who you really work for and who your boss really is. I can tell you, it’s probably not your direct report! Maybe it’s others….or just maybe ADM Oliver was just trying to make me, the new kid, feel like part of the team, could be he just needed a good laugh, not sure. But that was the high point of the brief. From that point on, I always made sure who the boss really was.

What are your priorities ?

You can get all sorts of answers to the question of priorities in the work space. As the Executive Director of the Nuclear Submarine Base New London, Groton CT. I had the privilege of working with various unions and union leadership representatives. Having some important info I wanted to discuss with the union leadership representatives and members I asked that they meet with me at close of the business day for an hour and that I would pay them overtime for the hour.

We had two shifts on base so I asked each shift to meet with me at 1600 (4pm for those who may not know how the military tells time). To make a long story short my HR division head informed me that paying union members over time to attend a meeting was against the rules and that I can’t have the meeting. I thanked John, my HR Director, for his input, but that I was having the meeting anyway. He decided to report me to HR headquarters in Washington DC!

Bold move to say the least since I signed his pay check. I had the meeting and a couple of months later I received a phone call from the senior officer on the base. It was the ADM in charge of water space management for submarines in the Atlantic Ocean. Although not in my chain of command, since he was the senior officer on the base he had lots of positional authority (goes to knowing who your boss is). The ADM called me first thing in the morning one Monday and asked if I would come see him. He was just being polite. Of course when the ADM asks you to come see him your not going to say no. Sitting across from his desk he said “David did you have a meeting with the union folks and pay them overtime to attend?” I told him I did. Then he asked, “Would you do it again if you needed to.”  I simply said, yes I would. He then crumpled up a letter on his desk and made a perfect swish to the trash can (I’m thinking two points!) and said, “I thought so.” That was the end of our brief meeting that morning. I could tell because he stood up and turned to ask his administrative assistance something, so I simply exited his office. That’s how things are done lots of times.

I assumed it was a letter from HR headquarters talking about my transgression with paying the union folks. I later found out it was.

Even though I had much to do each day, one thing was always more important than the issue at hand. That was making people a priority. Knowing your priorities is key to success and I believe in most organizations the priority is your people. Do what’s best for them, sometimes it may have to be in spite of the rules. But if you do decide to break the rules, you need to be sure it’s the right thing to do.


Posted in Leadership, Testimonial

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[Free Webinar] The Unstuck Church: Why Churches Grow, Thrive, Decline & Die

We’re less than a week away from the in-store date for the new book, The Unstuck Church by Tony Morgan. If you haven’t already checked out the pre-order perks, there are just a couple of more days to get those extras.

Most churches start, grow, thrive, decline and eventually end, but we believe God’s plan for our churches is that they grow in maturity towards a peak of sustained health.

Do you know where your church is today in its life cycle?

On Thursday, May 25, Tony Morgan, Amy Anderson and Gabe Kolstad will host a free, live webinar to help you answer questions like:

  • Do all churches hit all phases of the life cycle?
  • Where do growing churches typically get stuck moving toward sustained health?
  • What does sustained health look like?
  • What are the early warning signs a church has entered the maintenance season and started to decline?
  • How can we confirm what phase our church is in today?

Space is limited and filling up! Register now to join us.

Register Now


Posted in Leadership
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