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Top Posts of 2017 #2 “7 Indicators that you’ve Found the Ideal Ministry Spouse”

In ministry your spouse can make you or break you. It may be cliché but it’s true, behind every great Ministry Staff Member is a great ministry spouse…and you can’t have one without the other. So whether you’re already married or you’re still searching for the right person, here are a couple traits you should be looking for in the ideal ministry spouse.

1. They’re Flexible

When you’re in ministry, you’re constantly “on.” Ministry doesn’t always abide by the family schedule. Crisis doesn’t always happen in people’s lives and the church according to plan.

2. They’re Comfortable being Independent

Ministry is a calling (profession) that requires long hours at times, especially during holidays that are traditionally family moments. Finding someone that understands the importance of having you around the kids and the family but is also able to run the household while you’re not available is essential.

3. They Embrace the Church you work at

Great ministry spouses believe in you and they believe in what you’re doing. It’s more than a job to them too. They don’t want to just see you succeed they want to see the church you’re leading succeed. They find creative ways to be involved in the church you’re leading that fit their personality and reach out to the staff and volunteers. They’re an extension of you.

4. They’re Your Biggest Fan

Ministry can really knock the wind out of you at times. Great ministry spouses know how to shoulder your burdens and comfort you in the low moments, and they’re the first ones to celebrate you in the good moments.

5. They’re Assertive with Boundaries

While being supportive they also have the ability to be firm, be honest and clear about what they need from you, and know when it’s time to call an audible for a date night or vacation. They make you want to be “better,” they bring out the best in you, and call you on your stuff.

6. They’re Safe

Even though you’re not going to share everything with them about your job, you’re going to share most things with them. Great ministry spouses are trustworthy, hold sensitive information to themselves well, and act as a stabilizing voice in your life.

7. They Understand the Pressure of Ministry

Ministry carries with it unique spiritual, emotional, time, and social pressures. Great ministry spouses “get it.” They help you carry and even diffuse that pressure.


Posted in Family, Leadership, Spiritual Formation

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Top Posts of 2017 #4 “Stop Hiring People to Work at your Church”

I just wrote this post back in October and it jumped up the Top-10 chart quickly! It addresses one of the most significant and common lids to growth that churches experience.

Churches love to hire people. I mean they really love to hire people. Often times when churches are just starting off, staff members will raise their own salary until the church has the capacity to pay them. Then as they grow I’ve seen churches long for the day where the budget grows just a little bit more so they can make that next hire. They put so much hope into staffing. Many think that if they could just add one more special staff position to the team, the church would grow.

Now before we get too far into this conversation, let me just say that I’m not against churches hiring staff members. I’m just against churches hiring as many staff members as they do.

You see the average church in America has somewhere around a 1:75 staffing ratio. That means for every 75 people they have attending the church there is 1 full-time equivalent staff member being paid to work at the church. A full-time equivalent may be made up of 2 – 20 hour a week employees, 4 – 10 hour a week employees, or any combination you can think of. At the Unstuck Group when we help churches build a Staffing and Structure plan for the future, we encourage churches to staff at 1:100. By the way, do you know where you church measures up on that ratio?

Why Staff Lean?

One of the many reasons why we encourage churches to staff with this approach is because the churches across America that are reaching the most amount of people with the Gospel and are seeing the most amount of life change are leaner with their approach to staffing. They’re putting resources into reaching people, ministry, and developing people instead of into salaries. They pay fewer people more so they can attract and keep great people.

The More Staff the Less Life-Change

When churches staff at a lower ratio they unintentionally keep people from following Jesus. When people are hired that means what was previously being done by volunteers is now being professionalized. This takes the ministry out of the hands of volunteers and actually often times discourages volunteerism. Volunteering is discipleship. You can’t follow Jesus and not serve others.

More Staff is an indicator of Over Programming

A low attender to staff ratio is also an indicator that a church is probably over-programmed. The staff are busy running a lot of programs to minister to people who are already a part of the church and already know Jesus. 

It’s Easier to Hire than Develop

It’s faster and requires less effort to hire people to do ministry than to recruit, train, and develop volunteers to do ministry.

It’s more Convenient to be Served than to Serve

It’s easier for church members to pay to hire people to serve them than to invest the time into stepping up and serving others.

I could go on and on, but I bet you get the point. Hiring isn’t always the wrong move to make at a church. But if you do hire, hire for two big results:

  1. Hire people who can build teams and develop people
  2. Hire specialists because of a needed skill

Posted in Leadership, Staffing

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Top Posts of 2017 #5 “Why Leading by Example doesn’t Work”

We’ve finally made it into the top 5 in this year’s countdown and it starts off with another popular post about team dynamics and leadership development.

Leading by example sounds like the right thing to do, doesn’t it? After all thousands of pages written on leadership, by leadership experts can’t be wrong can they? The problem is you can’t lead by example. Your example may inspire others, it may set behavioral standards for others, your example may even be a prerequisite for authentic leadership, but your example doesn’t actually lead others anywhere. Instead great leaders set the example and then hold the team accountable to the standard. The secret is in the accountability…not the example.

Set Expectations Often & Early

The earlier you state expectations and the standard with a team member the clearer everyone will be on deliverables. Without clearly stated expectations you end up surprising and frustrating team members when you hold them accountable to outcomes they were unaware of.

Don’t Micromanage

Micromanagement discourages production and results instead of encouraging it. Team members tend to resist and rebel against leaders who micromanage them no matter what kind of “example” they are setting in the workplace.

Follow Through

Do what you say you’re going to do. Reward team members who perform well and correct those who don’t. Follow through and hold team members accountable to the standard.

Coach those who want to be Coached

Not everyone on your team wants to be coached, even though you may feel they need coaching. So spend time coaching team members who are coachable. Don’t waste your time investing precious time into people who can’t or won’t take coaching.


Posted in Leadership

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Top Posts of 2017 #6 “6 Keys to Motivating Millennial Church Leaders”

As I already mentioned in this countdown, millennials were a popular topic on my blog this year. This is the second post in this year’s countdown that had to do with millennial church leaders.

If you have any millennials on your church staff you know that they’re different. And while many traditional church leaders are quick to equate a different approach with being a wrong approach, wise leaders know that different just means different. Not necessary wrong. In fact it could even be better. Millennials can, will, and are doing some amazing ministry. Like it or not they are coming into their own in church leadership, and they’re the ones that are going to lead the church forward. So instead of complaining about them we might as well help them. Try these 6 approaches to motivate the millennial leaders on your church staff.

1. Help me Avoid Boredom

Millennials have grown up with the constant interruption of smart phones and sound bites. This has conditioned them to be great at multitasking. So don’t expect them to sit down and work the way you did with tremendous focus on one thing for an extended period of time. Help them avoid that monotony and dabble with multiple things at one time. They’ll have more fun and produce more results.

2. Help me Join a Cause

Everyone knows that millennials are cause oriented. But what most churches haven’t come to grips with yet is that one of the key reasons so many millennials are leaving the church is they don’t view the church as a cause worth giving their life to. Is your church an institution or a movement? Have you turned the Gospel into something to be dissected and intellectually understood or something that is powerful and mysterious? Help them see the church as a cause worth giving their life to.

3. Help me Manage my Heart

Feelings are more important than facts to millennials. While it might not make sense to some previous generations they think more with their heart than their head. That’s not to say they aren’t brilliant it’s just to say their motivation is more centered around the question, “Does this feel right?” Church leaders can help millennials by increasing their emotional intelligence and being more thoughtful about how their actions may be perceived and how they may affect the feelings of others rather than just give way to simple facts and plans.

4. Help me See the Win

Millennials have grown up in a world of instant gratification, access, and results. Anybody who has been in ministry for any length of time knows that’s not how it really works. Life just doesn’t work that way. So we’ve got to help celebrate the small wins of life change that happen along the way. Help them celebrate the first downs along the way and help them make the connection between their day-to-day ministry and the vision.

5. Help me be True to Myself

Millennials aren’t going to follow someone or be a part of something that feels inauthentic to them. The best gift that church leaders can give millennials is to exercise real leadership and stop leading through position, title, or power and learn to lead with humility and personhood. They won’t simply respect you for your position but instead for who you are and the value you add. In this way millennials are a gift to challenge many church leaders to lead in a way that they may have forgotten.

6. Help me Understand “Why”

In recent years Simon Sinek made the phrase, “start with why” famous. Millennials don’t just want to know your plan. They don’t want to simply know what you want them to do, they want to know the why behind it. They need to buy into the reason behind the plan of action. Help them buy into the why.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing

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Top Posts of 2017 #7 “Why Churches Decline and Die”

Understanding why churches grow and decline is an annual topic of interest on my blog. While this post doesn’t cover all of the reasons a church declines, it’s a great overview of some of the major catalysts to church decline.

Years ago, a church started in the Phoenix east valley. This church plant grew rapidly. Helping new people meet Jesus, they became one of the first mega churches in the east valley. Eventually the pastor, under whose leadership this growth took place, left and the succession didn’t go very well. Neither did the next succession. Or the next. In fact, that church went through 18 straight years of decline until at the end of that decline they ended up merging with another church.

Today the new campus averages more than 1,000 people in weekend attendance and is helping new people meet, know and follow Jesus.

Unfortunately for most churches in decline there’s no great comeback story. Churches decline for all kinds of reasons and it’s usually more complicated than one simple decision that was made somewhere along the way.

However, church decline can be avoided and even turned around. If your church is stuck or in decline I’d encourage you to start a conversation with the Unstuck Group. They have proven track record of helping churches get unstuck. Here are a couple big reasons, in no particular order, why churches decline and die.

1. Fuzzy Vision

Vision answers the question, “Where are we going?” Vision provides everyone clarity and without clarity things slow down, or even worse people start doing what they think is right in their own eyes. One of the single most life-threatening indicators that a church is in trouble is a lack of clarity. Clarity provides a church with the power to make decisions efficiently and align the organizational components of the church to move forward. If you don’t know where you’re going, and can’t state it clearly, you’ve got no chance to get there.

2. Staff Hired to Do Ministry

When your church has a high staff to attendance ratio (at the Unstuck Group we encourage churches to staff 1:100 – that is 1 full time staff equivalent for every 100 attenders) and you’re hiring staff to do ministry instead of leading ministry by recruiting, developing and empowering volunteers to do and lead ministry your church will end up in decline.

3. No Strategic Plan

Strategy answers the question, “How are we going to get there?” Strategy fills the gap between where you are and where you want to be. It’s planning for tomorrow today. Little is more demoralizing to a church staff team than a bunch of empty inspirational talk that never materializes into real courageous action.

4. Over Reaching

My dad used to call this having, “Wine taste on a beer budget.” Over reaching and overextending the church with unsustainable decisions such as too much debt, offering too many ministry options, or starting too many things at once can cripple a church and set it back years, often times never recovering.  

5. Style Worship

No, not worship style (although those battles can be tough too), style worship. When churches begin to care more about ministry programs or a style and approach to ministry than the results of the ministry they’re on their way to decline.

6. Demographic Drift

Over time it’s not uncommon for the demographics around a church to shift. This can easily be observed most commonly through age and race. Many churches choose to ignore these changes and as a result never change their approach to ministry which leads to decline every time.

7. Insider Focus

I’ve said this many times before, the most dangerous place a church can be in their life cycle is when the ministry they are doing is having a big impact with insiders (people who already know Jesus and are inside the church) but a low impact with outsiders (people who don’t know Jesus yet). It’s dangerous because it’s comfortable. It feels like things are going well and you have momentum because people are happy, they’re regularly attending, and they seem to be “all in” with what you’re doing. But if you aren’t reaching new people, your church or ministry is already moving towards unhealthiness and decline.


Posted in Leadership