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Why Most Churches are Successful Failures


Successful failure is when you successfully execute a plan that doesn’t work. You’ve planed your work and worked your plan. You’ve completed the task on time and on budget. You successfully executed the plan. The only problem is the plan didn’t work. The outcome was just wrong.

Many churches all across America are successful failures. They’re putting a lot of time and effort into doing church they way they do church only to see little to no fruit. Most churches are building something that nobody wants to be a part of. And the proof is in the fact that 80% of the nearly 400,000 churches in America are plateaued or declining.

People don’t want a class they want community

Most churches still offer classes as the primary way for people to get connected to their church. Most guests still attend a church for the first time at a weekend worship service and then they’re invited to attend a class. No matter how’s it’s branded it’s usually some form of membership or orientation class where they are provided content. Then they’re invited to another class (usually in the form of some kind of bible study) where they can get more content. People are looking for connection and community not classes or content. If people were really looking for another class to be a part of then Community Colleges across America would be overrun with a deluge of applicants.

People don’t want to be lectured they want to be changed

There are few settings outside of academia where people receive information in a lecture format anymore. People aren’t looking for another lecture. They’re looking for something real, tangible, and powerful. Does your God really have the power to change my most meaningful relationships? Can I experience real peace in life? Can my life really be different than it is today? Is there something truly spiritual about Christianity or is it just another self-help book to make my life “better?”

People don’t want to feel guilty they want to feel inspired

People are tired of coming to church and feeling guilty, shamed, preached at, spoken down to, and judged. Who would want to be a part of something like that? People want to be inspired. They want to know that there is hope. And while the Church has the most hope to offer the World, the average person in the world typically doesn’t associate “hope” and “church.” The Gospel is the most inspiring message in the history of the planet and somehow we’ve made it very unattractive.

People don’t want to be a part of something built for insiders

Let’s face it, most churches are designed by and for people who are already a part of the church. And by churches I mean the physical buildings and programs. Yes I know the church is not a building that you come to but a movement you’re a part of…but for the purpose of this conversation we’re talking about what outsiders view as the church – which are the buildings and programs. Most churches don’t match the architecture of other public space that people go to. And who wants to be a part of something where you feel like an outsider the moment you walk through the door because you don’t know the lingo, the songs (who sings songs other than happy birthday any ways), or the customs.

Don’t hear what I’m not saying. I love the Church, I’m a part of the Church, and I’m even on staff at a church. But I don’t think most churches are experiencing much success (success = life change), they’re actually failing. And what’s worse is that most churches are successful failures.

Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation


How your Church can Reach more Millennials

There’s a lot of angst in the North American Church about Millennials walking away from Church. The Millennial generation is typically considered as born somewhere in the early 80’s – 2000 or so. Instead of fretting about it, the other day I sat down with some millennials to actually talk to them about their views of Church. These were some of the take aways from the conversation.

Invite Millennials to Community not Church

Millennials want community. They’re not as interested in being invited to the “weekend event” that we call a worship service as much as they are being invited into a real community where they can know others, be known, and have shared experiences together.

Hire Someone to Wake up everyday Thinking about Millennials

Who on staff at your church is paid to wake up every day to think about millennials? A lot of churches pay a lot of people to do a lot of different things. Is your church willing to put its money where its mouth is and actually put money into this?

Don’t Silo Millennials

Don’t start a new ministry designed to reach millennials. We’re not talking about doing youth group for young adults and segmenting them out apart from the rest of the church. Instead invite and involve them in the church. Listen to them and their ideas. Give them real responsibility, give them real opportunity to lead and influence the church.

Address their Unique Needs

Research shows that millennials are most interested in marriage, parenting, and social causes (in that order). What is your church doing to help them navigate these issues and find real answers that will help them have a fulfilling marriage, become a better parent, and engage in real social causes?

Is your church finding success reaching millennials? What are you doing that we all could learn from? Leave a comment!

Interested in learning more about reaching millennials? Pick up the eBook “Reaching and Leading Millennials” by Tony Morgan and the Unstuck Group.

Photo Credit: hahn.elizabeth34 Flickr via Compfight cc

Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing, Testimonial


10 Articles that will Help your Church Make Vision Real


Thank you for making October another great month here at Helping Churches Make Vision Real! It’s fun to stay connected with you through social media and hearing that these articles have been helpful. So, thank you for connecting with me through the content on this blog! You made these the top posts from this last month. If you missed out on any of them, here they are all in one place for your convenience!

10 Insider Focused Ministry Names

The language we choose to use is important because it both reflects and builds culture at the same time. And one of the most obvious ways to tell if a church is insider focused or outsider focused is the language that they choose to use. It either says that the church is “inclusive” or “exclusive.”

How Many People Should your Church have on Staff?

Before you buy into the idea that you need another staff person at your church, think again. That just may be the worst decision you make at your church this year.

Why Big Weekend Worship Services are Not the Goal

It’s really interesting to me that the modern church has fallen in love with a practice that the New Testament doesn’t actually prescribe anywhere, weekend worship services. But don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m a big proponent of churches providing meaningful, engaging and relevant weekend worship services. Not because that’s the mission of the church, but because it’s the most effective strategy in North America to expose people to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In other words large weekend worship gatherings are a strategy, not the mission.

Why More People Don’t Meet Jesus at your Church

One of the things we’ve learned through our experience and research at theUnstuck Group is that churches in America are only baptizing around 5% of their weekend attendance on average annually. In other words a church of 500 is seeing an average of 25 people take the step to be publicly baptized on an annual basis. We can do better than that. We must do better than that. But it is going to take facing down these big 5 issues that prevent more people from meeting Jesus at your church.

8 Reasons Why People Don’t Volunteer at your Church

I’ve never worked with a church that has said they don’t need more volunteers. But I’ve worked with a bunch of churches that have trouble getting people to volunteer and stay engaged volunteering.

The Difference between Micromanagement and Accountability

I’ve never met anyone who likes to be micromanaged. Unfortunately I’ve observed many church staff teams who confuse micromanagement and accountability. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a young church staff member express frustration and cry out about the injustice of being micromanaged when their supervisor was simply holding them accountable for basic results. On the other hand I’ve seen church staff members micromanage other staff and even volunteers while claiming that they were just trying to hold people accountable to results and outcomes.

Why Wise Church Leaders Don’t Say Everything they See

Ever say something you wish you could take back? Sure. Everyone has. Whether it’s something we regret saying to a spouse, to a child, to a friend, or in the workplace to a coworker. Everybody has said something they wish they could go back and say differently…or…not say at all. Many of us are not aware of how powerful our words are and how they affect the people around us. The best church leaders I’ve ever been around understand this and they exercise discipline with their words.

The Difference between Preparation and Planning

Do great organizations prepare for the future or do they plan for it? The answer is, “yes.” To be clear preparation and planning are not the same thing, and great organizations become great by doing both.

Why Firing People who work at your Church Sucks

Changing Church Staff can be a terribly painful experience. Exiting a Church Staff Member costs the church more than just money. Trust is often eroded; people frequently leave the church during these times, and ministries typically lose momentum. Firing a Church Staff Member should always be a last resort option.

Should your Church spend more Energy Reaching or Keeping People?

It’s commonly said that you can tell if a church is insider-focusedor outsider-focused by how they make decisions. Do they make decisions based on whom they’re trying to keep or whom they’re trying to reach? Oh, if it were only that simple.

Photo Credit: justin fain via Compfight cc

Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing


Bringing your Blind Spots into Focus


Have you ever experienced someone talking on speakerphone or face-timing in public? This has happened to me twice lately. In both cases not only was it distracting and rude to everyone around these people but they were totally unaware of how obnoxious their behavior was and how others perceived them in the moment.

That’s usually how blind spots work. They show up at work, at home, in our casual friendships, and in our most meaningful relationships. Everyone sees them but us. That’s why they’re called blind spots. But just because you have them, doesn’t mean you can’t bring those blind spots into focus. Here’s a couple tips to try out this week.

Get Outside Help

If you really want to begin to bring your blind spots into focus you’re going to need help. You can’t do this alone, because you don’t live on the other side of you. You know your thoughts, intentions, and motivations. You know what you mean when you do what you do. Others just experience what you do. Ask other people that you trust and who know you and aren’t afraid to tell you the truth what your blind spots are…and then don’t fight back…just listen.


Discovering your blind spots requires humility. It means listening more than talking. It means looking introspectively at you instead of at others. It means working on you instead of a project or your team. And it inherently means you’re going to have to come face to face with some things about yourself that aren’t going to be pleasant or easy to face down.

Pay Attention to Pain

Pain is an incredible gift from God. It tells us that something is wrong and needs to change. When you experience pain in a relationship or at work one of the most important questions you can ask yourself is, “What did I do to contribute to this problem?”

“Rule of 3’s”

If someone tells you something once, it’s easy to brush it off as his or her isolated opinion of one unique interaction with you. If a theme gets developed and it comes up more than once, say three times, then pay attention to it. Maybe it’s not everybody else maybe it’s you.


Once you’ve been made aware of a blind spot you have a choice, and the choice hinges on courage. You can choose to ignore it or you can choose to do something about it. But be warned, if it’s really a blind spot it’s going to be really tough to work on, because it’s not going to come natural. That’s why it’s a blind spot. But without courage you don’t simply choose to be blind you choose to stay blind.

Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing


A Church’s Health Cannot Be Determined By Its Size

It is easy to become obsessed with church growth. Attendance is a number we can quickly see, measure, and compare. But we should never mistake attendance for more than what it is: a measure of the number of people attending, not the overall health of the church.

A church’s health cannot be determined by its size alone.

The health of your church should be more fully understood through things like:

  • The level of participation in biblical community
  • The degree to which people are using their gifts to serve
  • The generosity of your congregation
  • Whether or not you are reaching unchurched people
  • How well you’re connecting with young families in your community

And those are things you can actually track. I think we get hung up on attendance because we all want to be about leading more people to Jesus. But determining how to measure spiritual next steps and real life-change is a deeper conversation.

On Wednesday, November 2, Tony Morgan and The Unstuck Group will share a better way to measure church health in the free webinar, Vital Signs: How Healthy Churches Think Beyond Attendance Alone.

The team will share The Unstuck Group’s most recent research on church health built around 14 metrics that together give a fuller picture than attendance alone. And, they’ll talk about how to use these metrics make better decisions.

Click Here to Register for the Vital Signs Webinar

Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation
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