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18 Churchy Things the Class of 2018 Won’t Get

class-of-2018

Around this time of year, the mainstream media and Internet meme-machines like to remind us how old we are by telling us all of the things this year’s high school graduates won’t remember because, well, they weren’t even born yet.

That list is usually all pop culture, technology and political references. But what about church? I bet we can make a good list.

In church leadership, we have a looooong memory. And for some reason, we expect the new wine to clothe itself with old wineskins to learn and accept every moment of our history as part of their own personal story.

This spring’s high school graduates were born in the year 2000. Here are some churchy things for which they have little to no context for…

  1. “Shout to the Lord”
    That was 1994, folks.
  2. When Worship Bands Were Edgy
    Carey Nieuwhof wrote about this very well in his article “The Impending Death of Cool Church.”
  3. Billy Graham Crusades 
    His last was in 2005. They were five years old.
  4. Televangelists Committing Fraud and Conspiracy
    More on why that should influence how your church talks about money in Tony Morgan’s article “It’s Not the ‘80s Anymore.”
  5. Giving Cash at Church
    The Unstuck Group’s intern this semester specifically mentioned “offering plates of all varieties… the strangest ones I’ve seen were velvet bags with wooden handles. Very retro.” Tony also said his church doesn’t take an offering in services anymore. And there are no “giving boxes” either.
  6. Why “See You at the Pole” Is a Thing
    Prayer at school is not a part of their collective consciousness.
  7. “I Can Only Imagine”
    Aka Contemporary Christian Music as an influential genre.
  8. Overhead Transparencies for Song Lyrics / Reading Songs from a Hymnal
    They have no idea why older people in your church don’t like projectors and screens.
  9. I Kissed Dating Goodbye
    But, that doesn’t mean they are dating—at least not in real life. (Ask a few teenage girls when was the last time a boy actually asked them out. You’ll get some eye-rolling.)
  10. Multisite as a New Thing
    In late 2005, there were already more than 1,500 multisite churches in the United States.
  11. The Charismatic Movement / The Word “Charismatic” Used in Spiritual Context
    Whether you’re for it or against it, they don’t understand why.
  12. WWJD Bracelets
    Ah, the ‘90s.
  13. Drama Teams
    Aka video clips without the magic of editing.
  14. Church Directories
    If you still have one of these, let me guess the average age of the people listed.
  15. Wearing Your Sunday Best
    See #2. It’s been mostly acceptable to wear jeans to work, and church, since before they were born.
  16. CD Recordings of the Sermon
    Where would they even play a CD? If it’s not digital, they aren’t listening to it.
  17. Tent Revival Meetings
    Similarly to Billy Graham Crusades, without the historical context, these make no strategic sense. Why would you set up a tent beside your building and have service every night? An 18-year-old probably won’t even bother to ask why. They’ll just chock it up to weird religious stuff.
  18. What You Mean by “Traditional” or “Contemporary” Services Style
    “Contemporary” isn’t a thing. The 1990s started almost 30 years ago. If you’re trying to reach Gen Z and Millennials, and you think you have a “contemporary” service that will reach them, there’s a good chance you’re trying to connect with them using a style that emerged before they were born. The literal definition of contemporary is “belonging to or occurring in the present.” Oh, that we would own that definition. The Holy Spirit belongs to and occurs in the present, just as much as he did when the past was the present. As for “traditional” services, I can’t say it any better than Amy Anderson, The Unstuck Group’s Director of Consulting, recently did: If you have a service you’re calling “traditional,” it’s probably not reaching new people for Christ.

Bonus, Unchurchy List

These things make all of the real lists, but churches still ignore these facts. This year’s college graduates don’t remember…

    1. Life Before Mobile
      The iPhone came out when they were 7 years old. We can’t close our eyes and pretend like we can still connect with them without a native mobile strategy.
    2. Having to Call Anywhere for Information
      You need a digital destination for any action you want them to take.
    3. Life Before Everyone Shared Their Whole Lives on Social Media 
      They were 4 years old when MySpace was a hit, and the social media landscape exploded as they grew up. If you’re just tacking on Facebook to your real evangelism and discipleship strategy, you’re going to miss them.
    4. Not Being Able to Google It
      Specifically when it comes to preaching, if you make claims about Jesus, God, the Bible, etc. that they don’t understand, they’re going to Google it. Be prepared for that.
    5. Not Being Able to Connect with You
      They expect to be able to follow you on Instagram or Twitter. They expect to be able to figure you out a bit by how you present yourself online, not just what you say on the platform.

I challenge you to invite some high school grads to join you and your staff for a conversation about what you’re doing that they don’t understand. Let’s not be so hyper-focused on reaching Millennials that we wake up one day realizing we’ve already lost Gen Z.

A big thank you to Tiffany Deluccia for the guest post! Tiffany is Director of Marketing & Communications at The Unstuck Group. She graduated from Clemson University, and before joining The Unstuck Team, worked in public relations with major national retail brands, nonprofits and churches on content creation, strategic planning, communication consulting, social media and media relations. She also founded and writes for WastingPerfume.com, a devotional blog for young women.


Posted in Leadership

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7 Ways Church Leaders Unknowingly Lead their Churches to be Stuck

stucktire

Churches get stuck for all kinds of reasons. Typically, when growth slows, and things begin to stall the first inclination many church leaders have is to look at external forces acting upon them to figure out why things are moving the wrong direction.

While there are external reasons that churches begin to move the wrong direction the majority of time it’s much closer to home. Often “stuckness” is self-induced by intention or neglect on the part of the leaders of the church. So in no order, here are some things I’ve seen church leaders do to unknowingly lead their churches towards being stuck.

#1 Keeping Christians Happy

Many churches have a fundamental misunderstanding of what the church is for. Instead of being for people who have not yet said yes to following Jesus, many churches fall into the trap of believing they exist to provide nice safe programing for Christians for the purpose of biblical education. They eventually become insider focused and begin making decisions based on who they want to keep instead of who they want to reach.

#2 Hiring too Fast

Quick hires are usually hires based on convenience not vision. Every new hire you make either moves you closer to your vision or further away. It either helps you become more of who God wants you to be and further galvanizes your culture or erodes it. Sure, fire quickly. But hire slowly, because you put your culture at stake every time you make a new hire.

#3 Hiring Staff 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 average attenders), and you’re hiring staff to do ministry instead of lead ministry your church will end up in decline.

#4 Allergic to Strategy

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.

#5 Choosing Policies Over People

Policies shrink the box of creativity. They set the standard for how we do what we do every time we do it. Policies tell everybody in the organization what they can’t do, and leaders are solution oriented not excuse or problem oriented. A church with a lot of policies will consistently find it difficult to attract and keep good leaders. It’s very possible to policy your way right into decline

#6 Defending the Past

When a church is busy defending the past instead of building the future it is headed for decline. When a church becomes risk averse and starts making choices based on who they are going to keep as opposed to who they are going to reach, the church is in trouble. The real danger in playing defense is that it becomes a cultural mindset that actually stands in opposition to the Gospel. You see the Gospel was never meant to be or does it need to be defended it’s intended to be unleashed.

#7 Complexity

When the church is growing it’s exciting! Staff members are hired, ministries are started, buildings are built, and people are meeting Jesus! But it’s not as exciting when all of that growth and fun naturally lead to complexity. Growth naturally leads to complexity and complexity slows everything down.

 


Posted in Leadership

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5 Ways Successful Church Leaders Think Differently

think

Successful church leaders naturally think differently than the majority of church leaders. It’s one of the things that set them apart. The good news is you can learn to think just like them.

#1 They think about who they’re trying to Reach instead of who they’re trying to Keep

Another way to say this, is that they’re consumed with the mission that Jesus gave the church. To reach the nations. They make decisions based on who they are trying to reach not who they’re trying to keep.

#2 They think about Solutions instead of Problems

They don’t focus on problems and everything that could or does go wrong. Instead they focus on solutions and figuring things out. You could even say they’re optimistic in their thinking (either by nature or by choice).

#3 They’re Strategic Thinkers

They’re not just satisfied with having a clear picture of the future (vision), they want to act on it and build a roadmap to get there (strategy). They plan their work and work their plan. Which consequently their preparation allows them to be flexible when new opportunity arrives, or they meet unforeseen roadblocks.

#4 They Involve the Team

They’re not obsessed with coming up with the best idea. They’d rather be able to execute the best idea than get credit for it. They know the team out performs the individual, so they involve their team in great thinking.

#5 They Don’t Dwell on Failure

It’s not that they completely ignore failure, they don’t. They learn from failure. It’s just they don’t dwell on it. They pivot away from what didn’t work and move on quickly to the next thing.


Posted in Leadership

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Why the Sky is NOT the Limit for Young Church Leaders

sky

The sky is not the limit for your church leaders, it’s just not. And we do them a disservice to feed them lines and fill their heads with ideas that just aren’t true. It’s one thing to tell a young leader that you believe in them and encourage them, it’s another to just lie to them. Sometimes in our attempts to encourage young leaders we move past encouragement into falsehood. In doing so we set them up for disappointment and sometimes failure.

In Proverbs 13:12 the Bible teaches us that, “Hope deferred makes the heart grow sick.” In other words, hope that doesn’t end in real results can destroy someone. So we need be careful what direction and expectations we set on young leaders, because if it doesn’t come to fruition we can ruin them.

We’d be better off to encourage them to understand that their limit is their limit and go have fun testing their limits. When young leaders find their limits and live within what Jesus has wired them up to do they’ll experience more peace and produce more fruit!

Truth is, the sky is not the limit for young leaders, there are real limiting factors that they are or will experience, here are just a few.

1. Gifting

The Scriptures are clear that not everyone gets the same gift (and leadership is clearly defined as a spiritual gift in the Bible that not everyone gets). There are different gifts, God seemingly loves diversity and has created a system that pushes us towards one another instead of away. For the Church to be its best we need to bring our best together and lean into each other’s areas of gifting and brilliance!

2. Capacity

The Scriptures are also clear that not everyone gets the same measure of gifts. Some have a greater capacity than others. It’s possible that two people may have a teaching gift, but one may have a great measure of that gift. You get how this works.

3. Approach

Now this is something that young leaders can actually control. They can control the approach they take. They can decide if they are going to have a great attitude or not, they can choose how much effort they are going to put forth, they can choose to submit to those in authority over them or not, and they can choose be teachable or not. They can choose their approach.

4. Opportunity

I’ve heard it said that luck is what happens when opportunity meets preparation. You can call it providence and blame all of your opportunities or lack of opportunities on God or you can take personal ownership of your life and go make your own opportunities. Now I’m not a “demon behind every bush” kind of guy, but I don’t want to not give credit to God when it’s due either. Some opportunities are self-made while others are God given. Whichever come your way take advantage of them because not everyone gets the same opportunities.

5. Resources

Some young leaders simply have greater resources at their disposal. These resources give them a disproportional leg up over their peers. Some have access to greater preparation, development and coaching. Some have access to more finances which allow them greater margin. Still others have access to deeper personnel bench to deploy. Recourses are a limiting factor for growing leaders.


Posted in Spiritual Formation, Staffing

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How Church People can Wreck a Church Plant

spiritual growth

New churches reach new people, right? That’s the prevailing thought. Unfortunately, the prevailing thought doesn’t always prevail. I’ve talked to plenty of church planters who were excited to plant and reach new people in a new community only to open their doors and find their new church flooded with disgruntled church people who left their old church hoping that this new church would be more of what they want and meet their needs better.

There’s a lot wrong with that picture, and it would take a much higher word count than I have to use in this short blog post to fully unpack. Perhaps the biggest hurdle to overcome in that scenario (which is super common by the way) is that all of those people coming from other churches are coming with their own agenda and expectations of what they want from you.

So, what do you do when your new church plant is flooded with disgruntled church people from other churches that hope you’re going to be the perfect new church for them (by the way some people make a career out of that…it’s called church hopping)?

Be Clear about the Vision

Vision both attracts and repels at the same time. The clearer you can be with unique vision that God has given you, the more likely it is that the right people will stay, and the right people will go. Don’t be naïve, there are, “the right people,” for both of those options. They key is consistently and creatively weaving your vision into everything you do so people are confronted with it early and often. The earlier they opt in or opt out the better off you will be and the better off they will be. If your vision is to build a church of disgruntled church folks and try to make them happy, then by all means embrace them (and let me be the first one to say good luck). But if the vision is to reach people who are unfamiliar with Jesus with the Gospel, then let them go, and let them go quickly.

Be Courageous

Courage is the prerequisite for Biblical leadership. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to say yes to following Jesus and lead other people to go there with you. Humility is the other side of that coin by the way, in fact humility is courage before it’s needed. As a planter you’re going to need a significant amount of courage to lead yourself and others somewhere you’ve never been. It takes courage to say no to people when everyone thinks they know what the next best step for the church is or the next great ministry you should start. Especially when fear wells up in you that people may leave if you don’t appease them. It will require courage to say no to good opportunities in order to say yes to the best opportunities and it will require courage to say no to short cuts that may get you somewhere quickly but erode your leadership in the long run.

Be Slow to Appoint Leadership

Go slow, go slow, go slow, go slow. Don’t appoint a leader too quickly, especially in the early moments and years of a plant. It takes time to build culture and create owners instead of fans. The earlier you invite new people to be on a Board or prominent leadership role the more likely those people are going to come with their own agendas and have the potential to highjack the vision. You’d be wiser to invite outside trusted pastors to serve on an external board until you have time to establish the culture and develop internal board members. You’d also be wise to spend time developing a core team of people prior to launch who will serve as ministry volunteers and leaders.


Posted in Leadership
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