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5 Keys to Growing your Church in 2019

growth

I’ve never met a church leader that didn’t want things at their church to to change for the better. They want more people to say yes to following Jesus, they want people to become better friends with God, and they want their churches to think more about people outside of the church than those already in it.

The trouble is while most church leaders want this year to be better than the last, they don’t want to do anything different.

I’ve said this many times before, people (including you…and me) always want to change their circumstances, but they never want to change their lives. But everything gets better when we get better. Families get better when fathers and mothers get better. Students get better when educators get better. Organizations get better when leaders get better. And churches get better when church leaders get better. But better doesn’t happen by trying harder, it happens by trying different. It happens through change…but change is painful. Don’t let anyone tell you any different. It’s always easier and more comfortable to stay where you are than to change and move forward. But if you want to grow at some point you’ve got to stop doing what’s easy and start doing what’s right.

So, to that end, here are a couple ideas that will help you create change this year at your church…and maybe even in you.

Create Accessibility

One of the greatest changes you can make in your church to get different results is to make Jesus and His teachings more accessible to people who don’t know Him. Another way to think about this is to ask yourself or your team, “How accessible is everything at your church to people who are unfamiliar with Jesus and the Church?” How accessible is your website, signage, language, parking lot, building, kids and student ministries, worship services, and teaching to people who are unfamiliar with Jesus and His Church? Most churches simply make it too hard for people to meet and follow Jesus. They don’t do it on purpose, they’ve just forgotten what it is like to be unfamiliar with Jesus. And guess what will happen when you create more accessibility to Jesus? More people will meet Jesus…and isn’t that kinda the point?

Lean into Constraints

You probably have a list of reasons (or excuses) why you can’t grow. Barriers to the future or anchors to the past that are keeping you from getting to the future. Make a list of your top 5 constraints and figure a way through them or around them. You constraints may even be the thing that help you innovate and come up with a solution you would have never otherwise come up with on your own. To that point, one of the top 3 reasons the church I serve at went multisite 6 years ago is because the original location was nearing a point where it would be fully maximized. Today we’re reaching more people for Jesus than ever because we had a facility constraint that forced us into a new solution (multisite) that is helping us reach new people for Jesus than we ever would have or could have at that one original location. Your biggest constraints may just turn out to be your best friend.

Allow Hope to Die

Stop hoping things are going to change at your church. Hope doesn’t change or produce new results at your church. Action does. Specifically, new action. Hope is not a strategy. Too many church boards and church leaders are sitting around praying and hoping that Jesus would do something new and powerful in their church this year when He already did something new and powerful 2,000 years ago on the cross. He’s simply waiting for those same church boards and church leaders to have the same kind of courage He did and lead things forward. 

Draft some new Players

If you want new results at your church, then it may be time to shake up the team a bit. New team members bring new experiences, expertise, ideas, and questions with them that aren’t currently on your team. You become who you hire and sometimes one or two new team members can help shift the entire locker room on a team.

Listen to Fresh Eyes

Sometimes you simply need fresh eyes, someone from the outside to help you see things differently. Sometimes you need an outside voice to say some things that you want to say but can’t. And sometimes you’re just stuck and need help. If that’s your church, then maybe the best step you can take to change things at your church is to engage the Unstuck Group. We help churches grow their impact through church consulting and coaching experiences designed to focus vision, strategy and action.

Taking new and different action will get you different results. And if you need a little help getting unstuck then connect with us at the Unstuck Group, we can help this next year be the best year of ministry you’ve ever experienced!


Posted in Leadership

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Top Posts of 2018 #1 “Why People Don’t Invite their Friends to Your Church”

invitation

Welp, here it is…you made this the most read and most shared post on my blog in 2018. Thank you for going along on this countdown, and thank you for engaging with me through the content here at Helping Churches Make Vision Real! If you missed out on the countdown, no worries, I’ll post them all in one succinct list for you in a week or so.

There are a lot of reasons people go and check out a church for the first time. Maybe someone they know gets married and they go to celebrate their wedding or someone they know passes away and they go for the funeral. It may be that they already go to church on a regular basis and they move to a new area and are looking for a new church, or they decide to leave their old church for any number of reasons and are trying to find a new one. It may be that they saw some clever marketing from your church and decided to try it out or there is some crisis going on in their life and they think they might find some answers at church. Like I said, there are a lot of reasons people check out a church for the first time.

For all of those possibilities, the number one reason people attend a church for the first time is still because a friend personally invites them.

If your church is serious about growing and reaching new people you’ve got to figure out what is keeping people from inviting their friends. While many church leaders blame their people for not inviting their friends because they’re not “spiritually mature enough” or don’t have a “deep burden” for the lost I’d suggest it may be less complicated than that. It may be your fault.

#1 Quality Matters…a lot

I know churches don’t like to talk about this but it’s an unavoidable truth if you really want to reach and introduce new people to Jesus. I’ve been in too many churches whose facilities have not been maintained, they’re fresh out of 1978 and it’s not on par with other public space in their community. I’ve seen too many churches with someone leading worship on stage that just can’t sing. I’ve also been to too many churches who claim to be friendly but if you’re not an insider no one ever talks to you. I don’t think any of those churches intended to push away guests, but they did. Where did we get this idea that intent supersedes experience? I think we’ve misread the Scriptures that teach us that while man looks on the outside that God looks on the heart. The fact that God looks at the heart should challenge us and the fact that man looks on the outside should also challenge us! I don’t think that scripture in particular is a judgement statement in so much as it is a simple observation and fact. I could go on, but I think you get my point.

Question: Is what we are offering our guests quality? Are people not inviting their friends because they’re embarrassed to? How could we do less but do it with greater quality?

#2 New People bring New People

In John chapter 4 an entire village of people meets Jesus. Not because a missionary or pastor went to them or someone went through an evangelism training course but because of a simple invitation. A woman who had known Jesus for all of a couple of minutes invited everyone she knew to meet Him too. She was “new to Jesus.” New to Jesus people don’t need to be sequestered from their friends who don’t know Jesus and placed into some training program and then “sent” back out. They need to be encouraged to simply invite their friend to Jesus. Most people in our churches who have been around Jesus the longest invite the fewest people to Him (seems a little wrong if you ask me…but what do I know). This usually happens because over time they hang out with less and less people who are unfamiliar with Jesus. They wake up one day and all of their friends are Christians.

Question: Do we have new people at our church, and are we investing more in new people or in people who have been around for a while?

#3 Guest Comfort Level

Now I’m getting really shallow. I know. But like it or not if guests aren’t comfortable they aren’t going to be a lot of them at your church. There are a lot of things that can make a guest feel uncomfortable at your church. I’ve been to churches that don’t ever mention guests in their services. I’ve been to some churches that had really poor signage and I had no idea how to navigate the facility. I’ve been to churches that ask guests to remain seated during the service so regular attenders can come say hello (yea, there is no way I’m doing that). I’ve been to churches that tell people if they want to get into a small group to go see Cindi and I’ve thought to myself, “Who’s Cindi and where am I supposed to meet her if I want to get into a Small Group?” Churches are notorious for making outsiders feel like, well…outsiders. And then they wonder why guests don’t come back.

Question: What insider behaviors and language do we use that makes it difficult for outsiders to gain access to Jesus?

#4 Fun

Now I’ve probably finally gone off the deep end with this one. But if your church isn’t fun, if people don’t laugh, they simply aren’t going to invite their friends. No one invites their friends to stuff that isn’t fun. If kids don’t have a good experience at your church, you might be doing it wrong. If people don’t laugh at some point you might be doing it wrong. Jesus was actually really funny by the way. Jim Rayburn the founder of Young Life said, ”It’s a sin to bore a kid.” If that’s true then a lot of our churches might be in risk of sinning. Hmmmm… (yes I said people may not invite their friends to your church because it’s boring)

Question: Do people have fun when they come to our church? What can we do to help church be a fun experience?

If you’re a courageous church leader it may be worth your time to get your Sr. Leadership Team together to discuss where in your community people invite their friends to go with them to. Seriously, make a real list on a white board or something. Then make another list of all the reasons people invite their friends to go there with them. Then finally compare that to your church…you may be onto something at that point.


Posted in Leadership

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Top Posts of 2018 #2 “5 Core Issues that will Fuel Growth in your Church”

lighter

Every church leader I meet with wants to know what they need to do to grow their churches. The majority of these leaders are well intentioned and really have a sincere desire to see people who don’t know Jesus, meet Him. I wrote this particular article at the beginning of 2018 hoping to give church leaders some insights, based on the 100’s of churches we work with at the Unstuck Group, that could help them fuel growth in their churches this year. I hope it was helpful.

Stuckness is no respecter of the “brand” or “flavor” of a church. All kinds of churches across America are stuck. Large churches, small churches, old churches, new churches, Baptist churches, Methodist churches, Nazarene churches, Presbyterian church and even non-denominational churches are stuck.

At the Unstuck Group we’ve literally worked with hundreds of churches and one of the many things we’ve learned along the way is that there are 5 Core Issues that keep churches stuck.

The good news is that in 2018 your church doesn’t have to stay stuck.

This year your church can take a different approach. I’m not talking about trying harder, I’m talking about trying different. I’m also not talking about making some risk free small tweaks. If you want different results you’ve got to adopt a different strategy and employ different tactics.

What are you and your team willing to differently this year when it comes to your approach to these 5 Core Issues?

Discipleship Pathway

I’ve seen a lot of churches that offer a myriad of classes, small groups, and a grocery list of ministries that clutter people’s lives and compete for time, promotion, money and participation. But it’s rare to find a church that has a clear strategic pathway for people who are new to following Jesus to move towards knowing and following him. Is your church providing a menu of ministry offerings or clear next steps for people who connect with your church to become more fully devoted followers of Jesus?

Leadership Development

While many church leaders search for an off the shelf tool or some new content that is promised to produce leaders in their church they forget that the Church itself is the greatest leadership development engine that’s ever been designed. How deep is the leadership bench at your church? Most churches are struggling to identify their up and coming young leaders. Is your church attracting, identifying, and intentionally developing young leaders? Most are hopeful that it will somehow happen, but hope isn’t a strategy. Check out these 10 Articles that will Help your Church Develop Young Leaders. Developing people is different than offering a class. What are you going to do to invest in people differently this year?

Mission / Vision

Clarity is king. Without clarity churches are left to fumble around in a fog and hope for the best. However, the clearer become the better decisions can be made and the faster alignment can be accomplished. When everyone on the team has clarity, and knows where you’re going and who is supposed to do what next things can really get moving. Unfortunately, the majority of churches aren’t very clear about their mission (why they exist) or vision (where they are going), and so they stay stuck. Here’s a post that will help you and your team gain more clarity on your mission and vision.

Communications

It’s not uncommon in churches to find ministries competing for “air time” in the weekend worship services. Many church staff members mistakenly think that if “their” ministry offering isn’t announced on the weekend then it’s not important and it can’t be successful. As a result, churches end up relying on the weekend bulletin and announcements in their services as the extent of their communication strategy. They communicate everything to everyone, hoping to get someone involved. If it’s not announced from the stage then they spam people to death with constant emails that are just ignored or deleted. Interested in learning more about church communications? Check out these 10 Findings from New Research on Church Communications.

Volunteers

A simple but deep truth that seems to have been forgotten is that volunteering is discipleship. Volunteering is not just about roles that need to be filled anymore but people that need to be developed. The role of the Church Staff Member isn’t to do the ministry but to equip the church to do the ministry. While most church staff would generally agree to that statement, few are actually doing it. Want to learn more about developing an effective Volunteer Strategy at your Church? Check out these 10 Articles that will Help your Church Build a Stronger Volunteer Culture.

If you behave differently towards these 5 Core Issues this year, you’ll get different results. And if you need help getting unstuck then connect with us at the Unstuck Group, we can help this next year be the best year of ministry you’ve ever experienced


Posted in Leadership

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Top Posts of 2018 #3 “18 Churchy Things the Class of 2018 Won’t Get”

class-of-2018

This post was done by a friend of mine over at the Unstuck Group. It’s hilarious…and a little sad at the same time.

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.


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Top Posts of 2018 #4 “5 Reasons Churches Don’t Grow”

growth

It still holds true that 80% of churches in America are plateaued or declining. It doesn’t have to be that way! I wrote this back in August and it quickly shot up to one of the top posts of the year.

It’s impossible for your church to grow and everything stay the same. I know it would be nice if everything could stay the same as the church grows, but it can’t. And the secret underlying truth is as your church grows you will lose some things along the way. But that’s kind of the point. You simply can’t move from here (current reality) to there (preferred future) and everything stay the way it is. If it did, you’d never get “there,” you’d just stay where you are.

While there are a lot of reasons why churches stall, sputter, and stop growing but there are a few big reasons that lurk beneath the surface of the worship services, ministries and organizational structure of the church and live within the heart of the leader.

#1 Control

Things could be done exactly the way you want them to be done at your church, but you’d be the one doing them or directing them. It would be nice, and neat, and tidy. No mess. You wouldn’t have to worry about staff members or volunteers challenging your ideas as the pastor because everyone would be executing your ideas the way you want them done. Unfortunately, you’d also never attract or develop any leaders, you’d only be training people to perform tasks that you assign them. You’d be creating followers and as a result putting a lid on the growth of the church. Controlling leaders stifle fun, innovation, and ultimately production. Your team needs to be empowered and unleashed to be who Jesus has created them to be. That’s when they’ll have the most fun and you’ll get the greatest results. The sad, and very dangerous, thing is controlling church leaders actually stifle personal growth in others and the expansion of the Gospel

#2 Preference

As churches grow, leaders either give up their personal preferences or they personally prevent the church from growing. The best leaders I’ve been around ask what’s best for the organization, not what’s best for themselves, and they defer their preferences for the performance of the organization. Which means one day we’ll all be saying why can’t we sing those old Chris Tomlin, Hillsong, or Jesus Culture songs. We are either constantly designing ministry for ourselves or for people who have not yet said yes to following Jesus. So do you prefer to reach new people with the Gospel or to go to a church that is designed to fit your preferences?

#3 Lack of Leadership

This may just one guys’ opinion, but I really believe that the greatest crisis facing the modern-day church is a crisis of leadership. We don’t have a “Gospel problem,” or a “God problem,” it’s a Church problem and that starts with leadership. The modern-day Church simply doesn’t attract, develop, or keep leaders. Leaders by their very nature are change agents, and because the unstated goal of most churches is to preserve the past, church leaders often times find themselves fighting the family instead of fighting the enemy.

#4 The Ingrained Behavior to Keep instead of Reach

New things attract new people and new churches reach new people. When a church is starting up it’s all about risk (church planting by its very nature is risky). Over time however it’s easier (and less risky) to do ministry programs to keep church people happy than it is to continue to reach out to people who are outside of the church. You know, those ministry programs that keep the core long-time Christians and long-term attenders happy but have no impact on people outside the faith. While the greatest intention of churches may be to reach new people, their greatest behavior is to keep the ones they have happy.

#5 Pain Tolerance

As I mentioned the leadership secret that no one is telling you about is that there is no leadership without loss. It may not be popular, but it is absolutely, “take it to the bank true.” Most people mistakenly believe that gaining leadership is all about gaining more power, gaining a more influential position, and gaining more prestige and popularity. But leaders who lead at the highest levels know there is no going up, without giving up. And the higher you go in leadership, the more you have to be willing to lose. And this is the reason why many churches stop growing. Simply because those leading them don’t possess the pain tolerance or humility to endure the personal challenge of change, discomfort and loss.


Posted in Leadership
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