Top Posts of 2016 #8 “Why Some Churches Win But Most Lose”


Church growth doesn’t have to mystical, magical, or mysterious. There are real tangible things that growing churches do differently. This post came in as #8 in 2016.

Not every church is winning. In fact Thom Rainer, President and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources has stated in his research that: “Eight out of ten of the approximately 400,000 churches in the United States are declining or have plateaued.”

There are a lot of reasons why 80% of churches in America aren’t winning and there’s no “silver bullet” fix. But there are a couple of things that winning churches consistently do that losing churches don’t.

1. They make Decisions based on Who they are trying to Reach Instead of Who they are trying to Keep

The primary filter for winning churches is “What can we do (short of sin) to reach people who are far from Jesus?” You may think that all these churches care about is evangelism and helping people meet Jesus (Is that so bad?), and that leads to the church being a mile wide and an inch deep. But surprisingly these churches are usually very sensitive to helping people who have recently said yes to following Jesus take their next steps in their spiritual journey with Him. If a church isn’t reaching new people then it’s already dying, it just hasn’t shown up yet.

2. They Embrace Change

Winning churches embrace change. They change their staff and organizational structure. They change their worship style. They change their strategies. They change what ministries they offer. They are incessantly tinkering to try and improve what they do to reach new people with the Gospel. They take big risks because they have a big God and they trust Him for big results. They are not afraid to try new things. They’re not afraid to fail.

3. They don’t just Shepherd People well they Lead People

While the staff at winning churches care deeply about people, they don’t view themselves as simply caretakers and they don’t view their role as simply taking care of people. They view themselves as leaders and feel a responsibility to lead people where Jesus wants them to go even if that means it’s going to be uncomfortable. After all, when was following Jesus ever comfortable?

4. They Help People take Steps not get into a Class

Most winning churches I’ve been around aren’t as interested in biblically educating people as they are challenging people to become obedient to the biblical knowledge they already have. They view discipleship as obedience not information. Winning churches have a clear plan to move people from guests to fully involved and people that say yes to Jesus to following Jesus. Their goal isn’t to simply get people into a class.

Posted in Leadership


Top Posts of 2016 #9 “Where there’s a Huddle there’s a Team”


I’m counting down my Top 10 most popular blog posts from 2016 and one of the topics I write about that gets the most traction is building and developing volunteer teams. Here’s one that focuses one small practice that can make a really big deal at your church.

How do you know if the volunteer teams at your church are really working? I don’t mean are they getting stuff done and meeting objectives, I mean are they developing people. After all the point of building volunteer teams at your church isn’t just to use people to accomplish objectives but rather to create opportunities and relationships to develop people.

Team huddles are one of the most overlooked opportunities by many church staff, and yet they are one of the easiest tactics to implement and they bear a disproportionate amount of fruit.

Simply put where there’s a team there’s a huddle. No huddle…no team. So go looking for huddles at your church. If you don’t see any you may be using people instead of developing them.

Team huddles are evidence of…


When you see a team huddle that means someone is leading. Someone is getting the team together and calling the plays.


When you see a team huddle you can rest assured that someone is doing some planning. They’re sharing that plan with the team and helping everyone know how they’re going to accomplish what they’re going to accomplish that day.


When you see a team huddle you can know that people are working together in a coordinated fashion. Yes someone has planed the plays and called the plays but it takes everyone blocking the right scheme, picking up their individual assignments, running the right routes, and putting the ball where it needs to go at the right time for the team to win. That’s called coordination.


You know people are being developed when you see a team huddle. Tasks are being delegated and people are being empowerment to make decisions. Responsibility is being shared and young growing leaders are learning to build trust.


You can know that people are being encouraged when you see team huddles. People are celebrating what was accomplished on the last play and individuals on the team are being called out and honored for doing a great job.

If your church isn’t using team huddles try having each volunteer team start and end with a huddle using the tactics above. Try it for 30 days…you may be surprised by the results.

Posted in Leadership, Staffing, Volunteers


Top Posts of 2016 #10 “If it’s Not on a Screen it’s Not Multisite”


For the next couple of days I’m going to be counting down the top 10 posts from 2016 here on Helping Churches Make Vision Real. These are the posts that generated the most traffic, comments, and were the most shared on social media. The most popular topics this year had to do with developing young leaders, multisite, volunteers, church growth, and church leadership. We start off with a post about the multisite church movement, one of the most popular topics on my blog this year.

Being a part of leading a large multisite church, I’m frequently asked by church leaders about my thoughts on various multisite models and how we do it at the church I’m a part of. In this post I’m going to answer that question (to an extent) for everyone reading this article and here’s a little warning, I’m going to say it in a bit of a straight forward matter of fact manner. Here’s the way I look at it, and I reserve the right to be wrong…

“If it’s not on a screen, it’s not a multisite.”

It may be multi-congregational or even a family of churches, but it’s not a multisite church. The simple reason why is teaching. Nothing else in your church has the power the build the unique culture of your church in so much as teaching does. This is why people say the organization always takes on the characteristics and personality (culture) of the leader. When you have different people preaching at different locations, no matter how similar they are, no matter how good of friends they are, no matter how hard they work to be on the same page with the presentation, you’re going to get a different culture. You’re going to get a different church. And like it or not, people who attend churches look to the primary communicator of that location as the leader. Here’s a really quick overview (obviously there are slight variations).


Big Idea: “One Church Multiple Locations”
Preaching: Preaching is delivered via video. No matter if it’s one primary communicator or a teaching team approach, whoever is preaching is preaching the same message at every location via video.
Governance: There is one Board of Elders that provides oversight to the entire church; all campuses no matter the location. The Board is not put in place for the representation of the campuses (it’s not congress).
Ministry Practices: These churches have a tendency to be more identical in their ministry practices and staffing structures (based on scale). Ministry practices are typically overseen by a Central Ministry Team that coaches and influences each campus towards best practices and objectives


Big Idea: “One Church Multiple Congregations”
Preaching: Preaching is delivered live at each location. Often times the main communicators on each campus collaborate to ensure that they are generally covering the same content.
Governance: There is still some kind of directional team making high-level decisions that have some affect on each congregation, but each congregation has their own Board of Elders making local decisions.
Ministry Practices: Often these churches will share branding and some communication (print & visual media) resources and a centralized Business Department may support all congregations. However each congregation has much more freedom and independence as to what ministries they build and start.

Family of Churches

Big Idea: “Multiple Churches with One Cause”
Preaching: Preaching is live at each location, each church may even have it’s own teaching team. They may share their best teaching series with each other, and speak at each other’s churches from time to time, but that’s about it.
Governance: Early on often these churches will have a Board of outside Pastors from the Family of Churches govern the new church until it is mature enough to have it’s own Board. Similarly often another stronger church in the Family of Churches may manage the business function of the newer church until it has the capacity to do so on their own.
Ministry Practices: Families of churches typically organize around a theological ideal or a common cause such as church planting. While these churches certainly learn from one another and even pick up best practices from one another they are autonomous in their approach.

Posted in Leadership


Inviting You to Take the Unstuck Challenge

While most pastors are preparing for Christmas Eve services, wise pastors know there’s another big day right around the corner:

January 1, 2017.

The start of a new year in which to make new changes, build new ministries, and ultimately reach new people.

I’d venture to bet there’s a list of changes you’ve wanted to make at your church for a while.

Perhaps you’ve known your worship services need to be updated. Maybe your discipleship “pathway” really feels more like a ministry maze. It could be that you’re looking to add another service — or eliminate one. To engage more leaders — or develop the ones on your team.

If you’re like most pastors, you knew these changes were needed a while back.

Maybe you’ve known this entire year but couldn’t quite get the ball rolling. Thankfully, a new year comes with a new opportunity…

2017 could be the year when everything…starting with the right thing…changes.

The difference will be in how you start.

This January, we’re inviting pastors from around the world to join us for The Unstuck Change Challenge.

It’s a 15-day journey to kickstart the ministry year you’ve been dreaming about. We’ll help you clarify what you need to change and why, get the right people around the table, and develop a real plan for communication and action. Oh, and it’s completely free.

By taking the challenge, you’ll receive daily emails full of the following:

  • Inspirational videos on the 5 aspects of leading change
  • Planning frameworks to help you make better and faster decisions
  • Frequent reminders that it’s time to take action — because we all need an occasional kick in the pants!

“So, you’re really not going to charge me for this?”

I’ve seen new year kick-off programs cost anywhere from $30 to $300. But here’s my opinion: The real cost of change is the time you put into creating it. If you’re willing to invest your time, I don’t want anything else to get in the way.

But first, I should warn you…

This challenge is not for the complacent or comfortable. I’m not willing to sit idle while churches maintain status quo. My aim is to challenge and inspire you toward real action that makes real impact. There’s too much at stake in your community to not start the year right.

If you’re a church leader who has been thinking about making real change — the kind of change that helps more people meet Jesus — sign up below and high-five the closest person nearby. Because 2017 just became the year when everything…starting with the right thing…changes.

So follow this link to get start 2017 off right with the Unstuck Challenge!

Posted in Leadership


Increasing Innovation at your Church through Quick Feedback Loops


Great organizations and great churches adopt a pattern of constant change. They intentionally organize themselves to allow for nimbleness, flexibility, and responsiveness. They tweak, tinker, build on islands of strength and innovate. They quickly turn vision into reality allowing them to get to the next iteration faster.

Making the right change, however hinges on having the right information. I’m not simply talking about having the right metrics. It requires the Sr. Leadership Team to actually know what’s working, what’s not, and why. This kind of information requires creating quick feedback loops, from the right sources, so Sr. Leaders have access to front line information so better decisions can be made faster.

Here are a couple of examples of what that looks like in church-world where I live.

Weekend Evaluation Meetings: First thing each Monday morning Campus Teams run a quick 15 minute conversation about what worked, what was wrong, what was confusing or what was missing. They solve what they can on their own and communicate core issues that need to go back to the Central Service Team. By Monday afternoon I have a pretty firm grasp on what happened on each campus.

Campus Pastor Gatherings: Monthly lunches with Campus Pastors with no agenda but to stay connected to the Sr. Leadership Team allow for casual unfiltered conversation that consistently leads to identifying islands of strength and opportunities for improvement.

Millennial Coaching Group: A monthly leadership-coaching group with millennial lay leaders allows for fresh input, interesting new insights, and core assumptions to be challenged.

Staff Lunches: Annually Sr. Leaders have lunch with Staff from each individual Campus at a time. It’s a relaxed no holds barred, ask anything environment. It gives front line employees access to Sr. Leaders and allows those same Sr. Leaders to know first hand what challenges the team is facing, what their concerns are, and what their needs are.

Campus Score Cards: When Central Service Staff attend a campus on the weekend they fill out a simple online survey about their experience that weekend. Those results go right to the Campus Pastor on Monday for direct feedback from fresh eyes.

Posted in Leadership