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Top Posts of 2016 #4 “7 Core Issues that your Church needs to Address in 2016″

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I wrote this way back at the start of the year. This list was generated by listening to the pressure points that church leaders around the country are currently dealing with. Chances are your church is facing one or two of these as well. This post checks in at #4 on the year.

Recently I had the opportunity to facilitate a round table discussion for Executive Pastors of large churches. Nearly 20 large churches were represented in the discussion. We began by working through an exercise to identify the greatest pressure points that the group was experiencing at their churches and then we used those key items as our agenda for the conversation that ensued the following two days. Below are the 7 biggest items that consumed our time and energy. If you’re anything like these churches, then the following 7 Core Issues are items that the Sr. Leadership Team at your church needs to address in 2016.

#1 Multisite

According to the most recent research conducted by Leadership Network there are nearly 8,000 churches in the U.S. that have adopted a multisite model. Yet few would say that they’ve perfected it. Instead most are faced with a new set of challenges that they never anticipated. Ready to make Multisite work for your church? Don’t miss this free Multisite webinar hosted by Tony Morgan and the Unstuck Group!

#2 Volunteers

Volunteering is discipleship. It’s 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.

#3 Re-Structuring for Growth

Your church is perfectly structured for the size and results you’re getting today. But like most churches, it’s probably not structured for growth. What is the next staff re-organization that your church needs to make in order to prepare for, accommodate and even catalyze growth?

#4 Generosity

Wherever you find people who truly understand grace you’ll find people who are generous. Money can be a difficult subject for church leaders to talk about with their churches. At times it can come off as though churches want something from their people instead of something for them. Does your church have an effective generosity strategy? This post will help: “20 Ways Church Leaders can Help their Church become More Generous”

#5 Staff Development

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.

#6 Discipleship Pathway

The majority of churches in North America have no true discipleship pathway. They may have a class or a multitude of ministries that compete for time, promotion, money, and participation. But they do not have a true clear strategic pathway for people who are new to following Jesus to move towards knowing and following Him. What is the next step that you want people to take at your church to become a more fully devoted follower of Jesus?

#7 Communication Strategy

In most churches a weekend bulletin and announcements in the worship service is the extent of their communication strategy. And most of the ministries in the church are competing for “air time” on those announcements. If it’s not announced from the stage they spam people to death with constant emails, to the point that they are ignored. Interested in learning more about church communications? Check out these 10 Findings from New Research on Church Communications.

It would be worth talking about this list of Core Issues for Churches in 2016 with the Sr. Leadership Team at your church to make sure you’re all on the same page with how you’re addressing them.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing

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Top Posts of 2016 #5 “Why People Volunteer at some Churches but not at Others”

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We’re half way through counting down the top 10 Church Leadership Posts here at Helping Churches Make Vision Real and #5 checks in with a post about volunteers, a topic that too many churches struggle with.

Ever notice that a lot of churches feel like a spectator sport? You know, the kind of place where people sit around watching the paid staff do everything. The average church in America engages around 45% of their average adult and student attendance in some kind of volunteer role (check out the Unstuck Group Health Assessment for more info like this). But there are those churches that are above average. The top 10% of churches somehow seem to break all the normal statistics and engage more than 70% of their average adult and student attendance in some kind of volunteer role. Here are a couple of things they do different.

#1 High Challenge

They don’t just make an announcement, they don’t just ask, they don’t simply provide the opportunity to serve, these churches challenge people to serve. What comes natural to us is ourselves and these churches combat self-oriented thinking with a high challenge to put faith into action by serving others. They know that you can not serve God without serving people.

#2 Flexibility

Ever notice that people are busy? Most people don’t have hours and hours per week to volunteer at your church. Churches that engage the most volunteers understand this and they are flexible. They don’t’ require volunteers to be involved in everything, instead they invite them to be involved in what they can be.

#3 Fewer Paid Staff

These churches actually have fewer staff, not more staff. Instead of paying people to do ministry they pay staff to lead volunteers. Churches that get stuck loading up on staff end up dealing with the unintended consequences of having staff doing everything and church attenders watching them instead of joining them.

#4 Say Thank You

It’s so simple to say thank you, but so few churches actually do it. I’m not talking about saying thank you from the stage (although that’s not a bad start), but in a personal face-to-face conversation, a handwritten note, or even walking through the kids ministry area during service and popping your head into each kids ministry classroom and saying thank you in the moment.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Volunteers

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Top Posts from 2016 #6 “Campus Constants for Multisite Churches”

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The Multisite Church Movement continues to be one of the most popular topics on my blog the last couple of years and this year was no different. This post about Campus Constants came in at #6. Hope it’s helpful!

Last week the Unstuck Group hosted a successful webinar, “Making Multisite Work” with Tony Morgan, Warren Bird and members of the Unstuck Group. During that webinar I mentioned a “Campus Constant” document that we use at Sun Valley, a large multisite church in the Phoenix Metro area that I have the privilege of serving at, that helps us remain clear on our multisite model. During the live chat on the webinar we received multiple requests for me to share that document. So to make it easy I figured I’d just share it here for you. Feel free to learn from this and adapt it for your context. We’ve found that this document along with our leadership distinctives and “playbooks” developed by each Ministry Development Team member for each of their ministry areas has really helped us define, stay on track, and provide clarity to our multisite model.

Make sure you scroll to the bottom of this post to find the link to the replay of the webinar if you missed it and other multisite resources!

Mission:   Helping people meet, know, and follow Jesus.

Vision:   To help as many people meet, know and follow Jesus as we possibly can by growing a movement of reproducing Campuses and Churches.

By 2020, we believe God is leading us to:
– Experience 3,000 baptisms
– Expand to 7 campuses
– Start 7 new churches
– Start Residency Program
– Grow to 10,000 people in attendance

Strategy:   This strategy serves as the foundation for spiritual growth.

  • Meet: We help people meet Jesus through Weekend Services.
  • Know: We help people know Jesus through Small Groups.
  • Follow: We help people follow Jesus through opportunities to Give, Serve and Share

Cultural Values:   These values are what keep us on target as we move towards our vision.

  • Authenticity: Trusting Jesus and others with the real me.
  • Community: Learning from Jesus through strong friendships centered around God’s Word.
  • Generosity: Living like Jesus through giving, serving and sharing.

Leadership Distinctives:   This is what we expect from those in leadership and what makes the Sun Valley Staff Culture so unique. Follow this link if you’re interested in seeing these distinctives written out.

Leadership Structure:   At Sun Valley vision is global and leadership is local. Leadership authority and responsibility flows through the Campus Pastors and influence flows through Central Services and the Ministry Development Team. Every ministry of the Church at each Campus will operate under one leadership structure that ultimately comes under the authority of the Board of Servant Leaders and the Lead Pastor.

Campus Pastor Team:   Campus Pastors are responsible for executing the Sun Valley Mission, Vision, Strategy, Values and Leadership Distinctives on their respective campus. The Campus Pastor role is a Management and Shepherding role at Sun Valley. They manage SV Kids, SV Students, SV Groups and Guest Service ministries on their campus. They also shepherd the staff, volunteers, and congregants at their campus.

Ministry Development Team:   The Ministry Development Team influences the ministries on each Sun Valley Campus. They help to ensure that the following takes place on each Sun Valley Campus:

  • Content: Curriculum and teaching in each sub-ministry environment is the same on each campus.
  • Consistent: Ministry practices, behaviors, and experiences are consistent on each campus.
  • Communication: Clear lines of communication exist between ministry counterparts on each campus as well as between the Ministry Development Team and the Campus Pastors.
  • Coach: Observe sub-ministries and staff members on campuses and coach them towards effectiveness and Sun Valley cultural consistency.

Weekend Teaching:   The Teaching Team will set the teaching schedule and will serve as the primary communicators either in person or by video.

Branding:   Every Campus will operate under the same branding and communication strategy including a centralized website for the church representing all Campuses.

Financial Model:   Every Campus will share these financial goals:

  • Within 12 months, offerings from the Campus will cover its ongoing ministry expenses including staffing costs.
  • Within 24 months, the Campus will also contribute its prorated portion of central service expenses.
  • Within 36 months, the Campus will also contribute towards expansion endeavors.

Alignment:   We choose to align the best practices, behaviors, and experiences on each of our Campuses, including SV Kids, SV Students, Groups, Missions, Guest Services, Weekend Services and Business Services.

SV Kids:   We create safe environments for kids to experience fun and exciting ministry programming, create trust and partnership with parents, and provide a great guest experience to everyone.

  • Early Childhood: Birth-Pre-K
  • Elementary: K-4

SV Students:   We create safe environments for students to experience fun and exciting relationally based ministry, create trust and partnerships with parents, and provide a great guest experience to everyone.

  • Preteen: 5-6 Grade
  • High: 7-8 Grade
  • High School: 9-12 Grade

SV Groups:   We help people get to know Jesus through strong friendship centered around God’s Word because we believe that life-change takes place best in the context of community. SV Groups provides leadership to move people through the spiritual formation pathway at Sun Valley including Yes Weekends, Starting Point, Baptisms, Bridge Groups, Small Groups, Recovery & Support Groups, and Local Outreach.

Guest Services:   We provide an exceptional experience to every guest who attends a Sun Valley Campus every time. Each Campus builds and utilizes the following strategies and teams:

  • Parking Team & New Here Park Here
  • New Here Start Here
  • Greeters
  • Ushers
  • Info Center
  • Coffee Shop / Refreshments
  • Campus Safety

Missions:   Our strategic passions are 1) Church Planting 2) Leadership Development 3) Social Justice. Every mission partner we support and each short-term project we participate in will pass the filter of our strategic passions. Each Campus will participate in the same short-term projects and support the same partners. Each Campus will also participate in the generosity offerings annually.

Weekend Services:   There is one centralized process to build the weekend worship experience from concept to completion and then deliver it to each campus. Beginning with biblical content, including creativity, and resulting in an exceptional and engaging Christ-centered experience.

Business Services:   There will be one centralized process or system for administrative services including banking, budgeting, staffing, payroll, benefits, capital expenditures, I.T., church management software, facility management, lease agreements, legal needs, etc.

Multisite Resources from the Unstuck Group:

  1. Download our free White Paper: “One Team. Multiple Locations. How Staff Teams at Effective Multisite Churches Overcome Distance and Lead Together.”
  2. Watch a replay of our recent webinar: Making Multisite Work, with Tony Morgan, Warren Bird, and members of The Unstuck Group team.”
  3. Multisite Consulting: If your church is thinking about going multisite, need help clarifying your multisite strategy, or stuck at a couple campuses and want to move forward we offer consulting solutions designed specifically for multisite churches!

Photo Credit: kevin dooley via Compfight cc


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing

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Top Posts of 2016 #7 “How to Keep Easter Guests Coming Back”

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I wrote this post right before Easter 2016 and it struck a cord. Apparently a lot of churches are trying to figure out how to get guests to come back after they come for the first time. This post came in at #7 this year.

In a couple of days churches all across the country are going to be hosting guests at their Easter services, hoping they say yes to following Jesus, and hoping that they come back the next week and get connected in the life of their church. I hope that happens too. But hope is not a strategy.

Here’s a couple of ideas that should help you develop a strategy to keep those guests coming back well after Easter.

1. Help Guests Self-Identify

Instead of head hunting for guests, create simple ways for guests to let you know that they are there. Guest parking, children’s check-in, a physical guest services location, and a communication card located in your church program or bulletin are all simple ways to create avenues for guests to let you know they are there, when they’re ready to let you know.

2. Don’t Spam People

Please don’t show up on people’s doorstep or bombard them with multiple emails and letters the week following Easter. Many of the companies out there that are the best at guest services don’t overtly pursue guests. Rather they are available to guests and their needs when their guests engage them and express a need.

3. Make the Next Step Easy

People come to church on Easter for all kinds of reasons, but they’ll stay at a church because of relationships and responsibility. What is the one, clear, simple, and easy step you want all of your guests to take…and why should they take it? How are you going to get guests quickly and easily connected to relationships and responsibility at your church?

4. The More Personal the Better

Instead of sending the same generic follow up letter to everyone make it personal. If guests are giving you personal information such as their name and the names of their children, and if someone is personally greeting them and hosting them then reach out to them in the same personal manner. Why not have the person that greeted them and hosted them write a hand-written card thanking them for being a guest at your church and that they’re looking forward to seeing them again next week.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation

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

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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
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