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10 Articles that will Help Your Church Make More Disciples

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No matter what label you put on it “Discipleship,” “Spiritual Maturity,” or “Spiritual Formation” it’s one of the most argued over and misunderstood issues in the church today. After all just because you know a lot about Jesus doesn’t make you a disciple and on the other hand being in a Small Group or “Biblical Community” doesn’t necessarily make you a disciple either. Over the years I’ve actually written quite a bit on the topic. Below are some of my more popular posts on discipleship.

Choosing the Right Small Group Model for your Church

There are pros and cons to every groups models, but the goal of all of this group stuff in churches is to simply make disciples. Check out these different group models and choose the best model that fits the unique personality of your church.

6 Keys to Successful Small Groups

In a conversation Chris Surratt who runs SmallGroup.com and serves as a Ministry Consultant with the Unstuck Group he mentioned 6 great questions that churches should be talking about if they want to have a successful small group ministry.

How to Convince your Sr. Pastor to Join a Small Group

One of the most common points of frustration I hear from church leaders around the country is, “My Senior Pastor wants Small Groups to be a big deal at our church, but they won’t be in a Small Group themselves.” And the natural follow up question that’s asked right after that statement, “How do I get my Senior Pastor to be in a Small Group?” In an attempt to answer that question, here are a couple of steps you can take to help convince your Sr. Pastor that they need to be in a Small Group.

Who is Responsible for the Spiritual Maturity of the Church?

I hear complaints by church attenders across North America that their church is not, “deep enough.” Essentially they’re saying that they’re hungry. And you want to know the first thought that passes through my mind when I hear comments like these? “If you’re hungry, eat. You know where the food is.”

Making Small Groups the Hub of your Ministry

NorthCoast Church is an outlier when it comes to small groups and you need to get to know these guys. While the norm across the nation is hovering at about 50% of weekend worship attendance in groups, NorthCoast is shattering that norm and boasts just over 90% of their weekend worship attendance in groups. That was enough for us to get on a plane and spend some time learning from these guys. Here are a few of my take aways:

Why the Church Wins when the Church Staff are in a Small Group

You’re as lonely as you want to be. Yes, relationships are risky. Any time you entrust your heart with others there’s a chance that it won’t be handled well. And I understand that church leaders often feel pressure to perform and live up to unrealistic expectations of perfection. But if the church staff chooses to shrink back from vulnerability and authenticity in relationship with others then you’ll build a culture of superficial pretending in your church. That’s why when the church staff takes the risk and jumps into a small group bible study the whole church wins!

Your Church isn’t Deep Enough

In my work consulting with churches and coaching church leaders this, “it’s not deep enough” phrase is becoming more common. And honestly it concerns me. Not because the majority of churches aren’t deep enough, but rather that a majority of people who are trying to follow Jesus misunderstand what spiritual depth really looks like.

5 Ways to Help your Small Groups be Successful

Whether you are starting from scratch at a brand-new church plant or blowing up a large system at an existing church, there are some principles that can help set up your new plan for success down the road. Here are five guidelines to think through.

Why Churches Don’t Grow #3: No Spiritual Maturity Pathway

Many churches are stuck or declining not because they have a difficult time attracting or introducing new people to Jesus but because they have no plan in place to move people towards spiritual maturity or the plan they’re working is broken. Here are a couple of indicators that there is a breakdown somewhere in your spiritual maturity pathway:

A Couple of Statements about Spiritual Maturity that will Mess with You Part-1

Simply put…these ideas will challenge your thinking on what spiritual maturity looks like and acts like. Happy reading! Bonus: here’s Part-2 of that post.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation

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How to Choose your Next Multisite Location

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Thinking about going multisite? Is your church already multisite and trying to determine your next location? At the Unstuck Group we help Multisite Churches build effective strategies and actionable plans to lead into the future. This past week we had a quick email conversation about helping churches determine their next location. I thought I’d give you a bit of a sneak peak into some of those thoughts.

1. Go Where You Already Are

Do you already have people in that new community making the drive to one of your current locations? Do you already have a solid base and core group to start with? The ideal distance between campuses is somewhere between a 15-30 minute drive time.

2. Stay in a Culture that fits You

Is the new community similar to the one you’re already in? Are you going to have to make significant changes to your core strategies, ministries and style of presentation? If so, you may not want to try and break into that new market. If that new area requires making significant changes to who you are then you may be better off planting a church there instead of a multisite campus.

3. Location, Location, Location

Ever try and find a church that was tucked away in a neighborhood that was off the beaten path, difficult to find, and no one ever drove by it? Simply put, location matters. Is the location strategic?

4. Facility Fit

Space tells us how to feel and behave; it really matters (it’s why God was so detailed when He gave instructions about the temple in the O.T.). Does the facility fit you? Does it look and feel like you? Or can it be renovated to reflect your culture? Practically speaking, does it have enough parking, space for kids, and space for your style of weekend worship services?

5. Financial Stewardship

Does the location make sense financially? Does it fit your financial model? No, the church isn’t a business, and we’re not in this for a strong bottom line or for shareholders. We’re doing this so that more people will know Jesus. There’s much more at stake than money, eternity is at stake for many people. That’s all the more reason that this decision should make financial sense, because there’s more than money at stake.


Posted in Leadership

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A Large Multisite Church in Phoenix is Hiring a Small Group Pastor

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I’m pleased to announce a new Staff Search. Sun Valley Community Church, the church I have the honor of serving at, is beginning a national search for a Small Group Pastor to serve on our Tempe Campus. Sun Valley began as a church plant in 1990 in Chandler, Arizona. Over the years Sun Valley has grown into a large mult-site church in the Phoenix area. Currently there are four campuses located in Casa Grande, East Mesa, Gilbert, and Tempe and with a fifth campus opening in the fall of 2016 in Queen Creek. Together nearly 7,000 people attend a Sun Valley Campus each weekend. The Tempe campus was the result of a merger in the Fall of 2011 with Bethany Community Church. In the merger, Sun Valley acquired a 16-acre, 8-building campus with over 100,000 sq. ft. under roof. At present, the campus attendance averages more than 1,200 people a week, but when fully utilized, the campus capacity will accommodate more than 6,000 people. Sun Valley has been featured in a book by Leadership Network about church mergers: Better Together: Making Church Mergers Work, and has been named by Outreach Magazine as one of the 100 fastest growing churches in the nation. To learn more about that story click here Part-1 and Part-2.

Interested in learning more? Continue reading below: Continue Reading…


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing

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Making the Assimilation Process Work at your Church

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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. Lead long enough in a church and it will probably happen to you. Stuckness is such an epidemic in the American Church that 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.” Thom Rainer, Breakout Churches

And while there are a lot of reasons that churches get stuck and plateau or begin to decline the biggest culprit is that somewhere along the way new people stop getting connected or assimilated into the life of the church. It doesn’t have to be that way. Try giving the list below to the Sr. Leadership Team at your church to read and then come back and have an honest conversation about each point and identify opportunities to improve and islands of strength to build on.

Create an Engaging Guest Experience

I’ll admit that what I’m about to say may sound a little like heresy, but here goes. Instead of learning from other churches begin looking at other public spaces that people in your community enjoy going to. Visit resorts, restaurants, stores and other public venues that have a great guest experience and have people coming back for more. Take your teams, debrief, and build a list of what you can learn and principles and ideas that you can transfer to your local church.

Create Opportunities for People to Self-Identify

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 self-identify. By a guest self-identifying they are essentially “opting-in” or giving you permission to speak with them. Instead of butting into people’s lives and spamming people are you engaging them in a dialogue with their permission.

Make it Personal

It’s a nice touch when I make reservations for my wife’s birthday and we show up at the restaurant to be greeted by a “Happy Birthday Mrs. Alexander,” (and I don’t mind the free dessert either). The more personal you can make it, the more memorable it will be. Instead of a cookie-cutter guest follow up letter, could you write a personal handwritten note? Could the person who greeted the guest and walked them around actually be the one writing it? How about a personal phone call to say, “Thank you for being our guest,” instead of trying to just get them to come back. Think: personal without intrusive.

Identify Next Steps for People

It can be frustrating going onto a church campus for the first time. It can seem like everyone else (insiders) already know where to go and what to do. It’s easy to feel like an outsider; in fact in can be plain intimidating. You can make it easier for people by thinking through a “what’s next” exercise with your team. Imagine a guest drives into your parking lot…what next? Imagine they find the right place to park…what’s next? Asking, “What’s next?” moving through the moment a guest arrives on your campus to the moment they leave will help you discover opportunities you have to make it easier for people to get connected at your church.

Make it Easy to Volunteer and get into a Group

People come to church for all kinds of reasons but they stay at a church because of relationship and responsibility. So instead of making it difficult to volunteer and get into a group make it easy. The best way to build a great assimilation process at your church is to focus on building a strong culture of volunteering and Bible Study Groups.

Create an Invitation Culture

When people come to church with people,assimilation becomes easy because there is already an existing relationship. In the same study conducted by LifeWay Research referenced above, they found the following to be true:

  • Most people come to church because of a personal invitation
  • 7 out of 10 unchurched people have never been invited to church
  • Only 2% of church members invite an unchurched person to church
  • 82% of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if invited

This post is an excerpt from an article that I originally wrote for Converge Point Magazine.


Posted in Leadership

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10 Articles that will Help Your Church Make Vision Real

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Thank you for making March a great month here at Helping Churches Make Vision Real! It’s great staying 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!

How to Keep Easter Guests Coming Back

Recently churches all across the country hosted 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.

3 Expectations that Young Church Leaders need to Change Today

A lot has been written in recent years about the Millennial Generation and young leaders; most of it negative. At the risk of sounding like the old guy in the room, I’ll admit, it does seem like the expectations of young leaders are a little off the mark. In fact, here are three expectations in particular that I think young leaders need to change today if they want to be successful in the future.

Why the Church isn’t to Blame for Ministry Burnout

While most perspectives out there are set to vilify the church for causing ministry burnout I’d like to throw out a less popular option to consider. I understand some will consider this harsh, but I’d encourage you to really think this next statement through before you dismiss it. “Ministry burnout is self-induced.”

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.

Your Church isn’t Deep Enough

In my work consulting with churches and coaching church leaders this, “it’s not deep enough” phrase is becoming more common. And honestly it concerns me. Not because the majority of churches aren’t deep enough, but rather that a majority of people who are trying to follow Jesus misunderstand what spiritual depth really looks like.

10 Keys to Making Church Mergers Work

There are a lot of things that can go right…and wrong in a church merger. But if your church is considering a merger in the future make sure the Sr. Leadership Teams from both churches consider and discuss the following 10 potential deal breakers, and get on the same page before bringing the idea to your individual churches.

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. This is a critical issue for churches to figure out. The reason why this has to be a front-burner issue is because at the heart of it, volunteering is an essential component of the discipleship process in someone’s life. Plainly put, volunteering is discipleship. Understanding that, here are 8 reasons people aren’t volunteering in your church…and subsequently aren’t growing in their relationship with God.

Is your Church like Walmart?

I recently read an article in Forbes that suggested despite all of their success the future looks bleak for Walmart. Past wins don’t necessitate future success. Here are a few highlights that made me think about churches that have experienced success in the past but are on the verge of of painful future. Most of them, like Walmart, will never see it coming. Will you?

Recent thoughts about Church Planting from Ed Stetzer

Last week Sun Valley Community Church (the church I have the privilege of serving at) hosted Ignite, the national church planting conference for Converge, which is one of the most successful church planting movements in the country. While there Ed Stetzer, who among other things serves as the Executive Director of LifeWay Research had the following to say about church planting.

When a Volunteer should become a Staff Member at your Church

In growing churches it’s not uncommon for high capacity volunteers to serve as and function like paid ministry staff members. Instead of paid staff members I’ve seen volunteers oversee entire ministry segments in a church even attending weekly staff meetings and staff retreats. But when is the right time to hire that person and move them from a volunteer to a paid staff member?

Photo Credit: justin fain via Compfight cc


Posted in Leadership
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