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Trying Harder Won’t Fix Your Church

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Conventional wisdom tells us that when things get difficult we just need to work harder, work smarter or somehow upgrade the quality of our work. But what do you do when trying harder doesn’t work? It may that it’s time for you to stop doing the same old thing with more effort with more efficiency or more quality. It might be time for you to stop trying harder and try different. It’s time to try something entirely new.

#1 New Vision

Vision answers the question, “Where are we going?” It’s simply the “next hill” that you’re taking. It’s the ability to understand the times, know the right direction to move, and involve and inspire people to go there with you. The problem with vision is that it needs to be refreshed every 3-5 years. Because once you’ve taken the hill you have to identify the next hill, or the church loses momentum and get’s stuck.

#2 New Structures

Your church is perfectly structured to get the results you’re getting right now. However it’s not uncommon that a church outgrows a structure that served you well in a particular season and size. That same structure can become a lid to future growth. As a church grows the need to restructure can occur multiple times in the life of a church. The way the church board is structured, the way the staff team is structured, the polity of a church, and the structure of the church budget can all become lids to growth if they don’t change over time as the church changes. Don’t like the results you’re getting? It might be time to build a new structure.

#3 New Systems

Systems help us answer the question, “How are we going to reproduce this?” It could be reproducing disciples, leaders, church plants, new multisite campuses, or a consistent weekend worship experience at your church. Systems are made up of complex independent parts working together to perform a function (for example think skeletal system or solar system). For our purposes building a system is the art of connecting the Core Values, Structures, Strategies, Goals, and Vision to work in alignment that builds a culture that leans towards fulfilling the Mission. It may be the reason your church has become stuck is that you’ve outgrown some of your systems.

#4 New Voices

When things get difficult we usually start with ourselves for the solution, “What can I do to fix it?” If we can’t solve it on our own we usually turn our attention to our coworkers, friends and finally our networks. What if the solutions to your biggest problems are outside of your normal relational web? What if it was time to get new voices at the table, get outside your industry and tribe to look for new solutions? If you’re ready for a new voice to help your church get new new solutions I’d recommend you take a step and connect with the Unstuck Group.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing

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How Ministry Jealousy can Ruin Easter at your Church

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With Easter just a few days away, churches across the country are working hard to leverage this weekend as an opportunity for attenders to invite their friends who are unfamiliar with Jesus to Church in hopes that they will say yes to following Jesus. A lot of time and energy goes into Easter services at most churches. But next week, when Easter has passed, and everyone in church-world begins talking about what happened at their churches, how will you feel when that other church in town had more people in attendance than your church did? How will you feel when the church down the street had more people say yes to following Jesus than your church did?

While I’ve never met a church staff team that explicitly said they were competing with other churches, I’ve met a lot who have acted like it. In fact, in a previous post about churches that claim they’re not in competition with each other but act like they are, I wrote:

“Competing with other churches only makes sense if you’re going after people who already know Jesus. And there is no shortage of people who don’t know Jesus.”

A couple of weeks ago Matt Willmington, a friend of mine who serves on the Executive Team at Thomas Road Baptist Church located in Lynchburg, Virginia, posted a couple of questions on his social media timeline that got me thinking more about this and should get you thinking more about this as well.

#1 Do you downplay the gifts of other people?

Do you minimize or suppress the gifts of other people on your team and at other churches or do you celebrate them? Do you have the ability to submit to others in their area of brilliance?

#2 Do you question the motives of others?

Do you question the motives of other ministries that are successful? Do you ever think to yourself, “There’s no way they can be this successful and be clearly preaching the Word of God,” or, “They must be watering down the Gospel.” Are you skeptical of others ministry success or can you easily celebrate it?

#3 How do you feel when others experience a win?

How do you feel when other people do a better job and are more successful than you are at what you do?

#4 Do you truly rejoice when others succeed in ministry?

Do you have the ability, as the Scriptures teach us, to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice?

#5 Do you pray for others success?

That other church in town that has momentum, do you pray for their success or secretly hope they’ll implode? That really talented church leader who seems to succeed at everything they do, do you pray for their success or do you secretly hope they’ll self-destruct their ministry?

I want you to know that I’m praying for your church this Easter. I’m praying that people who call your church home take a spiritual step and they invite their friends that don’t Jesus to attend Easter services with them. I’m praying that you and your team do a fantastic job at articulating the Gospel in a clear and compelling manner. I’m praying that many people say yes to following Jesus. And I’m praying that you can celebrate not only the wins that your experience at your church this Easter, but the wins that other churches experience as well. Because when any church wins the “Big C” Church wins.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation

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5 Proficiencies of Great Church Staff Teams

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Great Church Staff Teams are full of team members who not only care deeply about people and are passionate about the ministry; they’re actually proficient in what they are doing. I actually believe you can fake passion for a while until your heart catches up. But you can’t fake proficiency. You’re either proficient or you’re not. That being said, I’ve been a part of Church Staff Teams for more than 20 years and the ones I’ve been on that are the best are always proficient in these 5 core areas:

#1 Team Player

Great Church Staff Team Members care more about the team than they do about themselves or their own standout performance. They’d rather the team win than get personal recognition for their individual contribution to the win.

#2 Specialty

Great Church Staff Teams are full of role players. They know what they’re brilliant at and they lead in those areas and they know what other team members at brilliant at and they submit in those areas. They play their specialized role well.

#3 Modeling

Great Church Staff Teams are built with people who lead with moral authority. They don’t just say, “Do as I say,” they model behaviors that they want replicated throughout the entire organization. They go first and inspire others to follow through their actions, not just through their words. 

#4 Follow Through

This may sound simple, but it’s actually unfortunately rare. Great Church Staff Teams are made up of people who do what they say they’re going to do. They deliver on time over, and over, and over again. They can be trusted to do what they say they’re going to do. They follow through.

#5 Communication

Great Church Staff Team Members communicate early and often with each other. Instead of surprising one another they manage expectations through communication. Everyone doesn’t have to know everything on great teams when great teams communicate with one another.


Posted in Leadership, Staffing

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10 Articles that will Help Your Church Make Vision Real

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Thank you for making March another great month here at Helping Churches Make Vision Real! It’s fun to stay 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!

7 Things All Growing Churches Have in Common

Once a month at Sun Valley Community Church (the church I have the privilege of serving at) we gather all of our staff from all of our campuses to have some fun, celebrate wins, keep everybody on the same page and often times do some leadership development training. Last week Chad Moore, who serves as the Lead Pastor at Sun Valley shared 7 Things that All Growing Churches have in Common…I thought these may be helpful to you in your local church context…

10 Insider Focused Ministry Names

The language we choose to use is important because it both reflects and builds culture at the same time.  And one of the most obvious ways to tell if a church is insider focused or outsider focused is the language that they choose to use. It either says that the church is “inclusive” or “exclusive.” In helping churches get unstuck and make vision real I’ve run across a number of insider focused ministry names. In fact here’s a link to a post with a free tool that you can use as you begin to evaluate your own ministry names and language you’re using in your church. Remember it’s always more important to be clear than clever. Here’s a quick list of 10 insider focused ministry names to give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

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.

Why Leading by Example doesn’t Work

Leading by example sounds like the right thing to do, doesn’t it? After all thousands of pages written on leadership, by leadership experts can’t be wrong can they? The problem is you can’t lead by example. Your example may inspire others, it may set behavioral standards for others, your example may even be a prerequisite for authentic leadership, but your example doesn’t actually lead others anywhere. Instead great leaders set the example and then hold the team accountable to the standard. The secret is in the accountability…not the example.

7 Indicators You’ve Found the Ideal Ministry Spouse

In ministry your spouse can make you or break you. It may be cliché but it’s true, behind every great Ministry Staff Member is a great ministry spouse…and you can’t have one without the other. So whether you’re already married or you’re still searching for the right person, here are a couple traits you should be looking for in the ideal ministry spouse.

8 Ministry Staff Recruiting Red Flags

As staff recruiting in ministry world continues to evolve and become more competitive and sophisticated in recent years, churches and recruiting firms have developed a keen sense of red flags during the recruiting process that relate to whether a candidate is a good fit for your church or not. Those red flags may be a bit different from church to church but there are many red flags that are fairly consistent across the board.

Avoidance: The Silent Killer of a Team

Most teams aren’t great teams. Most teams don’t have the courage to be that honest with one another. Most teams would rather talk about one another than talk to one another. They avoid conflict, and in so doing, they quietly kill their team.

The Difference between Preparation and Planning

Do great organizations prepare for the future or do they plan for it? The answer is, “yes.” To be clear preparation and planning are not the same thing, and great organizations become great by doing both.

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.

6 Keys to Motivating Millennial Church Leaders

Millennials can, will, and are doing some amazing ministry. Like it or not they are coming into their own in church leadership, and they’re the ones that are going to lead the church forward. So instead of complaining about them we might as well help them. Try these 6 approaches to motivate the millennial leaders on your church staff.

Photo Credit: justin fain via Compfight cc


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation, Staffing

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5 Things That Make Good Church Staff Members Leave your Church

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Good Church Staff Members leave churches for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes it’s because God has called them to something different. But more often than not it’s because of something very different.

1. You Stop Listening to Them

When you don’t listen to people they stop talking. And when you stop listening to good staff members they’ll go somewhere else where they feel heard.

2. They Don’t Feel Empowered

Nothing is worse than having responsibility for something with no authority to do anything about it. When you don’t empower staff members to make real decisions they’ll go somewhere they can.

3. An Unhealthy Staff Culture

Good team members don’t stay around on unhealthy teams very long. One of the best ways to attract and keep great team members is to build a health staff culture.

4. Lack of Vision

If you can’t provide clarity to your team about where you’re going next they’ll eventually grow frustrated, leave, and find that clarity somewhere else. And the irony is that those who have the greatest propensity to lead into the future will leave first.

5. Poor Strategy

If your team has a tendency to talk about ideas but has a difficult time executing them you probably don’t have a actionable strategy in place to move you toward a clear vision. Good Church Staff members don’t just want to talk about ideas, they want to execute them. If you can’t help them do that they’ll go somewhere else they can.

What are some other reasons you’ve see good Church Staff Members leave a church? Leave a comment.


Posted in Leadership, Staffing