Tag Archive - complexity

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7 Ways Church Leaders Unknowingly Lead their Churches to be Stuck

Churches get stuck for all kinds of reasons. Typically, when growth slows, and things begin to stall the first inclination many church leaders have is to look at external forces acting upon them to figure out why things are moving the wrong direction.

While there are external reasons that churches begin to move the wrong direction the majority of time it’s much closer to home. Often “stuckness” is self-induced by intention or neglect on the part of the leaders of the church. So in no order, here are some things I’ve seen church leaders do to unknowingly lead their churches towards being stuck.

#1 Keeping Christians Happy

Many churches have a fundamental misunderstanding of what the church is for. Instead of being for people who have not yet said yes to following Jesus, many churches fall into the trap of believing they exist to provide nice safe programing for Christians for the purpose of biblical education. They eventually become insider focused and begin making decisions based on who they want to keep instead of who they want to reach.

#2 Hiring too Fast

Quick hires are usually hires based on convenience not vision. Every new hire you make either moves you closer to your vision or further away. It either helps you become more of who God wants you to be and further galvanizes your culture or erodes it. Sure, fire quickly. But hire slowly, because you put your culture at stake every time you make a new hire.

#3 Hiring Staff to Do Ministry

When your church has a high staff to attendance ratio (at the Unstuck Group we encourage churches to staff 1:100 – that is 1 full time staff equivalent for every 100 average attenders), and you’re hiring staff to do ministry instead of lead ministry your church will end up in decline.

#4 Allergic to Strategy

Strategy answers the question, “How are we going to get there?” Strategy fills the gap between where you are and where you want to be. It’s planning for tomorrow today. Little is more demoralizing to a church staff team than a bunch of empty inspirational talk that never materializes into real courageous action.

#5 Choosing Policies Over People

Policies shrink the box of creativity. They set the standard for how we do what we do every time we do it. Policies tell everybody in the organization what they can’t do, and leaders are solution oriented not excuse or problem oriented. A church with a lot of policies will consistently find it difficult to attract and keep good leaders. It’s very possible to policy your way right into decline

#6 Defending the Past

When a church is busy defending the past instead of building the future it is headed for decline. When a church becomes risk averse and starts making choices based on who they are going to keep as opposed to who they are going to reach, the church is in trouble. The real danger in playing defense is that it becomes a cultural mindset that actually stands in opposition to the Gospel. You see the Gospel was never meant to be or does it need to be defended it’s intended to be unleashed.

#7 Complexity

When the church is growing it’s exciting! Staff members are hired, ministries are started, buildings are built, and people are meeting Jesus! But it’s not as exciting when all of that growth and fun naturally lead to complexity. Growth naturally leads to complexity and complexity slows everything down.

 


Posted in Leadership

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Why going Multisite won’t Fix your Church

The last stats I saw showed that there are more than 8,000 multisite churches across America and more than 1,600 mega churches (churches of more than 2,000 people in weekly attendance). While both are growing, the multisite church movement has outpaced the mega church movement in America. What was once seen as only a Band-Aid strategy for space issues at mega churches has become a vehicle for growth in local churches of all kinds and all sizes (the average size a church goes multisite is around 850-1200). “Multi” doesn’t mean “Mega” anymore.

I’m excited about this trend, because I’m excited about churches growing and reaching new people with the Gospel. But one trend I’ve observed about the multisite movement concerns me. 80% of churches in America are stuck or in decline and a growing number of them are looking to multisite as the silver bullet to fix their “stuckness.” Here’s why I’m concerned…

1. There is no Silver Bullet Fix for your Church

I’ve never seen a church (or a business, relationship, or anything else in life for that matter) where there was a silver bullet fix. For churches that are stuck or in decline, please don’t multisite. Trust me, you’ll only make it worse. Master the standard and then innovate.

2. Don’t go Multisite until you have to

Don’t go multisite until you have to. Sounds simple enough right? What that means is if you don’t have momentum don’t try to manufacture it through going multisite. It will backfire on you. If you’re already doing multiple services, if you’re already growing and reaching new people with the Gospel, if you already have momentum, if you already have the leadership and organizational bandwidth to do it then by all means, please, go multisite.

3. Don’t replicate Complexity

It’s near impossible to replicate complexity and let’s face it most churches in America are complex. If you have a menu approach to ministry where you pride yourself on having something for everyone it’s going to be difficult to replicate that at a new campus.

4. Going Multisite shines a light on your Strengths AND your Weaknesses

While your church may have some islands of strength to build on (just about every church does), it also has some weakness (again just about every church does). Multisite may amplify your strengths but it will do the same to your weaknesses, the ones you know about, and the ones you don’t.

5. Overextending yourself always Leads to Decline

One of my greatest concerns I see in churches going multisite before they’re ready is that they have a tendency to overextend themselves when it comes to staff, volunteers, finances, and so on. Over reaching always leads to decline and if you’re already stuck or declining multisite isn’t going to help.

Photo Credit: kevin dooley via Compfight cc


Posted in Leadership

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10 Signs your Church is Headed for Decline

When I was young my Aunt purchased a brand new car. I didn’t have a car yet so even though it wasn’t red and it had 4 doors instead of 2 I thought it was really cool. And because she had a car and I didn’t she by default was cool too.

Everything was cool until she forgot to change the oil. Truth be told, she never changed the oil. From the day she drove the car off the lot to the day it died (which was much, much sooner than it should have), that car never experienced a single oil change. Routine maintenance wasn’t her strong suite. And most of us are just like her. We put off going to the doctor for our annual check-up, we postpone going to the dentist for our 6-month check up, and yes we put off routine maintenance on our automobiles.

We just keep going until it hurts enough that we are forced to stop and go in for a check up.

Unfortunately most church leadership teams operate the same way. They put off routine check ups and maintenance until it’s too late and decline starts to set in. What if there were early warning signs (flashing lights on the dashboard) that helped indicate that trouble was ahead? In my experience Coaching Church Leaders and Consulting with Churches across the country I’ve seen the following 10 indicators of an impending decline over and over again.

1. High Staff Turnover

When a church has trouble keeping staff, the church is in trouble. Some attrition is natural over time as the church grows, the staffing structures adjust, leaders hit lids, or vision shifts. But when turnover shifts from being a season to being the norm there is a cultural problem at play.

2. Fuzzy Vision

Without a doubt the single most life-threatening indicator that a church is in trouble is a lack of clarity. Clarity provides a church with the power to make decisions efficiently and align the organizational components of the church to move forward. If you don’t know where you’re going, and can’t state it clearly, you’ve got no chance to get there.

3. Complexity

When the church is growing it’s exciting! Staff members are hired, ministries are started, buildings are built and people are meeting Jesus! But it’s not as exciting when all of that growth and fun naturally lead to complexity. Growth naturally leads to complexity and complexity slows everything down.

4. Inward Focus

I’ve said this many times before, the most dangerous place a church can be in their life cycle is when the ministry they are doing is having a big impact with insiders (people who already know Jesus and are inside the church) but a low impact with outsiders (people who don’t know Jesus yet). It’s dangerous because it’s comfortable. It feels like things are going well and you have momentum because people are happy, they’re regularly attending, and they seem to be “all in” with what you’re doing. But if you aren’t reaching new people, your church or ministry is already moving towards unhealthiness and decline.

5. Defending the Past

When a church is busy defending the past instead of building the future it is headed for decline. When a church becomes risk averse and starts making choices based on who they are going to keep as opposed to who they are going to reach, the church is in trouble. The real danger in playing defense is that it becomes a cultural mindset that actually stands in opposition to the Gospel. You see the Gospel was never meant to be or does it need to be defended it’s intended to be unleashed.

6. No Strategic Plan

Strategy answers the question, “How are we going to get there?” It’s planning for tomorrow today. Little is more demoralizing to a church staff team than a bunch of empty inspirational talk that never materializes into real courageous action.

7. Leadership Void

There are a lot of challenges facing the modern church, but perhaps the greatest challenge is a leadership challenge. The modern church is simply an anti-leadership organization. It doesn’t attract, develop, or keep leaders. Leaders by their very nature are change agents. 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.

8. No Spiritual Maturity Pathway

I’ve observed that some 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.

9. Policy Trumps People

Policies shrink the box of creativity. They set the standard for how we do what we do every time we do it. Policies tell everybody in the organization what they can’t do, and leaders are solution oriented not excuse or problem oriented. A church with a lot of policies will consistently find it difficult to attract and keep good leaders. It’s very possible to policy your way right into decline.

10. Volunteer Scarcity

One of the things we’ve learned through our research at the Unstuck Group is that the average church in America is mobilizing somewhere around 43% of their adult and student population in volunteer opportunities. The reason it is so critical for churches to address this and take steps to move their culture in the right direction is because volunteering is discipleship. It’s not about filling roles and getting ministry done through people. It’s not about what we want from people, but rather what we want for people. It is discipleship. Because volunteering and living an others first life is the very essence of what it means to live like Jesus.

It would probably be worth some time discussing this list with the Sr. Leadership Team at your church and evaluate where your church measures up in each of these 10 areas of health.

What can we do about it? Engage the Unstuck Group in a Ministry Health Assessment. Discover islands of strength to build on and areas of opportunity to work on before they become serious and decline sets in.

By the way…leave a comment; I’d love to hear about what you’d add to the list!


Posted in Leadership

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Why Churches Don’t Grow: #4 Complexity is Constricting

This week we’ll be wrapping up a series of blog posts about the 5 key contributors that lead to 80% of churches in America being stuck or in decline. These key contributors have been observed repeatedly in our work with churches at the Unstuck Group. And while churches get stuck and decline for all kinds of reasons, these 5 key contributors are more often than not to blame.

If you lead well enough, partnering with the Holy Spirit, over an extended period of time and your church grows then eventually you’re going to be leading a less nimble and more complex organization than you ever intended. It’s exciting when you’re adding staff, adding ministries, building buildings, and more and more people are showing up. But it’s not as exciting when things get really complex and the fun stops and growth begins to slow down. You know complexity is constricting growth when you experience the following:

1. Decision-Making Slows Down

Complexity can slow decision-making, and when decision-making slows progress slows and momentum fades. Structures that supported you and helped you when you were smaller in size can actually be a lid to growth later. For instance I commonly see smaller churches have a Staff Team that implements day-to-day ministry, an Elder Board that is supposed to be thinking about the future and living at a 30,000 foot view, and a Board of Directors that is responsible for the physical assets of the church property, finances, and often times HR as well. While that structure can serve you well when the church is smaller it becomes a nightmare to try and get everyone on the same page and make decisions in a timely manner as the church grows.

2. Unable to Set and Meet Goals

Another symptom that complexity is constricting growth is the inability to set and meet goals in a timely manner. If you’re unable to agree upon what the next steps are you’ve got a complexity issue. If there’s a gap between goals that are agreed to and then what’s actually acted upon and accomplished, you’ve got a complexity issue.

3. Cross Communication

When team members receive a different set of instructions from different leaders on the team there is a complexity issue. Mixed messages and conflicting sets of instructions can be frustrating to a team and are a symptom that complexity is constricting growth at your church.

4. Confusion

When people don’t know what to do next complexity is constricting growth. Clarity not only combats confusion but is the antidote to complexity. Putting the right systems in place help provide clarity as to what we need to do next to get where we want to go.

5. Running in Quicksand

Ever feel like you were running in quicksand? Ever feel like you’re expending a lot of energy but you’re just not getting anywhere? Not only are you stuck but it’s actually getting worse, you’re sinking. It’s possible to have so many systems and policies in place that the complexity of it all kills you. Policies are not the goal. The vision is the goal. All of your structures, policies and systems should be designed to get you there. If they don’t, then get rid of them.

Photo Credit: abbey*christine via Compfight cc


Posted in Leadership

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training with larry osborne part-1 “leadership lids of complexity and competency”

Like most of you I’ve been a part of churches that have invested large sums of money and time to send their staff to a conference together. I love the fact that many churches are willing to invest in their staff and I love how inspiring conferences can be! In fact I usually walk away with my thinking challenged and a few new ideas to implement. However, I’ve actually found it more economical and effective to bring an expert in to spend more intimate time with our team. The training you get is more personal, customized to your situation, and conversational (you can actually get your specific questions answered). Recently we had Larry Osborne come in to spend time with the Staff at Sun Valley. We intentionally designed for him to invest in our Executive Team, our Elders, as well as a day of training with all of our staff from all three of our campuses. By the way it was great to be able to have a couple of guys from my current Coaching Network sit in on the day of training with our staff! Below are some of my thoughts and take aways from our time together:

Ceilings of Complexity and Competency

1. Every Leader and Every Organization hits a Leadership Ceiling at some point

  • We outgrow our leadership skills
  • We outgrow our organizational structures
  • We can be blindsided by a major cultural shift

2. How to Recognizing Ceilings

  • Any ministry that has stagnant or declining attendance
  • Marked increase in conflict
  • Protecting the Past trumps Creating the Future
  • Revolving Door Syndrome
  • Long term personal spiritual stagnation
  • Mission Creep

3. How to Break through Ceilings

  • These 3 things come natural and are actually a trap:
    • Effort: work harder
    • Efficiency: work smarter
    • Quality: work better
  • What happens when these 3 things don’t work?
    • New Advisors:
      • You have to get outside of your tribe
      • We first go to “me” then we go to “my team” and then we go to “my tribe”
      • All of the solutions to your biggest problems are going to be found outside of your tribe
    • New Expectations:
      • Expectations are really about 3 things you have to give up: Power, Prestige, and Position
    • New Organizational Structures:
      • Address whatever counter productive organizational structures you have (traditions, how you make decisions, etc.)

I’ll post the rest of the notes tomorrow: Part 2 “Why Some Teams Win and Most Lose”


Posted in Leadership