Tag Archive - discipleship


What’s Wrong With Big Churches? Part-2

Some time ago I asked a simple question to the readers here at Helping Churches Make Vision Real, “What’s wrong with big churches?” As you can imagine I received some emotionally charged answers. But as I sifted through the responses there were 10 key issues that kept coming up.

In Part-1 of this post I briefly described each of these common criticisms of large churches with no added personal commentary, which I promised to add later. In this post I offer a few of my own thoughts and brief response to each of these top 10 complaints I received about large churches. If you want to understand my comments in context then read part-1 of the post.

#1 “It’s Difficult to Connect with People”

I’ve seen a lot of small seemingly friendly churches where it’s difficult to “break in” and connect. There is a big difference between being a friendly church and a church where you have friends. The key is does the church have a strategy to help guests take the next step towards involvement and discipleship?

#2 “The Pastor doesn’t Know Me”

One of the reasons that the average church in America has less than 80 people in attendance is because that’s the amount of people that one pastor can typically take care of by themselves. Jethro gave his son-in-law Moses some great advice in Exodus 18:13-26. Stop trying to do all of the work of leading God’s people alone. They shouldn’t all be coming to you. It’s bad for you and it’s bad for them. Learn to delegate and empower other leaders to join you and share the burden of leadership (paraphrase).

#3 “It’s all about the Budget and the Buildings”

Generosity is one of the key indicators of spiritual maturity. A church that doesn’t consistently talk about and lead their people to be generous is going to have a difficult time funding the expansion of the Gospel.

#4 “The Staff are always Changing”

In a growing church there are always going to be new staff added as a part of the growth. There will also naturally be staff that fit during a particular season who simply don’t have the capacity to lead in the next season of ministry as the church grows and a different skill-set is needed.

#5 “They only care about Numbers not Discipleship”

Simply put growth and numbers matter. Every number has a name and every name has a story. It’s important for churches to count people because people count. I’d rather see more people in a church than less people in a church and I’d rather see more people in heaven, than less people in heaven.

#6 “They Build Consumers not Disciples”

Spiritual maturity probably isn’t what you think it is. It’s not an emotional experience, an intellectual exercise, or acquiring more knowledge. Jesus tells a parable about two houses that were built, one on a foundation of sand and the other on a stone foundation. In both cases the builders heard the Word of God, but only one of the builders put what he heard into action. Could it be that spiritual depth according to the Scriptures is simply putting God’s Word into action? It’s not what you know it’s what you do with what you know.

#7 “They’ve turned the Church into a Business”

You’re right, the Church isn’t a business; it’s the body and bride of Christ. But that doesn’t mean that great financial stewardship, planning and strategies, structure, good operational or human resource practices are unbiblical. Read the book of Proverbs. The church hasn’t ripped off the business world; the business world has ripped off the book of Proverbs. It’s time we take it back and lead more wisely.

#8 “The Sermons are a Mile Wide & an Inch Deep”

Effective communicators understand how to take complex ideas and make them simple to understand and applicable to everyday life. Jesus was a master at this, and He was actually winsome in his approach. The Pharisees didn’t think Jesus was very deep either. They just thought He knew how to attract a crowd. You can’t do much with a crowd of people if you don’t know how to attract a crowd

#9 “All they care about is the Weekend Show”

The number 1 reason that people come to church in America is that a friend invites them. And research shows that 7 out of 10 people who don’t attend church in America have never been invited to church. Wow. The easiest way to share Jesus with the people that matter most to you is to invite them to a church that shares the Gospel and gives people the opportunity to respond and say yes to following Jesus.

#10 “They’re really Lousy at Communication”

I got nothing here…yes, churches are notorious for being lousy at communication. Not just large churches but all churches. Size just complicates and exasperates it. Check out this video interview I did with Tony Morgan to learn more about improving communication at your church.

Posted in Leadership


Five Ways to Help Your Small Groups be Successful

The following is a guest post by Chris Surratt. Chris is a ministry consultant with the Unstuck Group and has over twenty-two years of experience serving the local church. Most recently, Chris served on the Executive Team at Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN. Before coming to Cross Point in 2009, Chris was on staff at Seacoast Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Chris’s first book, Small Groups For The Rest Of Us: How to Design Your Small Groups System to Reach the Fringes, will be released by Thomas Nelson on September 29, 2015. You can find Chris blogging regularly at www.chrissurratt.com on the subjects of community, discipleship and leadership.

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.

1. Define the Win

Every ministry has to decide what its win looks like, and this is especially true for groups. If you don’t know what success looks like, how can you celebrate it? As you dream about what groups could look like at your church, start with the end in mind. What results would you like to see if your system works perfectly? Andy Stanley says, “Your system is perfectly designed to get the results you’re getting.” If my church is not producing disciples, there’s probably a systems problem. If only a small percentage of the congregation is involved in groups, it’s probably a systems issue. If we are not developing enough leaders to keep up with our growth, it probably has something to do with our leadership development system.

2. Choose a Champion

I talk to a lot of small-group pastors who cannot get any traction with groups at their churches. The first question I ask is, Is your senior pastor in a small group? Almost every time the answer is “no.”

It’s not impossible to build a successful groups system without the senior leader being fully on board, but it’s extremely difficult. The congregation is going to take its cues from the leaders, and if the senior pastor is not engaged in community, they will follow his lead. It does not matter how much he talks about the importance of groups from the pulpit if there are not consistent stories circulating from his own small group.

3. Put It in the Budget

When it comes down to budgeting for small groups, a lot of churches follow the example of Pharaoh in Exodus:

That same day the king gave a command to the slave masters and foremen. He said, “Don’t give the people straw to make bricks as you used to do. Let them gather their own straw. But they must still make the same number of bricks as they did before. Do not accept fewer.” (Exodus 5:6–8)

We are asking our point people for groups to build a successful system without the necessary straw but still expecting big results. As much as we want to believe community happens organically, it still takes resources for them to be strategic and effective.

4. Make It Scalable

Your church may never triple in size overnight (although it could), but now is the time to start planning for God to do the unexpected. What happens when you activate your first all-church campaign and suddenly need to triple the number of current groups to meet the demand? Do you have enough coaches? How difficult is it to become a small-group leader? Can you fast-track the vetting of new leaders? You should always be ready to go when God moves.

5. Make It Replicable

Think through not only what could be replicable across different locations, but also what do small groups look like in different layers of your church? The heart of student and kids ministries are small groups, and those ministries can benefit from partnering with the adult groups system for training, leadership development, and structure ideas. What if the same team that develops Sunday message studies works with the student leaders on theirs? What if a few adult group leaders mentor small-group leaders in the kid’s ministry? Replicating successful systems will help break down silos within a church.

Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation


Why Volunteering is the Biggest Issue Facing the Church

I’ve never coached a church leader or consulted with a church that said they had enough volunteers. In fact, most church leaders I speak with identify a shortage of volunteers and volunteer leaders as one of the top 5 issues holding their church back from reaching the vision that Jesus has given them. But contrary to the popular belief among many church staff, the issue isn’t a poor talent pool. Your church is full of talented volunteers. In fact the people who attend your church are so talented that companies actually hire them to do jobs everyday and they actually get paid for it (sarcasm indented). The real issue is that the church needs to change the scorecard. We need to shift the focus of paid-staff from ministry production and execution to volunteer and leadership development. The churches that do this understand the following 5 principles and the incredible results that accompany applying them.

1. Volunteering makes your Church “Sticky”

Want to figure out how to close the proverbial backdoor of your church and keep people from “leaving?” Then get people volunteering. People come to church for all kinds of reasons. But the top two reasons people stay at a church are “relationships” and “responsibility.” Volunteering checks both of those boxes!

2. Volunteering is a Pathway to Small Groups

Most churches used to buy into linear thinking that says people come to church, then get into a small group and then start volunteering. That’s actually backwards. It’s way less threatening to volunteer and serve than it is to jump into a small group bible study at some strangers’ house with a bunch of other strangers. And guess what happens as people volunteer? They begin to develop friendships with other people they’re volunteering with and then get into small group bible studies with friends instead of strangers.

3. Volunteers are more Generous

It’s negligent of me not to point this simple fact out. That is, people who volunteer are more likely to be generous financially towards your church. The fact that they are volunteering means they’re with you and on some level buy into the vision of where you’re going as a church because they’re wiling to put their time towards it. Jesus said it this way, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

4. Volunteering is Discipleship

I’ve written previously that many churches still view volunteering as roles that need to be filled instead of people that need to be developed. Most churches are missing the boat on this simple fact: that people grow spiritually through volunteering and tangibly learning to live an others oriented life. The first Sunday School Class I taught, the first Mission Trip I went on…etc. I grew and gained far more than I ever gave.

5. Volunteering is the Biblical Mandate for the Church

“Volunteer Development” can be described as the two-word long job description of every staff person who receives a paycheck at a church. The Apostle Paul put it this way…”And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…”


Posted in Volunteers


5 Reasons Churches Don’t Grow

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. 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.”

While there are all kinds of reasons that churches end up stuck, at the Unstuck Group we’ve identified 5 key contributors that lead to churches being stuck. Through working with churches across America we’ve observed these contributors over and over and over again. You can click on the following headings below to learn more about each of the 5 key reasons that churches get stuck. So here they are in no particular order:

#1 Lack of Vision

An old Japanese proverb says, “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” There are a lot of churches out there living a nightmare because while there may be ministry activity, that ministry activity is not aligned to move the whole church towards accomplishing a clear vision.

#2 Inward Focused

One of the most dangerous places 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.

#3 No Clearly Defined 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.

#4 Complexity

It’s exciting when you’re adding staff, adding ministries, building buildings, and more and more people are meeting Jesus. But it’s not as exciting when things get really complex and the fun stops and growth begins to slow down. Growth by it’s very nature leads to lids of complexity.

#5 Lack of Strong Leadership

The greatest crisis facing the modern day church is a crisis of leadership. The modern day Church simply 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.

Photo Credit: heanster via Compfight cc

Posted in Leadership


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

Today we’re continuing this 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. While churches get stuck and decline for all kinds of reasons, these 5 key contributors are the consistent culprits.

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:

1. Content is Mistaken for the Solution

Neither Jesus nor the Apostle Paul defined spiritual maturity as knowledge. Content is not the solution. It’s not what you know; it’s what you do with what you know. It’s an issue of obedience and application. Is your church actually helping people apply the Bible to their everyday life or are you just teaching bible classes?

2. There are Too Many Steps

If the road map to spiritual maturity has been defined at your church and it’s too long or has too many steps it simply won’t work. People will quit on you. Then you will have the tendency to think the few people you end up with at the end of the arduous process you’ve build are the spiritual elite. Meanwhile many people who could have been brought along with you have been left by the wayside to figure it out on their own. Jesus only spent 3 years with His disciples and then turned them loose to change the world. Most churches today would never let the disciples serve in a leadership role, much less lead the church because they hadn’t “walked with Jesus long enough.” We’re not building Fords, we’re building disciples. Disciplemaking is not an assembly line.

3. There is No Clear Next Step

When someone says yes to following Jesus have you defined the next step for them to take? Then what happens next? Is the process working? Each step in the process needs to be clear, natural and intuitive. Has your church taken the time to map out and answer the question of “What’s my next step?” Then ask that question over and over again until you’ve arrived at some point of “spiritual maturity.”

4. People aren’t Giving or Serving

You’re never more like Jesus than when you give or when you serve; because giving and serving are the very essence of what it means to live like Jesus. Does your church treat volunteering as discipleship? Does your church not only provide opportunities for people to give and serve but train them how to do both well?

Photo Credit: boegh via Compfight cc

Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation
Page 4 of 6« First...«23456»