Tag Archive - fail

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Why it may be Good and Time for a Church to Die

A dying church doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a failing church. Death and failure are not the same thing.

The mission of the church is not to build a sustainable business that is annually profitable for shareholders. The Church is not a business, it’s the body of Christ and the mission of the Church is to help people meet, know and follow Jesus.

It is very possible for a declining church that is in the maintenance phase or preservation phase of their lifecycle to begin a new lifecycle of growth and impact in a community (for more explanation of the lifecycle phases of a church check out The Unstuck Church). However, churches that are in the life-support phase rarely recover.

When a church ends up in the life-support phase of the lifecycle they are headed towards one of two possible scenarios. They are either going to close their doors or experience some kind of relaunch (typically as a completely new church or a new campus of another church).

Unfortunately, many churches would choose to close their doors entirely than experience a relaunch or rebirth. It’s the attachment to the past, though, that leads to the church’s ultimate demise. Traditions win over adopting new approaches to ministry and experiencing life transformation. Personal preferences crowd out sacrifice and full devotion to helping new people meet, know and follow Jesus. Attendance dissipates and finances to keep things propped up eventually run out. But remember what I said a moment ago…

“A dying church doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a failing church. Death and failure are not the same thing”

According to the scriptures even King David served his purpose in his time and then died (check out Acts 13:36).

So, what’s a church to do if they’re in the life-support phase and they’re headed towards a certain death?

Invest in a Start Up

There are many existing church facilities in geographic areas around the country where the value of real estate is cost prohibitive for a church planter to begin a new work. That growing cost could actually become a ceiling that prevents new church plants to flourish in high dollar real estate markets. That new work would be greatly accelerated and have a better shot at success if a church on life support was willing to have the foresight to hand over their facility and remaining assets to a church planter and core team that has identified that location as a strategic opportunity.

Turn Over the Keys

Another option for a church in the life-support phase is to become a campus of a growing multisite church in the region. Many large growing multisite churches have a proven track record and the expertise needed to navigate this kind of a move.

Reinvest the Remaining Assets

Denominations have a tremendous responsibility and opportunity in today’s church climate. With many smaller denominational affiliated churches already in, or headed towards, life-support denominational leaders can liquidate these assets to remain in existence (and essentially cannibalize themselves) or reinvest these assets into new Kingdom expansion.

All of these options provide a dying church to not only die with dignity, but with their last act to deliver great Kingdom impact to the next generation. There can be dignity in death, particularly when led through in an honorable and healthy manner. While I would rarely advocate for the closure of a church, there are moments where it is the wisest course of action.


Posted in Leadership

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Top Posts of 2018 #8 “5 Ways Successful Church Leaders Think Different”

This post came in at number 8…I’ve been around some successful church leaders. They really do think and act different. In fact this post outlines 5 ways I’ve observed successful church leaders thinking and acting differently than the average church leader.

Successful church leaders naturally think differently than the majority of church leaders. It’s one of the things that set them apart. The good news is you can learn to think just like them.

#1 They think about who they’re trying to Reach instead of who they’re trying to Keep

Another way to say this, is that they’re consumed with the mission that Jesus gave the church. To reach the nations. They make decisions based on who they are trying to reach not who they’re trying to keep.

#2 They think about Solutions instead of Problems

They don’t focus on problems and everything that could or does go wrong. Instead they focus on solutions and figuring things out. You could even say they’re optimistic in their thinking (either by nature or by choice).

#3 They’re Strategic Thinkers

They’re not just satisfied with having a clear picture of the future (vision), they want to act on it and build a roadmap to get there (strategy). They plan their work and work their plan. Which consequently their preparation allows them to be flexible when new opportunity arrives, or they meet unforeseen roadblocks.

#4 They Involve the Team

They’re not obsessed with coming up with the best idea. They’d rather be able to execute the best idea than get credit for it. They know the team out performs the individual, so they involve their team in great thinking.

#5 They Don’t Dwell on Failure

It’s not that they completely ignore failure, they don’t. They learn from failure. It’s just they don’t dwell on it. They pivot away from what didn’t work and move on quickly to the next thing.


Posted in Leadership

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Leading with Authority without Abusing Authority

You don’t have to look very hard in society to find examples of people in authority abusing their authority. Unfortunately in the church where you’d expect things to be different it seems like it rarely is. In a recent conversation with a church leader they asked me if they really had to be a jerk to get things done and be a successful leader in a church? I don’t think they do and I don’t think you do either. It’s possible to lead with authority without abusing authority.

#1 Positional Authority

We follow people who have positional authority in our lives because we have to. They’re in a position of authority in our lives such as a parent, teacher, boss, or ranking officer. We follow these people because if we don’t there are unpleasant consequences that we’re forced to deal with.

#2 Expert Authority

We follow people with expert authority because of the wealth of experience or knowledge that they have. These people have something that we don’t and are recognized as experts in their field, which naturally places them in an authority role. We listen to them because they have something that we want.

#3 Moral Authority

We follow people with moral authority because we want to. These people don’t ask anyone to do anything that they’re not willing to do themselves. They know it’s not wise for them to do every job in the organization while understanding that no job in the organization is beneath them. They serve the organization instead of having the organization serve them. They lead out of who they are and allow people close enough to them to see that they are who they are all the time and in every setting.

Jesus could have led with positional authority after all He is God in the flesh. But He didn’t. Jesus could have led with expert authority after all He created everything that exists and is pretty much the expert on…well everything. But He didn’t. Instead Jesus led with moral authority. He submitted to His Father in the garden saying, “not my will but yours be done.” He said, “If you want to be first you have to be last,” and He put our needs in front of His own. He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me,” and He went to the cross first.


Posted in Leadership, Staffing

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Are you a Perfectionist or a Leader?

There’s a big difference between a perfectionist and a leader. One draws people to a cause and the other repels them. While perfectionists may be adept at pointing out opportunities for improvement few people will want to join them in the process of improving things. I’m sure you don’t know any perfectionistic church leaders and I know you’re not one. But just in-case you ever come across one, here’s a few thoughts that may be helpful.

  • When you lead with handing out instructions you don’t put yourself in a position to be instructed.
  • If no one can do it as good as you then no one will be doing it but you. Perfectionism is lonely and is a lid to organizational growth.
  • You know who listens to a know-it-all? No one.
  • Perfectionism is the enemy of innovation.
  • You can’t play it safe and follow Jesus. The very essence of following Jesus is going somewhere you’ve never been before.
  • High control leads to low trust. By the way, you know control is an illusion right? The only thing you can really control is your effort and your attitude.
  • If you wait for the perfect plan you’ll never get out of the gate.
  • Good enough is good enough for good leaders.
  • Leaders care too much about results and progress to be paralyzed by waiting on the perfect next step (or first step).
  • Perfectionism is the low road and the easy way out. Leadership requires developing others, and allowing others to do it differently than you (maybe even fail, yikes!). It’s way harder!
  • Imagine if Jesus acted like a perfectionist with you. He doesn’t criticize you when you don’t do it perfectly. He really could do it better than you and He still invites you to join Him in shepherding His church.

Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation

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Top Posts of 2013 #2: “Why Nice People Kill Churches”

This post checks in at  #2 in 2013. The post went viral, being re-posted on multiple sites…not just due to the title, but the leadership concept it addresses.

For the last 12 years I’ve had the incredible opportunity to serve on the Sr. Leadership Teams of some of the nations fastest growing and leading churches. Over that time I’ve observed time and time again one of the most destructive inclinations to church growth and the advancement of the Gospel is the simple fact that people on staff at most churches are simply too nice to each other.

5 Ways Nice People Hurt the Mission of the Church

1. Nice people have a tendency to hire people that they like rather than people who are going to advance the mission of the church. In other words it’s okay to lose as long as you’re losing with friends.

2. Nice people avoid conflict and by so doing don’t mine the best ideas out of their teams.

3. Nice people keep people on their teams well after the work has surpassed their capacity. This not only slows the mission but it exposes the weaknesses of and hurts the very person they’re trying to protect.

4. Nice people don’t confront the brutal facts and as a result “hallway conversations” take place and a lack of unity begins to undermine the mission.

5. Nice people sacrifice the flock for the sake of one sheep. This happens every time you let that one person sing who has no business singing (if you’ve been around church-world for any length of time you know exactly what I’m talking about).

Let me be clear, what I’m not saying is that the staff at your church shouldn’t be nice to each other. But when being nice begins to trump being honest because you don’t want to experience the discomfort of a difficult conversation, that’s not nice…that’s selfish. And when that begins to happen everybody loses.

In his new book “The Advantage” Patrick Lencioni says it this way, “Firing someone is not necessarily a sign of accountability, but is often the last act of cowardice for a leader who  doesn’t know how or isn’t willing to hold people accountable.” 

There’s a strong principle and clear message in there that many church leaders need to take some time and wrestle to the ground.


Posted in Leadership