Tag Archive - plateau


How to Change things up and get your Church Growing Again

When momentum fades and growth begins to slow down at your church it can be tough to know exactly how to get things going in the right direction again. When plateau and stagnation set in it can be even more difficult to know what to do next.

Many church leaders I’ve talked to become paralyzed by the tension of wanting to keep long term people in the church around and engaged while also trying to reach new people by using old methods and approaches in an attempt to keep those long term people happy (wow that sentence is a mouthful). Change in this kind of a situation isn’t simple. If it were, every church that is plateaued or declining would turn around. While there are certainly some commonality in plateaued and declining churches there is not a “one size fits all” solution.

Most churches in this situation tend to adopt a measured approach to make incremental changes over time. While there are times when the wise approach is to make incremental changes over time, when things are stuck or declining it may take more courageous measures, because incremental change gets you incremental results.

“Incremental Change gets you Incremental Results”

If you’ve been leading in a church that is stuck or declining then you most likely already know what is getting you the results you’re currently getting, because you’re already doing it…it may be time to really do something different and take a different approach to get different results. Here’s a few things you can do right now to begin to change the trajectory of your church.

Listen to Different Voices

If you keep listening to the same people that you’ve always listened to you’re not going to generate any new ideas. Find some new voices. Instead of inviting the same old people to the meeting who have the same old ideas, change up the invite list. Bring in people from a different generation, background, or layer of the organization. I guarantee you’ll walk away with different ideas. Or make your next couple of hires from the outside. They’ll bring new ideas, different experiences and a new perspective to things.

Stop Learning from Other Churches

The Church is the only organization or people on the planet that has been entrusted with the Gospel and mission to share the Gospel with everyone on the Earth. But the Church does not have a corner on the market when it comes to innovation, organizational design, or leadership. So get outside of the Church and visit leaders from different industries and learn what principles can be transferred back into the area you’re leading in. A Chick-fil-A Executive once told me that they don’t look at other fast food companies to learn from, they go outside their tribe to other global industry leaders to learn from.

Fire Yourselves

This exercise will help you…I promise: Imagine that your entire leadership team has been removed and a new team is going to start. Before you pack up your boxes and move everything out, take a moment to write down the key issues you’ve never tackled and the changes you wanted to make. Help the new leadership understand what’s working, what’s broken, and what’s missing. Communicate the new initiatives they need to tackle and the things the ministry needs to stop doing. Once the departing team has confirmed that new direction, become the new leadership team. Start over, but this time follow through with everything you just agreed to do when you were out of a job. The reason this exercise is so helpful is that it helps to remove the emotions connected with core issues and new initiatives. It also eliminates the investment in ministries or strategies you’ve engaged in the past that aren’t working. A new leadership team wouldn’t have those attachments. They would start fresh. That’s what you need to do too.

Get some Outside Eyes

Bringing in an outside experienced professional with fresh eyes and different questions is a great way to help you begin to think differently. I know some great consultants at The Unstuck Group (the consulting group I’m involved with) that love the local church and want to see you win. We’ve literally helped hundreds of churches get unstuck!

Posted in Leadership


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


5 Mistakes that Fast Growing Churches Make

If you’ve ever been a part of a fast growing church you know how much fun it can be. New people who are unfamiliar with Jesus begin attending, friends are bringing friends, you’re adding new staff members, you’re building buildings, you’re starting new ministries, and most important of all people are meeting Jesus and being baptized. Often times in a fast growing church it can feel as though you have so much momentum that as long as you don’t do anything drastically wrong you’ll ride that wave of momentum forever.

Over the past 19 years of full-time ministry I’ve been fortunate to personally work at some fast growing churches. And now in the past few years working with the Unstuck Group I’ve had the privileged to watch churches take courageous steps to get unstuck and begin experiencing significant growth for the first time in years.

If you’ve been in ministry for any length of time you know that momentum won’t always be on your side, growth won’t always be taking place, and things won’t always be up and to the right. Often momentum is lost when things are at their best because churches don’t know how to behave when things are going well. In fact below are the 5 biggest mistakes I’ve seen fast growing churches make.

1. They Implement too many Policies

To borrow an idea from another post I wrote called “Why Policies are Bad for your Church…” Policies are rules that shrink the box of creativity, problem solving, and big ideas. Policies set the standard for how we do what we do every time we do it. And that’s fine if we’re on an assembly line making cars. You want consistency in that situation. But disciple making is not the same thing as making cars. Too many policies will stall the growth of any organization, including your church.

2. They Fail to Prepare for Lean Moments

During seasons of fast growth churches are notorious for living “hand to mouth,” and leveraging every dollar in an attempt to ride the wave of momentum and keep things going. Not only is this thinking naïve, it’s an unbiblical approach to finances. Take a quick read of Proverbs and you’ll find plenty of encouragement from Solomon (the wisest & wealthiest man to ever walk the planet) to save for a rainy day.

3. They Overreach

Bill Gates the Co-Founder of Microsoft once said that, “Success is a lousy teacher. It reduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” Winning can be addicting and it lulls you into thinking that you can’t lose. As a result many fast growing churches overreach. They extend further than they can support and bite off more than they can chew. As a result of their lack of discipline they unknowingly undermine their own growth.

4. They think the Staff Team will Continue to keep pace with the Growth

While it would be great (and romantic) to keep the same staff team that got you where you are, unfortunately it’s not always realistic. It’s not strange that a particular staff person is exactly what’s needed during a certain season or stage of growth. But it is a rare thing that those same team members are able or willing to go through the necessary personal changes to continue to lead as the ministry becomes more complex as the church grows.

5. They don’t know Why they’re Growing

If you don’t know why you’re growing right now you won’t know what to do when the growth begins to slow, or worse it just flat out stalls or begins to decline. You’ll begin to grasp at straws, mimicking others methods that have experienced success instead of leaning in the core cultural identity and vision that God has given you.

Photo Credit: Alec Macias via Compfight cc

Posted in Leadership


Taming the Ministry Dragon

Everyone has problems. If your church is in decline you’ve got problems. If your church is growing, you’ve got problems. If your church is plateaued, you’ve got problems. Everyone’s got problems. If you think the guy on the other side of the fence doesn’t have problems, you’re mistaken; he’s just shoveling more…well…fertilizer. The real difference rests in how you respond to those problems. Respond poorly and it will eat you alive. Respond well and you just may be a leader. Here are three memorable ways people respond to problems:

Feed a Dragon and it will Eat You

Identifying a problem is not the same thing as solving it. Complaining about a problem is not the same thing as solving it. Doing the same thing you’ve always done and expecting different results is obviously not the same thing as solving it. You have to shift your behaviors to get different results. And while an inspirational speech or new information may shift thinking, systems shift behaviors.

Fight a Dragon and it will Kill You

When you focus on every problem that comes along and try to respond to them all it will kill you. And it will deflate your team at the same time. Instead, addressing problems early on and solving patterns of problems will help you change your systems, which drive behaviors. Reoccurring problems are typically an indicator of a system problem. Stop working on the problem and start working on the system and the culture that is allowing the problem to exist.

Ride a Dragon and it will Take You Places

Learn to lead through a problem, be solution oriented and you’ll be identified as someone who gets things done. Problems and crisis are moments where leaders are identified. Because leaders are at their best when they’re needed, and leaders are needed most in the middle of a problem.

Posted in Leadership