Tag Archive - protect


Top Posts of 2018 #5 “4 Indicators your Church is Moving in the Wrong Direction”

The “why” behind church growth and decline are always topics that generate a lot of interest here and this year was no different. This post was the 5th most popular post of the year!

You may have heard me tell the story of a church that started years ago in the Phoenix east valley. This church plant grew rapidly. Helping new people meet Jesus, they became one of the first mega churches in the east valley. Eventually the pastor, under whose leadership this growth took place, left and the succession didn’t go very well. Neither did the next succession. Or the next. In fact, that church went through 18 straight years of decline until at the end of that decline they ended up merging with another church.

Today the new campus averages more than 1,000 people in weekend attendance and is helping new people meet, know and follow Jesus.

Unfortunately for most churches in decline there’s no great comeback story. Churches decline for all kinds of reasons and it’s usually more complicated than one simple decision that was made somewhere along the way.

There are a lot of reasons why churches begin to decline and eventually die. Most don’t ever recognize it until they’re really stuck or worse it’s too late to even turn around. But there are some lead indicators that can be early warning signs that things are moving in the wrong direction.

1. A Lot of Money in the Bank

The Unstuck Group recommends that churches have six to eight weeks of cash reserves in the bank. We recently found in our Q1 2018 Unstuck Church Report, that benchmarks trends in U.S. Churches, that a majority of churches have the equivalent of 17 weeks in cash reserves. This suggests that many churches are in a financially healthy position. They’re in a position advance the Kingdom through investing in new initiatives but aren’t. They’re sitting on money in the bank that could be invested to reach more people for Jesus. Too much money in the bank can turn a church from an advancement mentality to a protection mentality.

2. Comfort is the Opposite of Growth

If you don’t have a list of new ideas that you can go to and possibly implement at any given time, then you’re probably spending a lot of energy propping up old methods and programs. And those old methods and programs bring a certain comfort with them, because they keep people who are already in the church happy. Every idea has a shelf life. If your church isn’t constantly evaluating and strategically stopping old things and starting new things, then you’re probably moving towards becoming insider focused. And while that’s comfortable it’s a lead indicator that you’re moving in the wrong direction.

3. Over Structure

One of the most common misunderstandings of strategic planning is that the goal is not order or structure. The goal of strategic planning is to actually accomplish the vision. In a growing church you want planning and management to lag slightly behind the chaos of change and movement. It’s possible to manage and plan your way into losing momentum. Policies and structure can shrink the box of creativity. They set the standard for how we do what we do, every time we do it. It’s possible to policy and structure yourself right into decline. When planning and order become higher priorities than chaos and movement your church will start moving in the wrong direction.

4. Protective of the Past

One of the most difficult things to navigate in a church is change. If you lead in a church long enough, eventually you’ll hear someone say something like, “But we’ve always done it that way.” That way was someone’s good idea and it may have been the best way at one point. But often times that past way becomes a barrier to a future and better way. When a church is busy defending the past instead of building the future it is moving in the wrong direction. 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 its intended to be unleashed.

Church decline can be avoided and even turned around. If your church is stuck or in decline I’d encourage you to start a conversation with the Unstuck Group. They have proven track record of helping churches get unstuck.

Posted in Leadership


5 Questions Stuck Churches Commonly Ask

You’ve probably heard me say before that “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.”

That’s 80% if you’re doing the math. In my work consulting with churches and coaching church leaders there are 5 common questions or values that I see come up over and over again in churches that are stuck, but sometimes don’t know it yet. Could this be your church?

1. How do we make change and keep people from leaving the church?

The simple answer is, you don’t. The good news is people are always going to leave your church. You get to choose who leaves by the decisions you make and the way you lead. Churches who are making decisions based on who they are going to keep instead of who they are going to reach are stuck.

2. How do we get more people in our discipleship class?

If your primary method of discipleship is a class, your church may be educating people but they’re not building disciples. Christian education is not the same thing as disciple making. If you don’t have a clear pathway for people who say yes to Jesus to move towards knowing Him and following Him then your church is moving towards being stuck.

3. How can we hire more staff to run more ministries?

When your church is hiring people to do ministry instead of lead people to do ministry your church is stuck. Church that are rapidly moving towards providing more “ministry services” for more people to attend and participate in instead of investing those same resources into developing volunteers are often stuck and don’t know it yet. Ministry participation is not the same thing as people development.

4. How can we protect our kids and students from the world?

Churches that adopt a protection-oriented mindset instead of a preparation-oriented mindset often end up stuck because that thinking permeates the entire culture of the church. These churches are often risk-averse and talk about defending the Gospel. The Gospel doesn’t need to be defended from outsiders it needs to be unleashed. These churches often choose to curse the darkness instead of proclaiming the light.

5. How can we continue to increase our missions giving?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for missions. But when a church begins to take pride in supporting a long list of missionaries across an ocean instead of doing anything short of sin to reach people in their neighborhood with the Gospel they are stuck.

Need help getting your church unstuck? The Strategic Operating Process that we lead churches through at the Unstuck Group will help your church clarify your mission, vision, and core strategies—and then realize it through prioritized action initiatives.

Posted in Leadership