Tag Archive - weekend


Why Big Weekend Worship Services are not the Goal of the Church

I’ve personally been following Jesus for more than 30 years and in full-time ministry now for more than 20 years and there are still times that I get frustrated and wish the Bible gave us more answers than it really does. The New Testament is notorious for being way more descriptive than prescriptive in its approach. It describes much of what happened during the early stages of this new movement called the Church getting off the ground but it shares very little about how we should be doing Church today.

For instance, even the idea of having deacons was a pragmatic response that the Apostles had in Acts chapter 6 to meet the need of running a feeding program so they could focus on what they were supposed to focus on. And churches have been mimicking this practice ever since.

That being said, it’s really interesting to me that the modern church has fallen in love with a practice that the New Testament doesn’t actually prescribe anywhere, weekend worship services.

Now don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m a big proponent of churches providing meaningful, engaging and relevant weekend worship services. Not because that’s the mission of the church, but because it’s the most effective strategy in North America to expose people to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In other words large weekend worship gatherings are a strategy, not the mission.

The Mission is the Goal not the Strategy

When you love a strategy more then you love the mission you’ve got the right recipe for a declining church. When the strategy stops working it’s not time to give up on the mission, it’s time to employ a new strategy. The mission of the church is not to get a bunch of people in a big room at one time for a great show, the mission of the church is to help people meet Jesus. Don’t get those two things confused.

Strategies are Designed to Serve the Mission not the other way around

Strategies are fine as long as they are effective in moving you towards the mission Jesus has already defined for His Church. The moment a strategy becomes a lid or a hindrance to accomplishing the mission it’s time for it to go. If your weekend worship service is no longer effective it’s time for it to change. And the easiest way to measure the effectiveness of the weekend worship service at your church is by measuring life-change. Are people meeting Jesus and are their lives changing as they get to know Him and follow Him?

Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation


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


Top 10 Reasons Churches get Stuck

For more than 18 years I’ve been working full-time in a local church setting. The last 13 of those have been in large mega-church and multi-site settings. I’ve had the unique opportunity to work with an incredible team of people at a the Unstuck Group a successful consulting firm specializing in helping churches get unstuck. Over this span of time I’ve seen churches get and stay stuck for all kinds of reasons but there are 10 catalysts for church stuckness that I see come up over and over again. Here they are in no particular order:

1. Insider Focus

Alright so I said these weren’t in any particular order, well that’s mostly true. All except for this one. The most common area where I see churches get stuck is this issue of being insider focused. And it’s rooted in this fundamental question, “What is the church for?” I feel like I write about this topic a lot so I won’t regurgitate it here, just search “insider focus” in the search bar to your right and you’ll get a grocery list of stuff. Bottom line is a majority of churches that are stuck get that way and stay that way because they’re focused on insiders instead of outsiders. They would resist that diagnosis and the label, but they’re practices, language, guest services (or lack thereof), and low number of annual conversations and baptisms tell a different story.

2. Staffing and Structure

There are very common growth barriers that churches hit and get stuck at. A start up church that is setting up and tearing down in rented space, the medium sized church, the megachurch and multisite church aren’t different in size or economies of scale. They are completely different organizations. To get through these barriers and stay past these barriers takes more than momentum it takes changing the staffing and organizational structure of the church, and often times the way the Church Board operates in relationship to the staff. Do you have a staffing plan to get you where you want to go? Do you know what structure best fits your size and strategies?

3. Misalignment

A majority of churches do not organize around a central vision. Many don’t have a clearly stated, meaningful, actionable, and relevant mission statement, vision statement, or organizational values. Or if they do they’re on a piece of paper in a drawer somewhere. It’s the rare church that actually organizes the staffing strategy, budgeting process, ministry calendar, weekend teaching schedule, and communication strategies to synergistically move the whole church in a particular direction. There is no clear plan to move from where they are to where God wants them to be. And a failure to plan is planning to fail.

4. Leadership

I love what Bill Hybles, the Sr. Pastor at Willow Creek has said about leadership, “Everyone gets better when the leader gets better.” A leader can be the lid on a church. In other words, sometimes churches get stuck because the leader is stuck. And it’s one thing to get stuck and a whole other thing to stay stuck. Leaders need to invest in their own leadership gifts and keep growing or they’ll end up being the reason the church gets stuck.

5. Teaching

So I may be about to get some speaking pastors a bit upset. But speaking/preaching is a gift. Not everyone has it. Right? The other truth is not everyone who has a preaching gift has that gift given in the same amount. There are some that are simply great preachers. And guess what. Mediocre teaching, even good solid teaching is a barrier to growth and can lead to stuckness if great teaching isn’t developed or hired. Your church may be stuck because the teaching is stuck.

6. Weekend Experience

A lot of ministry segment leaders aren’t going to like what I’m about to say here, but it’s true, even if you don’t like it. In North America, it’s all about the weekend experience. That total street to seat experience that people have when they come to your church. It’s why your children’s ministry is growing (kids don’t drive themselves to church because they like the crafts that much), it’s why people say things like, “I’m not sure what it is but there is something special going on here.” New people bring new people when the weekend experience is going well. But when it’s stuck, there are no new people.

7. Volunteers

I rarely come across a church that says they have all the volunteers they need. I also rarely come across a church that makes it easy for people to get connected and start volunteering and they view volunteering as a part of the discipleship process. Meaning that when you serve you are actually becoming more like Jesus. In most churches the same people are still doing everything that they’ve always done. And until things change, nothing is going to change.

8. Finances

Many churches are stuck because of finances. Some are over extended in debt with no clear plan to pay it off. Many don’t have and haven’t thought through a clear strategy to engage the givers in their churches. Few have a clear and effective budgeting process, much less know what financial health looks like in a church setting. Many don’t teach about generosity for fear of sounding like all they care about is money. Your church doesn’t have a generous culture and as a result the Kingdom isn’t taking the ground that it should be. If you don’t have a clear plan to manage today’s resources for tomorrow, your church is probably stuck financially.

9. The Past

I commonly see churches that are still enamored with past practices and ministry programs that worked years ago to connect new people to Jesus, but now only serve to keep the committed comfortable. Most churches don’t know how to gracefully put old ministry programs out to pasture. Unfortunately as a result those same churches continue to engage in ministry practices that were successful in the past but keep them from being successful in the future.

10. Next Steps

Many churches haven’t defined next steps for people who are attending their church. What is the next step coming out of a sermon? Now that I’ve attended for the first time as a guest, what do I do now? How do I get into a Bible Study? How do I get involved volunteering? How do I financially contribute? Has your church defined the win regarding spiritual maturity and what you hope people will look like, and have you clearly charted a road map to help them get there?

What are some other reasons you’ve seen churches get stuck? What would you add to the list?

Does this list resonate with you? Is your church stuck in one or more of these areas? It might be worth a conversation with the Unstuck Group, we specialize in helping churches get unstuck!

Photo Credit: tricky (rick harrison) via Compfight cc

Posted in Leadership