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Use This Biblical Framework to Call Out Your Next Step

“Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.”
Philippians 4:9

I love this verse. Paul addresses how to learn to lead, and how to prepare others to lead.

Here’s an important thing I know from this verse about growing leaders: We all need teaching, modeling and coaching to develop into the leaders God has called us to be.

Each component serves a powerful purpose. And I don’t think you can become a great leader practicing one without the others.

Pause for a few minutes today to think on the questions below. Where is your biggest gap in leadership development today?

Pause for a few minutes today to think on the questions below. Where is your biggest gap in leadership today?
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I should also note: As a leader you will need to revisit these questions throughout your life, as your environments change and as you lead at new levels. You may see yourself cycle through this model in various capacities over time. Leaders keep developing.

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The post What’s the Enemy of Leadership Development? appeared first on TonyMorganLive.com.

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Systems That Work for Community Christian Church in Chicago

Before I go any further, let me say this: If you’re not leading a multisite church, don’t skip this episode. There’s something important here for you. But I’ll get to that in a minute.

I very rarely see a multisite church succeed with live-teaching at each campus. If you’ve engaged with any of my multisite content in recent years, you’ll recall that my team and I don’t usually recommend that model.

There’s a good reason for that: We’ve seen the majority who try to use live teachers at each campus ultimately get stuck.

Many times they end up with division they never anticipated and find themselves splitting into a bunch of disconnected churches instead of a family of church campuses, without having intended to reach that destination.

So naturally, we wanted to get to the bottom of why live teaching at each campus works so well at Community Christian Church in the Chicago area. 

It’s the only example I know where this model works and actually helps a church thrive at empowering more people to do ministry and reproduce leaders.

I got a chance to interview Tammy Melchien from Community Christian Church about their principles and their process. If you’re leading a multisite church or considering a multisite model, you should take a minute to learn from what this church is doing.

If you’re not, the creative systems and strategies CCC has implemented to keep raising up new leaders to teach the Gospel will give you plenty to consider even within your single site. (I even think some of what they’re doing could help churches better prepare for smooth succession plans.)

In this conversation, we discussed:

  • Having tried both video-teaching and live teaching, why they settled on the latter.
  • The principles and systems that make it work there.
  • How they assess readiness for teaching in people they identify as having teaching gifts.
  • How they have built a team of people who have writing gifts and on-stage delivery gifts to complement one another.
  • How they maintain consistency of message while still empowering leaders to leverage their own style and personal experiences.
Join the Conversation

We’ll be talking about this more on Facebook and Twitter this week. Listen to the episode and then join in. Some things we are hoping to discuss:

  • Do you know of any other multisite churches that have had a healthy experience using live teaching at each of their campuses?
  • Have you tried live teaching and switched to video teaching? If so, does anything about what CCC is doing address issues you experienced?
  • What other systems or processes do you use to “reproduce” excellent teachers at your church?
  • What are the challenges you experience when trying to prepare messages on your own? With a team?

We use #unstuckchurch on Twitter. You can follow me @tonymorganlive and The Unstuck Group @unstuckgroup. If Facebook is where you spend your time, I’m there, too.A About Tammy Melchien

Tammy Melchien is the Teaching Team Pastor at Community Christian Church in Chicago, Illinois. In her role, she oversees the development of the weekly messages that are delivered at all Community locations. She has been on the staff at Community since 2002, having served in a variety of roles at many different campuses including launching the Lincoln Square Campus and serving for four years as its first Campus Pastor. Tammy lives in Chicago. More Resources on This Topic

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Particularly on iTunes, your ratings and reviews really do help more pastors discover the podcast content I’m creating here. Would you take a minute to share your thoughts? Just open the the podcast on iTunes on your phone or computer, click Ratings & Reviews, and leave your opinion. Episode Sponsor

Episode 72 was brought to you by Portable Church. They are experts at taking your vision and DNA and creating incredible experiences for your volunteers and your attendees, while keeping your staff focused on ministry. We’ve found that churches who launch with Portable Church are more likely to launch strong and thrive. Learn more at portablechurch.com/unstuck. Transcript 

Tony: 00:00 A strong and healthy core team is the main element for success of launching a new campus. When done well, portable facilities can be a longterm solution that allow you to quickly launch more campuses, reach more people faster, and with less financial investment than a permanent building. Portable Church is our sponsor for today’s episode. They are experts and taking your vision and DNA and creating incredible experiences for your volunteers and your attendees while keeping your staff focused on ministry. We’ve found that churches who launched with portable church are more likely to launch strong and to thrive. You can learn more online@portablechurch.com / unstuck.

Tony: 00:56 Welcome to the unstuck church podcast. I’m Tony Morgan, and each week we share a conversation our team’s having about getting churches unstuck. You know, one of the key areas we see multisite churches getting stuck is in their teaching model, often having different teachers at different campuses. Well that can lead to some division in many times less growth. We’ve identified one church though where this approach is really working, and so recently I had a chance to interview Tammy Melchein. Tammy is the teaching team pastor at Community Christian Church in the Chicagoland area and she’s going to share some insights into how they make a live teaching model work in a multisite church. So here’s my interview with Tammy… I’m looking forward to today’s conversation. It’s always interesting when we’re talking about multisite strategy. One of the key questions that pops up is how do we teach now, not exactly how we teach the message, but how, how does the message get delivered and we’ve had a lot of churches that have of course used live teachers at their campuses and we have had a lot of churches that have streamed through video the messages to all their campuses and we certainly have a bias about this and I’ve shared a little bit about that in the past, but the one church for my impression that really does do incur some live teaching well at their campuses is Community Christian church. And that’s why I’m excited today to have Tammy. Tammy is over the teaching team at Community Christian Church in the Chicagoland area and Tammy, it’s good to have you for today’s conversation.

Tammy: 02:41 Thanks. Thanks for having me.

Tony: 02:42 So, uh, before we dive into the specifics about teaching, give us a little bit background about a Community Christian church, how many campuses, things like that?

Tammy: 02:53 Well, we are celebrating our 30th anniversary this next year and so we currently a multisite church that has 10 locations, eight of which are in the suburbs of Chicago, two that are in the actual city limits of Chicago. And so, and then we also have been involved in church planting really around the world through New Thing, which is a kind of looking to be a catalyst for reproducing churches.

Tony: 03:22 I’ve had Dave Ferguson on the podcast and done conversations with him in the past, too. So, Dave and his brother John and other many other great leaders are at the church. But Tammy, we’re going to focus on the teaching aspect of the ministry today. And so I’m just curious why, first of all, did Community Christian Church to sign on in-person teaching versus video teaching for their multisite strategy?

Tammy: 03:50 Okay. Well, we’ve done both at different times in our history. I’ve been here for 16 years. When I first joined we were at, I think three, locations, soon to go to five and at that time the original three were using in-person teaching. But then as we added the fourth, the fifth, the sixth, and that, those first few, beyond that we were actually using video teaching. So at that time we had three primary teachers, Dave, John Ferguson, and one other guy that was leading the teaching team at that time and they would rotate between those sites. And then the one from our original site was the video that went to all the other locations. And so we were doing that for quite a while. But one thing that we realized along the way, one of the things we try to live and breathe,. is reproducing—reproducing on every level level, reproducing leaders, reproducing churches. And, and we recognize that one of the things that we were not doing was reproducing teachers and, you know, that’s kind of counter to our DNA. And we also honestly found that a lot of people that were interested in becoming a campus pastors, we call them community pastors now, but they also wanted to teach. And so we began looking at that and realize that because of the way that we do our teaching, even back then, the writing of our talks was being done collaboratively because of that, we were able to, to recognize we could still keep our DNA and beyond the same page because of that centralized collaboratively produced manuscript. Even if we were reproducing teaching pastors who were delivering it live at all of our locations. And so I would say it’s about nine or 10 years ago that we made that shift. And, and ever since we’ve been in-person teaching it all locations for all services.

Tony: 05:49 And is that always the case? Is it a 100 percent in-person teaching or do you ever revert back to using video teaching?

Tammy: 05:56 The only exceptions have tended to be when we occasionally maybe once or twice a year we have. Like we want all of our entire church to hear from Dave Ferguson or Dave and John Ferguson, and so then we will produce a video teaching. It doesn’t happen simulcasts, but will produce a video that then has shown at all locations. So it’s really, that’s more decided when we have a reason for wanting everyone to hear it from Dave.

Tony: 06:27 Right. So, uh, that, that lays the foundation for in person, live teachers at all your campuses. So let’s kind of back up from there then. How do you determine who’s qualified to do the teaching and how do you make that assessment of their readiness?

Tammy: 06:43 Okay. Well, we actually we have two. I would say when we look at who makes up our teaching team, there are really two different groups of people now. There’s a lot of overlap, so like a lot of those people play on both of those teams. But, we have the actual teaching pastors who stand up and deliver the messages and then we also have what I would say is our writing team, our teaching writing team. And so which one do you want me to start with?

Tony: 07:11 Start with the people that are actually delivering them.

Tammy: 07:13 They actually deliver the message. We put together an assessment process that we do now obviously when we’re hiring somebody to be a community campus pastor, this is part of their interview process, but it can extend beyond just our community pastor. So what we do is we, we have this assessment process where I’m actually a community pastor, if they have someone at their location, whether that be another staff member, whether that be a lay leader, you know, sometimes we have people that used to be in ministry and they are now in the marketplace, something like that. But if they have someone that they identify that they think has a teaching gift, they can choose to put that person through our assessment process. And so that process, it’s multiple layers. I mean, some of it begins with just, you know, making sure you’re clear on that person’s character and our leadership expectations of who we would put on our platform.

Tammy: 08:15 It begins with giving them some opportunities to do a smaller moments like maybe lead the communion meditation or the offering moment or be the host or that kind of thing. I want them to have opportunities to teach in front of groups of people, whether that be a spiritual gifts class or a time to get up and teach our students or things like that. And then if they’re progressing in that and this community pastor wants to see them move forward, they take one of our big idea message manuscripts and they have to kind of make it their own, rehearse it. They teach it to that community pastor and they video it. And if they think they’re ready, they’ll send that video to an assessment team that’s made up of three of our, four of our main teachers. We have a professional theater person on that team. We have a professional speaker on that team and so we will set aside a day, a couple times a year for these candidates to come and they actually have to then teach that message in front of our team and it’s more intimidating than actually teaching on a Sunday morning because you got six people there with clipboards and we give feedback in the moment and we also follow up with feedback, but our assessment team then decides whether or not that person is ready to teach on a Sunday morning and then also what frequency they’re approved to teach at and kind of the breadth of how many locations they can teach at.

Tony: 09:50 So what do you think after the first 10 minutes of us knowing each other? Would I be qualified for that teaching team, Tammy?

Tammy: 09:56 My guess is you probably would.

Tony: 10:00 All right. So I think this next question is actually going to get to the second half or the second team that you were discussing because the question is this: You mentioned 10 campuses, if I walked into a few different campuses on any given Sunday morning, what I hear different messages or would I hear an identical message?

Tammy: 10:22 It’s somewhere in between the two. You will hear the same message but interpreted through that particular speaker’s voice and perspective. And so you will hear the same big idea through it. You will hear the same main scripture passage. You will hear the same major moves or points, but the stories will be crafted by each person to be their own story. Here’s an idea that is in the message and you need to communicate that idea. And for some people they might be, okay I’m just going to stick to the teaching material. I’m just going to teach the way it is. Some people might say, hey, I have an experience that makes that point. I’m going to tell my story to make that point. I’m going to put it in my own words to make that point. And so you will know that you’re hearing the same message, but it’ll take on the personality of the person delivering it.

Tony: 11:36 So the team that’s actually creating the messages that are researching and writing and crafting the messages. How big is that team, Tammy?

Tammy: 11:46 I think the last couple of years we’ve had around 22 or 23 people contribute during a year. Now there are, there are like six of us that carry the bulk of that probably. Maybe between nine and 14 times a year. But then there are others that write maybe six times a year, some of them write four times a year and some that just write maybe once a year. And so I have different levels of involvement that enable us to use subject experts for certain talks. Some of it enables us just to explore who might have a gift for this even though their job or their role isn’t ever going to have them be a main teaching pastor. There are actually a lot more people, I think, that can deliver content. Well then there are those that can write it well.

Tony: 12:58 I would be one of those people.

Tammy: 13:03 And I mean I think that’s true. And that’s what we found too. I think right now we probably have more, I think mid-thirties in terms of assessed, approved teachers and you know, but the, so there are more people I think that can present it well. And so honestly, some of our community pastors, they do a great job. I’m delivering it. But some of them, the writing it is really not their giftedness and so they maybe contribute to one or two messages writing a year, but they primarily just play on this side where you have some people then that are pretty good at both and those tend to be the ones that make up the core of the team when I say the six people. But then we have other people that really do have a writing gifts that the last thing they ever want to do is get up on stage, deliver it. And so we’ve been able to use some of their giftedness in that way. And especially some of those people tend to be people that have in a particular area, for example, the woman who leads our restore our justice and compassion ministry. She’s a really good writer. And so the last message we had that was geared towards that. In our writing team, you’re always partnered with someone. So I partnered her with Dave Ferguson to write that message. And it was, she did a fantastic job. Now she’s probably never going to be someone to stand on stage and deliver it. But it equipped all other 10 teaching pastors to deliver excellent content.

Tony: 14:41 You know, you just gave a lot of teaching pastors hives that are listening to this conversation because for years they’ve been preparing their messages on their own.

Tammy: 14:51 They’re probably in that camp of being good at both of them that well.

Tony: 14:55 So when you’re trying to get that level of collaboration though, how do you systemize the message preparation process? Can you give us a sense of what that looks like?

Tammy: 15:06 Yeah. And this is just stop me if this gets too complicated because I also, I also think we’re a 30 year old church, 10 location and all that. And so it’s, it’s almost more there are principles to take from what we do than necessarily just implementing our system. You have to be ahead of the game in planning. Every year at the beginning of May… well actually for me it starts in March because I take about two months of doing a lot of brainstorming meetings and, you know, some retreat days and stuff like that until we come to the point…. The beginning of May we plan out our entire year of talks or kind of series ideas from September through the following August. And so then we really plan probably four months out from when a series starts. I have to begin doing brainstorming the processes and all of that.

Tony: 16:09 So not the the Wednesday before the Sunday?

Tammy: 16:10 Part of what this enables us to do that is… because I have this role but I don’t have a local campus… I kind of have to keep the whole system moving forward. So it involves a lot of advanced planning. So like for example, right now, I have mapped out all the writing meetings that..

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Great missions turn into routine jobs if they aren’t pursued by great teams.

Two weeks ago was one of my favorite weeks in ministry over the last 20 years. My entire team from The Unstuck Group gathered in Atlanta for training and fun.

We are a remote team of 25 people, so we prioritize meeting together in the same location at least once each year. Needless to say, this is a huge investment. Not only do we pause all our consulting for one week (which costs us a significant amount of money), but I’m also paying for the entire team to travel to the same location.

Why do I make this investment? The first reason is because I really believe in our mission.

We are hyper-focused on helping churches get unstuck. Because of that, we are constantly trying to improve our effectiveness in carrying out that mission. This year we have taken a huge step forward by completely refreshing our entire Unstuck process. I wanted to gather everyone on our team to train all our consultants on the new tools we’re using to help churches get unstuck.

The second reason why I make this significant investment, though, is more important to me than the first. This may sound a bit heretical for a strategy consultant, but I actually think there’s something more important than the mission of The Unstuck Group. It’s our team. It’s my team.

Whenever someone asks why I started The Unstuck Group almost 10 years ago, I always start by explaining how I want to help as many churches as possible get unstuck. But, I quickly follow that by expressing the one thing that’s more important than our mission. The primary reason I started The Unstuck Group is because I wanted to create a mission that would allow me to build a great team.

The “team” aspect of accomplishing the mission has always been more important to me.

The 25 people who get paid by The Unstuck Group probably wouldn’t have joined the team if it weren’t for our mission.

However, just to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have pursued this mission if it weren’t for the team. I’m a little bit biased, but they are a GREAT team!

Let me brag on them for just a moment. Over the last 12 months the team has:

  • Launched a weekly podcast that has well over 100,000 downloads in the last year.
  • Developed the Leading an Unstuck Church online course to equip church leaders around the world (including our friends in Norway!) without requiring anyone to travel to Atlanta for in-person coaching.
  • Rolled out The Unstuck Church Assessment which has been completed by more than 1,400 churches and 7,500 church leaders. (You can take it too. It’s free.)
  • Started the quarterly Unstuck Church Report based on data from our Vital Signs tracking, and now the report already has 4,200 subscribers. (You should subscribe as well. It’s free, too.)
  • Developed a brand new online solution for collecting and tracking our Vital Signs data to track the health of hundreds of churches. (Make sure you’re subscribed so you can watch for details about how to participate in 2019.)
  • Served over 150 churches through on-site consulting engagements where we help churches of all sizes assess their health, develop a vision and ministry strategy for the future, restructure their staff to support their mission and implement a focused action plan. (Planning without action disturbs me!)
  • Maintained phenomenal customer satisfaction scores with the churches our team serves. Our “net promoter score” is consistently in the 80s (range of -100 to 100) which is well above the industry average for consulting firms.
My team is knocking the ball out of the park! They’re doing great work. But you need to know this about me…

I love our team more than I love our mission.

Great missions turn into routine jobs if they aren’t pursued by great teams.
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That’s not to say we don’t have a great mission. Like I said, I don’t think I’d have such a great team if we didn’t have a mission to help hundreds of churches make a growing Kingdom impact.

And that’s not to say we don’t hold each other accountable for results. I wouldn’t love the team as much if we weren’t helping each other get better at what we do.

You may view life differently, but the older I get the more I realize that the mission isn’t everything. It’s important, but it’s not enough.

Great missions turn into routine jobs if they aren’t pursued by great teams.

And that’s why I’m proud to be an Unstucker!

The post Why I LOVE My Fellow Unstuckers appeared first on TonyMorganLive.com.

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With this simple survey, we’re hoping to learn a little more about how well our churches are reaching new people and engaging those we already have.

I’d like to invite you to participate in a research project I think is important.

Across the country I see pastors recognizing the need to change how we’re defining “success” as leaders. Ultimately, we all aim to help new people start following Jesus and take next steps in their faith.

But how do we know if we’re accomplishing that in the next decade? What will those steps look like as trends in church attendance, mobile, social media and culture continue to shift?

With this simple survey, we’re hoping to learn a little more about how well our churches are reaching new people and engaging those we already have. Here are 3 good reasons to participate:

  • It’s a short survey (just 20 questions) and it will help us report benchmarks and trends in how well churches are reaching new people and engaging those they already have, the methods that are working, and how they are measuring results.
  • Participants will get free access to a feature white paper that will unpack survey findings.
  • They’ll also get invited to a private webinar to discuss the results and their implications for how we do ministry in 2019.

Please take a few minutes to help us clarify what the future of engagement looks like—and how we measure it!

 

The post How Engaging Are Our Churches? Help Me Set Some Benchmarks. appeared first on TonyMorganLive.com.

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These might be controversial, but they can help you get unstuck.


My heart is always to help the church. But sometimes that means speaking the hard truths that keep us from getting unstuck. Recently, I published an article called 20 NEW Politically Incorrect Thoughts on Church in America. As you can imagine, it caused quite the stir.

On this week’s episode, Amy and I explore my heart and thinking behind 8 of my politically incorrect thoughts and why I thinks they are crucial for churches to getting unstuck.

In this conversation, we discussed:

  • Why you should stop caring about your teaching style
  • The big percentage of staff you can let go
  • The reason no one is inviting people to your church
  • The biggest group of leaders you’re ignoring
Join the Conversation

We’ll be talking about this more on Facebook and Twitter this week. Listen to the episode and then join in.

Some things we are hoping to discuss:

  • What changes have you made to your service that has effectively inspired people to invite others?
  • How have you implemented leadership opportunities for women in your church?
  • How did you implement a spiritual formation strategy that works?

We use #unstuckchurch on Twitter. You can follow me @tonymorganlive and The Unstuck Group @unstuckgroup. If Facebook is where you spend your time, I’m there, too.

Subscribe

If you enjoyed this episode of The Unstuck Church Podcast, subscribe for more here:

iTunes   RSS   Google Play  Stitcher   Spotify

Write a Review—It Really Does Help

Particularly on iTunes, your ratings and reviews really do help more pastors discover the podcast content I’m creating here. Would you take a minute to share your thoughts? Just open the the podcast on iTunes on your phone or computer, click Ratings & Reviews, and leave your opinion.

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Podcast Transcript

Tony Morgan:               00:00                Hey, before we start, I wanted to share a resource I’m finding churches need but don’t often realize they can actually afford the church lawyers is a solution focused national law firms serving the legal needs of churches of all sizes. Their membership program gives you high quality legal expertise that’s really affordable. The team prioritizes the relationship part of the attorney client relationship to learn more about becoming a part of their membership program. Contact the church lawyers@thechurchlawyers.com.

Amy Anderson:             00:43                Welcome to the unstuck church podcast. I’m Amy Anderson and I’m here with Tony Morgan and each week we share a conversation our team’s been having about getting churches unstuck. And today’s topic should create some conversation among your team as well. If it doesn’t, then Tony hasn’t done his job because today’s topic is Tony’s politically incorrect thoughts on the church. And uh, as we get started, Tony, does it bother you that some people will disagree with you?

Tony Morgan:               01:13                Yes, people will disagree with me, but if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be politically incorrect thoughts. Amy. Uh, so I’m expecting disagreement today and very likely will hear about it on facebook and twitter and all the other places that people shared their opinions on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I’m hopeful some of these politically incorrect thoughts will resonate with people and I’m also hopeful that some of these politically incorrect thoughts will cause you to flinch a moment, but then kind of assess and maybe even reconsider some of the things you’ve accepted to be true in the past ministry strategies, but I know amy, for someone wired like you, who’s more people focused, more people driven, more relational. When we start to talk about things that might create conflict, that doesn’t really resonate with you. For someone like me that’s driven by task and mission, I mean I still love people, but with that focus on task and mission and we talked about this and a podcast not too long ago rattling people’s cages just a little bit, trying to disrupt, disrupt people’s current thinking. That actually motivates me because I want the church to have a bigger impact. So I hope you hear my heart behind today’s conversation. It’s not to get you to disagree with me, it’s not to make you upset, it’s not, it’s not to cause any harm in our relationship between me and the listeners today is really just to provoke thinking and to cause us maybe to interrupt some of what our current thinking is to consider is a better place that we should be going with our ministry strategies so that the church can be healthier and have a greater impact in people’s lives. So before I share the politically incorrect thoughts, maybe it’s a good thing for me to share my heart behind it.

Amy Anderson:             03:13                That’s pretty good. Alright, you rattle them up and I’ll call them down on this topic. I think you covered 20 of these politically incorrect thought. So today we’re going to hit several of them, as many as we can. I’m thinking kind of a speed round style Tony, because you’re all amped up anyways because of the topic. That’s right. I’ll share the politically incorrect thought and then you respond with your thinking behind each one. Okay. Are you ready? I’m ready. Okay. Church is lack of focus. Spiritual formation strategy. You said they hide behind the fact that they have a full ministry calendar.

Tony Morgan:               03:50                That’s right. So, uh, here’s what we know from actual research that actually willow creek did for many years and thousands of churches and they looked at hundreds of thousands of believers and the steps that they took in the faith. Church programs, church events, church activities don’t help people become more like Jesus. In fact, full ministry calendars, the only goal that they achieve as they, they keep people busy but they don’t produce spiritual growth. And so here, the challenge here is busy Christians will never complain about this, but people that are concerned or realize that they are busy in real life, they’ll just stop showing up. So whatever those programs, events and activities are for busy people, they’ll just stop showing up. They’ll never complain that you’re engaging in a ministry strategy that’s just keeping them busy. They just won’t show up anymore. But in the process people will stay busy, but they won’t be actually taking next steps toward Christ. And so if you want to quick, if you want to quickly respond to this politically incorrect thought, I would encourage you to step back and ask the question, how did you become a fully devoted follower of Jesus? And you know, when I’ve asked a church leaders that question and they’ve responded honestly, they’re number one response is always a person, a relationship with somebody, a mentor, a small group leader, a coach, somebody in their life that they invested, time that invested time in them and challenge them to take a next step toward Jesus. And so rather than all of those activities, programs, events, I really think as much as churches, we need to create space for people to develop relationships, to encourage each other, to take her next steps toward Jesus.

Amy Anderson:             05:49                Alright, what’s behind this next one? You said I’d still hired children’s ministry pastor before a youth pastor.

Tony Morgan:               05:54                Yeah. So I just offended every youth pastor that’s listening today, by the way, they prefer a student pastor. I’ve learned that through the years. And I’m not saying student pastor shouldn’t try to continue to reach as many students for Jesus. They should do that. But our data shows this, that growing churches have growing, thriving kids ministries and conversely declining churches have growing, thriving student ministries. In other words, there’s actually no correlation, or maybe it’s an indirect correlation between the health of a student ministry and the health of a church. And so when we’re working with churches to continue to reach more people, help meet more people, take their next steps toward Christ, we challenged them to prioritize, prioritize first that health of their children’s ministry, and then the health of their student ministry. So in other words, we don’t want to. It’s not like we don’t want them to have healthy, thriving student ministries, right? Just know that when it comes to priority, if they have limited resources, focus staff time, whatever the case may be, they should first focus on having healthy, thriving children’s ministries.

Amy Anderson:             07:12                Got It. All right. Your next comment, if you’re trying to convince people to become members at your church, you’re fighting a losing battle.

Tony Morgan:               07:20                Yeah. And here’s the reality. Membership organizations of any color, whether that’s a service organization, think about, Awanas or Rotary or organizations like that. In fact, the fact anybody younger than 50 is asking, what are those organizations that Tony just mentioned? I used to be a rotarian though, and I was proud of it. I think about country club memberships, a think about church membership. In fact, anybody under 40 has probably never been a member of any organization and they’re not looking to join and become a member of a church. So rather than focus on membership, I would encourage you to just ask the question, what was the win with membership? Now, I would argue in most cases the win was engagement. We want people to engage in relationships and serving opportunities. We want people to be all in and in and engage the mission of the church. And so if that is the win, if that was the perceived win from membership in the past, then focus on engagement today. How do we help people engage but don’t require them to be members of the church?

Amy Anderson:             08:45                Okay, so I’m thinking of that comedian. You might be a Redneck If… Jeff Foxworthy. This might your issue if when we opened up your program at Church verse, it says welcome, and then it says how to become a member. I see that week after week, okay, sorry. Back to what you say. You said it doesn’t matter that you’re an expository or topical teacher if people are far from God,

Tony Morgan:               09:13                So nobody, but you and your pastor friends care if you are an expository teacher or a topical teacher there, so just a small circle of people who care about that. I would encourage you, instead of thinking about your methodology of teaching, that you’d be more concerned with the people who aren’t connecting to your teaching. That should be your bigger concern. And so I would encourage you as teachers of scripture to address the questions that people were asking with Biblical truth and love. Begin there. Don’t worry about is this an expository approach or a topical approach? Instead start addressing the questions that people are really asking. And what’s interesting to me, Amy, is the questions for believers and unbelievers are actually pretty similar. I mean, people are concerned. What’s my purpose in life? How do I engage with the way that I’m wired up? How do I engage? What am I supposed to do? How do I, how do I have relationships with a handful of people that are real, authentic were we’re encouraging each other and challenging each other? The common questions are really pretty similar. The perspectives may be that we respond to those questions might be different based on, I hope they are different based on our relationship with Jesus, but their common questions and as teachers, we should be sharing biblical truth in love and so beyond that. Then just making sure, however we teach, whether you decide I’m going to be an expository teacher and address the questions or I’m going to be a topical teacher and address the questions. Whatever method you decide, which no one cares about, uh, make sure that there’s a clear next step coming out of your teaching. And that’s,

Amy Anderson:             11:03                I wish every senior pastor would write that down. Just have a clear next step. Yes, yes. As you look at your weekend message, when you’re done, did we give a clear next step? Super easy, right? That’s right. It should be all right now. I think the staff, any staff members are going to love this. Next one. You’re going to your popularity. The student pastors might come back and join them.

Tony Morgan:               11:22                Yeah, so this was another politically incorrect thought I shared. Yes,

Amy Anderson:             11:26                Yes. You said it would serve many churches well to reduce their staff by 30 percent and give a generous pay increase to the remaining people. I guess just the remaining staff are happy,

Tony Morgan:               11:38                But the reason why I shared this politically incorrect thought is through our research with hundreds of churches, we found that growing churches typically have 30 percent fewer staff than declining churches. I mean, it was astounding. We started to look at the investment financial investment that churches were making and declining churches spend far more on staff than growing churches and so what I think we see happening in growing churches is they’ve realized we have a limited amount of financial resources and because of that we are going to prioritize hiring staff with a higher leadership capacity. And actually we’re going to talk in the next episode, Amy, about how the unstuck group helps churches identify leadership capacity. But this is critical, this is critical that when you have limited staffing dollars that you invest those dollars and people that have a higher leadership capacity and then work with those staff people to develop other leaders, primarily lay leaders, volunteer leaders in your church and build the volunteer teams. And if you take that approach to ministry, you will reduce the number of staff you have, but you will also increase your ability to pay them higher salaries. And that’s a good thing because it will help as well. It’ll force you to make sure you hire great people, but then you’ll be able to pay those great people that stay on your team and they won’t be looking for jobs in other positions. Hmm.

Amy Anderson:             13:23                Good. Alright, next politically incorrect statement. You said there’s no reason for any church of any size to have more than one board or committee.

Tony Morgan:               13:31                Yeah. In fact, what’s, what’s funny here is it’s actually the smaller churches that we work with that have bigger boards and many, many committees. Um, and my, my value here behind this politically incorrect thought is I want every person in leadership to be using their leadership gift to actually engage ministry, to be carrying out God’s mission rather than sitting in meetings. And in fact, we’ve run into churches through the years. Amy, there’s been some astonishing stories. And again, these tend to be smaller churches. So, uh, this one church had more than 200 deacons. Oh my goodness. And it was a church of less than a thousand people. So odds are pretty good. Anybody you would want run into would be a deacon in the church. And in fact, it probably is not going to surprise you too, that if you were, the only way you could be in a deacon at this particular church was to have the male gender as well. So if you think about almost every man in the church was a deacon at the church, another church we ran into had 33 different committees and they spent most of their ministry or just figuring out who that person is going to serve on what committee and another church. It was so complicated. They had a committee to fill all the committees. That was the only purpose of of that particular committee was to fill communities, so again, the heart behind this politically incorrect thought is to move people from talking about ministry to actually doing ministry and when churches make this shift at one board and eliminating all the other committees, we find they are more unified, they’re healthier and they’re having a greater impact.

Amy Anderson:             15:25                All right. I’m going to have about three more times then we’ll wind it up. Okay. I’m going to pick three of my favorites, a politically incorrect statement. Next, you said people have stopped inviting their friends to church because your services are boring and the teaching is irrelevant to their lives.

Tony Morgan:              

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Thinking about Renaming Your Church? Consider These Important Factors Before Moving Forward

Remember phone books? It’s been a while, I know, but they used to be our primary resource for finding local listings for pizza parlors, mattress stores, and churches.

If you found an old, local phone book and began to flip through it, you’d find that a lot of things have changed. You’d probably notice that you don’t recognize many of the church names in your area, not because they’ve closed up, but because they changed their names since. In fact, many churches have changed their name at least once in the past few decades.

Reflecting People and Culture

Church names used to be easy to come up with. They were simply descriptive of denomination and place. “We are the very first Baptist church in Reno, Nevada. What should we call ourselves?” Simple. “First Baptist Church of Reno!”

Or “Our building is going to be on Golden Road. What should we name it?” Easy. “Golden Road Bible Church!”

But as churches shifted toward more strategic outreach, and as church leaders became attentive to their branding and communications, church names started to become more reflective of the people and culture inside rather than their place on the map. Strategic Storytelling

In my role as Director of Strategy at PlainJoe Studios, I’ve had the privilege of guiding many churches through the branding and re-branding process, which we call “strategic storytelling.” We help churches identify their core story (their history, people, and culture) and then strategize how they will tell that story to the community they intend to serve. Often, that process includes deciding whether or not they should re-name the church.

I believe that strategic naming (whether for your church or business) should always follow a process that does two things; 1) ensures you’re aiming at something and 2) helps to narrow your focus in support of your organization’s purpose and story.

But before you call all the “creative people” in your congregation to a church name brainstorm (don’t do that, by the way), start by asking yourself (and your key leaders) some strategic questions that will guide you toward discovery of your church’s core identity. 6 Questions to Ask When Renaming Your Church

Put some thought into these questions to help guide your church re-naming discussions. Why do we want to rename our church?

If it’s not broke, don’t fix it… but if there’s a strategic reason to change your name, get out the tools. If you’re moving locations, transitioning leadership, or introducing a new missional focus, it might be the perfect time to change your name. Don’t change your name just because you’re bored. If you’re struggling internally, a new name is probably not your best solution. Beware the trap of changing your name to look “New and Improved” while under the hood, it’s the same old thing. What is our church’s history?

Your church stands on the shoulders of where you’ve been. Take time to discover your history. Your church was started by a particular group of people, at a particular time in history, and for a God-guided reason. Your history is marked by formative milestones which defined its place in the community and created the culture you share today. Some things have remained the same, and some things have changed drastically. Consider how your church’s history brought you to where you are today. Where are we headed?

Paint an imaginative picture of your preferred future. Close your eyes and imagine walking into your church five years from now. Think about what it looks like, how it feels. Consider what success looks like for your church and how you’ll be accomplishing your mission. With the future in mind, think about how well your current name might still fit or if there might be a better time to change the name in coordination with another strategic change—like a move or construction of a new building. What common themes seem to repeat in the life of our church?

Try to discern patterns in what God does through and in your church. God may have provided a scripture, metaphor, or distinct picture of your church’s identity and direction. Think about common phrases, sayings, or cultural touchstones that resonate with where you’re going as a church. Consider what the actual values of your church are, not the ones printed in the charter, but the things that are more caught than taught. Then imagine the elevator conversation where you describe your church and emphasize certain specifics to a stranger who has never attended. What kind of names are we drawn to?

There are different kinds of names. Determine what type and style fits best with where your church is headed. Ask yourselves what you hope for in a new name. Consider whether there are any non-negotiables that must be included or avoided in your name like a denomination or certain descriptor. Look around and decide if there are any local landmarks or geographical areas that should play into your new name. List some of the other church names you see as being effective and ask yourself why you’re drawn to them. How could our new name be interpreted negatively?

Don’t forget to look at your new name from all angles. Just because a good idea makes sense in an elders’ meeting doesn’t mean it translates the way you want it to for every audience. Ask yourselves what it might communicate to people outside of the church, and inside. There may be certain cues or connotations that can be inferred from the name that you haven’t thought of yet. Then take your name and smash it together into a website URL to see what new words it forms.

Re-naming your church is a monumental move. It’s not something to consider lightly. As you consider your new name, remember that it will be the most public reflection of your church’s identity deep into the future, even if they don’t bring phone books back.

The post 6 Critical Questions to Ask Before Renaming Your Church appeared first on TonyMorganLive.com.

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Join 4 Members of The Unstuck Group’s Team for a Timely Conversation


A few trends jumped out at us from the Q4 2018 edition of The Unstuck Church Report.
From increasing vs. decreasing weekly attendance, the relevance of church membership, and whether or not you should fire all of your part-time staffers… In this episode, I’m sharing the conversation I had with Amy, Sean, and Michael on a recent live webinar. It gets down into the nitty-gritty of what the numbers mean for your church.

You can join the conversation and get more resources by going to the Show Notes at theunstuckgroup.com/episode68.

In this conversation, we discussed:

  • What you should be concerned about if you see attendance declining while volunteering increases
  • Whether or not you should still expect people to want to become a member at your church
  • Why having a lot of part-time staff could be a concern for the health of your church long-term
  • The trends that concern us most and what we’d like to see happen
Join the Conversation

We’ll be talking about this more on Facebook and Twitter this week. Listen to the episode and then join in.

Some things we are hoping to discuss:

  • Which of these statistics was the most striking for you?
  • What did you learn in the transition from traditional to contemporary services that would help other churches?
  • How are you engaging people who only occasionally attend your church?

We use #unstuckchurch on Twitter. You can follow me @tonymorganlive and The Unstuck Group @unstuckgroup. If Facebook is where you spend your time, I’m there, too.

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Particularly on iTunes, your ratings and reviews really do help more pastors discover the podcast content I’m creating here. Would you take a minute to share your thoughts? Just open the the podcast on iTunes on your phone or computer, click Ratings & Reviews, and leave your opinion.

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Podcast Transcript

Tony Morgan:               00:00                Hey, before we start, I wanted to share a resource I’m finding churches need but don’t often realize they can actually afford the church lawyers is a solution focused national law firms serving the legal needs of churches of all sizes. Their membership program gives you high quality legal expertise that’s really affordable. The team prioritizes the relationship part of the attorney client relationship to learn more about becoming a part of their membership program, contact the church lawyers@thechurchlawyers.com.

Tony Morgan:               00:43                Welcome to the unstuck church podcast. I’m Tony Morgan, and each week we share a conversation our team has been having about getting churches unstuck. We recently released the quarterly unstuck church report, which includes trends and key insights that we’re seeing in areas of church health, including staffing, engagement, leadership, and finances. I recently had an opportunity to host a Webinar with Sean Bublitz, Michael Moore, and Amy Andrew saying all teammates at the unstuck group, and we discussed some of the findings in that report. So today’s podcast, we’re going to share some of the highlights from that Webinar. And let’s not delay. Let’s dive right into that conversation.

Sean Bublitz:                 01:24                Right. So let’s start here, let’s start out with some good news. Uh, there are several really encouraging things that we’ve seen on the current report, specifically in the ministry reach portion of our data. So, Tony, first question from you, we thought overall attendance, uh, the average attendance increased slightly by one point three percent. What do you make of the attendance numbers from this quarter’s report?

Tony Morgan:               01:46                Yeah, so it’s encouraging from the data to see attendance still increasing because we do know from all of the additional research that we’re monitoring as well that there’s no doubt about it. People are attending church less frequently and so for us to see any increase in attendance, much glassed we were expecting it’s going to be plateaued or because a people are attending less frequently, we expect always to see some decline in attendance numbers, but it’s, there is a slight increase still happening at least in the churches that were engaged with. And so, uh, I think this is good news. Uh, I mean, it’s good. It’s good for us in the church to hear people will still attend church services. That will still happen. But the key questions I think we need to be asking then our weak still creating compelling worship experiences that people want to participate in and that people want to invite their friends to. And so I think that’s one of the key questions that we have to continue to ask ourselves and then if people are attending less frequently, and again we know this to be the case from the data that seeing the next question is a question we need to be asking ourselves as church leaders, is this, are we in addition to measuring attendance, also measuring engagement. In other words, how are people engaging, connecting and engaging in the Ministry of the Church? Are they participating in groups? Are they participating in serving opportunities? Are they giving? Are they contributing to ministries outside the walls of the church, and even if attendance has plateaued or declining, in some instances, we need to be monitoring engagement to know that the reach of our ministry is continuing to expand, particularly not only with the people that are already connected to the church, but beyond the walls of our church churches as well. And the other thing I would add too is if people are attending churches less frequently, we do need to be more intentional about online options that are available and not only for on online services, but also other options for people to take next steps and those steps not only to be live experiences online but on demand as well. So those are, those are the, some of the things that Sean, I guess, again, good news that attendance is still increasing, but I think some key questions that we need to be asking still related to attendance.

Sean Bublitz:                 04:23                That’s really good. Thank you. Tony. Uh, amy question for you. Another reach metric we saw that stood out was related specifically to service styles. I’m less than one in four churches, still offers a traditional service. Why do you think that is?

Amy Anderson:             04:38                Well, I do think that’s a good trend that it’s moving in the right direction. Goes back to what Tony was saying, is that we have to design experiences that are going to draw in new people to church. And when I think about traditional services, I’m just going to say this through the lens of an evangelists and some of you have probably heard me say this before, but I think the weekend service is still the biggest front door for people who are checking out God and checking out faith. And I respectfully say that traditional services rarely reach new people to face those services were designed hundreds and hundreds maybe thousands of years ago with some of those service elements. And they did that because how they did church was to reach their communities while in these hundreds of years our communities have changed quite a bit. Um, and I, that the surface just has not caught up with that. And I do a lot of secret shoppers. And I was just at a couple of churches this past few months with the traditional service. And my general experience was this a first, there was a bunch of people who are mingling around at the beginning of the service and then they started to sing songs with lyrics that I did not understand. Um, then there were some group ratings were, it was kind of almost sounded like again to an outsider, people droning through something. We Sat, we stood, um, and then I was rarely welcomed, are guided through that to know what to expect. And so my takeaway was these were nice people who seem to enjoy whatever I just experienced, but it just confirmed that church wasn’t the place for me and you know, I gave it one hour to try to reconnect with church or maybe come for the first time, but when I haven’t experienced like that, it just doesn’t feel relevant and I don’t think people come back. So all that to say I think that we’re reducing the number of traditional services is good. But I also saw that 28 percent are still trying to blend contemporary and traditional together and blended services kind of have the same experience. It’s kind of like if you got a Vegan and a meat eater and you say, well, we can’t just have meat or veggies, so it’s blended all together. No one really has the experience that they want. So, um, I, I continue to encourage churches, the churches that we see that are healthy and that are growing, they have one service style and they designed it around both the people they’re trying to reach and the believers that they’re trying to help grow up and take next steps in their faith. They designed that service, they do it with as much excellence as they can and then they repeat it as many times as they can because people are so busy these days. And so if you’ve got a church service at 9:30, that may not work for everybody every weekend. So then they’ve got an 11:00, maybe they can go to same service, um, and maybe even on a Saturday night at four or 5:00. So growing churches tend to have one style and repeat it as much as they can.

Tony Morgan:               07:25                Aspects of the unstuck church report to looking at ministry connection. And uh, so with that, uh, actually Michael, I want you to respond to this. First question is interesting. Looking at the data this past quarter, we saw one in six churches has discontinued membership or some partnership type of commitment and I’m curious what your take on that shift that’s starting to take place and do you think that’s going to be a growing trend going forward?

Michael Moore:            07:57                Yeah. I’m not surprised by the, a one and six churches who discontinued the membership commitments? Um, it’s about 16 percent. My take on it is I do believe in the next three to five years, did that 16 percent will continue to grow. That percentage will continue to increase primarily for two reasons. One, a lot of the churches that we consult and work with at the onset group there, they’re wanting to reach a younger demographic. They’re wanting to either reach younger families or young adults, period. And a lot of millennials, a lot of the younger generation want to be engaged. They want to connect in community. They want to search inside of the church and outside the church. But they tend to shy away from that formal membership commitment, especially, especially at pride or especially in the beginning. And so, um, I think as we see more churches continue to want to reach a younger demographic, even if it’s something that they track in the background, I think that they’ll begin to prioritize some other metrics, uh, similar to what you revert to when your portion, which is centered around engagement. How many people are supporting our mission through their finances, how many people are supporting our mission through their time. Um, and I think we’ll see that trend continue to increase because as a church leader specifically for me and I know that others can attest to it, uh, getting information about engagement sales us a lot more about the health of our churches than just who’s crossed that line of membership commitment. Um, several years ago. And in my home church, we decided to see a week to clean up that membership commitment number. And when we began to look at our original membership, a number through the filter of engagement, how many people were giving a, how many people we’re serving, how many of that roster we’re actually connected in community. Uh, we saw the membership number actually dropped by about 50 percent when we looked at the actual number of people who were engaged. So from the usefulness of the data plus his churches continue to drift toward reaching a younger demographic. I think that they’re going to continue to prioritize engagement numbers over membership, commitment numbers, and I would encourage them to do so.

Sean Bublitz:                 10:16                That’s good. That’s very good. Michael. Tony. So another question for you, just as we’re talking about engagement here in this quarter’s report, we saw both small group participation and volunteering. We’re up from the last report. So how, how do you interpret that? Is that just all good news?

Tony Morgan:               10:33                Well, it can be good news. Uh, I’m gonna I’m going to believe the best and assume it’s good news. People are taking steps of maturity. That means they’re also connecting and biblical community through groups. They’re also using the spiritual gifts God’s given them and they’re serving more in the church. I’m going to believe the best, but as leaders we also have to look at information like that with a bit of caution and make sure we’re asking all the questions and as more people take steps of maturity, just making sure we’re also continuing to connect with people that are on the very front end of their spiritual maturity or maybe not even yet have committed their life to Jesus and so sometimes when we’re working with churches and we see high percentages of small group participation in volunteering numbers, but the church is in decline as far as attendance. That raises a red flag and it’s even a higher red flag. Then when we see the baptism numbers are also down because what that suggest is we have people that love Jesus and they’re taking steps of spiritual maturity. It’s being reflected in how they invest their time and their resources in the church being in connection with the Ministry of the church, but if we’re not reaching new people and new people aren’t giving their life to Jesus, then that raises a red flag and all of those next steps are good. But we also have to make sure the church continues to remain outward focused as well, and so it may not surprise folks that are listening, but it’s not uncommon for us to go into a church that’s either in the maintenance phase of the life cycle or preservation phase and find they actually have very strong numbers when it comes to smaller group connections and volunteer numbers, but the church is still in decline. And the reason why is although there’s high percentage engagement there, people are not inviting their friends, new people aren’t coming. Guests are way down as far as first time guests, the church and the church has kind of lost its outward focused. So we just need to make sure the front door remains open as we also see that increase in ministry connection. Sean.

Sean Bublitz:                 12:52                Yeah, really good. So following this conversation about volunteer engagement, I think we also need to have a conversation about ministry staffing in particular. And in the report we have several different key pieces of data about staffing. Amy, a question for you on one of these churches are increasingly leaning on part time staff or the average church has 56 percent of their staff working part time. That’s up for 50 percent last year. By comparison, the national average is 17 percent of part time workers according to the Department of Labor. So help us interpret that. Is this a good thing, a bad thing? Just a thing. What is it?

Amy Anderson:             13:30                Well, I think generally when we’re looking at part time hours, um, if that’s a growing number at your church, that’s probably not a sign of health within your church. You’re most likely a pain someone to do what volunteers should be doing at your church. When we see high part time numbers at a church, it indicates that we’re hiring people to do things at the church versus hiring people to lead people, to do things at the church. And in other words, we’re very big on me. Ephesians four model that the pastors and teachers are there to equip God’s body to do the Ministry of the church. And so if you’re seeing that climb, just a couple things that I would, um, raise for you. Number one, you have to assess if you have leaders in your leadership positions, meaning, you know, when I see churches especially that are growing from that $500,000 mark and those years of growth, that growth is hard. There’s a lot of people, ministries getting a little messy. That’s usually when we start to exercise this, well, let’s just hire someone part time muscle. And so we ended up hiring part time and all these pockets of our church and all of a sudden we’re a fairly large church and we’ve hired a lot of people who are great at doing things, but we haven’t hired the leaders to lead the ministry into the future. So I think you kind of have to assess, do we have leaders in leadership positions? Because if you do, you’ll see that behavior that raising up additional leaders and giving and empowering even volunteer leaders to take into run with ministry. Um, and if this is a problem, the best book that I’ve ever read on this, it’s called designed to lead by Eric Geiger and Scott Pack. And I loved one of their first, one of his perspectives, he said, a church is a community of gifted people, not a community of people with a gifted pastor. So we have to break. You have to break this, um, this habit of hiring because what happens is the church culture actually just starts to expect if we want some ministry done, we just have to hire someone. We’re really, God’s kingdom is the reverse of that, which is we as a church body are the ones who ought to be leading and equipping the body..

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Your Building Is Telling a Story

Your church building might be communicating more than you think. Your architecture is either helping or hindering your ministry. From the design to the people in charge of it all, there are ways to leverage your church building that actually help your church’s mission.

Mel McGowan is Co-Founder of PlainJoe Studios as well as a church architect. In this conversation, Mel shares with me his compelling thoughts on the theology of church architecture and practical insights into the building process.

In this conversation, we discussed:

  • The two things great church architecture does
  • Why a building committee will ruin your building
  • The ideal process for building a church building
  • Steps any church can take to make their space better
Join the Conversation

We’ll be talking about this more on Facebook and Twitter this week. Listen to the episode and then join in.

Some things we are hoping to discuss:

  • How have you updated your space to make it more welcoming?
  • What did you learn in the building process that you wish someone had told you beforehand?
  • What are some of the most creative features of church buildings you’re seeing connect with the next generation?

We use #unstuckchurch on Twitter. You can follow me @tonymorganlive and The Unstuck Group @unstuckgroup. If Facebook is where you spend your time, I’m there, too.

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Podcast Transcript
  • Tony Morgan:               00:10                Welcome to the unstuck church podcast. My name is Tony Morgan, and every week we’re having a conversation about helping your church get unstuck and this week it’s going to be unique because I think I’m talking to one of the most interesting people in the world. Uh, he may not describe themselves that way, but he does share a little bit of his background in this interview. I’m going to be talked with Mel McGowan and Mel is the chief creative officer at plain Joe Studios. They’re working with churches and really all sorts of organizations when it comes to spatial storytelling, environmental design, a boy, they handle all kinds of other aspects of communications including web, social media, things along those lines. But today we’re going to be talking specifically about church architecture and why that matters both for big and small churches. And in this conversation you’ll hear some practical steps that really any church can apply to moving in the right direction when it comes to facility planning way, finding environmental design and just thinking about the spaces that we’re trying to create for ministry. So here’s my conversation with Mel.
  • Tony Morgan:               01:23                Well, it’s great to reconnect with you. First of all, just give us a little bit of your story. I mean, it’s an intriguing story, but give us a little bit about who you are and your connection plane, Joe.
  • Mel McGowan:             01:36                Sure thing. Well, I’m, I guess a unusual background. Uh, I grew up without really any relationship to church or priced actually was a military brat. Born in Vietnam, grew up in Europe, post-christian, uh, Germany, uh, pursued a path pretty early on. Originally film, uh, went to USC film school and then got a graduate degree and master planning and design. But I went to work for the Walt Disney Company. Spent a decade at Disney, uh, kinda. That was my real training camp slash graduate school again the whole time. Never really realizing that, uh, that there might be an opportunity to plug into a, the ministry. Um, when I accepted Christ a kind of as a, a young adult. I definitely had a tug towards evangelism. But, uh, it was pretty frustrated at my lack of verbal communication skills I have. I couldn’t complete a sentence without saying, dude, at least twice any kind of a missionary.
  • Mel McGowan:             02:38                Um, so I just kept drawing, you know, and um, and again, it was a kind of a, a random thing where I’m a really the seeds of plain joe was sitting down with my brother, uh, another friend named Mike Foster. Um, and uh, we thought that there might be a way to somehow redeem and leverage. I’m kind of a unique experience, brain damage, a skill sets we have acquired kind of in the corporate world and somehow apply that to the kingdom and basically help the church tell a better story. Um, so that’s really the, the seed of plane, just so I have the privilege of, of getting to have kind of the, the Co founder a card, a title on my business card, but, uh, I really kind of focused on the role of chief creative officer, a overt plain zone. Our approach of telling stories in three dimensions.
  • Tony Morgan:               03:29                Yeah. And that’s the thing. I mean, plain joe offers so many great solutions, not only for churches but other organizations. Uh, however, today we’re going to focus our conversation as it relates to church architecture and why that should matter to churches and their ministry strategy. And by the way, we’re not just talking about large churches today. We’re talking about churches of all sizes. And here’s where I want to begin the conversation. Now, some might say actually that you have a radical perspective to church architecture, um, in the fact that you, I believe, I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, it isn’t helping us reach who we’re trying to reach. The architecture becomes actually becomes a barrier to the ministry that we’re trying to accomplish. And so I’d love to hear your perspective. Uh, why, why is church architecture are critical to our ministry strategy?
  • Mel McGowan:             04:24                Well, I’m not sure what’s radical about the idea of blowing up the word church architect, but, uh, you know, again, I think when you put those two words together, people instantly come up with that. A little children’s rhyme, you know, I don’t even know how it goes. You know, here’s the fold your hands, here’s the steeple and roll. Here’s the people, you know, something. No, there’s actually, um, some truth to that in terms of that is a box and a paradigm that people are stuck onto what churches should look, taste, feel like, what, what it means. Uh, and just in a nutshell, to me that common definition has something to do with the idea of being a modern day Kinda temple builder, a Modern Day Solomon and, and building this sacred space that how’s a certain, uh, visual and architectural vocabulary that you know, is kind of architects called the timeless rules. A liturgical design, you know, of ascension through stairs and ramps or, um, you know, natural light filtering in and, and physiologically psychologically manipulating you into feeling like you’re somehow stepping on to a higher or wholly hallowed ground. Um, and the reality is that, um, you know, as New Testament Christians, we’ve kind of learned that Jesus wasn’t all that impressed with the temple. And then in fact, where the temple, uh, and that, um, you know, that the, the idea of a being a modern temple builder or a sacred space, quite quote church designer, um, is, is kind of a little a theologically incorrect, unless you understand that what Christ is really called us to do is kind of take the shovel and dig boy like an addict. These post modern versions of Jacob’s well to that contemporary Samaritan. Uh, you know, that that woman at Jacob’s well that is not even remotely interested in, in finding a website to find a church and do some church shopping on Sunday. I mean, she’s just trying to survive the life, get a drink. Uh, and the ability to again, create designs that get all the layers, the noise out of the way. Just like, again, she had a lot of layers in geography and cultural and spiritual barriers that, uh, kinda separated her from getting the to Jerusalem, getting past the court of gentiles getting into the holy place. Uh, there’s no way that she would have crossed all those boundaries to get to where the presence of God was supposed to be, but that didn’t stop the God of the universe from busting through space and time to connect with her where she was at just again trying to get a drink. And then the same way when we design spaces, they can either facilitate those connections. And I, to me, it’s just all great design joins Christ in that Gospel Restoration of that broken cross shaped vertical and horizontal connection, again, horizontally with each other, with our families, our neighbors in vertically with, uh, the crater and with creation, that’s what great design does. That’s what great architecture does. Uh, and again, um, I think that’s not the way that most architects think about architecture. It’s not the way that most people think about churches. So when I launched actually, um, I kind of have the brand, the anti-church church architect, I was pretty convinced that, uh, you know, church architects that are just rubber stamping the same, uh, same old, same old without really questioning kind of a theological premise. And, and it really having a heart for evangelism and discipleship. We’re really kind of getting in the way more than actually facilitating.
  • Tony Morgan:               07:58                Well, uh, that’s probably one of the reasons why I’ve appreciated you so much through the years, Mel, is because I have a similar, a lack of appetite, I guess, for ministry strategies that churches use that really aren’t helping us fulfill the mission God called us to. But we’re doing those ministry strategies because we’ve always done them. I’m just a side note, uh, the church steeple as an example. I’ve always been curious about that. I’ve never saw any mention of a steeple actually in scripture, but do you know what the history of the Church steeple is?
  • Mel McGowan:             08:34                Would relate probably back to gothic architecture. But I think the reality is there was in medieval era as you know, I mean, of course the original cathedrals were just the Roman basilicas, you know, that, that the Roman public halls, shopping malls, that they basically converted. but as far as that vertical, a bell tower as fire element, you know, I think it just had to do with, the central lot of faith in the medieval era and you know, that was the center point of community that was the heart of the Piazza and having that tallest high hill that verticality, you know, in a way that it does kind of mirror what culture at the time is valuing. So just like one of the earliest Manhattan High Rise was the woolworth tower, they called it the Cathedral of commerce and they specifically took that gothic architecture language because they were basically saying what we’re worshiping now. And so it’s kind of interesting how that changes over time, whether it’s a sports arena, whether it’s a concert hall, whether it’s the Google plex or whatever.
  • Tony Morgan:               09:43                So already, you’re kind of hitting at typical church architects. And I hope we don’t have any other church architects listening to this. Podcasts are going to come after me after this conversation with you. But let’s take it a step further. Now. Let’s go after the typical process that a church engages whence they decide we need to build a building or renovate a property or whatever that might look like. What’s wrong with that standard operating procedure that churches use where typically they would appoint a building committee than hire an architect. I mean, what could go wrong with a church committee?
  • Mel McGowan:             10:20                Well, I’m convinced there’s a room for a reality TV show called church gone wild. Basically know against somehow some way, um, I don’t think they teach it in seminary school, but somehow guys get out of school with, through Osmosis or something with some perception that there is this standard operating procedure, sop of how tricked projects are supposed to happen. It goes something like this. Basically, there’s no one person, uh, you know, especially the senior pastor that wants to take the, the credit and slash, or the responsibility of trying to pretend to be a real estate developer when in fact they, they skipped Harvard’s a MBA program or graduate school of design. They basically appoint a committee, right? You know, council wisdom of a group. The problem with that committee approach is that there’s no one person really taking a core responsibility. The other problem with is you might have some real rock stars on that committee. You might have the biggest contractor in town, the best developer in town, the best architect in town, but they’re used to their opinion being worth something, you know, if it’s their area of expertise and they’re used to charging $150 an hour and people really listening to their advice, they get in this committee and their voice is worth the same as a, the chairperson of the women’s decorating committee and, and, you know, over the process when see their, uh, their voluntary time, a kind of, uh, being wasted when they’re seeing poor decisions getting made or, or people not understanding the time value of money. That can be really frustrating. And it’s, it’s actually quite a common occurrence for either senior pastors or pastors involved with building projects or committee members to actually end up leaving the church or leaving ministry, um, out of these. But anyways, to get back to the ideal process, you have a, a perfect building committee. Uh, they provide a perfect wishlist. Uh, they, they hire the only person in town that’s actually gone through the process before a, which probably is a local church architect. I mean typically the way that starts as one guy, uh, volunteered his time and learned on, on the expense of his churches back how to do church architecture. Um, and then he gets a referral to a, you know, his past, refers them to another guy in town and he becomes the local, Goto church architect. And again, usually is a godly good, nice guy with a solid reputation. Not necessarily very designed, but he’s kind of a trustworthy guy that’s been through the process. The problem there though is the way architects have been trained as they’re kind of like waitresses that just take orders, you know, that, um, you know, the waitresses job is not to do a credit check and figure out if you’re going to be able to pay the bill or end up in the kitchen doing dishes afterwards. Her job is to ask questions and hear clearly on what you would like for dinner, you know, and the flame and Yon. And uh, you know, in your wallets a nonexistent, that’s not her problem. She just has to transfer the information to the kitchen. And again, that’s what a good architect is wired and trained to do is to literally take the order, take the wishlist and brought up. I literally just yesterday was talking to one of the top national financial gurus with churches and he, he told me the story of the Church architect that actually said specifically he absolutely does not want any financial expertise in the room when they’re going through the predesign and design process because that would basically hinder his ability to be creative and to anything out of the box. And, and the reality is there’s, there’s actually studies that say 75 percent of the plans that get paid for and run up, get thrown away because of having no bearing in any type of fiscal financial, a reality. No one, everyone ignored. Just basically count the cost of the tower before at least designing it, if not our drawing it in building it. But, but again, in that perfect world, perfect committee hires a perfect church architect, uh, who gets all the wishlist, draws up the requirements that goes out to bid and we call that a, you know, design, bid, build, I call it the blind poker game where the winter is the guy that had the lowest bid. And again, everyone assumes that that’s again, a perfect contractor that is going to the project for something that resembles that winning low bid. Uh, and of course anyone that’s been to that project or that process understands that that bid no does not resemble in any way, shape or form what the final cost is because typically it’s, it’s pretty common for the contractor to have looked through the documents and the drawings to have already identified. I’m pretty good a number of errors, a missions and consistencies, and basically has a number of change orders already in his back pocket that, you know, once you’re in the midst of construction trying to hit an opening day, you’re kind of just add his mercy. So there’s no negotiation, no competitive bidding a at that point. And the reality is that that process that I just described, a design bid build is not one that in my career working with commercial clients know, savvy developer ever uses that approach. And most governments these days or.
  • Tony Morgan:               15:47                Yeah, that was going to be the obvious question I was going to ask you because you’ve worked with are organizations other than churches, none of the other organizations build the bill. Start with the building committee. Right,
  • Mel McGowan:             16:01                Exactly. I mean, the idea of actually having a professional project manager that has experience in development is, is kind of a starting point, no brainer because at the end day a committee not move decisions down a critical path efficiently and uh, and take the responsibility.
  • Tony Morgan:              
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