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Manage the Tension Between Growing Your Church & Growing People

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This is how I imagine we got here: Some time ago, there must have been a pastor who was just focused on growing attendance, but the pastor was too lazy to do the hard work of encouraging the church to grow spiritually and mature in Christ.

And then on the other side, there must’ve been a pastor who was just focused on helping Christians grow spiritually, but the pastor was too lazy to do the hard work of helping the church fulfill the great commission by reaching people outside the faith with the Gospel.

I’m assuming that’s where this false dichotomy came from: the idea that you can’t both grow a church and help people grow as disciples.

I’m being a little sarcastic, but you get the idea. I’m sure somewhere, someplace those two churches still exist, but I can tell you that after helping nearly 400 churches engage in The Unstuck Process, it’s become very clear that truly healthy, thriving, growing churches are focused on both sides of the equation. They’re effective in their evangelism strategies to reach people outside the church and outside the faith, and they’re effective in their discipleship strategies to help people take their next steps toward Christ.

You can’t sustain health without addressing both.

So, in this episode, Amy and I discussed some reasons we commonly see churches struggling to help people take next steps to become more like Jesus.

  • The false dichotomy of church growth vs. spiritual growth
  • Why we see some churches prioritizing steps on a discipleship path over membership
  • The best practice for effectively making the shift from programs to a path
  • How many churches act like a “helicopter parent” and ultimately raise spiritual children who are unable to own their own spiritual journey

Most churches are still trying to program spiritual growth rather than offering a path. All of those ministries and programs compete with each other: People don’t know how to prioritize the steps they should take. #unstuckchurch…
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There's a misconception that spiritual maturity is the church's responsibility: It's not. #unstuckchurch [episode 102]
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Share Your Thoughts and Questions on Social Media

We use #unstuckchurch on Twitter, and we start a real-time conversation each Wednesday morning when the episode drops. You can follow me @tonymorganlive and The Unstuck Group @unstuckgroup. If Facebook is where you spend your time, I’m there, too. Links & Resources from the Episode

Write a Review—It Helps!

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. Transcript 

Tony: 00:00 It’s really impossible to disconnect Jesus’ command to love God and to love others. They go hand in hand and spiritual formation begins with loving God, but if it doesn’t lead us to love the people around us, the people that God loves, the people that God puts in our lives, we’re really not fully mature believers.

Sean: 00:23 Welcome to The Unstuck Church podcast where each week we’re exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. Many churches struggle with the tension between evangelism and spiritual growth. Some have grown frustrated with the challenge of trying to reach our culture and have chosen to focus on discipleship. Others have seen the current opportunity to lean fully into evangelism with less focus on the next steps. So which strategy is right? In this week’s episode, Tony and Amy take a look at how unstuck churches are managing the tension between the growing attendance and growing spiritually. Make sure before you listen to subscribe, to get the show notes in your inbox each week. You can get links to all of the resources we mentioned, the leader conversation guide for you and your team and bonus resources all conveniently delivered to your email. You can sign up by going to theunnstuckgroup.com/podcast, or you can grab the show notes at theunstuckgroup/102. You can also join the conversation on social media by using the #unstuckchurch when you post. Connect with Tony, Amy, myself, and explore this episode as well as others. And now here’s this week’s conversation with Tony and Amy.

Amy: 01:30 So before we jump into this topic today, forgive me, but I’m a little confused, Tony. I thought you were the church growth guy, but why are we talking about spiritual growth?

Tony: 01:40 Ah, it’s always good to start a podcast with a bit of sarcasm, right? I hear that in your voice, Amy, but I’ll play along. Yes, I’m familiar with this false dichotomy that you’ve referenced that suggests if you’re focused on growing the church by reaching more people for Jesus, you probably aren’t helping people grow spiritually and vice versa. People since the beginning of time maybe have been talking about this, but at least I know in the last 20 years I’ve been in ministry, that’s a common conversation and I’ve always assumed that false dichotomy was started by lazy church leaders who didn’t want to effectively provide spiritual leadership to their congregation. So it’s also good when we start with sarcasm and then I try to attack pastors in the same breath. So there you go.

Amy: 02:30 That’s why we have such a loyal listening group.

Tony: 02:34 So, you know, on one side there must have been a pastor who was just focused on growing attendance, but the pastor was too lazy to do the hard work of encouraging the church to grow spiritually and mature in Christ. And then on the other side, there must’ve been a pastor who was just focused on helping Christians grow spiritually, but the pastor was too lazy to do the hard work of helping the church fulfill the great commission by reaching people outside the faith with the Gospel. I’m assuming that’s where that false dichotomy came from and I’m sure somewhere someplace those two churches still exist. But I can tell you after helping nearly 400 churches engage the unstuck process through the years that unstuck churches, those churches that are truly healthy, thriving, growing – they’re focused on both sides of the equation. They’re effective in their evangelistic strategies to reach people outside the church and outside the faith, and they are effective in their discipleship strategies to help people take their next steps toward Christ. You can’t sustain health without addressing both.

Amy: 03:44 Right? Well, with that as a foundation, we’ve talked in the past about why churches are stuck when it comes to reaching new people through their weekend services. In fact, you recently talked with Jeff Brody at Connexus Church about their turnaround when it comes to reaching first-time guests. By the way, listeners, if you missed that episode, you really need to go back and listen to that interview with Tony and Jeff. I believe it’s episode 97, but today though we’re going to focus on the reasons why churches get stuck with their discipleship or spiritual formation strategies. So let’s dive in. Tony, what’s one reason why churches don’t produce spiritual growth?

Tony: 04:19 Yeah, one reason is churches are still trying to program spiritual growth rather than offering a path for spiritual formation. You know, I included in The Unstuck Church book these two diagrams. One is a picture of a church, and it’s just filled with different individual programs within the church: ministries, programs, events, and then a second church. The picture is of a church that has clarified just here are four steps you can take in your spiritual journey. And what we have seen working with churches through the years is that the churches that shift from programs to a path instead, that’s where more spiritual formation is taking place. In churches that are more program-driven, that first picture that I described. Those, those churches end up with a lot of ministries and a lot of programs. And our initial thought would be, “Well, great, there are just more options for people”

Tony: 05:25 But instead what we see is that all of those ministries in all those programs tend to start competing with each other when there’s not a clarified pathway. And so the pathway is necessary because first it helps people understand what’s my next step and it encourages movement and it encourages engagement. It helps people understand if I’m connecting to the church, if I want to be a part of the church, then I need to engage the pathway. When just have programs, ministries, and they’re good ministries, it’s not a question of whether or not the ministries are providing help to people if they are a part of somebody’s spiritual journey – that’s not the question. The question is, are we encouraging that movement? Are we encouraging those next steps? And when you have many different separate ministries competing with each other for people’s time and attention, we’re not seeing that movement.

Tony: 06:25 We don’t see people take their next steps toward Christ. In fact, in many churches, we’re seeing them begin to prioritize the spiritual pathway, the discipleship pathway over membership itself. And the reason why is when they want people to connect to their church, they don’t want them just to connect in membership, they want them to engage a spiritual formation process that we’re talking about today. So with that, what we’re seeing a best practice in churches that make this shift from programs to a path is they identify one leader that oversees the entire pathway. And you can think about it from the moment someone leaves your Sunday worship service. Every other next step that they take beyond Sunday worship. These churches have one leader over that entire path and one team supporting that path. And so rather than having, as an example, a separate small group ministry, a separate volunteer team ministry, a separate missions ministry, or separate men’s and women’s ministries or whatever, the components are of your discipleship strategy, that they’re all part of one team. And when you have one team like that with one leader, the wind becomes the pathway itself, the wind becomes the next steps people are taking on that pathway and the whole team is pulling together to see that movement on the path.

Amy: 07:57 Tony, you know, I do staffing structure quite a bit and that has been a game-changer for many churches that we’ve worked with. So you still do have a separate groups person. You still do have a separate outreach person, a separate serving person, however, that one leader glues them all together and they make strategic decisions together and it just completely eradicates that competition mindset for volunteers, for resources, for all of those things, and it makes the message crystal clear to the church. Well, I’ve heard church leaders question having a path because some people aren’t linear thinkers. How do you respond to that?

Tony: 08:34 I agree. There are a lot of nonlinear thinkers out there, but again, the wind is moving and let’s just be honest, nonlinear thinkers, they may jump around in the pathway, especially if they’ve been around the church for some time. But that’s still a win and they’re still taking steps just may not be taking the steps in the same order. What I do know is that for new people, especially people that are new to your church or new to the faith, they need clarity around what you’re encouraging them to do next, especially if they’re new to the faith, they needed that clear path of next steps. And even in those cases, if they happen to jump around, who cares. If they’re engaging biblical community and serving others and gaining an appreciation for building relationships with people in their lives so that they can share their story.

Tony: 09:28 That’s a win. That’s discipleship. A good example of this, a couple of weeks ago I was flying with my mother in law. We were flying back together, uh, to her home in Ohio. Amy, you know, I fly almost every week, and so when I go to the airport, I go through the battle of air travel completely different than most people. Rather than going to the arrival area, going to check-in, checking my bags, going through security, jumping straight to the gate, boarding the flight, actually being on the flight to get to my destination. I’ve learned the shortcuts and me kind of work my way around the system. But I can do that because I’ve been on a plane before and in fact, I’m on it often, but for the person that’s brand new to the flying experience, my mother in law does not fly every week, we needed to walk through every step in the process so that she could get to her final destination. And that’s my encouragement; that’s my challenge to you is that as churches, let’s acknowledge, yeah, there’s going to be some nonlinear thinkers, but for new people, they need your help. They need clarity about what the next steps are so that you can help them get to their destination as well.

Amy: 10:45 That’s a great example. Okay. Well, one reason why churches don’t produce spiritual growth is that they haven’t moved from programs to a path. That’s what you just went through. So what’s another reason?

Tony: 10:55 So a second reason is that churches are too focused on keeping people busy. My friend Greg Hawkins and Kelly Parkinson used to be on the staff team at Willow Creek Community Church and they wrote a book several years ago on spiritual growth in churches. That book is called “Move”. And by the way, if you’re concerned that your church is stuck when it comes to spiritual formation or discipleship, I highly recommend that book. Again, it’s called “Move” and you can still find it on Amazon. One of the quotes that caught my attention when I read through the book the first time is this, I want to share this with you. They wrote, “Unfortunately, churches often make things harder still by obscuring the goal, which is to become more like Christ with a complicated assortment of activities. For instance, encouraging people to attend teaching and worship services every week, to frequently in small community and Bible study groups, often requiring followup communications and homework, serving the church a couple times a month, serving those who are under-resourced on a regular basis, inviting friends, co-workers and family to church, special events, support groups, et cetera.”

Speaker 1: 12:12 “When the church incessantly promotes all the things people should do, it’s very easy for them to lose sight of their real goal, which is who they should become.” So I read that and I tell you what personally, it was so convicting because I’m reading that list and I’m thinking I’m a leader in the church and I’m encouraging people to do all those things. And if we’re not careful, and here I’m not just talking to traditional churches, I’m talking to modern churches, I’m talking to every church. If we are just focused on keeping people busy in the church, that doesn’t help them become more like Jesus. In fact, if we’re not careful, we might find ourselves repeating the same mistakes that the Pharisees made by creating our own burdens and expectations for people to follow in order to be a good Christian.

Tony: 13:05 And Jesus didn’t say, my yoke is really difficult and my burden is heavy. But sometimes our ministry calendars and expectations imply that that’s what Jesus said.

Amy: 13:18 I would think some of our pastors, that might be what they’re saying my yoke is really difficult and my burden is really heavy.

Tony: 13:24 Yes. So, that’s the challenge. I think a couple of things provide answers to us on how we can avoid pushing busy-ness on people. One is what we just talked about a little bit by creating a pathway. And you may have a lot of options and opportunities for ministries and programs in your church, but if you can roll that under a clear pathway with maybe three, four or five steps, that will help people understand that it’s not about doing everything, but there are some critical next steps that I need to be taking in my faith. And one example where we do this, where we provide a lot of options and many churches, this is around either Sunday school classes or small groups.

Tony: 14:10 We don’t promote typically individual Sunday school classes on Sunday morning or we don’t promote individual small groups on Sunday morning. Instead what we do is we encourage people to take a step into the biblical community and then once they say, yes, I want to do that, then we begin to reveal all of the options that might be available. So it’s one example where we’re already probably using that concept of a path to not only encourage the next steps but to make it easier for people to this to select from all of the ministries that are available. But on top of that, a second thing that we’ve talked about in the past, and you can go back and listen to our previous podcast is we’ve talked about the biblical concept of pruning. And in many churches, we’ve encountered one of the reasons why people are so busy is because so many ministries, programs, and events are being offered by churches. And so this is where, if we’re going to help people to be on this faith journey, if we want to encourage movement and next steps, part of our responsibilities, make sure we’re not trying to push too much, that we’re not trying to just encourage people to stay busy all the time.

Amy: 15:30 Okay. So we’ve talked about the lack of a clear path and keeping people busy as barriers to spiritual formation. Are there any more?

Tony: 15:37 Yeah, I have many more, but let’s go with this last one today. Another reason why your church isn’t producing spiritual growth is that your church has become a spiritual journey. In other words, when the expectation is that spiritual formation if it’s going to happen, is solely the church’s responsibility, you have a problem. Let me explain a little bit further. Our relationship with Christ is about surrendering our life to Jesus, not to the church. Spiritual formation happens in..

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1 Effective Strategy Very Few Churches Are Using

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You won’t know this unless you’ve been following my work for a long time, but I was actually a very early adopter of podcasting. My friend Tim Stevens and I had a podcast called the Simply Strategic Show about 12 or 13 years ago—maybe even longer. I can’t remember :-)

The fun Tim and I had creating the content probably outweighed the actual value it brought to the listeners, but we loved it. We did that for about a year, and then I was out of podcasting for a long, long time.

A few years ago my team at The Unstuck Group encouraged me to pick podcasting back up, and Sean Bublitz, one of our ministry consultants, has been extremely helpful moving it forward.

Why this history lesson? Because I think a lot of church leaders heard about podcasting a long time ago and either tried it and gave it up, or never really gave it a shot at all, and many have misconceptions about how they could be using a podcast strategy to help people take their next steps as disciples.

Honestly, when we were planning this episode we tried to come up with a list of great church podcasts to share with you and we gave up. We just couldn’t get a solid list together.

The truth is, many churches have a podcast, but it’s not the kind we’re talking about. Most just post the audio from their weekend teaching online and that’s it. Not very strategic. Or creative. And at the same time our churches are rapidly becoming the place people don’t go for answers for their lives’ questions.

So, in this episode, Sean Bublitz joined Amy and me to talk about podcasting as a part of your ministry strategy. Here are some of the things we discussed:

  • Why podcasting makes sense as a strategy for making disciples
  • Why podcasting is a key way to connect with Millennials (2/3 of podcast listeners are under 44)
  • How podcasts diverge from our modern understanding of attention spans
  • The kinds of podcast we WISH church leaders would tackle
  • A practical how-to for getting started

If your church doesn’t yet have a podcast, you’re missing a significant opportunity to connect with people in the 167 hours each week that they’re not at your church. #unstuckchurch [episode 101]
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Many churches have a podcast, but it's not the kind we're talking about. Most just post the audio from their weekend teaching online and that's it. Not very strategic. Or creative. And at the same time our churches are rapidly…
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A Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Church Podcast Want to take this conversation back to a staff or senior leadership team meeting? Already convinced this is your next step? To accompany this week’s episode, we created a practical guide for you:

Our Show Notes subscribers get a PDF download that recaps the episode content, and this week, it also provides a practical How-To for starting your church’s strategic podcast.

Opt-in here and get the Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Church Podcast for this episode, as well as access to the archive.

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We use #unstuckchurch on Twitter, and we start a real-time conversation each Wednesday morning when the episode drops. You can follow me @tonymorganlive and The Unstuck Group @unstuckgroup. If Facebook is where you spend your time, I’m there, too. Links & Resources from the Episode

Write a Review—It Helps!

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. Transcript 

Sean: 00:02 Welcome to the Unstuck Church Podcast. I’m your host, Sean Bublitz, and each week we’re exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. As the speed of life and the pattern of business increases in our culture, we’ve seen an equal impact in church attendance – that’s left many churches having less of an influence in people’s lives from week to week. What if there were a way to connect with people where they are in those 167 hours of the week that there isn’t a church service? This week, I joined Tony and Amy on the podcast to look at a key tool we think churches are missing when it comes to engaging people outside of the walls of the church. Make sure as you listen this week to grab the show notes at theunstuckgroup.com/episode101. You can also join our conversation on social media by using the #unstuckchurch when you post. You can connect with Tony, Amy, and myself and explore this episode as well as others. I would also like to suggest that you make your busy life a little easier and subscribe to get the show notes in your inbox each week. You’ll get one email with all of the info, including the leader guide, resources we mentioned and bonus resources. You can sign up by going to the unstuckgroup.com/podcast. And now here’s the conversation I had this week with Tony and Amy.

Amy: 01:11 On this week’s podcast, we’re talking about podcasting, specifically podcasting for churches. Joining us is our teammates Sean, who helps produce this podcast. So welcome Sean.

Sean: 01:22 Hey Amy, it’s great to be with you guys on this side of the podcast.

Amy: 01:26 Good to have you and Tony. Yeah. Let me just ask, why are we taking the entire podcast or an entire episode to talk about podcasting for churches? I thought most churches already have a podcast.

Tony: 01:36 Well, most churches do. That’s true. Many churches do have a podcast, but not the kind of podcast we’re talking about. Most churches just post the audio from their weekend teaching online and then they don’t do anything more. But when you look at the statistics of the number of people engaging with online content, particularly with podcasting, we’re missing a great opportunity to be a part of people’s lives with the other 167 hours they’re not at church and really to reach people who aren’t yet connected to a church. And so part of the challenge here is that our churches are rapidly becoming the place people don’t go to for answers for their life. And instead where people are more likely to look for answers now it’s Google; it’s Siri; it’s Alexa, right? Should I say, Alexa? Louder to see if it pops up?

Amy: 02:29 No, mine will turn on.

Tony: 02:31 So, churches have this powerful tool using podcasting to reach people as they’re going about their day and to begin to increase their influence in people’s lives. And right now it’s, it’s just a tool that’s being underutilized. And so the topic of today’s conversation, it’s a podcast about podcasting.

Amy: 02:53 Well, Sean, Tony just mentioned how the statistics are showing. Lots of people are listening to podcasts, right? But what are you seeing specifically as you’re learning more about overall engagement with podcasts?

Sean: 03:06 Yeah, well, in the, in the bigger picture, the number of people that are engaging with podcasts has grown rapidly. So 32% of the U.S. population listens to podcasts at least every month: that’s about 105 million people. 22% are listening weekly and 67% of the listeners are below the age of 44. So all those churches who have been exploring, how do we better reach millennials, they should really lean in when they hear that last stat. Two-thirds of the podcast listeners are under the age of 44; if you’re trying to find a way to connect with this segment of your community, podcasting is probably a key way. But here’s what I think might be the key statistical insight for churches: 80% of podcasts, listeners listen to the full podcast episode or, or most of the episode, and that 22% of the U.S. that listens to podcasts weekly, they listen on average for six and a half hours. So people are really engaging with podcast content for longer periods of time and our assumption, I think in this multitasking culture that we live in is that people have smaller attention spans, that all the content needs to be shorter to really connect with them. That doesn’t seem to be the case with podcasts.

Amy: 04:21 That really is surprising. Everything you just shared is kind of surprising to me. Why do you think people are listening to podcasts for longer periods of time? You mentioned short attention span and I think it was the article in Microsoft that we were reading that they said people have shorter attention spans than goldfish, so something doesn’t make sense here. Why do they listen for longer periods?

Sean: 04:43 Well, I think this really just speaks to the accessibility of podcasts. I mean, the reason podcasting is so effective is that it fits into busy people’s lives – it’s portable. A large majority of people that are listening to podcasts, they’re listening on their smartphones so they can listen in the car at work, at the gym, mowing the lawn, that’s where I listen to a lot of my podcasts, really anywhere they want to. In fact, the data says that almost half of podcast listening is actually done at home. So, it’s safe to assume that people are doing the dishes, folding laundry, working out, and that’s a key reason as to why they’re listening for longer periods of time. That’s why I think this is such an important communication tool for churches that we’ve all seen and felt the effects of a culture that attends weekend services less. We have fewer opportunities to tell people about Jesus and have an influence on their lives than we used to. And what we’ve seen as we’re on the ground working with churches is the strategy for a lot of churches is to focus on getting people back into the church building where we can influence them and then hope they come back. A better strategy though is to reach them where they are, to position our church’s influencers in their lives and were more likely to see a higher level of engagement them if that’s our approach.

Amy: 05:59 Okay. So, podcasting is a great strategy for churches to reach people where they are, but Tony mentioned earlier that the content of this kind of podcast is different than just replaying the weekend teaching, or at least that’s what I thought you were getting at Tony. What, what’s unique about the kind of podcast you’re talking about?

Tony: 06:17 Yeah, so we mentioned before that this is about positioning your church as an influencer in people’s lives. And when you have a question in life right now, people are going to Google, and in the future, we’d like them to consider our church as an option as well. This is a concept that aligns with the term inbound marketing that we talked about way back in episode 61 of the podcast, and so in case, you missed that, you may want to go back and listen to episode 61. So we’re talking about podcasting in this context. We’re talking about content that is designed in a way to add practical and specific value to people’s lives. As we share our knowledge and expertise, people will hopefully begin to see us as an authority on topics that are important to their lives.

Tony: 07:10 And this will prompt them hopefully to listen in more closely when they’re asking those types of questions. So, for example, your church could start a podcast on helping parents build their faith in their kids. You could give practical tips on how to talk to kids about Jesus or how to help them navigate the Bible with their kids and teach them how to read through it. You could share tools that they can use to keep Jesus a part of the daily conversation as they’re getting ready their kids ready for school, eating dinner, doing chores, whatever that looks like. Parents will then begin to see you as a valued partner in raising their kids and see a higher value for how you’re helping them disciple their kids, including how you engage with their kids and their families during the weekend services.

Tony: 08:03 So it’s an add on bonus, but really you’re trying to partner with them in a unique way, in a way that we’re seeing, and as Sean highlighted, really is connecting with today’s culture. Another example would be helping people read and understand the Bible in general. There’s a lot of confusion and question about the Bible in today’s culture, both by insiders in the church and outsiders of the church. And people are either curious or apathetic when it comes to scripture. So you could design a podcast where you’re debunking myths, where you’re sharing widely unknown background, tips on how to get a clearer understanding of the history and the context of the stories that we find in scripture. People will be more Bible literate and see your church as having a key voice when it comes to understanding scripture if you go a step beyond just sharing the message from Sunday. The key here though is to choose a topic that adds value to your community.

Tony: 09:06 So it’s critical to note who is in your community. And then if your church is surrounded by young families as an example, then that parenting podcast could be a helpful tool. If you’re in the part of the country that’s known for being more skeptical, then that podcast on understanding the Bible, understanding scripture could be a better strategy. So again, the key here is you’ve got to know your community and then address the needs, the questions that your community is asking. And so churches have been doing that from the pulpit for a long time. We’re just going to challenge you today to consider extending the pulpit beyond the platform on Sunday morning so that you can engage people where they were living their lives.

Amy: 09:51 All right, so Sean, let’s say a church catches the vision for this and they have a topic that they’re passionate about and it’s a key felt need in their community. How would they ever get started even putting a podcast like that together?

Sean: 10:04 Well, the first place I would start, and this may seem obvious, just listen to some other podcasts. Don’t just go to other church’s podcasts, you really want to get a feel for what makes podcasting so appealing to two-thirds of the U.S. population. Sample different approaches that are out there. A few of my favorites personally, “Freakonomics Radio” is a really good one. “How I Built This” is an excellent podcast of the Tim Ferris Show, another long format podcasts that are really well done. All of those formats are all a little bit different, but they’re highly effective in their communication and the content. So figure out which podcasts are your favorite and for what reason, and then key into their marketing strategy and how they encourage their listeners to connect with them beyond just tuning into the podcast. 70% of podcast listeners said that they were more aware of a product or a service because of a podcast.

Sean: 10:58 So it’s a really effective medium for marketing. The next step is just to choose a topic or direction. Tony mentioned a couple of examples before, but find the felt need that connects with your community and matches a passion that you have. If you’re not passionate about it, it’s going to be really hard to sustain that content over a longer period of time. So once you figured out that topic, then choose a release schedule that you can realistically commit to. Decide, you know, is this a monthly podcast, is this a weekly podcast or is it something else? And then commit to it. You have to be really committed to that release schedule. You could also, another strategy would be to consider building a podcast around seasons, which allows you to do content but in shorter bursts and then have some off time so you could do season one and then take a little bit of a break and then season two and take a little bit of a break.

Amy: 11:46 That’s kind of like Netflix, Sean.

Tony: 11:48 It is, right? That’s exactly right. Yeah, that’s exactly right. So establish a release schedule. What is it that you can commit to? And then once you’ve established that, begin to dive into the recording. So we’re going to get a little bit technical here. Just hang with me for a second, but make sure that you have the equipment you need to create a high-quality audio experience for people. If it sounds bad, people are really likely to tune you out. But to help with this, we’ve actually created a guide for getting started in podcasting. It’s going to be included in the show notes. So I just encourage you to go and download those. We have links and examples of all the equipment that you’ll need to get started, like Mike’s computer software, all there in the getting started guide. So download the show notes and make sure that you grab that. After you’re done recording, you’ll need to get your podcast recording and then post it somewhere where people can access it; where they can download it and listen to it.

Sean: 12:43 And we actually have many of those options listed in the podcasting startup guide as well. For our podcast, we found Libsyn to be a great option. It’s L, i, b, s, y, n. They allow us to track and download data, upload episodes that go public on a later date. So they’re right when we upload, they’re not immediately available, but we can kind of plan for the future and then really manage all of our podcasts data all in one place. And that’s incredibly helpful as you’re trying to decide what are the right topics, what are the right conversations for us to have that are really adding value to our community. So it might not sound like it from my explanation here, but starting a podcast really is pretty simple. The hardest part is just picking that topic, but once you have it after the initial setup, the rest of it will flow pretty easily.

Tony: 13:31 And I’ve, I’m just amazed. The funny thing about podcasting is actually I was a very early adopter somewhere, someplace in the, on the Internet, my friend Tim Stevens and I did a podcast, it’s probably 12, 13 years ago now, maybe even longer. I don’t know. I’m getting really old. “The Simply Strategic Show”, and I think it was actually Tim and me had more fun than we actually brought great content to the listeners, but we loved it. Then we did that for a little bit more than a year, I think, and I was out of podcasting for a long, long time. And then my team said, Tony, you really need to start a podcast. And so a couple of years ago we picked it back up. Sean’s helped us move it forward immensely.

Tony: 14:22 So thank you, Sean. But it used to be when I would be onsite engaging with the church, they would say, it’s great to have you here, Tony. We’ve read your books, we’ve read your articles on your..

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If you do not have an intentional plan in place to develop leaders, it’s time to take action.

A while back, one of my team members attended the Chick-fil-A Summit where they got to hear Mac Lake talk about leadership development. 

This was back in 2013. But if I didn’t mention that, you probably wouldn’t guess it’s been that long after reading the list. We’re hearing all the time from churches of all sizes how difficult it is for pastors to develop leaders. (If this gives you any idea, my team sends a newsletter out each month just about leadership development and it’s one of the most popular content subscriptions we offer.) 

Creating a leadership development culture is an area where I see few churches taking initiative. So, I want to share with you the 9 principles that Mac communicated at that summit. They are still incredibly relevant. 1. Build Culture Not Leaders. 

Most churches have a leadership deficiency because they haven’t taken the time to build a culture of development. People don’t randomly show up in the leadership pipeline—it requires intentionality. 

It’s becoming more and more apparent that the greatest responsibility of a senior leader is to develop the culture of the organization. 

When your team understands your desired wins and values, you can empower leaders to make decisions with the confidence that everyone is moving in the right (and same) direction.

Amy and I recorded a podcast episode a few months back that touches on a few ways to develop a leadership culture. Listen here.

It’s becoming more and more apparent that the greatest responsibility of a senior leader is to develop the culture of the organization. @tonymorganlive
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2. Model Leadership Development from the Executive Level. 

The values of the leader become the values of the organization. 

I had a conversation a while back with the lead pastor of Friends Church in Yorba Linda, CA because of the incredible culture he’s built at his church. You can watch here. 3. State Clear Expectations for Every Staff Leader. 

If a team member isn’t certain of their responsibilities, not only does something significant fall through the cracks but it prevents someone else from being able to do their job well.

Your team should know that they are expected to develop leaders. By communicating clear expectations and addressing this from the beginning, you are setting them up for success.  4. Eliminate Excuses. 

If you think you don’t have the time to develop leaders, that’s a good sign you actually do need more leaders to delegate some of your “doing.” 

If you aren’t sure how to develop leaders, invest in some resources that will help you. 

If you think you have enough leaders, take note that this is a mindset that will always hinder growth. 

If you think no one is ready to be developed, Jesus searched for people who were willing. 5. Align the Language and Levels of Your Leadership Pipeline. 

Based on what we’ve seen, there’s a strong correlation between a clear path and healthy growth. 

By aligning the levels and language, it brings clarity to your system for development. If there is a clear pathway for growth, it’s easy to determine where the pipeline gets clogged and needs improvement. 6. Build a Structure that Enhances Relational Leadership Development. 

If your team feels appreciated and celebrated, your leadership development will have greater impact when your leaders realize that you are emotionally invested in them.

Ask how you can pray for them, take your team to lunch, ask them about their family and their interests, encourage them. These people are key for a successful ministry, and it’s important to communicate they are valued. 7. Develop for Vision, Not for Need. 

Filling just for present needs is short-sighted leadership. This mindset leads to a revolving door of leaders.

Filling just for present needs is short-sighted leadership. This mindset leads to a revolving door of leaders. @tonymorganlive
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8. Align Your System to Synergize Time, Energy and Resources. 

Too many churches are operating in ministry silos. (I wrote a whole eBook on ministry silos. It’s now available in the Complete Resource Bundle in The Unstuck Group’s online store.) 9. Define Your Leadership Development Strategy and Implement It Into Your System. 

As leaders, I believe we’re called to raise up other leaders in our churches and equip them to do ministry. 

It’s time to move on from talking about leadership development. You need to be intentional about taking action. 

Because I see so many leaders struggling with this, I want to recommend one of our resources to you—Leading an Unstuck Church Online Course. 

Lesson 5 is specifically designed to walk you through discussions and exercises to help you develop more leaders in your church, but there are actually 11 more lessons that walk you through the common issues we see in the church. From enhancing the weekend experience, to staffing for growth to increasing volunteer engagement, it helps start the conversations you need to be having. 

The post It Doesn’t Just Happen: 9 Strategies for Creating a Leadership Development Culture appeared first on TonyMorganLive.com.

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How to Reduce Central vs. Campus Frustration in a Multisite Matrix

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Both Amy Anderson and I spent many years on staff teams at multisite churches. We had a front row seat to the real tensions that exist between central and campus leaders on a multisite team. (Amy had the closer view of the two of us… she was a central leader while her husband was a campus pastor.)

We were working on our new Multisite Unstuck Course and this topic of managing the tension was one multisite leaders kept affirming is a big felt need.

And I say “managing the tension” because in reality, the tensions that exist when you’re leading in a multisite church matrix will most likely always exist. Central teams and campus teams have unique perspectives. But we have learned there are some strategies to reduce that tension and maintain a healthy, effective relationship.

So, in this episode, Amy and I discussed:

  • Questions we hear from multisite staff members that indicate there’s tension between central and campus teams
  • Why tension in the multisite matrix will never completely go away and the 3 areas every multisite church must clarify to manage and reduce it
  • How to clarify reporting relationships when your team members have more than one boss, or are wearing dual, triple or even quadruple hats (in multisite, it happens)
  • Why it’s important to identify campus vs. central calls in every level of your ministry
  • How to clarify authority and influence throughout the organization

When churches aren’t crystal clear on their multisite model, tensions naturally arise. #unstuckchurch [episode 100]
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Every person on your multisite staff should know the answer to 2 questions: Who above me has authority?(org chart solid line) Who who has influence? (org chart dotted line) #unstuckchurch [episode 100]
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I should also note: This is our 100th episode of The Unstuck Church Podcast! Thanks so much for tuning in. I’m hearing more and more church leaders we serve at The Unstuck Group referencing specific episodes and conversations from the podcast, and that’s why we do this. We want to give you real-time help getting unstuck, and we’re continually adding to our list of topics to tackle in upcoming episodes.

Have an idea? Send it my way. You can use #unstuckchurch on social media. Or subscribe by email and reply to the next one you receive.

(You can also access all of the previous topics, leader conversation guides and show notes in one place by subscribing by email. See below.) Leader Conversation Guide Want to take this conversation back to a staff or senior leadership team meeting?

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Opt-in here and get the Leader Conversation Guide for this episode, as well as access to the archive.

Share Your Thoughts and Questions on Social Media

We use #unstuckchurch on Twitter, and we start a real-time conversation each Wednesday morning when the episode drops. You can follow me @tonymorganlive and The Unstuck Group @unstuckgroup. If Facebook is where you spend your time, I’m there, too. Links & Resources from the Episode

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Amy: 01:13 Well, Tony, you and I both spent many years on staff teams at multisite churches so we had a front row seat to the real tensions, right? That can exist in central and campus leaders and a multisite team.

Tony: 01:25 Yeah, we did, but if I remember right, you had an even closer view because in addition to being a central leader over the weekend experiences at your church, your husband Jason was and still is a campus pastor. How does that work for you, Amy?

Amy: 01:43 Well, let’s just say that some of our car rides home together from work were very quiet. The tension is real, and that’s what we’re going to talk through today as our team has been immersed in getting our new online course ready for multisite churches. This was a big topic that rose to the surface. So, specifically, Tony, how can multisite churches reduce these tensions that exist?

Tony: 02:08 Amy, I think the keyword here, it really is reduced. Multisite teams will always have tensions between their central and campus perspectives. You can’t run away from that. It’s always going to be there. But there are some ways to reduce that tension and to stay in a healthy relationship.

Amy: 02:27 Let’s actually start by talking about some of the things that church leaders – senior pastors, their senior leadership team – that they might hear from their team that would indicate that there’s some tension.

Tony: 02:39 That’s good. So one example is there’s a lack of clarity around this key question: Who do I really report to? Who do I really, who’s my boss? Tension gets created when team members aren’t sure if they should be taking their cues from a central leader or their campus leader. So let me give you an example. Sometimes when there are really strong leaders in central roles, and I have a feeling you and I are speaking from firsthand experience with this, campus leaders have strong relationships with those central leaders, which is that’s a good thing. The campus pastor can feel like he or she is just there. Like who am I really leading? And this, in turn, creates confusion with the staff. Do I have to take my cues from my pastor, my campus pastor or from that central leader, the person with whom I have this great strong, healthy relationship?

Tony: 03:43 And so, it really is just clarity of who is my boss. A second question that needs to be clarified is who made that decision? And Amy, you’ve been around situations where the campus team feels like they’re almost surprised about a decision that the central leaders made and the reverse is true. When central leaders feel surprised about something that the campus team decided to do. By the way, in either case, whatever the decision was, it’s often a good one. It’s just more about the communication and not giving a heads up to the other team. Another question that needs to be clarified is why didn’t they ask me about that? I didn’t have a chance to give input and this tension surfaces when central acts and makes decisions without campus input. At the end of the day, if you think about it, campuses execute. They put central strategies into emotion and they have a critical perspective or opinion on how things are working and the potential of new strategies and how those new strategies could work. But when central doesn’t engage those campus voices, that’s when tensions begin to rise.

Amy: 05:00 Man, that was such a common one at our church early in the multisite journey. You mentioned that my husband is a campus pastor and this became more clear after I wasn’t a central leader anymore and was just his wife, but I remember his frustration when central would bake a strategy in a good one, meaning well, but then they lack the right process to involve the campuses to get their input. It was kind of like it was wrapped and given to the campus. And again, this was early in our journey. One example was they had come up with a new way to run the group’s strategy. Like how to connect people on the weekend into new groups and my husband’s team actually had a strategy that they were working to the current one, it was working really well, they had kind of put their own stamp on it. And so when the shift came, it was kind of frustrating because they hadn’t been able to give any input into what the new way was going to be.

Tony: 05:52 That’s right. And commonly that’s a bigger challenge for churches when they have their original location at a much different scale, a site in the smaller locations and the central teams that commonly are more closely connected to the original sending and larger location are not getting that input from the campus teams. So that’s a challenge. The fourth question that needs to be clarified, it’s really, this is really more from the campus perspective, but it’s this question, why can’t we do that? It can be very frustrating when you’ve got a strong campus team that has great ideas, but they feel like they’re constantly being told no by the central teams. And this tension probably surfaces in multisite churches that have a high value on identical experiences. In other words, in a highly identical model, campuses really don’t have the freedom to create strategies that only their campus will execute. Did you see this, Amy, in your experience?

Amy: 07:02 Yes. I was over the weekend, so this was probably one of our number one tensions when it came to creativity on the weekend. So with our different campuses, we had different facilities that had different abilities, but we were highly identical. So like one of our campuses seats about 2100 people, it’s got all the bells and whistles in the auditorium. But another one of our campuses sat about 550 people and it was a renovated traditional church space. And so, on one hand, the big location could pull off certain types of experiences, but the small one could also pull off great experiences, but they were very different and they both couldn’t do that if that makes sense. So it always felt like we had to compromise every creative idea and campuses would get frustrated, like, “We have the ability to do this. Why can’t we do it?”

Tony: 07:51 That’s right. Again, Amy, all these tensions, they’re never going to fade away. They’re not going to be completely resolvable, but as Andy Stanley has said, “They are tensions to be managed.” I would add if they’re not managed well, they’re going to create unhealthy relationships and frustrations between the central and the campus teams.

Amy: 08:15 Right. And Tony, as we talked through these examples and the questions that were being asked, there seems to be a root issue around clarity or lack of clarity that’s feeding these tensions.

Tony: 08:26 Yes. You heard me say that word several times as I was going through those questions. That’s exactly right. We say it all the time: Clarity is the key to leading a successful multisite church. And I think there are three areas every church has to bring clarity to in order to reduce tensions in the multisite matrix. So, the first area where we need clarity is around the church’s multisite model itself. When churches aren’t crystal clear on their model, tensions will certainly rise. And what I mean by that is many churches don’t define in detail where they want the ministry and their ministry approaches to be identical and at the same location where they will allow some independence at every location. When that’s not defined, leaders do what leaders do – they lead; they fill that vacuum. And when leadership isn’t pulling in the same direction, well certainly, that’s when tension is going to exist.

Amy: 09:30 So say more about that. I think as we talk about multisite model’s we talk about, are they on the scale of identical or are they more leaning towards a model that’s independent? Can you give some examples of what you mean by that?

Tony: 09:42 Yes. So, playing off of a couple of topics we talked about in a recent episode related to multisite strategy, one area is teaching. Churches that are more identical are probably using team-based video teaching more oftentimes than not. Churches that are more independent, it’s probably individuals teaching live at each location. In fact, they may even be teaching varied messages. If they’re in the middle, they may be on the same serious topic, but using different teachers. So those are some examples of the decisions that need to be made. Just around teaching when it comes to are we going to be identical or are we going to be independent. When it comes to music: More identical churches are using the same songs at every campus in the service. The churches that are more independent, not only are they doing different songs, it may be completely different styles of music.

Tony: 10:45 The churches in the middle, it could be that they’re saying we’re going to use the same catalog of songs, but from that catalog, you at each campus can choose what songs you’re going to use in any given service. So again, churches need to define upfront are we going to be identical, are we going to be independent, or somewhere in between. These are easy to understand, but when you get into areas like events, communications, local outreach, discipleship strategy, the question is, in every location who gets to decide this? Is this going to be driven by central and more identical or does the campus have the freedom to make the decision? Is there going to be more independent?

Amy: 11:33 And the key again is clarity, right? I mean, when that’s undefined, leaders are just going to do what leaders do, as you said, they’re going to start creating things and that’s why it’s so important that all the team members have an understanding of the vision for the multisite model, right?

Tony: 11:48 That’s absolutely right.

Amy: 11:51 All right, so what’s the secondary where we need to bring some clarity?

Tony: 11:54 Yeah. The second area, and by the way, this is a big one. It’s about the structure and nothing creates more tension than when people aren’t clear on who they report to. In other words, you need to know who has authority in your structure and who has influence. Authority, visually, that’s usually represented by the solid line on the organizational chart. Influence is usually represented by the dotted line and just making sure, are we clear who’s the boss – who ultimately gets to make the call, who gets to make the decision and then who has influence and input in that decision? Amy?

Amy: 12:35 One other thing I would say on structure, just cause I live that a lot. One of the tensions I see is they give everybody dual roles, triple roles, quadruple roles, meaning we don’t have enough people to totally launched the way we want to open this new site, so everyone’s got little pieces of things and as they expand, they never untangle that. Do you see that too?

Tony: 12:56 Yeah, that’s, that’s very true. And the challenge is smaller multisite churches, and here I’m talking even in the thousands when I say smaller multisite churches, in many cases they’re still going to have dual roles. What we mean by dual roles is that an individual has a central responsibility and a campus responsibility. And when, especially when churches are just getting into multisite, that’s going to be a common situation. And in those early days, you have to be crystal clear on when do I have my central hat on and when do I have my campus hat on? And when I have both hats on, who’s the boss who actually gets to make the call here? But as you suggested, our hope is churches, even multisite churches are going to experience growth, not only growth in attendance but growth in the number of locations. And as that growth happens, you have to revisit your structure to make sure that that structure is clarified and that everybody knows not only their role but who they’re responsible for in that structure.

Amy: 14:08 And I would add one more thing. We need to know who you’re responsible for, but you also need to know what you’re responsible for. Just an example, I heard a great joke at a church this last week. They said, what’s the best way to starve a dog? They said, give 10 people the responsibility to feed it. It took me a minute, but I was like, that’s brilliant. I mean, for instance, like your group strategy, if someone at every campus has responsibility for groups, but nobody knows who owns the strategy for groups, you’re really not going to have a consistent way.

Tony: 14:44 The common area where we see 10 people trying to feed the dog is a volunteer strategy. And every ministry in every location does volunteer engagement different. They’re not following a consistent strategy and then they wonder why we don’t have enough volunteers for all the ministries at our church. So that’s great.

Amy: 15:04 All right, so clarity on structure. What’s the third area churches need to bring clarity?

Speaker 3: 15:09 Yeah. The third area relates to decision rights. When people aren’t clear, who gets to make what decisions, there’s going to be tension. And in the multisite Matrix, when I say decision rights, I’m really talking about clarity around what decisions do central leaders make and what decisions do campus leaders make. So let me give you some examples of questions. I’m not going to answer them for you because these are going to be different for every church. Don’t you wish I would just answer all your questions? So wouldn’t that be phenomenal? So here are some questions that you need to decide up front. Is this a central decision or a campus decision to make? Who decides if a campus can do something fun and different around Father’s Day weekend? And as a father, I want you to do something fun and different by the way, right? Who decides when a campus can add a staff member? When a staff member is added, who gets to make that final hiring decision? The central, the central children’s leader or the campus children’s leader who gets to hire that children’s person? Can one campus bring in an artist for a while on the weekend? Do they have that flexibility and freedom? By the way, what artists would you bring in, Amy?

Amy: 16:26 Oh, goodness. I don’t know. Who would you bring in?

Tony: 16:29 Bruno Mars. I don’t know if he leads to worship or not, but it would be fun. It would be awhile. Here’s another question: Can a campus start a Sunday night service or do they have to stick with the rigid schedule of all the other locations? Again, there’s not a right or wrong answer to these questions with maybe the exception of bringing in Bruno Mars, but the only wrong thing is not defining how the decisions get made and that’s what decision rights are all about. It’s not getting to the answer first. It’s getting to how are we going to decide what the answer is first?

Amy: 17:10 That’s right. You know, I’m working with one church now. We spent all fall working through their structure piece. They were one that had a couple of campuses and they hadn’t quite landed on how are we going to be structured now that we’re three going to four locations. And of course through that, as we addressed their structure, we had to lean into their model as well. But now they’re in the place where they’re actually going ministry by ministry and talking about the kind of in the weeds who gets to make this decision. So, for example, you know, if you were to look at the weekend when we talked about that earlier, they’re going in and determining who gets to decide what’s in the catalog..

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Is It REALLY One Church in Multiple Locations?

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I should start by saying that I believe in multisite strategy. When multisite is done right, it’s helping healthy churches reproduce more disciples of Jesus. But most of the time when I hear the phrase one church in many locations my initial reaction is, “Prove it.”

My experiences at multisite churches are rarely one unified church meeting in multiple locations. Instead, what I find is that many multisite churches are connected through one leadership structure, but beyond that, they are splintered in their ministry strategy.

They are really multiple churches trying to operate as one church. And it shows, if you know what you’re looking for.

In this episode, Amy and I discussed the warning signs that we commonly see when a multisite church, well, isn’t. Here are a few things we covered:

  • Predictable outcomes for different multisite models (There may be many ways to do multisite, but they don’t all lead to healthy, multiplying churches)
  • What it means when you consistently notice people communicating a preference for hearing the campus pastor preach over the lead pastor
  • Why multisite is not a growth, change, succession or diversity strategy
  • How to plant a new church by accident

Many multisite churches are connected through one leadership structure, but beyond that, they're splintered in ministry strategy. They're multiple churches trying to operate as one. #unstuckchurch [episode 99]
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Multisite is not a succession strategy. If you're giving younger pastors leadership & preaching experience at a new location to prepare them to succeed the lead pastor, you just might plant a new church unintentionally.…
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Sean: 00:02 Welcome to the Unstuck Church Podcast, where each week we’re exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. We’ve all heard the multisite mantra: one church in multiple locations. Too many times though, what we’ve experienced is far from a unified ministry strategy. This week on the podcast, Tony and Amy dive into some key warning signs that a multisite church is not really one church. As you listen to this week’s podcast, you can join the conversation by using the #unstuckchurch and posting your question or comments or your favorite social media channel. Connect with Tony, Amy, myself in our Unstuck team and get your ministry specific questions answered. And if you haven’t yet, make sure you grab the show notes as you listen today. You can find at theunstuckgroup.com/episode 99. Also, you can now subscribe to get the show notes in your inbox each week. You’ll get one email with all of the info, including the leader guide, the resources we mentioned, and bonus resources. You can sign up by going to the unstuckgroup.com/podcast. Now, here’s the conversation on the key warning signs for multisite churches with Tony and Amy.

Amy: 01:04 Tony, many multisite churches describe themselves as one church in multiple locations. What’s your reaction when you hear that phrase?

Tony: 01:12 I want to say, “I don’t believe you – prove it.” I’ve been here before and it’s not true. That’s my initial reaction. And the reason why is because my experiences at multisite churches are rarely one unified church meeting in multiple locations. Instead, what I find is that it’s really a multisite church and they’re connected through one leadership structure. But beyond that, many of the multisite churches I’ve encountered are really just splintered in their ministry strategy. In other words, they’re really multiple churches trying to operate as one church. So here, let me give you a couple of examples without naming names, and the funny thing is I’m going to share these examples and we probably have dozens of churches that are going to say, “Hey, Tony’s talking about our church”, but no, really, these are common examples. So one church that we were working with they were in four different locations at one time.

Tony: 02:11 One of those campuses has already become an independent church; a second location is about ready to close its doors because they’ve never gotten momentum as a campus; and then the third location has determined that once their current pastor retires, their current senior pastor, they too are going to become an independent church. So this is a multisite church. I’m using air quotes as if the podcast listeners can see those Amy, but this was a multisite church in four locations that eventually is going to be a single location church. Another example, a church we were working with had several locations. One of them became an independent church after several years. And really because they had a completely different mission, vision, the people they were trying to reach was completely different. So they became an independent church and then one of the other campuses said, we like their vision better, so we’re going to go join that church. Then the remaining locations over the more than a year have been struggling with, “are we going to still be one church?”, because there wasn’t any alignment around mission, vision and ministry strategy. All of that was unclear and because of that, all of the locations were wondering are we really one church in multiple locations? So these are, again, Amy and I think you can confirm this because you’ve had similar experiences working with multisite churches, but these are churches, they’re multisite, but they’re really not one church in multiple locations.

Amy: 03:52 Well now that we got you a little agitated; a little amped up, let’s actually unpack some of the warning signs that a multisite church is not one church in multiple locations. So where do you want to start with that, Tony?

Tony: 04:05 Before we jump into these though, let me just share. I always get a little nervous when I start to really unpack some of the negatives around multisite or the warning signs around multisite because my fear is they’re going to be listeners that say, “Okay, see, here it is again, multisite strategy isn’t working, it’s not working.” What I want to affirm upfront is multisite strategy is actually a great strategy for the local church, but you have to approach multisite the right way. And I think the examples for that I just shared, these are churches that we’re trying to do multisite, but they were doing multisite wrong. They really weren’t one church in multiple locations. And just as an example that the strategy is still working, I recently heard that Craig Rochelle and the team at Life Church have more than 30 different locations now.

Tony: 05:07 They had over 150,000 people gather for their Easter services. The number, it’s just mind-boggling to me. But that’s just one example. I mean, there are hundreds of examples that we could point to as well where churches are doing multisite, right, and when they do multisite right, it’s having a big impact. In fact, Leadership Network and Portable Church released some research recently about multisite churches and what they found is that multisite churches are actually more likely to grow faster and to see more faith conversions than even church plants. And so, our objective in this conversation today, Amy, is really to point out some warning signs, but it really is to point churches in the right direction when it comes to multisite strategy.

Amy: 05:59 Tony, you know, I think maybe what you’re saying in so many words is when I, when we were starting a multisite at our church, the general communication out there was, there are so many ways to do multisite – pick your own version; here’s the buffet. And I think what you’re saying, and I agree with, is that not every strategy doesn’t work. You can’t do multisite effectively in a healthy way and reach people. We’re saying there are ways that have different outcomes than one church, multiple locations, right?

Tony: 06:29 That’s exactly right. I mean if we were just single location churches, you and I would agree, and I’m sure many others, that there are many different ministry strategies that single location churches are using. Some of those strategies work and some of them are not leading to healthy churches right now. And the same is true for multisite churches.

Amy: 06:48 That’s right. That’s right. All right, well let’s jump into those warning signs that maybe they’re not one church in multiple locations.

Tony: 06:57 So the first one is, I want to start with the question, “Why?” One reason why multisite churches are not one church in multiple locations is because they got the why wrong. Let me give you some examples. In other words, multisite is not a growth strategy. So if your current location is not reaching new people, a new location is not going to fix that. Multisite is not a change strategy. If your current location is stuck in the past and you aren’t reaching younger adults as an example, a new location isn’t going to fix that. Multisite is not a succession strategy. If you’re trying to give younger pastors leadership and preaching experience at a new location to prepare them to succeed, the current pastor, you’re trying to address succession the wrong way. Let me give you one more.

Tony: 07:52 Multisite is not a diversity strategy. If your current location doesn’t reflect the community you’re hoping to reach, launching a new location will not fix that. You likely need a completely different ministry strategy and likely that means you need to be a completely different church. In other words, church planting is really the best way to reach a completely different demographic. So those are the wrong answers to the why question. The right answer to why the question is this: Multisite is an evangelism strategy. The multisite movement was the response of healthy growing churches that ran out of space but wanted to continue to reach more people. Churches went multisite because they’re existing ministry strategy was working well. They didn’t go multisite because their strategy was broken, they went multisite because it was a healthy, thriving growing church. And they realized if we opened another location with the same ministry strategy as our current location, then we’re going to have the opportunity to reach more people faster with the gospel message. In other words, they were truly one church in multiple locations.

Amy: 09:10 All right, so we first need to get that why question right. What’s another warning sign that a multisite church isn’t one church in multiple locations?

Tony: 09:19 Amy, this one’s not going to surprise you. Another warning sign is related to the teaching and preaching. And if you start to hear people in one of your campuses beginning to share things like we actually prefer hearing from the campus pastor when they teach live rather than hearing from the senior pastor, you are not one church in multiple locations. You are actually more than one church. And what we’ve learned is it’s very challenging for churches to maintain unity over time if each congregation, if each campus is hearing from distinctly different teachers on a regular basis, Amy, you can concur with that, correct?

Amy: 10:07 Yes! And I think sometimes they justify it by saying, “Well, we’re all teaching on the same things, therefore we’re one church, multiple locations.” But I mean, you see it too, every teacher leader has a little different style, maybe a little bit different take on how they would lead the church if they were leading the church and you just can’t mask that. It eventually seeps out.

Tony: 10:29 That’s right. That’s why we really do at The Unstuck Group have a strong bias toward multisite churches using team-based teaching through video. So, we still believe in team-based teaching, but we think the best way to deliver that teaching so that all the campuses stay aligned and unified is to do that through a video delivery system of some sort. It’s the best way of keeping all the locations aligned, keeping them unified and yes, periodically it is appropriate to allow the campus pastors to teach. But one unified church begins with all the locations hearing one unified message.

Amy: 11:09 I would describe that as live teaching with the campus pastor is like the seasoning, but it’s not the main course.

Tony: 11:15 That’s right. That’s good. Amy, man, we should keep you around! All right. So, I’m gonna say this in a different way specifically for the senior pastors. So if you are a senior pastor, I want you to lean in. What I’m about ready to share is going to save you a lot of headaches in the future. So do I have your attention? Are you listening? Here we go. If you have a young pastor that wants to become a campus pastor because they want the freedom to teach their own messages, you don’t have a campus pastor. Instead, what you have is a future senior pastor or church planter, and if you let them teach on a regular basis at your new campus, you should assume that that location will eventually become an independent church. Then, in fact, what you’ve done is you’ve just appointed that new church’s future senior pastor. Did I say that, jauntily enough?

Amy: 12:20 Really well said. I don’t think they missed that point at all.

Speaker 3: 12:23 Okay. All right. That’s good. Now, you thought you were starting a multisite campus, but instead, you’ve planted a new church. You gave that new church a building to meet in; You hired their first senior pastor; You’ve helped them build a congregation of people who were, who will serve and financially support that new church. Is there anything wrong with planting a new church? Absolutely not. But in most cases, churches don’t start their multisite strategy thinking they’re going to be planting a new independent church. They assume we’re going to be one church in multiple locations. So, that’s why you have to wrestle with this issue of teaching, and whether or not you’re going to be open to using video so that all of the locations can stay independent as far as they’re engaged in their community, but unified as one church in multiple locations.

Amy: 13:20 Tony, what’s your perspective on rural churches? We often hear that kind of, “Yeah, but our church is in a rural area and video teaching just won’t work there.”

Tony: 13:30 Yeah. Well, first, let me challenge that assumption because we are seeing video teaching actually does work in rural communities. So, that thinking that video doesn’t work in smaller communities or rural communities, I think that’s just a false assumption. In fact, I can give you a couple of great examples. Prairie Lakes Church, one of the churches we’ve worked with in Iowa has six different locations. Have you ever been, Amy, to Iowa?

Amy: 13:59 I have been to Iowa. That’s my neighbor; they’re just south of me.

Tony: 14:02 Back when I was in city management, I was a city manager in Iowa. It’s not a metropolitan state. But Prairie Lakes is using video teaching and they’ve grown in those six locations to several thousand people in attendance. So it’s working for them. Another example is Rock Bridge Community Church, again, they’re in six locations, but they’re located in smaller communities in north Georgia. Amy, have you ever been to north Georgia?

Amy: 14:35 I have not been to north Georgia.

Tony: 14:37 It is beautiful, actually. Lots of hills and mountains; very rural. And again, Rockbridge is using video delivery for their teaching team as well. And again, they’re reaching thousands of people. So, just because you’re rural and just because you’re in a smaller community doesn’t mean that video teaching will not work. The second thing I want you to consider here is even if you still disagree with me and you say we’re going to launch different locations, but we’re going to use different teaching pastors, just cut out the middle step: plant churches. Yeah. Just plant churches in these new locations. Make that teaching pastor the senior pastor. You can still resource that new church. You can give them leadership, you can give them financial support, you can encourage them in the ministry strategy that they’re using, but go into it knowing we’re church planting, and then it’s a win when we have a healthy, thriving new church in that new location.

Amy: 15:42 That’s really good advice. You avoid a lot of headaches of trying to all move in the same direction. And even like the financial aspects, you know, I think we think we’re going to find efficiencies in multisite, but you really only find those financial efficiencies if you do it in a wise way, right? So that was the warning sign about teaching. Are there others? Do you have another warning sign?

Tony: 16:05 Let me unpack another one here. The next warning sign is that a multisite church is not really one church in multiple locations when they feel they have to have different worship styles in every location. In other words, there’s a sense that a different style of worship is needed to reach people in a different community or in a different ministry context. And again, this may be a legitimate issue. You may really need a different style of music to reach a different group of people and you can extend that to the feel of the service as well as the entire service experience has to be different to reach a different community. My encouragement to you again is that you would consider church planting in that case because indeed, sometimes you do need a completely different style of worship or different worship experience in order to reach a different community.

Tony: 16:59 However, let me explain why if you’re going to be multisite, you really do need to stick with that same feel: that same worship experience at every location. So for a moment, let’s pretend we’re not talking about church, Amy. Let’s consider it this way – Let’s assume that you and I own a hamburger restaurant. We’ve been selling hamburgers for decades at our current location, but in recent years we’ve noticed that not as many people are buying our hamburgers. So rather than changing our burger recipe or updating the looks of our..

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Practical Tips for Effective, Multiplying Groups

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I shared in our most recent quarterly edition of The Unstuck Church Report: Benchmarks & Trends in Church Health that our data is showing one of the key differences between healthy growing and declining churches is that healthier churches have home-based groups as one of the primary ministries of the church.

There’s something about building community in somebody’s home that’s just a little bit easier than a classroom—with one big caveat. You have to have a lot of leaders for it to scale. And developing more leaders seems to always be something pastors tell me they are struggling to manage their time well enough to do.

So, how do you develop more small group leaders? Turns out, an emphasis on multiplication is one of the things churches tend to leave out of their small groups strategy. It’s also one of the things that helps you develop more small group leaders.

In this episode, I invited Chris Surratt to speak into this topic. You may know Chris from his work at several large multisite churches, including SeaCoast Church in South Carolina, CrossPoint in Nashville. Or you may know him from his work as the Discipleship and Small Groups Specialist at LifeWay. Or as the author of Small Groups for the Rest of Us. Or because he’s on my team at The Unstuck Group as a ministry consultant.

And if you don’t know Chris, just listen to the episode. He’s a wealth of experience and practical wisdom when it comes to small groups.

Here are a few of the highlights from our conversation:

  • Why you should focus your group leaders to be thinking beyond just the people already in their living rooms
  • Practical tips for effective, multiplying groups
  • How the language churches tend to use when talking about group multiplication sabotages the goal
  • The best strategies for continually launching new groups AND for developing more leaders

We tend to use negative language unintentionally when we talk about multiplying groups. We'll say split or divide—but that's not really what we're doing. The reason for multiplication goes back to creating disciples. #unstuckchurch…
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The best way to create new groups is to raise up leaders. If you're raising up a leader in your group, you are discipling them. #unstuckchurch [episode 98]
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Sean: (00:02)
Welcome to the Unstuck Church Podcast where each week we’re exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. This week on the podcast, Tony sits down with Chris Surratt, author and small group specialists at Lifeway Christian Resources, for a conversation on why growing churches are utilizing the home group strategy and some practical tips for how group leaders can build effective, multiplying small groups. As you listen to this week’s podcast, you can join the conversation by using the #unstuckchurch and posting your question or comment to your favorite social media channel. Connect with Tony, Amy, myself, and our Unstuck team and get your ministry specific questions answered. And don’t forget to subscribe and get the show notes in your inbox every single week. You’ll get one email with all of the information, including the leader guide, the resources that we mention during the episode, and bonus resources to go along with what you hear. You can sign up by going to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast. And now here’s the conversation with Tony and Chris Surratt.

Tony: (01:01)
Chris, first of all, thanks for sending me the new book, Leading Small Groups. This is actually kind of the second book in a series, am I correct?

Chris: (01:10)
It’s the second book. I don’t know if it’s exactly a series, but yes. I wrote another small groups book in 2015 called Small Groups for the Rest of Us, and this one is Leading Small Groups. I want to know first, did you enjoy the moon pie?

Tony: (01:24)
I did. I really appreciated that. So, you wrote the first book and now the second one. What prompted you to write this specific book?

Chris: (01:39)
The first one was really for the small groups point person or pastor or director on staff. So I talked about systems and how to build a good small group system and what does that look like from a staff position. So that’s how that book was about. I wanted to write one that was specifically for the small group leader because it can be intimidating; it can be complicating to think about starting a small group. There’s a lot of details to think through and there’s a lot of pressure when it comes to the word leader, what does that mean? You know, how do I do this? Is anybody going to show up if they, if I don’t like them, what do I do with them? Once they’ve shown up, there’s all these little details that we have to think through.

Chris: (02:24)
When starting a small group, so I wanted to write a book that could kind of be a manual from, you know, how do I even start thinking about who will be in my small group? Who should I invite? Who do I need to reach out to? You know, what does that look like to, you know, where should I host it? Is my home okay? Should I host it somewhere else? What night of the week works works the best? And then, how do I pick a Bible study? How do I lead a discussion? How do I facilitate a conversation? And then ultimately, how do I multiply? So I wanted to write a book that kind of took them through the stages, so that’s what Leading Small Groups is – it’s for the small group leader so somebody can pick it up.

Chris: (03:05)
Maybe they’ve already launched the group but they can turn to the leading section and kind of get some tips on how to lead better. It’s also for the small group’s point person because they can buy all of their leaders the book and give it to them or they can develop training around the different sections, which I’ve already heard from a lot of churches that are doing that. So that’s what this book was for was for that leader or that potential leader who’s thinking about starting a small group.

Tony: (03:32)
Chris, I know you’re aware of this as well, but The Unstuck Group in the last couple of years has done a lot of research looking at healthy growing churches and then churches that are plateaued and decline. It’s probably is not going to be a surprise to you when we dive into the data. What we’re seeing is one of the key differences between healthy growing and declining churches is that healthy churches have home groups. It’s one of the primary ministries of the church. And I’m just curious from your perspective, I mean I know you’re a small groups guy, but why do you think it is? Why, what, what’s, what is it about home groups, small groups that is helping these churches become healthier and actually experience growth as well?

Chris: (04:18)
I think there’s several reasons. A big part of it is just feeling connected: that’s a big part of small groups. When you go to church, most people are looking for community; they’re looking to get connected with somebody else. And small groups do that really well. Serving teams do that to some degree. You can get connected in a parking lot team or a kid’s team or a student team and serve and that’s great, but usually that ends when the service ends, so you go home and you probably don’t do anything outside of that. Small groups or just another step, you can get connected with people, you can get friendship and it just connects people in when they might drop through the cracks. So that’s a big deal for a lot of churches.

Chris: (05:04)
But I think even beyond that it’s how do we help our people grow spiritually? We want to take them from where they are to their next steps, and honestly, Tony, I don’t know a better environment for that then a small group of people. I mean definitely listening to a message I can grow, I can get tips, but then how do I live it out in my everyday life? And so that’s discussed in my small group. I have a small group with my wife and every week we take what we hear on Sunday and we apply it and talk about it and then we follow up on it the next week: how are you guys doing? Did you struggle this week in this area? Let’s talk about that. So if a church wants to grow, not just numerically, it’s important, but if you want to grow your believers, which I think the numbers will follow, then small groups are a great way to do that.

Chris: (05:55)
Is that the only way? No, there’s other environments where people can grow. Other ministries, men’s ministry, women’s ministries. But for me, it’s that, you know, 12 to 16 people sitting in my living room helping me on a daily basis, connecting outside of that group time. That helps me grow personally. I’m a professional church guy. I’ve been on staff, you know, churches for 20 some years. I’ve heard all the verses, but if I don’t have that small group of people that I’m really not growing. So I think that’s the key; that’s why churches should offer groups. And I think there’s also something to that home group part. There’s something about building community in somebody’s home that’s a little bit easier than maybe a classroom or somewhere like that.

Tony: (06:46)
I love the book. And by the way, Chris, you know this, but the listeners, I lead a small group as well with my wife, Emily, so I always appreciate when I as a small group leader can get advice in a few areas that I’m finding tend to be challenges even for myself as a leader. I think one of the challenges has to do with the multiplication because I don’t want to just get to a place where with my group we’re only focused on just those of us in our living room, but eventually we’re figuring out how can we expand and multiply what we’re learning and really multiply disciples then through the small group strategy. That’s part of what Emily and I personally want to see through our group as well. I know it’s multiplication that is actually one of the elements that’s commonly left out of small group strategies. So, can you share why multiplication is a key ingredient for a healthy small group?

Chris: (07:48)
It’s a big reason actually why I wrote the book. I talked to churches all the time about small groups and one of their biggest struggles is how do we get our groups to multiply? I totally get it. Once you’re in a small group of people and you get comfortable with those people, it’s hard to think about multiplication; starting another group. And then we tend to put some negative language around it. We’ll say split or divide, and that’s, that’s not really what we’re doing. Really the reason for multiplication goes back to what you said was creating disciples. If you look at 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul lays out four generations of disciples in that one verse verse. I mean, he’s talking to Timothy, he says, you know, commit this to faithful men and then also to others outside of that.

Chris: (08:41)
So that’s four generations. That’s Paul, it’s Timothy, that’s faithful men and that’s others. And I think if we’re going to create those generations of disciples, the best way that we’re going to do that is by creating new small groups. Well, how do we create new small groups? Well, the best way is to raise up leaders, which is discipleship. If you’re raising up a leader in your group then you are discipling them, and then either sending them out to start a new group, which happened to happens a lot. We’ve done that through the years with our small groups or letting them take the existing group and then you as the leader, as the disciple maker, is generation one stepping out and starting a new group. A lot of times that’s easier because there’s already some relational equity there with that secondary leader so they can more easily step in than step out.

Chris: (09:33)
And then I think a piece that we missed with the multiplication is we think that’s it: Okay, we’re leaving that group, we’re never going to see them again or never got to talk to them again. But honestly, you know, you can still do group together. You can meet together once a month, you could do missional opportunities through the year together. And also it creates a natural coaching kind of position where that original small group leader continues to coach and disciple that other small group leader as they start their group and they start the process over. So, it’s not easy and not every small group is going to walk through this one, two, three, like easy steps. But I think if you can, you’re going to be able to create those generations of disciples that you would not have if you would just state us four and no more, you know, with within your group. So multiplication is important. That’s why I made it a whole section of this book.

Tony: (10:28)
All right. So, honestly, I don’t know if any of the of the group members in our personal group listen to my podcast. So let me ask this question this way. I have a friend that that leads a small group and he has suggested that he has a challenge with cohesion and consistency. In other words, sometimes he’s feeling like the people in the group just aren’t clicking or people aren’t attending consistently. What advice would you give to my friend who’s a small group leader, Chris?

Chris: (11:01)
Well, I would say to your friend, which it’s kind of funny, my small group now listens to my podcast and I can’t make up stories anymore. I gotta tell the true story. I would tell your friend that consistency is one of the main group killers. Getting into your group and then the group doesn’t meet consistent consistently, they cancel a lot or they may switch meeting times or meeting places and you know, after awhile people will just give up. And you know, joining a small group is not not easy. I know talking to you over the years, Tony, you weren’t always the biggest small group proponent, but it’s another layer of time that we have to put in. Most of us don’t have it just outright – we’ve got schedules and kids schedules and all that stuff, and so to ask somebody to give up another hour and a half, two hours of the week and go to a small group is a big ask.

Chris: (12:01)
So then if you make that inconsistent and they don’t know what’s coming from week to week, it’s going to make it that much harder. So I would say it’s important that when groups are launched that you have the right expectations for the group. So when my group launches, every semester we have a group covenant or a group agreement where we lay out, this is when we’re gonna meet, the days we’re going to meet, we’re going to have childcare and not have childcare, you guys are going to be responsible for bringing food or not bringing food. All of these are laid out in a document, and then a part of it is if you’re going to miss or not be consistent, you’re going to let the group know. This may not be the group for you. If you’re not going to be able to make it on a consistent basis, this may not be this semester or the group.

Speaker 4: (12:44)
And so it’s launching with those right expectations, having maybe a vision statement for the group at the..

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This usually happens somewhere around the third location of a multisite church: they get stuck.

But, it’s not necessarily shown from an attendance perspective. They are growing churches that are reaching new people for Christ, that usually have a thriving kid’s ministry, and have people taking next steps in their faith. They are stuck in a different way. It often sounds like this: 1. “We’re spending way too much on staffing.”

And they are. Typically, these churches are overstaffed and are underutilizing their body – the volunteers – to do the work of the church. 2. “We don’t know who is responsible for what anymore.”

And they don’t. What used to be so clear is now fuzzy and undefined. Does the Campus Pastor get to make that call? Does the Kids Pastor get to decide on that? What is each person ultimately responsible for? 3. “It’s the tyranny of the urgent.”

And it is. Many of these staff teams feel overworked and can’t get beyond the whirlwind of week-to-week ministry. 4. “The leaders are making decisions that affect my ministry, and they’re not even including me in the discussions.”  

Just as the decision-making process gets fuzzy, so do the communication channels within these churches. People who used to be “in the know” now feel surprised by decisions and left out of key conversations. They feel like they no longer have a voice at the table.

Do any of these issues sound familiar? If so, your staffing structure may be ready for some change.

As we work with multisite churches across the country, there are 3 key shifts that are helping churches get unstuck in multisite staffing:

1. Redefining the Senior Leadership Team

In a multisite structure, the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) will typically include the Senior Pastor, Executive Pastor, Family Ministry Pastor, Connections Pastor, and a Worship & Creative Arts Pastor (weekend leadership). A Campus Pastor, or leader over all of the campus pastors, would also be included. This team is the high-level decision making team for the church and is responsible to define, lead, and implement the strategies that will move the church forward. Their primary responsibility on this team is the overall health of the church and determining the strategies that will help the church live out its mission and accomplish its vision.  

2. Putting Leaders in Leadership Positions

That sounds obvious, but we often see that key leadership positions are occupied by legacy staff members whose primary gifting is “doing” the ministry. For example, your current Children’s Pastor has been successful because he is great at being with kids. In fact, he’s a kid magnet. As the ministry grows, however, you need a leader magnet that draws key staff and high-level volunteers into the ministry to teach, lead, schedule and implement the programming.

When you have the right leaders in place, they will build their respective ministry areas with the right staff, with the right span of care, and with many more volunteers than staffers.

As Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:11, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” Leaders are body-builders.

3. Defining Decision Rights

If you’ve been in a multisite church for any amount of time, you know that clarity is king. It is the leader’s responsibility to bring clarity to who is responsible for what, what the “win” is for every role, and who gets to make what decisions. Without these definitions in place, churches end up talking about a lot, but not doing a lot. When team members are clear about who owns decision rights, everyone knows their role. Either 1) they have no role in it so they don’t have to expend any energy on it, 2) they have a voice in the decision where they can speak honestly and openly about their opinion (and then they’re done), or 3) they have a deciding vote. But defining decision rights can be confusing. Here are some practical ways to start the process.

Multisite churches that get these three areas figured out start to see a decrease in staffing/hiring dollars, an increase in volunteer engagement, and a reduction in the time needed to make key decisions.

If you’re a multisite church feeling stuck in your staffing and structure areas, check out our newest online course—Multisite Unstuck.

We’re seeing more and more multisite churches unintentionally find themselves at the point of “un-multisiting,” with senior pastors finding themselves thinking, “How did we get here?”

This course is designed to help you navigate running a healthy multisite church through exercises and discussions that will facilitate important conversations with you and your team. The tangible next steps presented will help you discover the shifts that need to happen within your church.

Check it out here.

The post Multisite Staffing: 3 Ways to Get Unstuck appeared first on TonyMorganLive.com.

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How Connexus Church Created a Culture for Inviting New Guests

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I had a conversation a couple of weeks ago with Jeff Brodie. You may not know Jeff, but you may know the founding and teaching pastor at Jeff’s church—it’s Carey Nieuwhof.

Jeff and I were catching up recently because four or five years ago, I flew to Canada to facilitate a strategic planning retreat with Carey, Jeff and the team at Connexus Church.

During that time together, we discovered that what they at the time thought was a “back door” challenge at the church was actually more of a front door problem.

It was a big moment in the conversation and in the life of this church. Connexus is an outwardly-focused church. They’d been designing weekend services for people to meet Jesus. They talked about inviting all the time. And people were inviting—but not the way they hoped they would.

I was so encouraged in the conversation with Jeff a few weeks ago because the way they responded to that challenge and the results they’ve seen are incredible.

I’ll give you a preview: It all started with a heart change. The whole culture of the church has become focused on tangibly, practically loving people outside the walls. And through that heart change, they’ve seen the fastest growth to-date in their church.

In this episode, Jeff and I discussed:

  • Why Jeff believes jumping straight to strategies for creating more invite opportunities would’ve short-circuited what God wanted to do in the life of the church
  • The flaw in how many of our churches teach the language of “invest and invite”
  • Why invite culture starts with staff culture, and what Connexus considers indicators that the staff is leading the right way
  • The significant change that challenges the assumption guests want to be “anonymous”
  • How streaming services and online engagement factor into physical attendance

In our culture, we've forgotten how to be social. We don't actually know how to build a relationship. We had to teach people how to be social, not necessarily how to share their faith. #unstuckchurch [episode 97]
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A healthy new guests number needs to be equivalent over the course of a year to what a church sees on an average Sunday. #unstuckchurch [episode 97]
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Sean: 00:02 Welcome to the Unstuck Church Podcast, where each week we’re exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. This week on the podcast, Tony sits down with Jeff Brodie, lead pastor of Connexus Church, for a conversation on how their church created a culture for inviting new guests and are now seeing double-digit percentage growth because of it. As you listen to this week’s podcast, you can join the conversation by using the #unstuckchurch and posting your question or comment on your favorite social media channel. Connect with Tony, Amy, myself, and our unstuck team and get your ministry specific questions answered. Also, if you haven’t yet, make sure to grab the show notes as you listen. You can find those at theunstuckgroup.com/episode97. And better yet, make sure to subscribe to get the show notes in your inbox each week. You’ll get one email with the leader guide, the resources we mentioned, and bonus resources to go along with the content. You can sign up by going to the unstuckgroup.com/podcast. And now here’s the conversation with Tony and Jeff Brodie.

Tony: 01:02 I’m really looking forward to today’s conversation. Actually, Jeff and I had an initial conversation just a couple of weeks ago and he shared something about what’s happening at Connexus Church and gosh, what he was talking about I was thinking, everybody that listens to this podcast is going to want to hear this conversation. So I twisted his arm and he agreed to jump back on to record this conversation for our podcast. Jeff, welcome to the conversation today.

Jeff: 01:28 Thanks for having me. I’m looking forward to it. It’s fun to be here Tony.

Tony: 01:32 You may not know Jeff, but you may know the teaching pastor at Jeff’s church. Jeff is the lead pastor at Connexus Church and the teaching pastor is Carey Nieuwhof. Carrie is an aspiring podcaster as well.

Jeff: 01:46 Careynieuwhof.com – I’m trying to get his podcasts going; if you go to Careynieuwhof.com, he’s got real potential.

New Speaker: 01:54 I think he does have potential, that’s right. So what prompted this conversation today though, Jeff, is it actually the journey starts for me and my involvement with what’s happening at Connexus about four or five years ago, I guess it was. And in my working with you and your team, we kind of discovered what you thought I think was a backdoor problem at the church was actually really more of a front door problem. Can you go back in time and kind of catch us up to speed?

Jeff: 02:28 Sure. It was about five years ago, we asked Tony to come and spend some time with us that year. You’re gracious enough to do that, Tony, and we booked you, five years before, but then it was four years before when eventually the date rolled around. Little did we know it would be like the, basically the month Carrie and I would be passing the baton and a succession plan. I wish we could say we’d done that strategically, but it just worked out that way, which was great. We began to have a conversation about where our church is at and you’re a hundred percent correct. Tony, we started talking about the number of guests that we were seeing and were talking about the fact that when we looked at our number, you had said, hey, for a healthy new guests number, it needs to be equivalent in a year to what you see on a Sunday.

Jeff: 03:16 And that kind of rocked us a little bit. When you left, we had been counting in a different way so we said, hey, we need to get this all, you know, we need to be counting the same way all the time, all that stuff, and really get down to what the numbers are. When we saw them, we realize, oh, we have thought all along, some of the growth that we wanted to see; we were growing but not at the pace we wanted to. We thought it was a backdoor problem and realized, no, we actually have a front door problem we need to be seeing probably at least twice as the number of new guests that we were seeing at that time. So it was a sobering moment for us because we said, wow, I mean, we’re creating a church that unchurch people love to attend, we’re excited, we’re talking about inviting all the time. It’s not that we don’t talk about it and it’s not that it isn’t happening, but it isn’t happening at the level that it should be if we’re going to grow at the pace that we would like to. So that’s kind of where the problem that landed in our lap.

Tony: 04:13 All right. So then you’re kind of hit with that challenge. What was the first response? It’s interesting: I’m a strategist, so my first gut reaction, well, let’s create a strategy to overcome this challenge, but that’s not necessarily where you began, was it?

Jeff: 04:29 The truth is, it is where we began at first. So, I sat down with my leadership team and said, hey, we need to tackle this. The immediate thing that happens is everybody jumps for the tools. Everybody wants to try this tool, this program, and just never sat right with me. I thought to myself, hey, this is really isn’t about tools. It’s not about better invite opportunities, creating more things that people can invite you. There is a vision gap here around a true passion for people in our community. It’s not that we weren’t passionate as an organization, but were we passionate as people on the organic side; were we as people who call ourselves a church Connexus actually passionate about seeing our friends, our neighbors, our call leagues have their lives regenerated, redeemed by the Jesus who we think transforms lives?

Jeff: 05:31 It was tempting to go to the tools and there were some tools that we were looking at. One of them, which was something that Jeff Henderson had started to do out of The Four Company, which people can find online, but back then it was just a brand new thing he was trying. We were looking at that going, “Oh, we should just launch this and say, hey, we’re going to reach into the community by giving to our community partners and being more public” and I said, no, I think this is about individual ministry. I was reading a book called The Art of Neighboring, and the book is by Jay Paddock and Dave Runyon, who I’ve never met. I started reading that book and it’s all about building relationships in your neighborhood.

Jeff: 06:18 Another book, an inner varsity book, I forget who wrote it, all about the steps that people take as they come to faith and the first step is relationship. I was just praying all about that and realizing, hey, as a community we have to grow when it comes to our passion for reaching people who live next door to us and around us.

Tony: 06:42 So practically Jeff, what did that look like? How did you begin to close that vision, that passion gap for the people outside your church?

Jeff: 06:51 I think for me, I really think that often we think that vision, casting vision as leaders, is about growing our church or we think that vision is about taking people from A to B. I started to think about, hey, maybe the vision of our church is determined by the size of our hearts for people. That may be what God has for us is actually determined by how big our hearts can grow.

Jeff: 07:19 So we started to pray about that and as a team, we said, “Hey, we’re going to launch something called ‘For the City’, but we’re not going to launch it just as some kind of program, we’re going to launch it as a challenge to our people to grow their hearts for our community.” So what that means is so many people feel like life is against them, that God is against some, that our church would be against them. What if we became a church that was for them, not just as we gather, but as we go into the community? So that ended up being the conversation is “What does it mean to be for people as they gather?” Well, that’s easy, we are already doing that, but what does it mean to be for people as we go into our community?

Jeff: 08:05 So as a part of that, what I began to share with the people in our churches, I said, “Hey, we know that you love the community and what would happen if you got in the corner of these people in your life who feel like God is against them? Wouldn’t that change something for those people? And one of those people eventually found out not only that you’re in their corner and God’s in their corner, wouldn’t that change something for them? We would see their lives changed. So we said, “Hey, we’re going to be for people on Sunday morning, we want you to continue to be thinking about who you’re going to invite, but we’re going to challenge each and every person in our church to be for four people in their life to get in the corner of four people.

Jeff: 08:48 I was very clear, this isn’t about turning people into projects, but it’s about changing the posture of our heart towards people. I grew up in a house, Tony, where life change happened at our kitchen table. I mean, I’ve seen people at my parent’s kitchen table who sobered up at my parents’ kitchen table. I’ve seen people who are recovering from all kinds of addiction at their kitchen table. I saw marriages reconciled at our kitchen table. I saw lonely people having coffee at our kitchen table. And I actually brought my parents’ kitchen table and I put it on the platform and I told stories about that table and I said, “We’re launching a brand new environment at Connexus this morning and it’s your kitchen table. Maybe it’s not your kitchen table for you it’s the back of your pickup truck. Maybe for you, it’s your office cubicle at work. Maybe for you, it’s the side of the soccer sidelines where you’re going to start with four people, and you’re going to get in their corner and you are going to pray. So this isn’t about necessarily inviting them. This is about changing the posture of your heart towards those people.

Tony: 09:52 I love that. So, that was the foundation for the next steps for your church. My guess again, knowing how you are wired up, that there probably were some intentional strategy shifts and what that you made as a church once that vision was established. Can you share a little bit about what that looked like?

Jeff: 10:14 Sure. So I rolled it out first to a group of invested people – we had like 300 people at a night of worship. We rolled it out, your classic rolling out in concentric circles and then we rolled it out to the entire church and then people have the opportunity to identify who they were going to be for. So they put that on a card for themselves and then they could actually subscribe to an email list where I would send a regular email to share stories about how people had been for people and also to give them tips. Here’s the big learning in this for me, Tony. I think it was at the heart of the whole thing. I realized that in our culture. We’ve forgotten how to be social. We’ve forgotten how to, we don’t actually know how to build a relationship – that’s what I realized. This was about teaching people how to be social, not about how to share their faith. We had the lower the bar way, way down.

Jeff: 11:19 I’m talking about a church full of fantastic people. I love the people in our church. It’s not that they aren’t sharp people, it’s just our society. Our culture is that way now. So, we started to say, “Hey, being for your friend is to text them and say, ‘how’s your day going?'” Being for someone in your life is to pray for them. If you don’t even have four people, pray that God would bring you four people and that he would identify them to you. I stood on the platform and said, for some of you, the big thing you’re going to do this week is going to that house across the road and introduce yourself to your neighbor. You don’t even know who they are. You don’t know that person in your office. You don’t, you don’t know people.

Jeff: 11:59 What about hosting a barbecue? We actually said at one point that year if you want to host a barbecue with your neighborhood, we’ll run it for you, including care for the kids, and it’s not going to have Connexus anywhere, it’s going to be your barbecue but you just don’t know how to host a barbecue. So we’ll host it and you can get to know your neighbors. So those emails ended up being that. Then we put these art pieces in our locations, string art pieces with no string on them and we said every time you’re for one of your four in a week, you text them, you give them a word of encouragement, you introduce yourself to them, you walk alongside them, whatever it is, we want you to put a string on this art piece in our lobby on Sunday when you come for every person.

Jeff: 12:49 And then we would tell those stories from the front. We would actually celebrate those stories. Hey, let me tell you two strings stories from this past week. Honestly, Tony, the stories that we kept running into where, you know, someone said, hey, I said to her family, how can we be for this person in my workplace who I’m building a relationship with? Then that person, my workplace gets diagnosed with cancer and they’ve got two kids and my two kids say, “I think what we could do is get to have our stuffed animals for his two kids cause they’re probably having a hard time”, and she delivers those stuffed animals to him in the parking line. He’s just weeping that anybody would even care that he’s going through what he’s going through. She didn’t invite him to church. It wasn’t a part of an invitation.

Jeff: 13:36 There was no invite that went out, nobody was tagged on Facebook. This is about growing your heart for the people around you. We have blog posts where there was a 14-day devotional, I think it was seven days actually, to kick it off to get people’s hearts in the right place and the email lists to help them grow and how they’re reaching out to people. Then the string story to celebrate, “Hey, if you invite a friend that’s a string story to absolutely.” This is about growing our hearts for people. That was really the big, big thing for us.

Tony: 14:12 So what’s amazing is as you’re helping people experience this heart change, the invitations somehow are starting to happen then, right? Because you indicated to me a couple of weeks ago, I mean, the number of first-time guests has just skyrocketed over the last couple of years.

Speaker 3: 14:29 Absolutely. So what I have found really interesting about this is I chose to play the long game, which is not my personality. My personality was a quick fix. Let’s just ramp up something that gets people in the doors and not paying attention to the heart change would have been a mistake. Then over time what happened was we started to see more and more people in – it’s part of our language that connects us. I’ve been in meetings at Connexus where someone stands up and says, “Hey Jeff, I’m really sorry, but one of my four just texted me and they’re going through a hard time, I really need to go.” And the person leaves the meeting. I’ve had an elder leave a meeting – “One of my four is part of our language.”

Jeff: 15:18 Everybody is for four – who are your four? These are one of my four. And it’s amazing to see that happen. Then people did begin to invite and we began not just to celebrate when the person did come, but also if the person didn’t come and you invited them, we celebrated that as well,..

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4 Roles a Senior Pastor Can’t Delegate (Part 4)

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Today we’re capping off a podcast series I have really enjoyed. If you’re just joining us in this 4-part series on Roles a Senior Pastor Can’t Delegate, you really need to go back and listen to those previous three episodes. All of these roles are critical to your role as a senior pastor, and more importantly, to the overall health of your churches.

  1. Vision-Caster – Episode 93
  2. Spiritual Leader / Teacher – Episode 94
  3. Leader of Leaders – Episode 95
  4. Culture Champion – Episode 96

This fourth essential role—being the primary champion of culture in your church—is the most recent I’ve added to the list. But I’m convinced it’s crucial. Culture really does start at the top of an organization. And if the senior leadership team is preaching and teaching values and practices that the senior pastor does not exhibit, there’s going be a disconnect. Tension is going to rise on the team.

Amy said it well in our conversation:

Culture is a set of behaviors that defines what the team does, how they behave, what they value. I really don’t think you can leave that up to chance, hoping team members will figure it out. Amy Anderson

It’s the senior pastor’s responsibility to set the tone for the team and lead the church by example. When this is done right, not only do you shape the culture of the team, but you all also shape the culture of the entire church.

In this episode, Amy and I discussed:

  • Why the senior pastor must be the primary champion of culture at the church, and how he or she can own that role
  • Why if you tolerate things that are contrary to your culture, you really won’t have a culture
  • Where I most commonly see lazy leadership in ministries, and how it creates “cancers” that ultimately get the team stuck
  • The process and the payoff for defining culture, and then modeling, teaching and coaching it
  • Why “aspirational behaviors” don’t belong in your team culture definition today, and how you can start moving the team towards future ideals while working with the culture you have now

Culture is a set of behaviors that defines what the team does, how they behave, what they value. You can't leave that up to chance, hoping team members will figure it out. #unstuckchurch [episode 96]
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If you tolerate things that are contrary to your culture, you really won't have a culture. #unstuckchurch [episode 96]
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If somebody doesn't sin & they get the job done, church leaders tend to accommodate them, even if they don't meet culture expectations. The challenge is—it's usually around culture that cancers form on a team. Leaders, don't get lazy here.…
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Amy: 00:00 Culture is really a set of behaviors that defines you know, what the team does, how they behave, what they value and I just don’t think you can leave that up to chance, hoping team members will figure that out.

Sean: 00:11 Welcome to The Unstuck Church podcast where each week we’re exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. This week on the podcast, we conclude our four-part series on the Roles a Senior Pastor Can’t Delegate, focusing on the senior pastor’s role as a builder and protector of culture. As you listen to this week’s podcast, you can join the conversation with us by using the hashtag #unstuckchurch and posting your question or comment on your favorite social media channel. Connect with Tony, Amy, myself, and our Unstuck team and get your ministry specific question answered. Also, if you haven’t yet, make sure to grab the show notes as you listen. You can find them at theunstuckgroup.com/episode 96 and make sure to subscribe to get the show notes in your inbox each week. You can get one email with all of the info, including the leader guide, our resources and bonus resources we don’t mention during the episode. You can sign up by going to the unstuckgroup.com/podcast. Now, here’s the conversation on the senior pastor’s role in culture with Tony and Amy.

Amy: 01:13 This week we’re concluding our series on the Four Things a Senior Pastor Can’t Delegate. And once again, Tony, before we dive into this last area, let’s recap where we’ve been the past three weeks.

Tony: 01:23 This has been a fun series for me, Amy, thanks for engaging the conversation with me. In the first three episodes, we talked about vision-casting, we talked about teaching, we talked about leadership, and really I feel like I’m in the last message of a series at the church and you’re just catching the punchline today. So if you’re just showing up for whatever reason for the last time today, you really do need to go back and listen to those previous three episodes at a minimum in this series because really all of these roles are critical to your role as a senior pastor, but more importantly to the overall health of your churches. I hope you’ll be willing to do that. That brings us to this final area, this final role that the senior pastor can’t delegate.

Tony: 02:14 And that’s being the primary champion of culture in your church, and a culture we have learned through the years, it really does start at the top of the organization. If the senior leadership team is preaching and teaching values and practices that the senior pastor does not exhibit, there’s going to be a disconnect and the tension is going to rise on the team and it’s going to be you’re not walking your talk basically is what’s happening here. So, it’s the senior pastor’s responsibility to set the tone for the team and lead the church by example in this area. It’s important because when this is done right, not only do you shape the culture of the team, but you all also shape the culture of the entire church. So, Amy, here’s the deal: This area of culture I know is critical to the staffing and structure component of our Unstuck Process, and you’ve been interviewing me about the previous three roles that senior pastors can’t delegate, but because of your experience with this area, I want to turn the tables. Today I want to talk to you about shaping culture in our churches. So let’s just begin with that foundational question: “How does a senior pastor become the champion of the team’s culture?”

Amy: 03:37 Great question. By the way, you know this, Tony, when we work with different churches, this idea of culture is so real. You walk into a church team and instantly you get a vibe of what their church culture is like, and it can be so different from another team and another team week to week. It’s these distinctive pieces that really define it; the culture, they might not seem radically different, but I can just tell there are certain people who would or would not fit in that culture based on the experience with it. So, I think the first thing is a senior pastor has to do to champion the culture is actually to go through the work of defining the culture. You know this when we work with churches, we take them through an exercise called culture shaping behaviors. The whole experience is to help them think about what are the distinctive pieces about our team that define who we are. They can be called values, but I know that you and I found way too many churches had these core values on their websites and it really has zero impact to honestly what their culture was like. They had a lot of permission to play in them, right? Like we pray and we’d say, well that’s really good because you’re a church. But that didn’t necessarily define by being distinct though.

Amy: 04:59 Your culture is really a set of behaviors that defines, you know, what the team does, how they behave, what they value. I just don’t think you can leave that up to chance hoping team members will figure that out.

Tony: 05:11 So don’t miss this – I think this is key to this whole conversation. Rather than focusing on what we value, we want to shift, and it’s a slight shift, but it is a shift, we want to focus more on how do we behave, how do we act together, how do we engage with each other? And what we’ve learned is that actually is more telling when it comes to the overall culture of the organization. Amy, can you give a specific example of maybe one of the better cultures? I mean, we work with a lot of great churches and there are a lot of great cultures. We also run into some unhealthy cultures. So rather than camp on what’s not healthy, let’s talk about one of the healthy team cultures we’ve seen.

Amy: 06:03 Sure. We worked with a great church in your great state of Georgia, and this was a team that, boy, the whole time I was on site with them, it was just, it was a joy – it was humorous, they had huge challenges, but it almost added to their smile and their laughter. When we went through this exercise with them, let me just share with you the five team values that came out of this.

Tony: 06:25 So wait a second. I mean normally when we’re talking about the bad stuff in churches, we talk very generally and we don’t name names, but in this case, we’re talking about something positive. So I think we should actually go on the record with who this church is.

Amy: 06:41 All right, love this team. It’s Eastridge Church in Covington, Atlanta. Hello, my friends out there, if you’re listening today, I know they’re faithful podcast listeners. Their four exec leaders we’re just an amazing team and they set an amazing culture and they have this huge vision and I have no doubt they’ll move it, and part of it might because as you hear these culture behaviors, you might know why. The first behavior, there’s five of them, they said we have real relationships with one another that are honest and sincere. So there’s an undercurrent value thereof authenticity, but you know what, those four guys live it out. I could see it while we were there and that tells me that organization won’t tolerate anything that’s not real. They expect one another to be honest with one another. The second one they said, “we’re never satisfied with the status quo. For us, good enough is not good enough.” So there’s this hungry aspect to who they are. Just three more: The third one, a team win is more important than individual success. And you know, Tony, they bled this the whole time when we were working with them. You could just tell their mindset was if you win but the team doesn’t, that’s not a win. So this value of teamwork was perfect.

Tony: 07:56 What I appreciated the most as it relates to that particular behavior is how the senior pastor was modeling that. It wasn’t just a surface talk from the senior pastor, “really? It’s all about me?” I mean he was modeling this for the rest of the team, too. It comes through in his leadership

Amy: 08:16 Definitely. The fourth one, they said “we’re humble enough to know that we don’t know at all and secure enough to ask for the wisdom and help with others”, and that’s that teachability thing. Again, I saw it demonstrated as they leaned into one another, trying to make great decisions through the planning process. Then the last one is really this value of laughter – “We choose to be joyful and have fun in our journey together.” That’s what they were doing honestly. They had some big challenges to overcome and they could see the mountain in front of them and they did it with a smile on their face, not a fake one! They were choosing to be joyful in the journey together, and the whole time I was with this church, you could just hear laughter in the meetings and so it tells me, who would fit on this team and who wouldn’t. You can start to get the shape of who that is. I love how you leaned into the senior pastor there. It starts with him, but the team that he is around, they have just picked up on that culture and also live it out.

Tony: 09:13 All right, Amy, so it’s one thing to try to define the culture that you want to have on your team. It’s a completely different thing than want to try to live that out. So once you define the culture, then what?

Amy: 09:26 So once you define the culture, I think what’s really important is you work with your communications department to create some great signs that you put on your walls and then make sure you get it on your website.

Tony: 09:39 Amy, obviously you’ve picked up the part of our culture that embraces sarcasm. That’s why I fit so well. I’m suspecting that’s not what actually what we need to do.

Amy: 09:55 No. The next thing you have to do pretty simple. I mean it starts by modeling it. I think the reason we’re talking about this team is that those four leaders model everything that I just said – It’s how they live. It’s what they do. It’s what they expect of one another. It’s innate in them. That’s what’s made them such a great team over the years. So when they actually named them, they stood back and even their team was like, “That’s what you all do. That’s who we are.” So modeling is the first one.

Tony: 10:22 I can’t overemphasize how important it is for the senior pastor. And again, Scott on the team there, a senior pastor, he’s living out those behaviors. Then that starts to shape the culture and then he’s making sure those key leaders around me immediately around me, they reflect those behaviors as well. Otherwise the rest of the team is not going to catch it, and certainly, the church is not going to catch it either.

Amy: 10:50 Interesting you say that. I don’t mean to go negative, but there’s a church I’ve worked with many years ago now, but their leadership team modeled these things. I think their leadership team actually came up with these things, but the senior pastor did not. He agreed with them that they’d be a good thing, but if you really watched what he modeled, it was not congruent with the behaviors that this team had pulled together. So that’s not a healthy culture.

Tony: 11:19 All right. So, once the culture is defined, you begin by modeling it, then what?

Amy: 11:24 Then you have to teach it. It goes back to the visioning of it. You need to keep it in front of the team. You need to talk about it. When I say you, I mean the senior leader. Senior leaders, again, you can’t delegate the ownership for culture. They need to hear you talk about it, preach about it, share it with the team. Monthly staff meetings, by the way, are really a great way to do this. Churches often asked me what, what’s an important piece of the staff meeting? And while sharing information is an important part of it, I think bringing back the culture and vision-casting around that is something that just says staff team members, we need to be reminded of who we are every once in a while.

Tony: 12:04 I just want to emphasize here, not having too many behaviors that you’ve identified as being critical to the culture because I had an example, and again, I’m not going to name the organization, but in this case, if I did, everybody listening would know it. I was at a gathering and the leader of the organization was talking about their new values as a team and started to rattle off these values and I thought, well, this is interesting because the values he’s talking about aren’t the values that are on the wall in the room that we’re in. So the reason why he didn’t know them I think is not only because the values were new, but there were 13 new values on the wall. And so, they may be values, but what you want to do is try to narrow down so that you’re talking about the core behaviors that you’re expecting to see in your team that way, not only does everybody hear them more often, but everybody knows them in their heart and they’re starting to live them out.

Amy: 13:05 I really appreciate what Craig Rochelle said and he’s got a great podcast from a couple of years ago, it’s a two-parter, but he talks about the values being memorable and portable. I think those are good litmus tests. So can people remember them? On your team, can you remember them? And then if you can remember them, then they’re portable, then you can take those with you wherever you go. So yeah, 11, 12, 13 that’s way too many.

Tony: 13:31 That’s right. So you talked about you have to model it, you have to teach it then what?

Amy: 13:35 Then you have to coach it. This is kind of I guess a management principle that I have always lived by, but the first part of it is what gets noticed gets repeated. So I think you need to, as leaders, catch your people living out these values and celebrating it. It’s so much more memorable. People really own it..

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4 Roles a Senior Pastor Can’t Delegate (Part 3)

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My team and I at The Unstuck Group have had the opportunity to work with some really wonderful senior pastors over the last 10 years. It’s given us a unique opportunity to see what roles the senior pastors own—and what they delegate—in the healthiest churches of all different sizes.

This is part three in a series of four that I’m excited about. The most popular episode of all time on The Unstuck Church Podcast was on the roles a senior pastor can’t delegate. At the time we published that episode, I had identified three. I’ve since added a fourth.

  1. Vision-Caster
  2. Spiritual Leader / Teacher
  3. Leader of Leaders
  4. Culture Champion

We decided to record a new series of episodes and go much deeper on each of the four.

So in this third part of our podcast series on 4 Roles a Senior Pastor Can’t Delegate, Amy and I dive into why the lead pastor must be the primary leader of leaders in the church.

Leadership requires evolution. The leader you were one year ago probably shouldn’t be the leader you are today.

In this episode, Amy and I discussed:

  • The most common ways we see pastors of different size churches get stuck when it comes to leadership
  • How to get yourself moving forward again depending on where you identify you are stuck
  • What a healthy span of care really looks like and why it matters more than many pastors seem to realize (or are willing to address)
  • How and why to become a more collaborative leader

You can’t lead like you used to lead. Your church is changing, and you have to change too. [episode 95]#unstuckchurch
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How you live out your leadership development role is critical to the overall health of your ministry. #unstuckchurch [episode 95]
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We use #unstuckchurch on Twitter, and we start a real-time conversation each Wednesday morning when the episode drops. You can follow me @tonymorganlive and The Unstuck Group @unstuckgroup. If Facebook is where you spend your time, I’m there, too. Links & Resources from the Episode

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Tony: 00:00 Your leadership development and how you live out your leadership role is critical to the overall health of your ministry. And you can’t neglect that no matter what size your church is, no matter what size your staff team, and if you’re leading a growing church and you’re reaching hundreds, thousands of people, I want you to hear this: your leadership development and how you live out your leadership role, it’s critical to the overall health of your ministry. Don’t neglect it.

Sean: 00:36 Welcome to the Unstuck Church podcast, where each week we’re exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. Today on the podcast, we continue our four-part series on the roles a senior pastor can’t delegate, focusing on the senior pastor’s role as a leader of leaders. As you’ve listened to this week’s podcast, you can join the conversation with us by using the Hashtag unstuckchurch and posting your question or comment to your favorite social media channel. Connect with Tony, Amy, myself, and our unstuck team and get your ministry specific questions answered. Also, if you haven’t yet, make sure you grab the show notes as you listen. You can find them@theunstuckgroup.com/episode 95, and don’t forget to subscribe to get the show notes in your inbox each week. You’ll get one email with all the info, including our leader guide, the resources we mentioned during the episode, and bonus resources to go along with the content. You can sign up by going to the unstuck group.com/podcast now here’s the conversation on the Senior Pastor’s Role of Leadership with Tony and Amy.

Amy: 01:36 This is episode three in a four-part series on the Four Things a Senior Pastor Can’t Delegate. And Tony, before we get to the third one, can you just recap a little bit where we’ve been?

Tony: 01:46 Yes! So, by the way, really appreciate Amy, you taking the time to help me identify these these areas as well. You and I have had the opportunity both to serve great senior pastors, but work with great churches across the country and senior pastors that are really modeling what it takes to lead healthy, thriving churches. These are those consistent themes that we see the priorities that we see in those senior pastors. We’ve already covered two of these Vision Casting in the first episode in the series, and then in the last episode we talked about the priority of teaching – not just for the senior pastor to develop that gift, also then it may be even more importantly to develop a healthy teaching team. So, that brings us to today’s topic. I am excited about this one as well.

Amy: 02:37 So what is the third role that a senior pastor can’t delegate?

Tony: 02:41 I feel like we need a drum roll here, Amy, but it’s leadership, and that may sound obvious to you, but a senior pastors have to be the primary leaders in the organization. It’s a role they can’t delegate to others. Now, when we talk about senior pastors though, this leadership role really has two functions both leading up and leading around. In other words, the senior pastor should provide leadership for the board, the elders, those that are above him or her, and then additionally they have to provide leadership to their staff leadership as well. One person cannot carry the leadership load themselves. So the senior pastor has to be intentional about building that team of staff leaders around them.

Amy: 03:32 Yeah. Here’s the challenge, Tony, that I see, especially when I work with leadership teams: When you say the word leadership, that actually means a lot of different things to the people who are listening. So what does that word mean to you?

Tony: 03:45 We’ve probably all heard John Maxwell famously, right? Share leadership is influence and I believe that’s so true. For senior pastors, they need to take a broader view of influence, especially as the ministry grows. In other words, there’s a shift from influence to accomplish tasks, to influence, to fulfill a mission and a vision. Frankly, where I see a lot of senior pastors getting stuck is they don’t make that shift in the influence. This both involves taking their leadership to a different level, but it really does require an evolution in their leadership as well. In other words, the leader that they are today may not necessarily be the leader that they need to be in the future for where their church is going.

Amy: 04:42 Oh, that’s so important; Explain that a little bit more, Tony.

Tony: 04:45 So I’ve talked about the four steps in a leadership pathway in the past, but you can also think about this as the four stages of influence. It begins with kind of a foundational aspect of leadership, which is leading by example. In other words, leaders have the opportunity to model for others: This is how we do things. This is why we do the things we do. It’s, it’s actually leaders getting their hands dirty and showing other people that this is how we do it. I’ve actually alluded to this as being a representation in Exodus 18 we see Jethro giving his son in law, Moses, some advice to expand his span of care because Moses is trying to do it all himself. He’s trying to make every decision and this is where Jethro gives Moses that that clear guidance to identify and raise up leaders of tens, fifties, hundreds and thousands, and I actually think leading by example really is a good representation of leader of tens there they’re showing others around them.

Tony: 06:00 This is how we do things and they influence others by leading by example. But there’s a second stage of influence and that involves leading other people. This is when leaders learn how to delegate; They learn how to give tasks away. So rather than doing it all themselves, they’re actually giving away responsibility to other people. This is an important part of leadership because we’ve broadened the amount of ministry that we can accomplish when we invite others into taking responsibilities for doing things in the ministry as well. This I think is a good representation of that leader of 50s, the leader of hundreds then begins to lead other leaders and that big distinction here is they move from delegation to empowerment. The biggest shift here is really in decision making because you’re giving decision making not only to around tasks to other leaders, but your help.

Tony: 07:06 You’re now giving responsibility to other leaders to really shape who they are, who their team is and where their ministry is going more broadly in the future. And so again, this is where we see sometimes pastors getting stuck as they’ve learned how to delegate, but they really haven’t learned how to empower other leaders, and we’re going to come back to that in a moment. The final step then and the stages of influence is to be able to lead through the vision to build, to really cat be a catalyst for a movement. I won’t camp a lot here because we actually talked about what it is to lead through vision casting in the first episode in this series on the Four Roles that Pastors Can’t Delegate.

Amy: 07:55 So, where do pastors that you see, Tony, get stuck along that paradigm? You know, those four different phases.

Tony: 08:02 That’s a good, that’s a good question, Amy. So I think it’s actually the align with these stages, but the size of the church, it actually is telling about where pastors are getting stuck in their leadership. So for example, in small churches, pastors tend to get stuck because they only lead by example. In other words, they’re trying to do all the ministry themselves. And actually, unfortunately the culture of small churches kind of expects that of the pastor.

Amy: 08:33 They expect the pastor to do all those things. That’s why we’ve hired you, right?

Tony: 08:38 And so that’s the biggest step that if you’re stuck in your leadership in a small church that I want to challenge you to take is rather than doing it all yourself, how can you start to give ministry responsibilities, tasks away, if you will, to other people in the church. For midsize church pastors, they tend to get stuck because they delegate, but they don’t empower. In other words, they have learned how to tell other people what to do, but they haven’t really given away ownership of ministry to other leaders in the church. As a result of that, the challenge is delegation can help you accomplish more, but every time you delegate a task to somebody, they go get it done and then they come back to you to figure out what’s the next task that I need to accomplish. Because of that, you still become the bottleneck for getting ministry accomplished in your church.

Tony: 09:36 And so my challenge to you if you’re that midsize church pastor is you need to move beyond delegation to true empowerment. Then for large church pastors, they tend to get stuck because they empower, but they don’t develop a team of leaders around them that can also empower others. Basically, they have people around them that only know how to go tell other people what to do. That again, in other words, that senior leadership team becomes the bottle neck at that point. The other place, and because of that, they’re not creating margin in their leadership to assume that role of vision caster that we talked about a couple of weeks ago, so they have to kind of rise up in their leadership. Now what I’ve shared with others though is that once I get to that level of influence in my leadership, does that mean that I never have to lead by example, that I never have to delegate, that I never have to empower other leaders? Of course the answer to that is “no, absolutely not.” In any given situation, you may have to step back and lead in a different way. Your influence comes out in a different way based on the situation. But if all of your time is leading by example and you’re trying to grow your church, grow the impact of your church, your church is going to get stuck and it’s getting stopped because of the lid on your leadership.

Amy: 11:07 Can I just add one other caution in? I think sometimes when large church pastors get to that, “Well I’m supposed to be the catalytic leader”, the vision casters, they can actually acquiesce from being involved in the leadership of the church. Meaning you actually delegate the leadership of the church. And that’s why we’re so strong on senior leadership teams because you want that senior pastor’s input and voice around strategic conversations, but when you get to a certain size, you really need someone else to champion, “What should this leadership team be talking about?” But you want the senior pastor actively engaged in those conversations and present in the leadership within that.

Tony: 11:45 Yes, and Amy, let’s just put our cards on the table here. A couple of years ago, you saw me do this at the Unstuck Group. We were growing dramatically the number of churches that we were serving, but our systems weren’t scaling with that growth. And because of that, we were actually facing a crunch financially, that if I had not stepped in and actually engaged that strategic conversation with our team, if I would’ve just kept my vision casting hat on, “hey, we’re going to serve a thousand churches in the next 10 years, but I’m not going to help you deal with the strategic issue that is going to prevent you from actually serving those thousand churches”, that would be a dereliction of my duty as well as the senior leader of our team. So, yes, that’s a great caution. We can’t neglect leadership because we’re empowering other leaders.

Amy: 12:39 That’s right. Well, I like where this is going. You started to identify some of the barriers, right? To fully embrace this important role of the senior pastor. Can you offer maybe some other common mistakes that senior pastors make when it comes to their leadership role?

Tony: 12:54 Yes, and this, this first one’s a common one too, so it really fits in what you’re asking here, Amy. It’s that I see senior pastors trying to lead too many people and you know, you start to layer on these key responsibilities that we’re talking about in this series. The vision casting, the teaching specifically, today we’re talking about leading those senior leaders in your team. This takes time, and because of that, what I find is most challenging for senior pastors, especially in growing churches, is they continue to add new leaders to their team. Every one of those leaders gets directly connected to their leadership. In other words, they’re the boss of everybody that gets hired as the church grows. So it wouldn’t be unusual for us to walk into a church and see the senior pastor trying to lead eight, ten, twelve.

Tony: 13:50 In one case, I saw fourteen other ministry leaders on the team and the pastor’s wondering why the church is stuck. I know why the church is stuck: You’re directly trying to lead 14 different people, which means you don’t have enough time to focus on the roles that you cannot be delegating to anybody else. And so the first, this is a challenging shift. I know for a lot of pastors, especially pastors, you’re people pleasers, you want other people to lie to you. One of the shifts that you’re going to have to make is to identify in order for our church to get to a healthier place and to have a greater impact, I have to reduce my span of care. In other words, I have to reduce the number of leaders that are directly connected to my leadership, which means you have the opportunity to raise up other high capacity leaders around you so that you know when you hand off that leadership responsibility, the people that you love, that you trust, that you are glad your on your team, when you’re handing them off to another leader on the team, you know they’re going to get great leadership.

Tony: 15:00 In fact, honestly, they’re going to get better leadership than they’re getting today because if you’re one of those fourteen people that just has a sliver of your leadership influence, that’s not enough for those fourteen people to become healthy leaders themselves.

Amy: 15:16 This is one of the biggest benefits that I see with our staffing structure review because sometimes you need a set of outside eyes to take a look at where do we want to go and how do we structure that way? Because senior pastors, I don’t think they like to be the bad guy, if I can just say it that way. They need someone to tell them with confidence, “this is the structure that you need”, and to actually lean in with the senior pastor and understand his or her healthy span of care. Because some leaders, some senior pastors, really can’t lead more than one or two people with the other things on their plate. Other ones are really comfortable with four or five, but it’s different for every leader.

Tony: 15:54 The good news is when you bring us to do the staffing and structure review and you have fourteen people that are currently on your leadership team, we can talk to the nine people that shouldn’t be on your leadership team and you can blame it on the Unstuck Group, right? So, another common mistake that I see senior pastors making is that they’re trying still to lead a core area of ministry in the church in addition to these roles that we’re sharing about that cannot be delegated. So, in other words, they’re trying to lead the weekend experience. They’re trying to lead the groups ministry. They’re trying to lead the discipleship strategy in the church. And especially in the larger churches that we’re working with, if you’re the senior pastor and you’re still trying to lead one of these core ministry areas on a day to day basis, one of these other roles is going to be sacrificed. Honestly, what we see Amy is most often times it’s the teaching that gets sacrificed. So, you have to step out of the day-to-day ministry leadership in these core ministry areas. The other mistake I..

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