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Busy Church People Aren’t Necessarily Becoming Disciples

If you enjoy this episode, subscribe on your device for more:
iTunes   RSS   Google Play  Stitcher   Spotify I read this quote years ago and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.

“Unfortunately, churches often make things harder by obscuring the goal—to become more like Christ—with a complicated assortment of activities… When the church incessantly promotes all the things people should do, it’s very easy for them to lose sight of the real goal—which is who they should become.”
Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth
by Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson

This stood out to me because the research in this book confirmed my experience in working with churches. Program-based churches often have no intentional discipleship strategy. People are really busy, but there’s little in the way of spiritual growth happening.

The articles I’ve written on this topic in the past have been among the most read and shared. I included a few of them in the Links and Resources section below.

Amy and I dug a little deeper in this week’s podcast episode. Helping churches navigate this conversation is a big part of the Unstuck Process, and she and I both had some new observations to share.

In this conversation, we discussed:

  • The program mentality, how you know your church has it and how we know it doesn’t really work
  • Why more church activity ≠ people becoming more like Christ
  • 5 challenges a program-approach creates for the church (both for the leadership and for the congregation
  • What it means when you feel like you need more volunteers but you actually already engage a very high percentage
  • Practical next steps to consider if you’re leading an over-programmed church

More church activity ≠ people becoming more like Christ. #unstuckchurch [episode 85]
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When the church incessantly promotes all the things people should do, it’s very easy for them to lose sight of the real goal—which is who they should become. via @greglhawkins
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Leader Conversation Guide Want to take this conversation back to a staff or senior leadership team meeting?

Our Show Notes subscribers get a PDF download that recaps the episode content and includes a discussion guide you can print out and use at an upcoming meeting.

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

Leading an Unstuck Church Course

Can you believe it’s March of 2019 already? It’s crazy how fast our best plans get sidetracked by the day to day of ministry.

If you’re thinking, wow, it’s already March and we haven’t gained any ground, I want to suggest that you take a step that’s working for hundreds of other pastors.

Enroll online in the Leading An Unstuck Church Course.

This is my online course that digs into the 12 core issues that we have found are getting churches of all sizes stuck. It’s a really practical course that leads your team to take action, not just discussion.

You get teaching and coaching from our team in a convenient online format for less than what you’d likely spend to attend a conference this year.

Here’s another good reason to enroll this month:

We’ll give you the Complete Resource Bundle from our online store for free. It’s normally $99.

Enroll in the Leading an Unstuck Church Course 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, where each week our team’s having a conversation about getting churches unstuck. For churches our mission is clear to go into all the world and make disciples, but here at The Unstuck Group we hear often from church leaders that this is one of their greatest struggles. So this week on the podcast, Tony and Amy share a conversation about what’s working and what’s not when it comes to helping people grow as disciples. You might find it helpful as you listen to use the show notes and download our leader guide to work through this content together with your team. You can find those at theunstuckgroup.com/episode 85. Also, you can now subscribe to get the show notes in your inbox every single week. You’ll get links to all the resources that we mentioned during the show, so you don’t have to write those down. You’ll get bonus resources that we don’t mention during the show to help you go a little deeper on the topic and you’ll also get the leader conversation guide. Just go to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast. So let’s join the conversation with Tony and Amy.

Amy: 00:58 Well, Tony, one of the conversations we have almost every week with churches is how they can help more people grow as disciples. And specifically how can they be more effective in helping people take those spiritual next steps? And that’s the question that seems to be a struggle for many of the pastors and leaders we work with. Why do you think that is?

Tony: 01:17 Yeah, that’s a great question, Amy. I think one of the primary issues here is that when churches think about discipleship, many times how they encourage people to take next steps toward Christ has just by keeping them busy in church activities. And that really doesn’t work. And you know it’s not the goal either. The goal ought to be equipping God’s people to be more like Christ. But what we’re seeing is all that activity in churches is really making it difficult for people to live out their purpose within the body of Christ.

Amy: 01:51 Say a little bit more about that busyness or what we often call the program mentality. How do we know that that program approach doesn’t work?

Tony: 02:00 Okay. Amy it’s probably not going to surprise you in my response here, but let’s look at the data. Let’s look at the data. So what does the data say? This is one of those areas I just don’t want to go based on our gut. I actually want to see when we’ve looked at how people take their next steps toward Christ, what can we learn from data? And so the good news here is many years ago, Willow Creek started the reveal survey and that survey has been used to collect data now for well over half a million Christ followers in over 2,000 churches. And I really think if you dive into this data, it does give us a great picture of how people take their next steps toward Christ and what the results reveal to us is that more involvement in programs, in other words more church activity, doesn’t equal becoming more like Christ. In fact, one of our good friends, Greg Hawkins and Kelly Parkinson, his teammate at Willow at the time wrote a book about the findings of the reveal research. The book is called Move. And within the book there’s this quote, “Unfortunately, churches often make things harder by obscuring the goal, which is to become more like Christ with a complicated assortment of activities. When the church incessantly promotes all the things people should do, it’s very easy for them to lose sight of the real goal, which is who they should become.” So in other words, the research is confirming my experience. I know this is your experience, Amy, as well. Working with many churches, program based churches often have no intentional discipleship strategy.

Amy: 03:51 Yeah. And we know by working with these churches each week, Tony, that there’s a lot of challenges that come along with program based approaches.

Tony: 03:59 Yeah, that’s right. So let me give you some indicators of where the challenges of being a program based church begin to pop-up in the churches we’re engaging with. One example of this is when you are in a program based church, it actually creates competition between ministries. In other words, they’re competing for the time and attention of people that are connected to the church. Another indicator, it actually fuels the consumer mindset that we’re trying to actually free people from in our culture. Where churches promote programs and events for people to attend rather than equipping people to do God’s work. It also creates complexity within the churches and complexity, Amy as you know, is one of the primary indicators of the churches that we find that are stuck. When there are too many options for people as well, especially for those newer to the church, it can get overwhelming for people to understand what their next steps need to look like.

Tony: 05:06 And then finally I would offer, there’s often in churches that are heavily program driven, there’s often a shortage of volunteers because they are trying to do way too much there are way too many programs and events and it’s actually it’s kind of, I don’t want to say funny, but telling I guess when we engage with a church, we’ll see their volunteer numbers, their volunteer engagement is through the roof. I mean if you were just to look at that indicator of volunteer engagement, you would think this church is thriving and yet, and then you hear from the leaders in the church and they’re actually complaining that they don’t have enough volunteers. And the reality is they have plenty of volunteers. They have high volunteer engagement. They’re just trying to do too much and because they’re trying to do too much, they don’t have enough volunteers to cover all of that, those programming and event opportunities that the church is offering.

Amy: 06:09 That’s so true. I was thinking the exact same thing as you started to say that cause at our staffing and structure review, we look at those indicators all the time. And I was just with a church recently where they had those high engagement numbers and then I said, well, could it be that we have too many things we’re trying to get people involved in? And that was a key learning for them. Right. So, Tony if the leaders listening right now are thinking through their churches maybe menu of discipleship options and maybe realizing it might be overwhelming and lack a clear strategy, what would you advise them to do, what’s their next step if they get a sense they’re over programmed.

Tony: 06:45 Yeah. So I always like to encourage churches to first begin by identifying what really is the end goal. And in this conversation, the big question we need to ask, I think is this it’s pretty simple, what does a disciple of Jesus look like? And you know, I’ve challenged teams, if I were you, I would grab your ministry leaders, get into a room, open your bibles, and just begin to brainstorm a list of what are those attributes of a disciple of Jesus that we’re looking for so that we have a clear understanding of where we want to encourage people to end up through whatever that discipleship process looks like. Then once you have that clarity, I think it really is important to, as a church, identify the core steps. And here I think it’s three, four, no more than five. What are those core steps that you want to help people take so that they can learn what it is to live out their faith in Jesus and really equip them to be empowered to live out the mission God’s called them to within the body of Christ? The solution in other words, is to move from programs to a clear path, a path of next steps. The path may be different from church to church by the way, but those steps, those clear next steps need to be defined and this will help you begin to make a shift that’s also necessary where you’re less focused on attendance at programs and you’re more focused on the movement that people are taking, the movement, the next steps that they’re taking on that path.

Amy: 08:29 That’s really good. Let me ask you this. How do churches begin that transition of moving to a path? What does a path look like?

Tony: 08:35 Yeah, so here Amy I think it’s always good just to step back and look at our own personal journeys. In fact, I just had this conversation with a church I was at this past week, because for years they have had conversations about what would a discipleship, what should the discipleship looked like at the church? But they’ve kind of struggled to identify those clear next steps, that path that they’re trying to identify. I just encourage them to think back through their spiritual journey from the time they accepted Christ to where they are today and what are some of the key things that God’s used in their lives to shape who they are as a Christ-follower and really form their faith. And you know, for me personally, I look back and I’ve shared this with you and many others. A person comes to mind as an example, Charlie.

Tony: 09:32 Charlie, when I was new to the faith and actually even pre-faith, asking questions about who is Jesus, what did Jesus do for me? How do I have assurance of my salvation and eventually eternity in Heaven. Charlie met with me every Saturday for several months and opened the Scriptures with me for the very first time and shared who Jesus was. And it was through those early conversations within that relationship, that key relationship with Charlie that I took some huge next steps in my early faith journey. I also think back personally about those instances before I was on staff at a church, when pastors and leaders invited me to actually engage in ministry as a volunteer in the church. And those took on different forms based on my giftedness. But it really is amazing when I took a step into ministry and serving and using the gifts God has given me how much that formed my faith as well.

Tony: 10:35 And those are examples of some common responses we hear. It was key relationships that shaped my faith. It was using the gifts that God gave me to serve others that shaped my faith. It was a teaching that I heard along the way that really transformed how I thought about my relationship with Christ. And you know, Amy too life experiences both positive and negative, and also for me personally just leaning into biblical engaging with the Scripture and other spiritual disciplines. These are all the things that we hear when we hear from leaders when we just step back and ask them what was your journey like? And that’s my encouragement for other churches too. As you’re identifying these key next steps that you want people in your church to take, think back to your spiritual journey and what really helped you take your next steps toward Christ.

Tony: 11:35 And of those things that I just mentioned about my personal spiritual journey, I think for churches where they really need to lean in is biblical teaching, which for churches obviously that commonly happens on the weekend, on a Sunday morning service. Relationships, how are we encouraging people to develop small groups of people that they’re connected to where key relationships can develop. And then also serving how can we encourage people to use the gifts God’s given them to engage in the ministry. And so for a lot of churches, I think their spiritual path that we’re talking about really could just be three steps. Go to a weekend service. Yeah. Engage in a relationship, whether that’s through a small group or a serving team. Yeah. And then use your gifts to serve other people. It’s going to look different in different churches. But that’s kind of the process, the conversation. I would encourage church leaders to have to better define their discipleship strategies.

Amy: 12:40 Right. And then, you know, just a quick word on the strategy. I think churches need to figure out what do we expect from any gatherings that we have? And measure the effectiveness of that strategy. So for instance, if you’re hoping to get people into groups and so you hold a marriage event or some other event that you hope people will kick the tires on a small group, you actually should measure that. And if no one’s funneling into groups, you really just had a gathering, you really didn’t move people along the path.

Tony: 13:07 Yeah. But here’s the good news in all of this conversation, Amy, we have actually included some helpful next steps for churches. If you’re at that place and many churches are, where you just have never gone through these necessary tough conversations to clarify what that discipleship pathway looks like in your church, we offer some exercises in our online course on leading an unstuck church to help you with this process. And so if you’re interested in learning more about the course, you can go to theunstuckgroup.com and select the online course. In fact, if you register for this course in this month, in March 2019, you will get our complete resource bundle also included with the course, and that includes all the ebooks that I’ve written through the years. It includes our full set of job descriptions for churches that our team has developed. It includes all our white papers and there are many team exercises in that bundle as well. Normally we would charge you $99 for this, but if you participate in the online course where you can take some next steps related to your discipleship pathway and you engage in March, we’ll give you that for free as well.

Amy: 14:26 Tony, I think the next logical question, if we have time for one more, is what do we do with all those programs once we start moving towards a path? That’s probably a big topic for another day, but any words there?

Tony: 14:36 Yeah, it’s actually a biblical concept. We call it pruning, but you’re right, that’s a big one. Let’s save that for a future podcast though, Amy, because there’s a lot involved in that.

Amy: 14:49 All right, we will do that. Any final thoughts then on this topic?

Tony: 14:51 I really want to encourage you to take the time to identify the things that God used to grow your faith. I talked a lot about my personal faith journey earlier in this conversation, but I want..

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Start Some Strategic Conversations with Your Staff

Every year I see a spike in traffic to my site from Google searches about Easter planning, which makes me think many pastors are looking for fresh ideas… and based on the timing of those searches, there’s a lot of last-minute efforts happening.

It can be tough to approach the big days with new energy again and again. This year I thought I’d pull together some of my favorite posts to give you a few fewer results to weed through if you’re doing research.

If you’re feeling behind, take some of these ideas to your next team meeting. Easter Service Planning: 10 Things to Consider

If you haven’t started planning, you are quickly falling behind. Check out these 10 suggestions to really connect with your guests this Easter. 6 Ways We Ignore Unchurched Guests on Easter

When unchurched people walk through your door this Easter, will you be ready for them? Many churches over-estimate their level of readiness to reach unchurched people.
5 Ways to Impress Your First Time Guest | The Unstuck Church Podcast

In this recent podcast episode, I interviewed Amy Anderson, The Unstuck Group’s director of consulting, about the most common “misses” she sees when churches welcome first-time guests. Whether it’s a crowded bulletin or a lengthy message, these issues typically have easy (and inexpensive) solutions that could help you impress your Easter guests. Easter Prep: You Still Have Time for These Ideas

We’ve noticed over the years that when we publish Easter content when pastors need it, they don’t read it. When we publish content closer to Easter (typically when it’s too late), it gets lots of attention. So, here are some prep ideas for last minute planning. Easter Weekend Prep: Polish What’s Working. Don’t Start Something New.

Holidays can bring new people to your church and create opportunities for impact. Most pastors can easily name the big days that bring high attendance — but knowing about big days and planning for them are two different things. Take this opportunity to review your guest engagement strategy before Easter weekend rolls around. Sermon Prep: 5 Easter Questions to Answer for Millennials

As the lead communicator, you set the bar. How will your message treat the uneducated and the unconvinced who find themselves in your seats in a few weeks?

The post 6 Posts to Re-Energize Easter Planning appeared first on TonyMorganLive.com.

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The Easter countdown is on. If you haven’t started planning, you are quickly falling behind.

Tony and I put our heads together and thought of 10 things to consider when it comes to planning, programming and promoting Easter services: 1) Use free tickets to build anticipation.

Establish the expectation that this is going to be a huge weekend. 2) Develop and talk about a big audacious attendance goal for Easter.

Cast a huge vision for what this will accomplish in the church and community. 3) Plan additional service options that may include Thursday and Friday evening services, a big outdoor service early Sunday morning, or an outdoor baptism service.

If the weather is nice, people love sunrise services and Easter baptisms. 4) Go big with the experience but still give people a taste of your normal Sunday.

Don’t do what you did last year and the year before that. Try to capture the attention of the “Easter Attenders” and don’t just preach to Christians. 5) Include the entire team in creating the experience including guest services, kid’s programming, students, etc.

Parents will bring their kids to an awesome children’s experience at Easter. 6) Promote a new series on Easter Sunday that either starts on Easter or the following week.

Remember that the win is not how many people show up for Easter—it’s how many people come back. Shoot for 75% of your Easter crowd. 7) Consider having all your kids sing during services one weekend leading up to Easter.

They’ll bring their parents and grandparents who will hear your Easter teaser. 8) Start promoting four weeks before and avoid the typical “Come celebrate Easter with us.”

Every other church does this. Be distinctive and generate a reaction rather than just sharing information. 9) Blow up social media with more than just Easter information.

Brainstorm memorable videos, quotes, infographics, life change stories, and other teasers that people will want to share.

If all of this sounds overwhelming or impossible to pull off, this may be a great time to evaluate your weekend service structure. Check out The Unstuck Group’s Ministry Health Assessment. This phase of the Unstuck Process includes a “Secret Shop” by one of our ministry consultants that will help you gain a better understanding of how your weekend service feels through the eyes of an unchurched member of your community

The post Easter Service Planning – 10 Things To Consider appeared first on TonyMorganLive.com.

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3 Simple Concepts Your Ministry Needs to Be More Effective

If you enjoy this episode, subscribe on your device for more:
iTunes   RSS   Google Play  Stitcher   Spotify Almost every church we guide through the Unstuck Process self-identifies communication as a “core issue” that’s getting them stuck.

I’m never surprised by that. Pastors are trained to preach, but usually not to oversee a communication strategy.

My friend Phil Bowdle from West Ridge Church has a new book out called Rethink Communication: A Playbook to Clarify and Communicate Everything in Your Church. It’s really good. It’s practical, and you know I like that.

I got an early preview of the book, and it brought to mind for me the specific communication issues I see repeatedly. None of them are inherently complicated, but churches get stuck because really fixing these problems requires more than just “communication” changes. It requires that you make ministry strategy changes that play out through communication. And that means it affects more than just the communications team—you’ll have to lead changes in how the whole team is operating.

But if it’s safe to extrapolate our experience serving several hundred churches at The Unstuck Group in the last few years to be an indicator of what many of you are experiencing, listening to this episode will give you a fresh perspective on your church’s communication strategies.

If it resonates with the frustrations you’re experiencing, the Leader Conversation Guide for this episode will be particularly helpful.

In this conversation, we discussed:

  • 3 very common mistakes churches make when it comes to how they approach communication and how you can start fixing them
  • Why being reactive instead of proactive in your communications puts an unnecessary burden on the people you’re trying to reach, and ultimately makes you ineffective
  • Why “bull-horn communication” doesn’t work anymore, and some bad assumptions church leaders make that undermine your ability to engage both new people and the people you already have
  • What the “attention economy” means and why it matters for how you attempt to reach people with key messages and next steps

Jesus said, "Go & tell." He didn't say that had to happen on a Sunday morning platform. This is some fresh perspective on church communication strategies.
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What the Attention Economy means & why it matters for your church. #unstuckchurch #podcast [episode 84]
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Leader Conversation Guide Want to take this conversation back to a staff or senior leadership team meeting?

Our Show Notes subscribers get a PDF download that recaps the episode content and includes a discussion guide you can print out and use at an upcoming meeting.

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

Leading an Unstuck Church Course

Can you believe it’s March of 2019 already? It’s crazy how fast our best plans get sidetracked by the day to day of ministry.

If you’re thinking, wow, it’s already March and we haven’t gained any ground, I want to suggest that you take a step that’s working for hundreds of other pastors.

Enroll online in the Leading An Unstuck Church Course.

This is my online course that digs into the 12 core issues that we have found are getting churches of all sizes stuck. It’s a really practical course that leads your team to take action, not just discussion.

You get teaching and coaching from our team in a convenient online format for less than what you’d likely spend to attend a conference this year.

Here’s another good reason to enroll this month:

We’ll give you the Complete Resource Bundle from our online store for free. It’s normally $99.

Enroll in the Leading an Unstuck Church Course 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: 01:39 So Phil, I see three common mistakes in churches when it comes to communications. And I’m going to bounce all three of these off of you over these next few minutes here and you can tell me if I’m right or wrong and then help us fix all three if you agree with me. Are you good with that? Let’s do it. Alright. So the first mistake that I see is churches really don’t have a communications strategy or playbook defined. Do you see that in a lot of churches?

Phil: 02:06 Oh, very much so. I think typically what I see is churches are very reactive around how they communicate instead of proactive. And the challenge of that is not only does the staff pay the price and the people that are trying to communicate the message, the reality is the people that we’re trying to communicate to actually pay the price because we trade more work for, instead of putting more work on ourselves, we actually trade that and put more work on the people we’re communicating to. And that’s what happens when you don’t have a communication strategy. And it doesn’t actually have to always be all that intricate. It’s not a playbook of, you know, 400 page manual that your whole staff isn’t going to read. Sometimes it’s just some basic standards and expectations you’re going to have for how you communicate as a church.

Phil: 02:49 And so sometimes, where I encourage people to start is just saying, what are the one to two things that you want to communicate that you want everybody to know in your church each week? If you can nail it down to that, then that’s a strategy to start with to make sure that you know, well you can’t have 15 things, 10 things. What are those one to two key next steps that we want everybody to take as a church and that’s where strategy can start and a lot of things can flow from that. But yeah, I think your assumption is definitely correct. I think we have to build a more proactive playbook for how we communicate.

Tony: 03:23 All right, so I appreciate your initial thoughts here really for the foundation, just figure out how do we boil it down to those one or two key messages that need to be communicated. But let’s go a step further for a church that really, they’re beginning from scratch when it comes to communication strategy, what are some of those foundational building blocks you think churches should consider?

Phil: 03:45 Yeah, I think the thing that I would encourage everybody to do is, the old playbook of just blasting out bullhorn communication really does not work anymore because the assumptions that we used to make around communication really aren’t in play anymore because people don’t communicate in a way, like people are making the assumption that people are attending every single week, which they aren’t. And people are making the assumption that people are paying attention, which they often are not. And they are also making the assumption that we can only engage people when they walk inside the walls of our church. And the reality is now we have to have physical and digital communication strategy to really reach people where they go. And so I think that the old playbook we have to kind of put aside and really in some ways change our posture and communication.

Phil: 04:37 It’s not what we want from people. It’s what we want for people. It’s what, we want when we communicate things like small groups or serving. We’re not just trying to funnel people in to bump up our numbers. We’re trying to help them fulfill the calling that God’s placed on their lives. It’s a very different posture. You know, if I get up and say, hey, I want you to, if I’m doing announcements Sunday and I’m saying, hey, we want to bump our small group engagement by 20%. So we need every single one of you to get involved. That’s one strategy, but that’s what we want from people. But if we communicated that same message but said it in a way of saying, hey God has wired every single one of us to do better in community and we can encourage each other, God’s wired us for that. So we want to provide a place for you to do that. There’s a place for you here in our church to experience community and encourage one another and for you to be encouraged yourself. Like that’s the same message but different posture. And so I think what I would, it’s the small church, big church, all of them. If we can communicate in a way of what we want for people instead of what we want from people, I think our messages are going to be far more effective in reaching that person.

Tony: 05:46 It’s interesting you mentioned people’s attention and the fact that we don’t have it all the time. I just read an article about Netflix and within they look at the attention economy and they have identified that within that attention economy, their primary competitor is fortnite and it’s because of the Gen Z basically they know that it’s not going to be other video competitors, television, media. It’s going to be the types of things that are really have the attention of Gen Z right now. That’s their primary competition. You just mentioned too, I mean within the church, people aren’t showing up every week. So when it comes to this attention deficit that many of us are facing, and there’s only so much time in the day so we can’t add more time to the attention economy, it’s defined. How does the church tackle that if we’re not only competing with people’s time and their lifestyle and so on, but everything else that’s trying to grab people’s time as well.

Phil: 06:55 Well, I think it starts with the foundation of actually going back to what Jesus said. He said, go and tell, go and proclaim the Gospel and tell people about Jesus. He didn’t necessarily give us a strategy of saying you can only do that inside the four walls of a church. And so yeah, our competition probably might be a little bit fortnite. We may have some of that, but Netflix is probably up there too. But one thing that just blew me away in researching some stuff for my book, I found that the average person is typically on social media 110 minutes a day. That’s unreal. And so what would I think we have to rethink as the church if we want to fulfill our mission and accomplish some of the greatest opportunities we’ve ever had in communicating the gospel, it means going to reach people where they are and rethinking some of the communication opportunities we now have as ministry.

Phil: 07:46 And where I think we get stuck is where churches assume, oh, we use social media so that we can promote more things and get more people to our events. We’re going to use our website just to be able to make sure that people know how to get signed up for things. And the reality is, I think if you can rethink this, those opportunities we now have as ministry. I think it becomes another tool for us to be able to actually engage people and put Jesus on display on social media. And it doesn’t take too much time on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram today to realize there’s not a whole lot of hope out there. There’s not a lot of things that are saying, hey, we want something for you. We want to put Jesus on display in the middle of your social media feed.

Phil: 08:30 So what I think we have to rethink as the church is to say, how can we grab attention by actually helping somebody solve a problem that they have and speak to a felt need that they have. And we can do that where they are. And guess what, when we do that, it actually gets people to come to the front doors of our church if they haven’t been there already because we’re actually adding value to their lives. We’re helping say we see you and we care about you. And so when we can rethink those things as ministry, the opportunities we have, it’s not going to be easy because that’s not the playbook that has been set for us. We don’t usually think of these communication mediums as a way to actually engage people in ministry, but some of the greatest, I think opportunities we’ve had as a church at Westridge recently have been using things like text messages to put the Gospel in front of people each morning.

Phil: 09:23 And, you know, it’s using Facebook messenger as a way to receive prayer requests and actually engage people into helping taking their next step on Facebook. Some of them have never been to our church before. It’s using advertising campaigns and things like that on Facebook as well to actually let people know we’re actually talking about things that you are dealing with like depression or mental illness, or you know, suicidal thoughts were actually talking about those things. So we want to get their questions, we want to get their prayer requests and we want to let them know we see you and we care about you and God cares about you and how can we, and we as a church want to help play a role in your story in that. So if we can rethink that, I think we wouldn’t feel like the attention is the biggest challenge. I think we would say our biggest challenge is what can we do to amp up our energy and using all these great tools that we have to communicate the gospel.

Tony: 10:15 All right. So that’s the first big mistake I see within churches when it comes to communications is they really don’t have a communication strategy. Here’s the second one that I see, Phil, and you actually referenced it earlier, so I’m assuming you would agree with this. The second common mistake I see within churches when it comes to communications is that they’re trying to communicate too much. There are too many messages and they become competing messages. Do you agree with that?

Phil: 10:44 I don’t know what churches you’ve been to. Yeah, I don’t feel that way at all. Right? No, of course. Of course. I mean, one of the recent experiences that, I had is I went into the mall, for one thing and malls are dying a little bit maybe for this reason because I went to the mall for one thing to get one thing out there and I was just trying to get in and out as fast as I could. And while I was there, somebody was trying to spray Cologne on me, change my wireless carrier. I mean there’s probably five or six different interruptions just on my way to try to get that one thing. And by the time I was there, I was already overwhelmed. And I think that reminds me so much of the church sometimes is that, we assume if people aren’t paying attention or if they’re not attending or if they’re not engaging with us, that they need more, that they need more.

Phil: 11:37 That we need to talk louder, speak longer. We need to, you know, make sure that we’re blitzing everybody with all of the things that we need from them. And the reality is that the people that are engaging with our churches are already overwhelmed, they’re not walking into your church just going man, I need more things to do with my life. They are saying I need clarity, I need simplicity. And so when we as a church, don’t keep that in mind and we’re not advocating for the person we’re trying to reach. What we do is we just add more things to their plate. And, what happens is I think they just push their hands away from the table saying, I don’t have time for this. I don’t know what to do. And so if as a church, if we can be rethinking how we can simplify those key next steps that we want everybody to take, man what a blessing that is for that person because now they have clarity.

Phil: 12:29 Now they know what we as a church think is important. And if you as a church don’t know what’s important, how can we ever expect the person that we’re trying to reach? How can we expect them to know what’s important? So more is not always better for sure. I think the simpler the better. And one of my favorite Abraham Lincoln quotes goes around, before you cut down a tree, sharpen your axe. And I think when we simplify, we sharpen our axe to make sure that we can be more effective in anything that we’re cutting down or any initiative that we have. And so that’s the opportunity. But also the challenge we have in the church, is to simplify.

Tony: 13:04 So, one of the examples recently where I’ve seen this carried out is even connection to the church that I connect to. I won’t name names here, but I think this is something that churches just need to be sensitive to. I’m already in a home group, I’m in a small group. In fact, I’m leading a small group, but I’m receiving communications from my church encouraging me to get into a small group. And if we saw that same thing happen in the marketplace, Phil do you have an iPhone? I do. As a Christ follower of course I do. Yeah. And is it, I don’t want you to put you on the spot. Is that one of the newer iPhones? It is, yes. All right. So apple, if apple continued to try to market to you to buy a new iPhone when you already own an iPhone, what would you do with the all of those communications from apple?

Phil: 14:02 Well one, I’d tune it out, but I would also assume, okay, they don’t, they don’t value my time. Right? Yeah.

Tony: 14:08 That’s right. And so I think it’s an example of in the church, we just need to be more sensitive to the fact that everybody’s receiving all of these messages from all these different organizations and we need to be more intentional, not only about what we communicate, but who we’re communicating with. And the great thing is, within the tools that are available to us today, we can, we can actually focus certain messages for certain people depending on what steps they’re taking in our ministry. Can you share a little bit more about that?

Phil: 14:42 Yeah I mean, one of the steps that we’re actually using more and more is the Facebook side of marketing and Instagram as well. Because we’re able to be very specific about a demographic, a location, and sometimes like topics or felt needs that that person may have. And what we’re trying to do is to cut through the clutter for the people that may not be leaning into that message and make sure we’re speaking to, 100% of the people that fit into our demographic rather than speaking to 100% of the people just to reach the 10% of people that we’re actually trying to reach with a message. And so I think that is one piece is we have more tools like that, like you said, than ever before to help target our message. But, I also think too, it’s acknowledging that everybody, everything you’re communicating as a church is likely going to hit somebody a little bit different.

Phil: 15:32 And so it’s having a broad enough perspective to know everybody’s going to have a different on ramp to what you’re..

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TBasics of the Movement, Bad Reasons Churches Go Multisite,  
and Church-Planting vs. Campus Launching


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iTunes   RSS   Google Play  Stitcher   Spotify Jim Tomberlin and I recently announced that our two ministries—MultiSite Solutions and The Unstuck Group—are coming together this year.

Jim was one of the pioneers of the multisite movement back in the early 1990s and has been helping churches effectively transition from being one church to being one church in multiple locations ever since.

We’re excited about strategically coming together to offer the best guidance to multisite leaders we can. Both of our companies have been serving more and more multisite churches in recent years, and things haven’t been slowing down.

Literally—twenty years ago there were fewer than 50 multisite churches in the United States and Canada. Now there are 5,000+ and counting, according to Leadership Network’s data.

This episode is an informal conversation between me and Jim, talking multisite history, strategy and best practices. Check it out!

In Part 1 of this conversation, we discussed:

  • How multisite moved from a radical idea to the mainstream strategy for growing churches to expand in just 30 years
  • Bad reasons churches go multisite (really, we hear these reasons—or rather lack thereof—all the time)
  • The RIGHT reason to consider multisite as a strategy
  • Jim’s “3 G’s” for determining whether you should launch a campus or plant a church
  • Why multisite churches are growing faster and seeing more conversions than most church plants
  • How multisite is like marriage, and why having “campus kids” won’t fix any problems

The strength of the multisite model lies in having clarity about mission, vision, strategy, and philosophy, and consistently delivering that across campuses. via @multisiteguy
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Think of multisite as a marriage. If you have a healthy marriage, the odds are better you’ll raise healthy kids. If something is broken in your marriage, having kids will exacerbate the problem. You reproduce who you are.
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Episode Sponsor

Episode 83 was brought to you by The Church Lawyers. I’m finding most churches need legal support but don’t often realize they can actually afford it. David and Steven at The Church Lawyers provide a focused national law firm serving the legal needs of churches of all sizes. Their membership program gives you high quality legal expertise that’s really affordable. Find them online at thechurchlawyers.com. Write a Review—It Helps!

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

Sean: 00:33 Well welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast where each week our team’s having a conversation about getting churches unstuck. This week on the podcast, Tony is joined by Jim Tomberlin, founder of Multisite Solutions for a conversation about some of the best practices they’ve been learning about leading multisite churches as well as the newly announced merger and succession between Multisite Solutions and The Unstuck Group. You might find it helpful as you listen to use the show notes and download our leader conversation guide to work through this content together with your team. You can find both of those at unstuckgroup.com/episode 83. Also you can subscribe now to get the show notes in your inbox every single week. You’ll get links to all the resources mentioned during the show. You’ll get bonus resources and the leader conversation guide to help you take this conversation back to your next senior leadership team, board or staff meeting. Just go to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast and now here’s the conversation with Tony and Jim Tomberlin.

Tony : 01:28 Jim, I’m excited about the journey that we’re on. Actually, we just announced that our two ministries are coming together and we’ll talk about that a little bit later too because merging churches has been a part of your journey, but you’re actually one of the founders of this whole multisite strategy and that’s the primary reason our ministries are coming together. And if I’m correct, I think that journey for you started more than 20 years ago back in Colorado Springs. Can you walk us back in time?

Jim: 01:58 Well, first of all Tony, we are in the glow of our announcement this week of our joining together and our two companies and I couldn’t be more excited about that. I wouldn’t say I was the founder, but I was one of the early pioneers of the multisite movement, me and a handful of other churches that were unknown to each other at the time. But we’re actually into the third decade of this movement. But my journey with multisite church began when I was a senior pasture in Colorado Springs at Woodmen Valley Chapel and I have a video that is still on my website now that, where I was casting the vision for this idea of one church in two locations. And I just happened to mention in that video here in 1997 as we approach the 21st century, it’s time to think about church in a different way.

Tony : 02:41 Hmm. You know, in 1997, I wasn’t even in ministry yet. Haha. I was born, I was born. Well that journey then carried forward and you actually helped Willow Creek in the Chicago land area start their first locations outside of South Barrington. What was, what was that like?

Jim: 03:00 Well, yeah, I thought I’d spend the rest of my life in Colorado, which I actually have cycled all the way back and I attend my former church now, attend one of our campuses that meets at a school when I’m there, which isn’t very often, but that’s what started me there in Colorado is what got me invited to come to Willow Creek and to pioneer and to develop the idea there. So I was there for five years. I launched the first four campuses of multisite campuses of Willow Creek. Today there are in eight locations. And so the five years there I was getting so many calls from churches at the church, could we talk to the multisite guy?

Tony : 03:36 And that’s how you picked up that moniker. So, talk to me about Multisite Solutions and this decision for us to come together. What in your mind, what really drove that decision?

Jim: 03:49 Well, Tony you remember that I think our conversation really began about four years ago when you asked me, hey Jim, what are you thinking about long term with Multisite Solutions? And I said, well, it’s interesting you’d asked me that. I’m thinking a lot about that because the request for consulting and help is growing. And so let’s start that conversation. So four years later, here we are, you know this movement has been going as we’ve said, and I’m at a point now where it’s, there’s more requests, more inquiries, more can you come help us multisiting, church mergers, succession, which all have these components. Kind of all circling around the multisite model and when I was looking around who is the best company out there that knows what I know and knows it better and can help churches, I think better than I can. And I’ve always felt that was you Tony and The Unstuck Group.

Tony : 04:46 Yeah. And the feeling’s mutual by the way, and when we were looking at how can we continue to expand the work that we’re doing with multisite churches. It was pretty, it was a short list of one person that we thought, Jim and Multisite Solutions are really going to help us not only improve the service that we offer to churches when it comes to multisite, but again, your wisdom and experience through the years, it’s really going to be powerful in helping to come along the systems we’ve created at The Unstuck Group.

Jim: 05:19 And so much of my consulting has, I’ve drawn from the well of The Unstuck Group. It’s so much research. You have excellent tools, templates, processes that I’ve drug from deeply in helping my own clients and quote you often in those situations. And so it just felt like we have, I’ve always felt that we would like two brothers of a different mother in terms of how we, you say what I’m thinking and you say it better than I could say. I’ve always felt that about you. But, so I think this is why, where could I get the most synergy of bringing what I know and have done to the table and who could I play with and partner with in a way that would take what I’ve got and make it better and be able to accommodate more churches?

Tony : 06:05 It’s hard to believe, but actually, I was just looking at some data from the leadership network from just last year and they’ve been tracking the multisite movement through the years and 20 years ago there were fewer than 50 multisite churches in the US and Canada, and now there are over 5,000. Yeah. So, first of all, it doesn’t look like the movement is slowing down. Do you agree with that?

Jim: 06:31 Absolutely not. It’s exponentially growing.

Tony : 06:36 Right, and I guess my question for you is how does it feel to be a part of that explosion of a ministry strategy that’s impacting so many people for the kingdom?

Jim: 06:49 It’s incredibly rewarding, personally rewarding to have been a part of a movement that has transformed the church in America and beyond. And so that’s very humbling, in that regard.

Tony : 07:03 So Jim, as you sit here today, again with all of these churches that have embraced the multisite strategy and many more too in that strategy, merging with other churches too, when you look into the future, what do you see? What do you kind of predict as far as this multisite movement going forward?

Jim: 07:23 Well, there have been many wrinkles to this movement for sure. What began as a radical idea became the cool idea. One of your churches was one of those cool idea churches that you served there at New Spring. But then it became, has become now the the mainstream idea and so this is not slowing down. You know even the whole idea of a multiple services was a radical idea in the 80s. And that really in a lot of ways was the beginning of multisite.

Tony : 07:52 Believe me, it’s still a radical idea for some of the churches that we’re working with today.

Jim: 07:57 But that revolutionized the church, and that began about the 80s, and then we had multiple services that are multiple days, Saturday night services, Sunday services. Then we began to say, we have multiple rooms on a campus with a closed circuit TV. And then as the technology got better, that experience got better and it was an inevitable step that hey, we have multiple services on multiple days and multiple rooms why not multiple locations? And so that is becoming just like multiple services now is a staple of any growing church. They’re going to at least do two services, any healthy growing churches is going to, unless they’re intentionally said this is not our model, they’re probably going to be doing that. Now there’s a lot of churches that started to join this movement in the early days that didn’t really understand it. Some of those are going to fall by the wayside as normal transitions happen. But for everyone that does, the new church starters and I work with exponential and a lot of the church planting movement, most of these church planters are starting their churches even before they have one site with a multisite vision. Or at least they are wanting to start with a multisite strategy. I spent a lot of time talking with them about that.

Tony : 09:03 Jim, the stats show us more and more and more churches are going multisite. What are some bad reasons to go multisite?

Jim: 09:14 We did in the, I’ve been involved with leadership network all these years and we’ve actually done five surveys over the years of multisite churches and we asked that very question, why did you go multisite? Thinking it was, well we were trying to solve a space problem. But the overwhelming answer was, some churches have a space problem, some don’t, but the primary reason was we became convinced that this was the best model or strategy to fulfill the mission and vision of our church. To reach more people, to reach and serve more people in our larger community and that would be the right reason because it helps you accomplish your mission.

Tony : 09:54 Helping healthy churches expand their reach and spread the gospel further in their communities.

Jim: 10:00 There are a lot of churches that joined this movement, like any new idea, it was trendy or everybody else is doing it. Or hey, a church knocks on our door, wants to join us. I guess we weren’t thinking about multisite, but I guess we’ll be that now. And that’s about it. Those are bad reasons.

Tony : 10:17 Right! And I’ve even heard people blame that on God. So a church has contacted us, it must be a God thing. That may not be the case. Absolutely. Right. Yeah. So I’ve shared with people, you kind of have to think of multisite as a marriage and if you have a healthy marriage, when you have kids, the odds are better that you’re going to raise healthy kids if you have an unhealthy marriage, some people think, well we’ll just have a kid and that’ll fix our marriage. And it’s kind of the same thing with multisite. We see stuck churches, unhealthy churches, they go to launch a new location thinking this is somehow going to get us unstuck and help us get healthy again. Have you run into that experience?

Jim: 11:00 It’s like, hey, our marriage is broken and so that let’s go have a child. That’s right. Our church is messed up, let’s go reproduce another one. Right. I always like to say don’t reproduce yet. Get healthy. Called the Unstuck Group. Get Healthy. Then call me back and I’ll you go multisite. And that’s one of the beauties of our journey together.

Tony : 11:19 That’s right. Jim. I was just looking at some of the latest research again from the leadership network when it comes to the multisite strategy and it’s pretty fascinating in a number of different areas. But one of the stats jumped out to me and they were comparing multisite with church-planting. And I know you and I both agree those are both very valid and helpful ways for churches to replicate who they are. But what was fascinating to me anyways was they looked at the growth of the multisite churches compared to church plants and the number of conversions, people coming to Christ and people were, multisite churches are growing faster and they’re seeing more conversions than church plants. Does that surprise you?

Jim: 12:03 No, because I think the difference between a church plant and a multisite campus. And as you’ve mentioned, I’m an advocate for both and I’m involved with both of those kinds of, both of those movements. But the reason why multisite campuses tend to have faster growth and more conversion rate is because they are not starting from scratch. They’re opening, you know, when this is done well, a church has opened up a campus and they’re hitting the ground running day one, functioning like a strong church already. They’re not growing into that. They’re opening up day one with the strengths of the sending church. And so they’re able to deliver those best ministry practices, at a high level of quality. And so they have the quality of a large church in the context of a smaller context. And so they, they are just able to, I think, get more traction that way. Sooner.

Tony : 12:57 Yeah. So looking at the two strategies, multisite strategy and church-planting, where do you see similarities? Where are there overlaps between those two strategies?

Jim: 13:06 Yeah. Well, first of all, every church at one day, at one time was a church plant. To start. So every generation has to start new churches. The multisite model is really just leveraging the strengths of an existing church, but, how they’re similar at the end of the day, whether you’re a multisite campus or a church plant, as far as that community is concerned, there’s no difference. It’s a church. How it’s managed and governed and how the teaching is delivered is irrelevant to the larger community. But the goal is each multisite campus, I tell campus pastors all the time, once you get launched, this is all great. You’re off to a great start because of the strong support and resourcing to get you started. But the end of the day, you’re still, it’s church 101 in that community.

Jim: 13:49 Now we know that both church planters and campus pastors, both the requirement is that they have a strong leadership bent and gifting. But, the difference is a church, a campus pastor’s leadership gift is oriented to be a team player. A church planters leadership gift is oriented to be a team owner. And so those are some of the differences there of what we see. But a lot of ways the startup excitement, energy costs is similar as a church plant. And I say the cost is actually less for multisite..

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5 Issues That Became Clear Over the Last 12 Months of Consulting

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iTunes   RSS   Google Play  Stitcher   Spotify Are the staffing issues you’re dealing with unique to your church?

Chances are they are not. Not too long ago, I asked our client experience team at The Unstuck Group to look back at the staffing assessments we did with churches in 2018.

That exercise showed us most churches are struggling with the same things when it comes to staffing and structure. Fixable things. Things that get churches stuck, even with a clear mission, vision and strategy.

Amy and I unpacked the top two pain points in Episode 81.

In the second episode of the two-part series, Amy and I share the rest of the core pain points church teams are commonly experiencing.

Effective internal communication doesn’t just happen. Leadership must proactively create the systems & culture that evoke the right conversations and get the right information to people at the right times.
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We looked at all of the church staffing assessments @UnstuckGroup did in 2018, and it was clear: Many churches are stuck because of staffing & structure issues that don't have to be happening.
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In Part 2 of this conversation, we discussed:

  • How poor INTERNAL communication can cripple a church’s overall ministry effectiveness, indicators you have a problem and next steps to fix them
  • The “Rule of Eight,” what it means, why it should be followed, and how it can instantly make your meetings more successful
  • How to implement Patrick Lencioni’s idea of “cascading communications” on your team and why you should
  • The two issues that came in neck and neck as the fourth most common problem on church staff teams
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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

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


Sean: Welcome to The Unstuck Church podcast, where each week our team is having a conversation about getting churches Unstuck. I’m your host, Sean Bublitz and this week on the podcast Tony and Amy conclude their two-part conversation on the most common areas churches get stuck when it comes to staffing. If you haven’t listened to part one be sure to download episode 81 and take a listen. A lot of leaders are finding it helpful to use the show notes and download our leader guide to work through this content with their team. You can find both of those at theunstuckgroup.com/episode 82. Also, because so many of you are busy leaders you can now subscribe to get the show notes in your inbox each week. You’ll get links to all the resources mentioned during the show. You’ll get bonus resources not mentioned during the show to help you go a little deeper on the topic. And you’ll also get the leader conversation guide to help you take this conversation back to your next team meeting. Just go to the unstuckgroup.com/podcast. And now here’s part two of this conversation with Tony and Amy.

Tony : So that brings us then to third core staffing issue, and this again, as I’m sure Amy, not a surprise to you, and probably not a surprise to our listeners today as well, but the third core issue is not communicating effectively and to be clear, this is communication within the staff team. That’s what we’re talking about. Here’s what we see when this is a core issue in the churches that we’re serving. First, there’s an overuse of email for conversations that should really be handled face to face. A second indicator is the staff are frequently surprised by new information and communication often feels like it’s being rolled out in the wrong sequence. A third indicator is that decision making becomes a challenge. People don’t have the information they need and all the decisions then because of that, seemed to float to the top of the organization and because of that, then it always feels like there’s a delay waiting for the bosses to figure out what they’re going to do so that the rest of us can get our ministry accomplished. And then all of this gets even compounded further in a multi-site church. This issue is always, one of the headline issues that we see in multi-site churches. Amy, do you agree?

Amy: Oh yeah. In fact, I just finished working with a multi-site church and I think they have three locations and the reason the church was stuck, it had nothing to do with their strategy per se. It was everything to do with their structure. They had team members who had dual roles, maybe even triple roles, just as they kind of divided to execute church on the weekend at three locations. But they had to get their lanes cleared up and I just remember we do pre-work with our churches. Tony, you know, that, to get some feedback before we get on-site. And they’re big headline was, who makes what decision does a campus pastor make that decision? Do I make that decision? I’m not clear. I have two bosses. Who Decides, so anyways, once we figured out how they needed to be structured, the lanes cleared up and decided how to meet and intersect. And again, that’s all about communication, right? Who needs to be together to make decisions or to have conversations. I mean, the renewal energy momentum was almost instant. Once those, communication issues were worked out,

Tony : That’s right. So those are some indicators that churches may have a challenge in this area around communication. Let’s talk about some of the principles to turn this area around. If that’s an issue for your team. The first principal here around effective communication is to recognize it just doesn’t happen. Now, like everything we talk about hope is not a strategy. We need to bring some intentionality to the next steps we want to take if we want to see improvement in these areas. So because of that, leadership must proactively create systems and culture that evoke the right conversations and get the right information to the right people at the right time. In other words, if communication is a challenge in your church, you need to take some key first steps, one of them being making sure you’re having the right meetings. And by the way, this doesn’t mean adding more meetings. Actually, I’ve seen there’s an inverse relationship between healthy communications in the organizations and the number of meetings that they’re having, the number of people that are in those meetings. But you have to have the right meetings because this helps you get the right people getting the right information at the right time. And Amy, I think you’ve actually talked about some of the principles that are key when it comes to the right meetings in the context of the church world.

Amy: Yeah. I think one of my biggest principles is just that you have to start a high level first. I think sometimes we end up adding all these additional meetings when there’s communication problems, when really the whole meeting structure needs to be relooked at. And so I always recommend that you’ve got to pay attention to your senior pastor and his or her rhythms and so their primary meetings are going to be when they meet with the senior leadership team and when they work with their weekend kind of programming team. So those get set first, the senior leadership team meeting is a part of that, that gets set and we recommend once a week that senior leadership teams get together to meet and then from there, when is all staff going to meet because that’s where we share a lot of information. And then after those big chunks are set, then departments can go and start working and setting their meeting schedules. But if those groups that I just mentioned don’t have their regular intersection planned and guarded, we’re going to have to have, you know, 10 times the amount of meetings to have the right conversations.

Tony : Yeah. And just to circle back, I know we’ve talked about this in previous podcasts, remember the rule of eight, if you have more than eight people in the room, you can meet with everybody but they should not be decision making meetings at that point and one of the common mistakes that we see in meeting flows in churches is they have too many people in the room trying to make decisions and in smaller churches or mid-sized churches they have their entire staff team in the room trying to make decisions and larger churches the mistake is they have all of their pastors and directors in the room trying to make decisions and in larger churches that can be a dozen or more people. And so remember the rule of eight as you’re designing your meeting flow. The second thing to focus on here if you want to improve internal communications is to have the right conclusion to the meetings that you have.

Tony : And I have two things here to keep in mind. First, you have to summarize what decisions were made at the meeting. I’ve been in meetings where we have had to go back and ask ourselves now, last week or last month when we met, what was the decision that we made so make sure that there’s clarity around what was agreed upon at the conclusion of the meeting and what action needs to be taken and I would suggest who needs to be responsible by when to accomplish whatever you decided. The second part though here is pretty critical as well. You have to design a communication plan for what should or shouldn’t be communicated coming out of the meeting. And here I’ve always leaned on some of the principles from Patrick Lencioni. He calls this concept cascading communications and the basic premise here is that you should take the last 10 minutes of every meeting to agree on a common set of messages that will be communicated by the members of the team to their respective staff leaders or in some cases volunteer leaders.

Tony : This is especially true for the senior leadership team in a church. The rest of your staff team knows you’re meeting and they’re wondering what you’re talking about behind closed doors and because of that you need to have a communications plan coming out of that conversation to get everybody in the loop on the key things that they need to know about and I would say typically that needs to happen within 24 to 48, hours of your meeting. Then the members of your team need to communicate the same message to their teams and this needs to happen, also then it needs to cascade, right? Not only to the staff but to the volunteer leaders as well. So again, making sure the right people have the right information at the right time and the big win here is that we communicate the same message throughout the organization and that’s why it’s so important to take that last 10 minutes of our meeting to make sure we know what the message is and we’re making sure that that message is getting communicated consistently.

Amy: And you alluded to this, but the timing. When you have those expectations of one another, all the employees will hear the same messaging at the same time and then second, it’s just delivered in a much more personal way. I think sometimes as leaders when we’re in meetings, because we’re kind of action oriented, right? All of a sudden we’re up to speed on everything and we forget all the people who are not up to speed on anything. And we start acting as if everyone knows things that they don’t. And that’s where those surprises come in tact when, when we don’t cascade effectively. That’s right. All right, well those were the top three staffing issues. Tony, I have three more if you want to keep going. Otherwise we,

Tony : I was going to hide. So today again, we looked at all the data and identified in churches the top three staff challenges are around developing leaders, not having clarity about responsibilities, what the wins are for their role, and then internal communications challenges. But in case you’re curious at number four, there was a tie. One was the staffing structure doesn’t align with the ministry strategy. That was a challenge commonly found in the churches we work with. And then the next one, filling leadership roles with equippers, not doers and in other words churches tend to hire in staff leadership roles people that can get jobs done, they can do ministry, but they are challenged by equipping others to accomplish ministry. So those were the other two kind of top line issues we found around staffing. Here’s what’s encouraging though, for me, though we didn’t have time to hit all five of those topics today, we hit every one of them in the Leading an Unstuck Church online course that we offer through The Unstuck Group.

Tony : And so if you’re sensing your staff team is struggling in one of these five areas, I would highly recommend you consider taking that online course and actually maybe going through that course with one or more of the leaders on your team. And the reason why I suggest that my good friend Mark Beesin at Granger Community Church, he used to remind us that education can be alienation. In other words, if one person on the team is learning, it can alienate that person from the others on the team because they have information now that the rest of the team doesn’t have, and by the way, side note that same principle also applies for spouses in a marriage. You really need to be learning together as a couple. Otherwise, education can be alienation, but in our context and team leadership in the church, going through the online course with others on your leadership team will create both encouragement and accountability to follow through on the appropriate next steps around some of these staffing challenges that we discussed today. So if you’re interested in that online course, you can learn more about the Leading an Unstuck Church course online at theunstuckgroup.com, and then just click on online course.

Sean: Well thanks for joining us today for part two of this conversation. Don’t forget to subscribe to get all of the podcast content right in your inbox at theunstuckgroup.com/podcast. If you have questions about this topic or any of our episodes, use the Hashtag #unstuckchurch and post them on your favorite social media channel. And as always, if you’d like to learn more about how we’re helping churches get unstuck, you can visit us at theunstuckgroup.com. Have a great week everyone.

The post Church Staffing Pain Points (Part 2) – Episode 82 | The Unstuck Church Podcast appeared first on TonyMorganLive.com.

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4 Issues That Became Clear Over the Last 12 Months of Consulting

If you enjoy this episode, subscribe on your device for more:
iTunes   RSS   Google Play  Stitcher   Spotify Staffing issues get churches stuck. We see it all the time. 

I recently asked our client experience team at The Unstuck Group to look at all of the staffing assessments we did with churches in 2018 and share what they found.

What we saw were some clear themes in the ways many churches are struggling on their staff teams, and part of why they feel stuck.

So I thought it would be good to record a podcast episode to talk about those core pain points most church teams are experiencing.

Amy and I recorded an episode, but the conversation got so deep into the topics that we ended up deciding to break it into two episodes. There’s A LOT of practical stuff in here.

And based on what we’ve seen in so many churches, I have a strong feeling many of you will be able to relate with all four points we’ll share in this two-part series.

Most churches don’t have an intentional plan to identify potential leaders, nor a plan to develop the leaders they already have.
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Teams that aren’t developing leaders are focused on doing ministry—not giving ministry away and developing people.The only way out of the “doing” cycle is to start dedicating time and energy to “developing” others.
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In Part 1 of this conversation, we discussed: 

  • The Top 2 most common staffing issues we found in a year’s worth of consulting data, the indicators they’re at play on your team, and practical next steps to get unstuck
  • The cycle of doing ministry that is incredibly tough to break out of but ultimately keeps your team from developing more leaders
  • 3 next steps for developing a leadership culture that you can start today (and that really do work—we can point to lots of examples)
  • The staffing crucial leadership question that very often gets a response of silence and glances around the room when we bring it up on-site with a church, and why it doesn’t have to be that way
  • What happens when team members lack clarity about what they should be achieving, and how it ultimately undermines what you’re trying to accomplish
  • How to set FAST goals, and how it will change your team’s ability to get stuff done
Leader Conversation Guide Want to take this conversation back to a staff or senior leadership team meeting?

Our Show Notes subscribers get a PDF download that recaps the episode content and includes a discussion guide you can print out and use at an upcoming meeting.

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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00:02 Welcome to The Unstuck Church podcast, where each week our team’s having a conversation about getting churches unstuck. I’m your host, Sean Bublitz. Today on the podcast, we’re going to hear from Tony and Amy on some key areas that we’re seeing churches get stuck when it comes to their staff team. In today’s episode, we’re digging deep into some of the specific challenges churches face and sharing some ways that we’ve seen leaders effectively address them, so it might help you to check out the show notes and download our leader guide to work through this content together with your team. You can find those at theunstuckgroup.com/episode 80. Also to make life a little easier, you can now subscribe to get the show notes in your inbox each week. You’ll get links to all the resources mentioned during the show, so you don’t have to write them down. You’ll get bonus resources not mentioned during the show to help you go a little deeper on the topic. You’ll also get the leader conversation guide to help you take this conversation back to your next senior leadership team, board or staff meeting. Just go to the unstuckgroup.com/podcast. Thanks again for joining us on this journey. Here are Tony and Amy.

Amy: 00:58 Well, Tony, I love the conversation we’re having today probably because I spend a lot of my time working with churches in this area of staffing and structure, but tell us how this conversation made it to the podcast.

Tony : 01:08 Alright Amy, you know I love working with data and actually looking at trends that are happening within churches across the country and about a month ago I asked the team to go back and look at all of the staffing assessments that our team did during the last year and I asked them to see if they could find any trends through that process and actually some of those trends became very clear to the point that there were many churches we found struggling as a staff team in certain key areas. In other words, there were some top areas where they felt stuck in today. I thought it would be good to talk about those core pain points that most churches are experiencing and because you do these staffing reviews many times, I bet you can guess what they are. Amy, should I test you?

Amy: 01:57 Yeah. You didn’t need to pull data. Tony. I probably could have just told Ya.

Tony : 02:02 Well, the first core staffing issue I wanted to cover today is we’re hearing this is the number one issue that staff teams are dealing with is they are not intentionally developing leaders. In other words, they don’t have an intentional plan to one, identify potential leaders at the church and here, by the way, I think we’re talking not only about staff leadership, but in many instances this does bleed over to volunteer leadership as well, so the first issue is that they are not identifying potential leaders, but secondly, they don’t have a plan to develop the leaders they do have. They, may hope their leaders will grow and develop, but as we say a lot around here at The Unstuck group, hope is not a strategy. So are some things we see at churches when this becomes a pain point, when not intentionally developing leaders becomes an issue for them.

Tony : 02:55 First of all, there are very few high capacity volunteers that are engaged in higher level ministry roles and again, this not only has to do with the fact that leadership development is an issue among staff, but when leadership development isn’t happening with staff, then that carries over to how they’re engaging volunteers and actually they, struggled in raising up high capacity volunteer leaders. Secondly, when they have a leadership role to fill, they have a very thin bench both from volunteer leader roles and for staff roles. In other words, when a leader is needed, there’s very few people to choose from. The third thing that we see in this instance, is that there are very few people who shoulder most of the leadership for the strategic initiatives at the church. And Amy, you’ve encountered this as well. When we go through our planning process, helping churches identify future vision and the strategy for how that vision’s going to be accomplished.

Tony : 03:59 At the end of that planning process, we help the church narrow down the priority initiatives that they’re going to run after and in many cases when churches have not had an intentional leadership development strategy. Once we identify those priority initiatives and I just asked the question, okay, who’s going to run point on each of these initiatives? People start staring at each other in the room because there isn’t. There isn’t enough leadership capacity to even run point on the areas that the church has identified are priorities for accomplishing future vision and future strategy. But I know that there are other aspects, Amy around our growth engines that we identify. Can you express kind of the gap that exists when churches don’t have intentional leadership development and the growth engines conversation and how that becomes an issue?

Amy: 04:56 Sure. Well, in the planning retreat, which you do typically before I’m on staff or on-site for staffing and structure. The church has identified these core things that have to be healthy and functioning well for their church to thrive and it’s often things like weekend services is a growth engine. Their group’s ministry is a growth engine, kids’ ministry is a growth engine and I will get to the charts and I’ll just see question marks under each of those and that’s because they haven’t been able to identify as a church who the primary leader is over those areas. So that’s an indication as well that we aren’t developing leaders.

Tony : 05:31 Yeah. Final indication here that I have is when churches don’t have an intentional leadership development strategy, they have many people on their teams who’ve been doing the same thing for many years with not much change in their effectiveness. And so when the church, when they engage with us, of course they’re wanting to increase the effectiveness of their ministries in a number of areas, but even if we help them identify new strategies that they run after, if they don’t have the leadership bench again to take those ministries forward, then obviously that’s the reason why churches remain stuck. So those are some of my observations, Amy, when churches don’t have an intentional strategy for developing leaders. But anything else you’ve seen?

Amy: 06:18 Well, what I see with teams that aren’t developing leaders is that they’re focused on doing ministry and we talk about this a lot in our podcast, but they’re not giving ministry away, therefore they’re really not developing anybody and because they’re doing so much, there’s no time to even think about developing others. So it’s a really tough cycle to get out of because you and I are working with a church right now that is actually committed to this change. They recognize they are stuck because their staff is doing, doing, doing, and it’s a tough culture change by the way primarily for their staff. You know, they even were in this mindset now like, well, that’s why you hired me to is do stuff, but the only way out of the doing cycle is to start dedicating time and energy to developing others. So Tony, if the folks who are listening, you know, resonated with those pain points, what are some next steps they could take?

Tony : 07:06 Yeah. The principle here is that leadership development just doesn’t happen. It doesn’t magically appear. Leaders pop out of the ground and we’re ready to engage our ministry strategy. That said though, there’s no easy button to turn it around quickly. And so because of that, here are some key next steps, in order to move forward in this area around leadership development. I think it begins first with identifying someone on the team to be the champion for leadership development. Now, most of the churches we work with, this is not going to be the sole job responsibility of whoever is identified. It’s going to be one of their dual roles, if you will, but someone on the team has to identify with this priority of, not only recognizing who are those potential leaders, but helping those potential leaders take their next steps as well.

Tony : 08:02 And so you have to identify someone to be the champion over this, without a leader this dial won’t move. The other thing we have to do is educate ourselves. And so one of the resources we’ve been recommending to churches is reading the book, design the lead. And that book is helpful because not only is it specific to, helping churches recognize the priority of developing leaders, but specifically within the context of a church, it will help you lay out, lay the groundwork of strategies and systems to begin to take some next steps in this area. The other honestly, and this is just a leadership responsibility, is just help the team have a new vision for what it is to really live out Ephesians 4 principals where we’re not doing this as ministers in the church or leaders in the church we’re equipping God’s people to do the work.

Tony : 08:58 You really have to just start somewhere. You have to identify something you can begin with. Some examples here. We’ve seen churches create leadership cohorts. In other words, they’ve identified a select group of volunteer leaders or a select group of staff and they’ve just read through leadership resources together and then talk through how do these leadership principles apply to ministry leadership today. Another specific next step you can take here is really identify what’s a key challenge or a key project that you need to accomplish in your ministry and to take these young leaders, potential leaders and assign them to this project with a little bit of coaching. Not only will you benefit from fresh perspective on whatever the new challenge is that you’re trying to address, but Amy, you’ve noticed this as well and your leadership really, you don’t know what it is to lead until you have the opportunity to lead something. And so in this case, the churches that do this well are not putting someone into a leadership role where they’re immediately leading other people there are assigning a project or a challenge or a problem to overcome and they’re putting leadership around that challenge and then using that as a coaching opportunity to increase someone’s leadership capacity with the hope that over time you can move them from leading a project or leading over a problem. Deleting people in the long run.

Amy: 10:34 Tony. I’d probably put those two together. If you haven’t started this fly wheel at all yet on your team, if you don’t have anything going in the area of leadership development, that cohort idea married with a book like designed to lead, you can not only get this group together, that’s going to tell them something like they have potential, but if you’re going to start to infuse that Ephesians 4 thinking by going through a book like that, and now I can just add that champion piece is so important, Tony, when I see churches actually begin to take steps on improving in this area, it’s the ones who have identified a champion, someone who’s got an ownership to move this forward. So that’s good. All right, what’s the next core issue?

Tony : 11:15 So the second core issue number two on the list. After we looked through all of those assessments around staffing, that our team did over the last year, this was the number two issue that was identified, not having wins clearly defined for each leader. Hopefully as a church, you have your church wins defined. Do you know what your ministry focus needs to be? Things like how many people you’re hoping to reach, and how many people you’re hoping will take next steps along your discipleship path or whatever your spiritual formation process looks like. But I’m talking about the people on your team. So moving the wins from what the church is trying to accomplish to the winds that every person, especially the leaders on your team need to be focused on. Do they know what their winds are and how they connect to the bigger picture?

Amy: 12:07 You know, Tony, I’ve said this for years, but when we used to do, you know, in our old process, do one-on-one staff interviews with team members, we’d always ask, how do you know if you’re winning, in your role, how do you know if you’re doing a good job doing the right things? And the most common answer we would get was like a pause and a smile and then they go that’s a really good question. So I have a feeling this has been a headline issue not just in 2018, but across the board there’s been a lack of clarity around what does the win for my role look like?

Tony : 12:39 Yeah. So let’s unpack that. Here’s what we see when this lack of clarity around wins is a core issue for churches. First indicator team members lack clarity around what they should be achieving. In other words, they may be busy, but no one is sure what they should be busy if they’re busy doing the right thing. So that’s always an issue. Another indicator goals are ambiguous or sometimes difficult to assess. Sometimes the priorities are unclear, so they have an understanding of generally what they should be working on, but they don’t know what the priority focus of their time needs to be. Another indicator, because of those first two is there’s a lack of accountability on the team, and I see this on the faces of senior pastors all the time is the sense of frustration because in their minds they’re really clear about what the church as a whole should be focused on, but because that clarity hasn’t been defined at the individual leadership level, then there’s a frustration among senior pastors and they’re wrestling with how, how, how do we, where’s the disconnect? Why is there a gap here and why? Why, why is it suddenly on my shoulders and make sure everyone has a win for what needs to be accomplished in their individual ministries as well. The principal here though is in order for team members to be effective and released to lead, they need clarity around what success looks like for their position and when the team is healthy in this area, every team member knows their wins, they know what their goals are and they know how to measure progress against them.

Amy: 14:22 So how do churches do that, Tony? I mean, I think we all get the idea, the issue now, but how do they do that?

Tony : 14:29 Well, again, assuming you know what the big church wins are, and again, that’s an assumption that we’re making and if that isn’t clear, that’s the foundation. You have to begin there. You need to know what the big church wins are. Then you need to go through a process that makes it clear for every team member to understand what they do and how that connects with the larger goals. And Amy, I think you’ve mentioned this actually a few podcasts ago, we encourage churches to set fast goals. In other words, these are frequently discussed, they’re ambitious, they’re specific and they’re transparent. And the word I want to focus on in this conversation is the word specific. When wins or goals are specific, it provides clarity as to what our team members are expected to deliver. It defines how much, how many and by when it will be accomplished and it releases our leaders to lead. And again, Amy, you were the one that first, kind of unpacked this fast concept. When it comes to that word specific, what comes to mind for you?

Amy: 15:40 Well, I’ll give you an example. We were just talking about intentionally..

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A Conversation on Depression, Loneliness & Anxiety with Pastor Chris Hodges from Church of the Highlands

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You can also sign up to receive each new episode’s Show Notes by email: Depression. Loneliness. Anxiety. They’re becoming recurring health issues in our culture—even among church leaders. The danger is the secret, being in the condition alone.

Lifeway Research found that 23% of pastors say they’ve had personal struggles with mental health. Still 49% said they rarely or never speak on the topic to their congregation.

Last year, my team at The Unstuck Group and I attended Gateway Conference in Dallas, and we heard Pastor Chris Hodges from Church of the Highlands give a compelling, practical talk on this subject.

I’ve shared my own struggles with seasons of anxiety throughout the years. Chris’ talk stood out to me because it was so well-researched, thoughtful and honest.

In this episode, Chris and I talked about some practical things he thinks all pastors need to know—both for your personal mental health and to guide your congregations through these prevalent challenges.

Ruminating is one of the most dangerous parts of depression because you're dwelling on the negative and you're not involving anyone else in the discussion. via @pastorchrishodges
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More than half the battle of any step of freedom is the acknowledgement of it and bringing it out into the open. via @pastorchrishodges
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In this conversation, we discussed: 

  • The role lifestyle plays in creating mental health challenges, the culture of comparison so many pastors live in, and how even your greatest victories can lead to your lowest lows
  • The importance of changing the conversation and making it “ok to not be ok”
  • Ruminating—what it means, how pastors are particularly susceptible to its damaging pattern (especially on Sunday night), and why it’s one of the most dangerous parts of depression
  • Why you should be talking about mental health from the platform
  • 4 practical next steps for leaders struggling with anxiety or depression, with personal examples from both Chris and me of how we have addressed these issues in seasons of our own lives
About Pastor Chris Hodges

Chris Hodges is founding and senior pastor of Church of the Highlands with campuses all across the state of Alabama. Since it began in 2001, Church of the Highlands has grown to more than 50,000 people attending and is known for its life-giving culture and focus on helping people on a clearly defined spiritual journey.

Chris and his wife Tammy live in Birmingham, Alabama, and have five children and five grandchildren. He speaks at conferences worldwide and is the author of The Daniel Dilemma and What’s Next?
Leader Conversation Guide

Want to take this conversation back to a staff or senior leadership team meeting? Here are some sample questions and strategies to help you navigate the conversation:

  1. Are we talking about the issue of mental health in our church at all? Enough?
  2. Does our leadership have enough accountability and support in this area?
  3. Is our church a safe place for people to talk about mental health issues without stigma? How can it become better?
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 

Sean: 00:02 Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast where each week our team’s having a conversation about getting churches Unstuck. I’m your host Sean Bublitz and today on the podcast Pastor Chris Hodges from the Church of the Highlands, joins Tony for a discussion on mental health and church leaders. In this conversation, Tony and Chris share some new insights when it comes to mental health as well as address some of the misconceptions, especially when it comes to pastors and leaders in the church. It might help you as you listen to the episode to check out the show notes and download our leader guide to work through the content together with your team. You can find those at theunstuckgroup.com/episode 80. To make life a little easier. You can now subscribe to get the show notes in your inbox each week. You’ll get links to all the resources mentioned during the show, so you don’t have to write those down. You’ll get bonus resources not mentioned during the show to go deeper on the topic, you’ll also get that leader conversation guide to help you take the conversation back to your next senior leadership team, board or staff meeting. Just go to the theunstuckgroup.com/podcast. And now here’s the conversation with Tony and pastor Chris Hodges.

Tony: 01:02 Chris, it’s good to be with you today. I’m looking forward to today’s conversation. It’s actually based on a session I heard you teach when you were at the gateway conference last fall. And because of that, the focus is going to be on mental health and I’m going to jump into those questions in a moment, but because we’re talking about mental health and you’re from Birmingham, I’m wondering how you’re doing after the national championship game this year.

Chris: 02:03 Okay. So you can’t let anyone else know, but I’m actually doing extremely well because I’m an LSU Tiger and I real like it when The Crimson Tide loses. I could never tell my church that, but that’s, that’s the truth. So they’re not doing well, but I’m doing fantastic.

Tony: 02:03 All right, well, as I mentioned this conversation, it started just sitting in the crowd listening to you teach at the gateway conference and you were sharing a session with church leaders there about mental health and I wanted you to just start today if you could share some of what led you to choose that topic for that forum.

Chris: 02:03 Well, I am at the age now, Tony. I’ll be 56 this year that I’m, I’m kind of in the stage where a lot of the ministry that I’m trying to focus on is helping the younger pastors and it’s not to say that I’m going to stop doing what I’m doing, but I really find myself most satisfied when I’m investing in any other leaders, younger leaders and, so I do a lot of mentoring and a lot of coaching and we have a coaching network and, it’s just become a recurring issue of people’s pastors, depression, loneliness, even in some cases suicide. And of course at the time of the gateway conference, there had just recently been a pastor had taken his life out in California. And so I just felt like, you know, when, someone like me gets the opportunity to speak to pastors, why not just get real and deal with the issue?

Chris: 02:57 And I think one of the things that I’m learning too is that as long as it stays a secret, like that’s one of the biggest dangers of the whole thing. The danger is not being in the condition, it’s being in the condition alone and no one else knowing you’re going through it. And one of the points that I’ve made is that, you know, if I told you I had the flu, you know, a part of my body was sick and I had the flu. You would think nothing differently about me at all. Now he just got sick. He’s still a man of integrity and got a great ministry. But, when my mind, which really is just another organ in my body, it’s just another part of my body. If I told you it was sick, it’s almost as if you’re, hey, well, maybe he shouldn’t be doing ministry. And maybe, maybe there was something really wrong with him and it’s amazing how there is no case can it be normalized to a place. So what does a pastor going to do because their ministry is so public, they’re going to tuck it in, hide it, and only gets worse when you do that.

Tony: 03:59 For sure. So, I know in preparation for the session at gateway, you explained that you’re by no means an expert when it comes to mental health issues, but it sounded like you did do a lot of research in preparation for that talk and I’m curious to hear and if you would be willing to share some of the things that you learned that pastors need to know when it comes to this topic.

Chris: 04:22 Well, one of the greatest things I learned, and I didn’t learn this from many Christian related materials, this was secular materials is that it’s very lifestyle related. So we bring this own ourselves by our sedentary life, by being indoors too much. Even some of the research that’s been done on this topic talk about how it never, like depression doesn’t exist in any form in cultures where people are gathering food or hunting for food, like there’s something about our indoor, the pace of life, even the screen time that we spend, all of that is pouring into this condition. And so that was probably not only one of the most eye-opening, but it was also one of the most encouraging because if it’s lifestyle, if it was created by a lifestyle situation then it can be fixed by lifestyle situation.

Tony: 05:17 That’s good. That’s good. Anything else as far as your research into the topic? Chris, you want to share?

Chris: 05:25 The main thing is that especially for pastors because of the social media culture, I call it the culture of comparison. Even when you’re on your best, you had your best weekend, you’ve had your, you had a great Sunday. I mean, people’s lives were changed, man. All you have to do is go to someone else’s post and you now all of a sudden feel bad about everything you’ve ever done and then you get in your own head and start having that self-talk that is so dangerous and you don’t share, and of course one of the illustrations I used in the session I did at gateway was Elijah had one of his greatest victories, you know, at Mount Carmel and then was ready to take his life the very next chapter and I think that’s what pastors and leaders face is that it doesn’t really necessarily come in the lowest of lows when something bad happened or it can actually come after your highest of highs.

Tony: 06:26 So obviously there’s a stigma and you’ve already referred to it around mental health issues. Culturally among church leaders is probably even more heightened. But how do we start to change that then as pastors and church leaders?

Chris: 06:41 Well, I think what I tried to do is just say hey, let’s talk about it. And then one of the phrases that I said that I want to keep saying to not only to pastors but also the members of our church, that it’s okay not to be okay. It’s just okay not to be okay. And the reason why it has to be okay not to be okay is because none of us are okay. And so if it’s not okay, then none of us can be none of us. I mean, because depression is actually defined as a mood disorder characterized by Anhedonia, sadness, sleep problems, loss of appetite, hopelessness. Well, I have that. So if I don’t acknowledge something, then I can’t be free from something. I truly believe that more than half of the battle of any step of freedom is the acknowledgement of it. And just kind of bring it out in the open, you know, I mean Geez. But in the Bible James says in chapter five that if you’ll confess your faults one to another, you’ll be healed. And it’s interesting that when you take the step of not having it, even between you and God, if you have the courage to bring it out even to someone else and say, I’m not okay. I believe you’re already far along in the pathway to healing.

Chris: 07:59 So one of the things that jumped out to me, and this is honestly Chris, based on some of the mental health challenge I’ve personally wrestled with in the past and primarily around issues of anxiety. And this term jumped out to me because of that experience because it was really something that drove anxiety issues that I have faced in the past. You specifically talked about the term ruminating and I was hoping you could unpack that. What does that mean? Why did you specifically call that out and how, how does that express itself, especially in church leaders?

Chris: 08:39 Well, ruminating is a medical term, a scientific term that doctors and psychologists use about your self-talk and they call it ruminating from ruminating animals like a cow. A cow chews it’s cud. So a cow will grab a piece of grass, chew it up, swallow it, and regurgitate it, chew it some more, swallow it, regurgitate, chew, chew it some more. Okay? That’s, that is ruminating. So we all have bad days, everybody and we all have things that are going on that they wish they wish wouldn’t have happened. But when we start ruminating, what we’re doing is, is we’re chewing it, lets me go sit here and think about it for awhile and at the start, Tony, that’s not bad, but it can get very bad very soon because now I’m thinking about it and usually when you think about it, it never gets better.

Chris: 09:28 It only gets worse. So, but then you swallow it. Okay, I’m going to tuck that away. But then we regurgitate it, we bring it back up and think about it some more. And as I pointed out in that session, every time you regurgitate it, it gets more gross. It’s just, it’s just gross. Like. And so here’s the definition. Rumination is the focused attention on the symptoms of one’s distress, opposed to focusing on the solutions to your distress. So when you’re ruminating, you’re not even thinking about how to solve it, you’re only thinking about how it got there and it just never leads to a good place. Now let me give you my confession and I think this is true of a lot of pastors and that is, I ruminate almost every Sunday night because even again on our best Sundays, I thought, wow, if we had done this song instead of that song and if we would have abandoned, I preach too long here and man, if I wouldn’t have said that sentence, oh, and I forgot to say this sentence, that was my best line.

Chris: 10:25 And next thing I know I’m in this self-talk of, again, focusing on my distress instead of solutions, not celebrating the good things but the bad and it just never gets better. And next thing I know, and I’ve told my wife this Tony, my darkest times are on Sunday nights, Monday mornings from the weekend, even when we’ve had amazing services. And so I think ruminating, all the research I did own ruminating is, it’s one of the most dangerous parts of depression. Because you’re dwelling on negative and you’re not involving anybody else in the discussion.

Tony: 11:02 All right, so with this foundation in mind, Chris, would you mind just highlighting a few of the strategies that you shared to help leaders protect their mental health?

Chris: 11:21 Well, based on the secular research I learned since it is lifestyle related, you have to first look at your own personal lifestyle. Are you getting out in the Sun Enough? How’s your diet? I mean all the things people don’t really need me to tell them, but maybe just remind them that all of that, your sleep patterns, all of that plays a major role in your mental health. So you have to get healthy physically. Now I’ll just be very honest for me to get healthy physically, I’ve always had to involve somebody else. I hate working out. So I pay somebody months I even give them months of installments. Not, not, not, not individual installments. Because once that brother has my money, I’m going to show up. I’m showing up for that workout because he’s got my money and I didn’t do it because he knows how to work out. He did. This trainer isn’t better at working out that I can do it on my own. I’m not buying his insight.

Chris: 12:12 I’m buying accountability, and most of us just need some form of accountability in our lifestyle related things. That’s, that’s number one. The second would be, I would say is that you have to get honest. I truly believe that forgiveness comes from God, but healing comes from others. So first, John, one nine, if we confess our sins to God, he’s faithful and just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, but James 5:16 says, confess to another person and you will be healed. So you go to God for forgiveness, but you’ve got to go to God’s people for healing. There has to be somebody in your life who knows your secrets. Let me say it this way. If you’re the only one who knows your secrets, you’re in trouble. Yeah, whoever’s listening to this, if you’re the only one who knows your secrets, you’re in trouble.

Chris: 13:02 And the third is, every time I’ve had a dark time in my life, vision has been the best thing to bring me out of it. So when I get a fresh infusion of a project or something I want to build, or I just feel like God’s still working through my life. And so that’s what you see by the way, in Elijah’s life after, after God nursed Elijah back to health from his depression moment, he gave him an assignment, next alright you’re gonna go see this king. Go see that king. And he gave him an assignment. And I think where there is no vision, the people perish. And so I think as I look back, every time I’ve had my darkest times it was just when my vision got stale, or I got complacent or I stopped dreaming. But every time Tony I start dreaming again. It’s truly, it’s powerful help how it works in our lives.

Tony: 13:57 Yeah...

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There are exciting things in store over these next few years…

I believe a healthy multisite strategy can help you lead more people in your region to Christ. That’s why I talk about it so much. That’s why my team developed a process to help multisite churches get unstuck.

And I love finding like-minded leaders who see the potential of this strategy and invest the time and energy to working out the most effective ways to apply it for expanding the Kingdom. Jim Tomberlin is one of those people.

Jim and I have been friends for many years. He was instrumental in developing my own passion for helping churches launch healthy campuses. Probably no single pastor has been more widely influential in this space of ministry, with his pioneering work at Woodmen Valley Chapel in Colorado Springs and at Willow Creek, his books and resources, as well as the hundreds of churches he’s served through MultiSite Solutions.

So, I feel incredibly fortunate to announce Jim is joining The Unstuck Group’s team this month, which will mark the formal transition of MultiSite Solutions to The Unstuck Group as part of a two-year merger-succession.

Jim and I started talking a few years ago about how we could partner together. He wanted to approach a new season of his ministry strategically. We’re excited to be coming together under one banner. I really believe we can serve local churches better together.

Jim will continue to lead MultiSite Solutions over the next year to make the transition a smooth one, in addition to beginning to serve churches as part of the multisite-merger-succession team here at The Unstuck Group. Our team HAD 85+ combined years of experience leading in successful multisite churches… Jim brings that number to 100+!

There are exciting things in store over these next few years. We can’t wait to see how God uses this partnership to help multisite churches get unstuck.

My team and I put together some FAQs about this merger-succession here, including a letter from Jim. Check it out if you have questions, or feel free to .

The post Jim Tomberlin and MultiSite Solutions Join the Unstuck Team appeared first on TonyMorganLive.com.

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4 Legal Risks Churches Are Underprepared to Face

If you enjoy this episode, subscribe on your device for more:
iTunes   RSS   Google Play  Stitcher   Spotify

You can also sign up to receive each new episode’s Show Notes by email: This is not something anyone in ministry wants to think about.

Which is exactly why I’m sharing it.

Every so often, a church we are serving finds itself facing a totally unexpected legal challenge.

A property dispute—a municipality trying to strip the church of tax exempt status or a theater trying to deny a church the opportunity to lease its facilities for worship services.

An employment matter gone wrong—someone claims discrimination or wrongful termination.

A child abuse claim—the very worst one of all. My friends at The Church Lawyers have a saying: If the church were a bank, the children’s area would be the vault. We have to do absolutely everything within our power to protect kids.

As you can imagine, these are nightmare situations. And more often than not, I find that church leaders are ignorant of the areas of the law that most pertain to them, both the protections and limitations the law creates.

So, I invited attorneys Steven Goodspeed and Dustin Gaines from The Church Lawyers to give us a crash course on the four legal risks they think all church leaders need to be aware of and how to take the appropriate measures to protect your ministry.

You will very likely have some next steps to take after listening to this one.

The 2-adult volunteer rule for protecting kids and teens needs a big update in 2019. Here's why.
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In this conversation, we discussed: 

  • The #1 reason churches have been sued in 9 out of the last 10 years
  • Why a phone book size policy and procedures manual for your children’s ministry is actually counterproductive and could leave you liable in an abuse case
  • The 2-adult rule for protecting kids and teens, and why it needs a big update in 2019
  • The simple volunteer screening tactic that is just as important as background checks, but far more likely to be skipped
  • The ways the law actually protects churches against discrimination claims, but that only works for you if you are aware of your rights
  • The for-profit language The Church Lawyers commonly find in churches’ employment documents that can actually create unnecessary challenges for you
Leader Conversation Guide

Want to take this conversation back to a staff or senior leadership team meeting? Here are some sample questions and strategies to help you navigate the conversation:

  1. When is the last time we reviewed our bylaws? Have we had legal counsel properly review them? Does anything need to change?
  2. Is our children’s and student volunteer screening and training process sufficient? Did anything from this episode reveal blind spots we have had?
  3. What do we need to do to institute or update our 2-adult policy for volunteers serving with children and students?
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 

Sean: 00:02 Welcome to the Unstuck Church Podcast. My name is Sean Bublitz, and each week our team is having a conversation about getting churches unstuck. Do you know the top reason that churches have been sued nine out of the last 10 years? Are you confident that your employment agreements are written in a way that protects your church? Did you know that you don’t actually own your architectural plans? Well, today on the podcast, Tony’s talking with Steven Goodspeed and Dustin Gaines from the church lawyers. You’ll hear a conversation about some common risks churches are exposed to and how to protect your church. Let’s join the conversation with Tony and the church lawyers.

Tony: 00:42 So I’m looking forward to the conversation today. I have Steven and Dustin here with The Church Lawyers and they are helping churches really address opportunities to protect the church and help the church continue to have a thriving health and opportunity to reach more people for Jesus, but they’re helping us in some areas where churches sometimes leave themselves unprotected and today we’re actually going to talk about four legal risks for churches. Guys, it’s good to have you with me today for the conversation. Looking forward to the discussion today.

Steven and Dustin: 01:12 We are grateful Tony. Thank you so much. Glad to be here.

Tony: 01:15 So the first area that I wanted to talk about is how we can be protecting our children in our churches. And I know this is an area of risk for churches. So tell me, tell me first of all some some of why this is critical for the churches today in today’s context, but also what are some key next steps churches can be taking in this area?

Steven: 01:35 Well, unfortunately this is continuing to be a problem year over year, over a year and it’s an area that we see in our practice and the churches are a high trust environment and relying on volunteers and people can get stretched thin and unfortunately procedures can be not properly followed and people can be in a hurry and all those things are understandable. It’s just that this is many years in a row now were child abuse claims are one of the leading problems that churches face and protecting children, you know, is just critically important for our gospel witness and the community. And we partner with our churches to do everything we can to help them protect children, and it’s important to understand that, you know, one of the first things that you want to do is have established policies and procedures in place for employees and volunteers, but understand that adopting a phone book size, you know, manual of procedures and policies isn’t in your best interests and it will be one of the first items that a plaintiff’s attorney will put forward in front of a jury or a judge to establish, you know, what were the reasonable standards of care.

Steven: 02:48 And so it’s important to have proper procedures and policies, but it is critically important that you’re able and that you do follow those policies and procedures because they will certainly be used against you in an increasingly hostile, you know, legal environments. I know, you know, we won’t get into all of the different kinds of roles. I know the two adult rule is, is becoming more widely known out there. It’s important to have two adults, present with children in classrooms and, or bathroom breaks and that kind of thing. But one of the things we’ve had to change in our practice in the last three years or so is that it is, important to have a two adult rule for online texting and social media contact with children and we are increasingly seeing that as something that’s being necessary because it’s, it’s you, that one on one contact is just not a good idea.

Steven: 03:41 It doesn’t protect our volunteers or employees at all. And so that’s, that’s a proper social media policy needs to sort of take that into account. And so that’s, that’s kind of some of the first steps. Screening employees and volunteers always important to do that, but practically speaking in our practice I want your listeners to be aware that it is important for these child sensitive positions that you ask the proper questions and that you do a proper background check certainly, but you also need to call and check references if possible. And it should be possible for all of your children and childcare workers. It’s important to establish that you’ve done that due diligence more than just doing a background check, which is necessary. But it’s not sufficient to do a background check. You need to do a little bit more than that to establish a reasonable standard of care. And Dustin, do you have any extra thoughts?

Dustin: 04:37 But no Steven’s right. Nine out of the last 10 years, child abuse lawsuits against churches was the number one reason that churches were sued. So a super important area to make sure that you’re not cutting any corners and just conceptually as well. It’s important to understand, you know, churches themselves are entities, they don’t abuse kids, but they have volunteers and they have employees. So when a church is brought into court in a lawsuit on child abuse, which again, nine out of 10 of the last years they’re brought in, how did you select that volunteer? How did you screen that volunteer? Did you interview them? Did you ask them the questions? Did you do a background check? How comprehensive of a background check was it? Like Steven mentioned, did you call the references would have taken you two minutes to pick up the phone and call a reference. That would have revealed that this was a child abuser that you were putting in there with your kids. How did you train them? Did you have any warning signs? Were they retained as a volunteer after those warning signs were there? So those are all the things that churches should be thinking through and should be following as best as they can.

Tony: 05:46 I appreciated it when Emily and I connected with our new church just within the last several months and were engaging in ministry. If anybody should have gotten a pass on a background check and reference checks, you would think it’d be Tony Morgan. I’m a pastor, I’ve written books on Church Ministry and so on, but I appreciated the fact that they went through their same process with us just like they would with anybody else and did all the reference calls and things like that. You’ll be glad to know. I checked out though, so, I did make it on the. Yeah, great job. Alright. The second area I wanted to focus on a second area of risk for churches. It has to do with property disputes. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?

Steven: 06:33 So this is the topic that lends itself probably least to sort of an abbreviated treatment, but it’s important for your listeners to be aware of the religious land use and institutionalized persons act. We call it ALUIPA in the legal trade here and that parts. It’s not important to remember the name or anything else, but just understand that the basic thrust of the law is that no government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on their religious exercise of a person including a religious assembly or institution. Unless the government can demonstrate that the burden on that person assembly similar institution is basically necessary. It’s their preference of government interests and is the least restrictive means available. Basic takeaway is that, we have rights and we have these, this legislation and our practice has had to utilize this on behalf of churches who are being denied access to theaters and different places of assembly, especially in some inner cities and our coastal areas have a different legal environment than in some other parts of United States.

Steven: 07:43 And we’ve had to utilize that act and just being aware of that. And although this isn’t necessarily a property dispute situation, it’s important to just be aware that if you’ve got a building campaign or construction and finance going on, that the architectural plans that are featured in there, you don’t own the rights to those legal lean. And so if a distributor rises in the future, those things can get expensive. Or if you have to switch construction groups or something like that. Just understand the default rule is despite what you may feel about this situation, those architectural plans aren’t owned by you and it’s a need. We can help, you know, our experienced legal counsel can help negotiate access to those plans and use of them even after the building’s been developed and that can help avoid disputes later on related to construction issues and things like that. You won’t have to pay to have access to those plans later. Dustin you have?

Dustin: 08:41 Yeah. The two main, Steven mentioned the RLUIPA legislation, where that comes into effect. A lot of the times I get to help with the litigation here at the firm. What happens is, there’ll be a church that will want to expand or it might be a brand new church start and it wants to have its ministry, you know, down on the town square and when they go to get their zoning and their permitting and approval for that, the government will deny it because it’ll say that it’s not zoned for an assembly like a church, but you’ll have four or five doors down. You might have the local theater or you might have something where people do the exact same thing. They come in, they sit down, they listen to something and they leave. And what that piece of legislation protects, it stops the government from being able to single out churches and stop them from being able to start and being able to do the exact same things that would be done in multiple other places.

Dustin: 09:34 So even though it’s called religious land use and institutionalized persons, you know, the institutionalized persons are the inmates we focus here on the religious land use aspect of it. And then the other big one is property tax exemptions, you know, nobody likes to pay property taxes. And what we’re finding, especially in our litigation practices, that municipalities are being very aggressive to try to remove tax exempt status from churches for varieties of reasons. They’re not using all of the land that’s there in Ohio. The different municipalities, they all send investigators out to scope out the churches and they’ll apportion, you know, they’ll see a part of the field is overgrown and then they’ll try to revoke that percentage and you know, we’re experienced and were able to help with that and to work in conjunction with local council when necessary. So honored to be able to help. But those are the biggest areas that come across our desks here with land use.

Tony: 10:34 We were at The Unstuck Group working with a church in New Jersey several years ago and it all does, it comes down to taxes and I understand the constraints that local governments have to, I mean, I used to be in local government and I know it’s a challenge to continue to provide services with limited resources financially to do that. And as a result of that, a lot of communities, I think you are right are trying to be more aggressive about the property that could be a business for commercial use or industrial use in taxes being paid. And because of that, they’re wanting to limit the churches expansion in these areas. And what I have found is many times local governments in the small communities, again, that’s usually volunteers serving in counsel roles and they’re making decisions which they believe are right for their community to protect the tax base. But many times they’re unaware of legislation like you’ve outlined. And as a result of that, that’s where we really need folks like you at the church lawyers to come in and help protect the rights set that churches have. So a third area of risk I wanted to talk about today has to do with personal injury. And so, can you talk about some of the issues that you see related to churches and how this is an area that churches need to make sure they’re protected as well?

Dustin: 12:00 Yeah. The place where we would start with that is with the churches general liability insurance. You know, insurance is a great thing to have and a rule of thumb for a church, no matter what it sizes, you know, nowadays insurance coverage is affordable and you can adjust the limits that are there. We recommend, you know, to have as much coverage as you can afford. And you know, general liability, will cover things like claims of abuse. If somebody is on the property and they slip and fall on the doormat that a volunteer didn’t put down correctly on the way in or if it’s a wet floor or if you have a work day and somebody falls off a ladder, those are all real things that we’ve dealt with here throughout the last several months. But you just want to make sure that your coverage is there, that it’s intact.

Dustin: 12:43 You want to make sure that you can afford the deductible and make sure your insurance is there. But then another area is to look at the waivers that are being used. If it’s a youth activity, you want to make sure that there are waivers that will go through what the activity is going to be if there’s driving involved it outlines and there’s just good communication and there’s informed knowledge there on behalf of the reader as far as what the risks might be with whatever activity is there. And you know, the big thing with waivers is that the student pastor, the children’s pastor, when everybody goes to camp, that they’re actually using them. And one of the things that we do quite a bit is we’re able to review those waivers and it doesn’t take us long and we’re able to be a help to churches with that.

Tony: 13:29 Blaming the youth pastors again, always, always happens. All right, well the final area I wanted to hit, and honestly this is where The Unstuck Group gets the most questions. It’s around employment matters matters and I’m glad that we have a strategic partner like The Church Lawyers to help us in this area and to encourage churches to take some next steps. But can you highlight for, for us some of the areas that we need to be concerned about when it comes to employment matters for churches?

Steven: 14:02 Sure. Our church clients, you know, and even starting with the posting of a job and an employment application, we want you to be careful that you haven’t utilized a generalist in human resources or someone that’s not aware of the ability of the church to discriminate in favor of its religion. And it’s, we too often we’ll see a employment application or something that says we won’t discriminate, you know, and in, in any case, you know, and just put the standard sort of for profit business language in there and that is not good to have in there. It’s, it’s important that you signal that you are a religious organization and a church and that you do reserve the right to explicitly discriminate in favor of your, of your religious beliefs. And we are always in favor of using general employment agreements for non-executive staff.

Steven: 14:56 These are a primary risk mitigation tool for churches because the ones that we utilize, for instance, it reaffirms at-will nature of employment. So just because it’s a contract doesn’t mean it’s not also at-will. It still has the at-will aspect, it has confidentiality provisions. It also has the work for hire doctrine. If they create something, you know, it belongs to the church. And, and that can be, those things can be recalibrated as necessary depending on the church’s DNA and its views on some of those issues. But the final thing that it provides to is Christian arbitration and mediation and these clauses properly constructed will keep a church out of the secular court system for employment matters and that’s critically important for, you know, it’s biblical reasons to try to stay out of the secular court, but..

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