The One Church Leadership Mistake You Cannot Make

I bet you and your team have annual goals or focus points. It’s always healthy to have a few things in focus as the year begins. It’s like an organizational resolution, but much easier to keep.

I recently saw Chick-fil-A’s organizational focus for 2018. One item on their list stood out — food safety. When I first saw it, I wondered why something so basic was on their big four movements list. Have they had trouble with food safety recently? Are some stores serving raw chicken?

Then I realize why. Chick-fil-A understands that focusing on new areas of the business is important, but there are some core elements that they must always keep in focus. Food safety might be at the top of that list, hence it made their annual focus list. It doesn’t take too many cases of salmonellae poisoning to destroy a food brand.

So back to us in the church. You probably have some areas of focus for this year. At Woodstock City Church, we too have some important, future thinking opportunities in focus. But, at the top of our list is still one key element: Stewardship.

Stewardship is our food safety. Why? For the same reason as Chick-fil-A. If we lose the trust of those who support our church with their time and treasure, we will immediately begin to fail. We might be able to recover from other missteps, but I doubt we would be able to recover from any breach of financial trust.

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The Multisite Mistake Nearly Every Church Makes

I love being a part of the multisite church movement. And it’s certainly a movement!

According to the most recent research I’ve seen, this movement in the church has grown from 100 to 8,000 since the year 2000. That’s explosive growth. All the cool kids are doing it, right?

Of course, with any rapidly growing phenomenon, there will be issues and problems to navigate. The multisite movement certainly isn’t immune to issues. We should probably come back to this topic a few more times, but for now, let’s take a moment and address one specific tension between existing locations and newer campuses.

For background, I am a Campus Pastor. We call it Lead Pastor, but that distinction deserves its own post. I’ve been leading at Woodstock City Church, a campus of North Point Ministries in Atlanta, for nearly seven years. In this time, we’ve experienced a great deal of change in attendance, meeting locations, and staff just to name a few. All along the way, one of the greatest tensions we’ve navigated was learning to act our age.

Here’s what I mean specifically.

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Could Your Growing Ministry be Responsible for Your Shrinking Passion?

What do you do when your pastoring passion is shrinking?

It happens to us all, so we better have some answers.

Unfortunately, too many of our answers involve walking away from ministry, from our current churches, and from even our families, friends, and ourself.

A loss of passion can happen for many, many reasons. I’d like for us to consider one of the most common and equally hidden reasons of them all. I stumbled upon this truth a year or two ago. I was in a funk. I was partially questioning my role, my responsibilities, and even ministry as a profession. I was considering reentering the marketplace. As I began contemplating how I arrived in the funk, I realized over time our church (and everything around it) had grown somewhat substantially. Initially, this realization didn’t connect any dots. But, it did begin to launch a discovery process.

To go back in time a bit… In the beginning years, we would have staff meeting in my car on the way to lunch. We were a much smaller church with way fewer resources. The entire staff served as the president and the janitor. We were all needed for basically every element of ministry that happened in and through our church. As we grew, we added staff. We added complexity. We added complications. We added a building. Throughout the change, our roles and responsibilities also changed. As the Lead Pastor, I continued to function as the president, but the janitorial elements I often did in the past faded away. We had other staff to handle some of the things I used to do.

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Why Are People Less Interested in Attending Your Church?

I recently listed 10 areas in our church where we are not satisfied. Nothing is necessarily broken, but there is room for evaluation and improvement.

The law of diminishing astonishment is partially to blame for a few items on the list, like decreasing attendance patterns from regular attendees and lack of enthusiasm within the upper grades of some family ministry departments.

This law reflects the reality of how extraordinary today begins to feel ordinary over time. For example:

  • People who attend our church for the first time can’t believe the musical talent. They are surprised by our excellence. And they are moved by their experience.
  • New guests love how we orchestrate the parking lot with volunteers and egress.
  • First-time families can’t believe how we prioritize their children’s experience — even texting parents during the service with an update if needed.

I could go on, but you get the point. In your church, a similar phenomenon is happening, too. People are walking in for the first time, and their initial experience is extraordinary. The problem is human nature. Because the experiences you are creating week in and week out are equally extraordinary. In many cases, the experience is improving over time as you evaluate and improve. But the rate of new can’t keep up with the human condition.

That’s the law: What’s extraordinary today will feel ordinary over time. The employees at Disney suffer from this law. People who live at the beach suffer from this reality. And so do the people attending our churches. It causes them to attend less frequently. It causes them to engage less prolifically. It causes us to want to quit.

Our initial solution is to create more new, different, and improving experiences. We’ve all tried that, and we’ve all failed to one-up ourselves over and over again. It’s impossible. There’s simply no way to move faster than the human condition. So what can we do?

How can we fight the law of diminishing astonishment?

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How to Make a Guest’s First Sunday Count

Sure, you have a mission statement for your church.

We do, too. I bet our statements pretty much say the same thing, with only a variation of adjectives and action verbs. After all, God sort of gave us the statement in the first place.

Having a mission statement is obviously important, but ensuring the mission statement comes to life is more important. How we design for that is important. After all, if what’s written on the wall isn’t happening down the hall, then what good is the statement after all?

I recently heard a story that so beautifully illustrates the power of taking the mission personally, and it was birthed from our organizational design. I’d love to share it with you, because it was a massive reminder to me of what’s at stake very single Sunday in our churches.

A few weeks back a brand new guest came to Woodstock City Church (where I serve). She was new to church. Not just new to our church, but I believe new to church. Although she is married, she came alone this day. As she entered the doors, a volunteer at our New Guest kiosk greeted her (let’s call her Amy). We have kiosks just inside the doors of every entry point at our church to answer questions and help new guests navigate our building. After talking with the new guest for a short while, Amy offered to give her a tour of the building, getting to know her more along the way. As they walked by Waumba Land (our preschool area), the new guest shared something very personal — she had lost her pre-school child. Through the obvious emotions of that moment, she confessed she didn’t know where else to turn, but knew she needed to turn somewhere, so she came to church. Our church.

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A Much Better Way to Respond to Unsolicited Advice

Does everyone seem to be an unsolicited advice giver in your church?

I mean, how often do you hear, “Can I give you just a small suggestion?

I get it. I critique everything we do, as well. When you are a part of something, you want it to be great. When you serve and give to a church, you want your time and resources to be leveraged in the best way possible. Unfortunately, “great” is quite subjective. Every opinion is just that — an opinion. Good, bad, or terrible. (Insert pithy quote about armpits and … you know the rest.)

“The music is so loud.” “Too quiet.” “Too bassy.” “Not thumping enough.” 
“The sermon is too long.” “Too short.” “Not helpful.” “TOO helpful (substitute convicting).”
“It’s too crowded.”
“Somebody sat in my seat.”
“There wasn’t enough … Scripture, songs, parking, coffee, snacks, blah, blah blah.”
“There was too much … Scripture, songs, parking, coffee, snacks, blah, blah blah.”

I’m sure everyone means well, but hearing this week in and week out doesn’t do my heart well.

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7 Simple Ways to Engage Millennials at Your Church

In the previous post, we evaluated the church’s ability to capture the millennial generation.

It’s an ever-growing conversation among church leaders. Reaching the “young people” as a church has been a conversation since I was a young person. My guess is every generation of the church has struggled to reach the next generation on some level. But I wonder if it has less to do with their generational grouping and more to do with their stage of life. Certainly every generation has its unique qualities, and we would be foolish as church leaders to ignore these trends, but twenty-something’s of my generation behaved in many ways like the twenty-something’s of this generation. In fact, there might be more in common with twenty-something’s across each generation that we realized.

If my presumption is true, reaching the “young people” in the community is less about their generational intricacies and more about understanding a twenty-something. From where I sit, I don’t see this segment of adults fleeing the church in record numbers. What I see is these young adults behaving like I did when I was in my twenties. They aren’t lost — they’re just disconnected until they feel a tension to reconnect.

To that point, when these twenty-something’s marry and have children, many show back up to church. The reason is simple: They have a felt need for God and the church again. Felt need is what always drives us to God (and the church), whether it’s a felt need to feel less guilty or in this case a need to fix a marriage or learn how to raise a kid.

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Holding Out to Reach Millennials at Church

Have you mastered reaching the millennial generation in your church?

If so, you need to start a blog and podcast to help the rest of us!

If not, I have some encouragement for you — and for me as a church leader.

Here it is. The full proof way to reach the millennial generation:

Wait until they are married with kids.

Boom. That’s the secret. Seriously, though, I’m beginning to believe reaching the millennial generation is not about market segmentation and generational characteristics. It’s not about becoming something new and unique, designing services and experiences just for them. It’s not about propping up your new social justice programs and using Instragram. Reaching millennials might be a waiting game — like a starring contest. Just wait them out.

Of course, I say this somewhat sarcastically, but there is some truth behind the sarcasm. When I consider my own story, and as you look back at yours, maybe there isn’t as much to worry about after all.

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What If Public Grace Generated Opportunities For Private Truth?

Do you like politics?

I hate it.

I’ll sound more Christian and say I strongly dislike it.

For a short season in my early twenties, I thought I wanted to be in politics. At least until a close friend told me I was WAY too honest and opinionated to be a successful politician. I’ve never played relational games for sport and I certainly will never be blamed for telling people what they want to hear. That’s the type of person I want in political office, and there are some like that serving today, but I’m not sure we as a people are ready to vote for that person en masse.

I guess we like to hear what we want to hear. We are certainly drawn to what we like to hear.

The portion of politics that would have been most challenging to me was fund-raising. To raise political funds, a candidate must make big, bold statements that rally the home crowd enough to drive funding — whether they believe it or not, or plan to act on it or not. It’s this type of “red meat rhetoric” that dominates the political landscape today. Every political commercial or staged speech rips apart the opposition while passing off the strongest of opinions only to strengthen internal support and raise funds. Politics is a game — not of truth and justice, and in many ways not even about votes, but a game of winning and losing dollars (which are then converted to votes).

To me, the Christian landscape in our country often mirrors the political landscape in our country.

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How to Increase Your Reach by Narrowing Your Focus

This is Part 7 (and the last) of a blog series on Creating Continuous Growth in Your Church.

SERIES SUMMARY:

Every church leader facing a growth barrier desperately wants to break through, because every church leader, including me, desires a growing, thriving church. Not because church attendance is the only measure of success, but because increasing attendance is proof that people are being reached.

Here is a question I’ve begun to ask: What if instead of just breaking through a specific barrier we were able to barrier-proof our church? Pause for a moment and imagine never hitting a growth barrier again.

I believe barrier-proofing is possible for every church in any denomination, and that’s exactly what we are going to evaluate in this blog series.

I have uncovered 6 specific ingredients to create continuous growth in your church. In this post, we are going to look at the fifth ingredient:

Ingredient 6: MAINTAINING A CLEAR FOCUS

In this last post, we are going to evaluate the most simple, yet counterintuitive ingredient to creating a continuously growing church.

Here’s our starting place: Logically, the more we offer at our church, the more needs we can meet. The more ministry we provide, the more people we will attract. If we offer Upward Sports, we can attract the recreation crowd. If we offer VBS, we’ll reach children outside of Sunday. If we have a Men’s ministry, we’ll get more guys to eat pancakes and pray together. If we offer Women’s ministry, we’ll give ladies a place to belong and do life together. We have to offer Sunday School, because, well, we’re a church! We need softball and basketball teams for adults, because where else will men recreate? And we have those fields out back, too. We should probably have a food pantry and clothes closet, because people in our community are in need and we are a church. Maybe a homeless shelter? And we should also have a school — and not just a preschool, but a real school.

That’s all well and good. It’s even logical. Some would say strategic, and most would say it’s church.

But here’s the counter to counterintuitive: It’s crazy complicated to offer countless ministries and programs. We would all agree making our church more complicated and complex does not necessarily equal more effective. It certainly doesn’t guarantee more people. Complication spreads our leadership too thin. It spreads our effectiveness too thin. It spreads our resources too thin. It happens subtly over time, often without us even noticing. Before we know it, though, our church is burdened with more than can be done well, and our reach and effectiveness will be hampered as a result.

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