The Importance of Planning Christmas (and other big days) Early

Planning can be a struggle for pastors. Last month, I spoke with several pastors who had not yet had a conversation about Christmas (which is right around the corner). I totally get it. I remember the days as a lead pastor. Every Monday morning, we are reminded that Sunday is coming…again. Unfortunately a lack of planning can result in missed opportunities to impact people with the gospel. Late planning usually means poor planning, which leads to frustration among volunteers that are trying to pull off last minutes ideas (that are under-resourced and unorganized). 

In the blink of an eye, Thanksgiving will be over, which is when many pastors start thinking about Christmas. If that’s your normal planning rhythm, keep reading.
Having early conversations about Christmas can result in gospel impact. It removes the "I wished we would have thought about that..." conversation that usually happens after Christmas (or other big days) have passed by. Planning as a team allows more oppor…

Three Things that can Heighten Your Church Security

For most people, the church has always been a symbol of peace; a safe place for people to gather and worship. That has drastically changed over the last few years. It is heartbreaking to hear stories of violence that destroy the lives of innocent people. When I work with different pastors, these stories sometimes come up and security becomes a part of the conversation. Questions like these are usually asked, “What does security look like in a church?, Who qualifies? What are the liabilities? Do we really need a security team?”

A few years ago, I asked my brother to come to our church and speak about the importance of church security. My brother served in the Air Force for four years, followed by several years in the Secret Service under President Bush. After 9/11 happened, he became a Federal Air Marshal and spent the next several years flying around the world. He went through extensive training on how to deal with terroristic violence.
One thing that I vividly remember him saying is, “…

Three Truths to Embrace When Hard Work and Planning Hasn't Produced Numerical Growth

Recently I had a conversation with a pastor that I have been coaching for over a year. Over the course of the last several months, he and his team created plans, landed a focused vision and made a lot of significant changes. During our last conversation he shared some of the discouragement that he and his team were experiencing. He said, “We’re a little frustrated because, despite the changes we have made, we still haven’t seen numerical growth.” Matter of fact, the average attendance of his church wasexactly what it was one year ago.  Understanding growth principles can be helpful, especially when you're gaging the success of planning and execution by the increase of attendance.  When I was a kid, I remember helping my grandfather plant his garden. Each day I would go there expecting to find fresh vegetables. It didn't take long to understand that growth has a process and my desire to see it now did not speed it up. The same is true in the church. 
If you're a pastor or lea…

Moving Planning to Action: 5 Areas the Pastor Can't Ignore

I love seeing churches get Unstuck. Not very long ago, I received this email from a pastor after facilitating the Unstuck Strategic Process at their church. 
I can't thank you enough for being willing to work with us on a personal level. You brought a big process, the strategic planning retreat, to [our] church in the middle of Pennsylvania. The result, our people are now motivated to make a difference for Christ with their lives in this area and even beyond. And, our planning team is convinced God is getting ready to do great things through us for His glory!
Thanks again for getting us off on the right foot and being willing to walk along side of us for the next 12 months to help with accountability, follow through and focus on the goal we believe God has given to us.

Receiving emails like this is my favorite part about working with The Unstuck Group. However, not every email is so positive. Sometimes they are just the opposite. When teams fail to follow through, it creates a l…

Three Best Practices when Firing a Staff Member

No one enjoys firing people. If you do, you're on the wrong side of the desk. Firing people is never fun, but sometimes necessary. There will be times we hire the wrong person. Other times an organization outgrows a staff person's skill set and they aren't able to perform at a higher level.  Having the wrong person on staff can be detrimental, because a staff must function as one team. This is especially true in church. It takes a lot of effort and teamwork to create a church that impacts people with the gospel. And yes, there are times that churches, just like secular organizations, have to let people go. The struggle is, most church staff are tied together relationally and formed around Jesus and ministry, which can really make firing feel very icky. 

While the primary focus of most pastors is (and should be) vision and teaching, the church has a business side that must be managed and monitored. Part of that business is evaluating the performance of staff. When consistent…

The Value of Understanding your Current Location on the Life Cycle

Many of the churches I work with are seated in small towns across rural America. While their challenges mirror those of other churches, their context can present different hurdles, especially when compared with churches in large cities. Typically towns with low population and dated communities aren't at the top of the list for young leaders; if having a Starbucks was a deal breaker, many towns would be crossed off the list. As a result, churches in rural areas can struggle in attracting leaders from the outside. Even raising up and training local leaders can be a challenge because people often move away for better opportunities. 

Here's are some stats from Lifeway Facts and Trends that further reveal the challenges of leading a church in rural America. 

The Hartford Institute for Religious Research, most American churches now have fewer than 100 in weekend worship attendance. As the percentage of small churches grew since 2005, median weekend worship attendance dropped across t…

Polishing your Discipleship Path

It's exciting to see new people at church each weekend. The number of new guests play a vital role in church growth. While it is important for churches to be appealing to new people, it is equally important to make sure you have the right next steps so guests can find and follow Jesus. In Tony Morgan's book, The Unstuck Church, he talks about the importance of creating pathways instead of programs. Unlike programs, a path offers a relational journey where people can grow in their relationship with Jesus and other people. 
Here's the big question. Are you wanting to produce members or disciples? If membership is the end goal, you'll probably get a lot of names on the roster, but few people involved in ministry. Since Jesus made it clear that making disciples is the objective of the church (Matthew 28:19), we can't settle for a path that simply creates church members. 
At the end of the day, every church has some sort a pathway. Unfortunately, it isn't always a pro…