It worked for the pastor who produced the tapes. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for me.
The gaping hole in my ministry, I eventually discovered, was leadership. Churches need it desperately. If pastors don’t supply it, somebody else will and the results are usually disappointing.
And churches need leadership at every stage in the organizational life cycle.
Tony Morgan, with his …Unstuck Church, has given us a tremendous leadership tool, and it’s not just for churches on the downside of the life cycle. The experienced church consultant shows church leaders whose congregations are at any point in their histories, how they can help their churches become more effective at making disciples.
This is practical material that leaders can put to use right away, by themselves, with their leadership teams, church boards, or in their pastor cluster groups. I am envisioning pastors reading the book, telling the group at which stage their church seems to be “stuck,” and sharing with the group what they’re going to do to get it “unstuck.” Lots of discussion and prayer and some accountability would round out the process.
Morgan’s seven stages are pretty similar to what you’ve heard before:
- A Launch Stage (the beginning of the life cycle)
- A Momentum Growth Stage (on the way up the life cycle)
- A Strategic Growth Stage (further up the life cycle)
- Sustained Health (the pinnacle of the life cycle)
- Maintenance (the beginning of the descent)
- Preservation (further down the slope)
- Life Support (ready to close its doors)
- “…I’ve seen many dead and declining churches led by pastors with great wisdom who were very capable preachers. But they couldn’t lead. In each of these instances, what was missing was leadership. One of the common characteristics of declining churches is that they lack strong leadership.”
- Move Bible studies and Sunday School classes to some time other than Sunday morning. “Growing churches maximize the use of their space and volunteers for reaching new people on Sunday morning. After all, that’s when new people are most likely to attend a service.”
- Even healthy systems, methods and structures need to change over time. “If you’re not careful…following the rules…can become the focus over accomplishing the mission and vision of the church.”
- We are in trouble when “the voices inside the church become louder than the voices outside the church.” Morgan says repeatedly that the transition from an outward focus to an inward focus is profoundly significant, but can be almost imperceptible to those inside the church.
- Churches are typically in maintenance mode for months or even years before they realize it. Even churches that are still growing are sometimes in the maintenance phase.
- The size of the church has nothing to do with where it might be on the life cycle. “There are some very large churches in the maintenance phase. Some know it and some do not.”
- There is danger in the otherwise healthy practice of hiring from within. “Without fresh perspectives from the outside, staff teams tend to do the same thing they’ve always done and hope for different results.”
- “The key question that leaders need to address is, what are we willing to do to reach people outside the church and outside the faith? The churches on the upswing will do just about anything short of sin to reach new people.” “…churches on the downside of the life cycle [are] not inclined to make any changes to reach new people if it means losing people who already attend the church.”