The 5 Factors That Can Move Your Church Forward
Tony Morgan is a ministry partner of Vanderbloemen and is one of the most strategic thinkers in the church.Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group. He's a consultant, leadership coach, and writer who helps churches get unstuck and have a bigger impact.
Anytime I walk into a new church consulting engagement with The Unstuck Group, one of my main objectives is to figure out “How can I help this organization to move from ‘here’ to ‘there’?”
Ultimately, of course, that question typically leads to some sort of change. If change isn’t an option, ministries don’t need me. They’re more focused on “how we stay here.”
Here’s how I typically approach the “here to there” question. I look at five buckets:
- Strategy – How do we accomplish the mission?
- Systems – How do we streamline what we do to improve our effectiveness?
- People – Who’s on the team and what’s their role?
- Buildings – Where do we do what we do?
- Vision – Where are we heading?
One of the things I’ve learned along the way is that, in addition to addressing these five buckets, it’s just as important to hit them in the right order.
This may surprise you, but I’d rather have the right people before clarifying the vision. With gifted people who are a good fit with me (or the pastor I’m helping), you can accomplish just about anything. Of course, to get the right people, you often times need a clear, focused vision, and that’s the catch-22. Some people will follow you because of who you are, but other people, especially other leaders, need to be comfortable with both the person they will follow and the vision that you intend to pursue.
Organizations usually know me as the “strategic guy,” so they’re contacting me to fix their systems or strategy. I could try to help them tweak systems and strategy all day long, but it’s not going to have any impact going forward if the right people aren’t in place to execute.
If you forced me to rank the five buckets, I’d put them in this priority order:
That’s my preference. I'd rather have the right people first. But, I also know it'll usually take the right vision and strategy to get the right people. (That's why when my team and I consult, we start with the team you have, clarify the vision and strategies and then help you see who is still missing from your team.)
If you know your church needs to move from ‘here’ to ‘there,’ and you’re serious about the change that will be required, take a look at these buckets for yourself and ask some tough questions:
1. Do we have the right people on our team?
To answer the first question, ask yourself a few more:
- Do they want to go from ‘here’ to ‘there?’
- Do they have the skills and calling to lead change?
- Do we have a healthy staff culture?
If the answer is ‘yes’ to those three questions, you’re in a fantastic position to innovate and lead change. If the answer is ‘no’ or ‘not sure,’ you’ll need to answer the vision question before you can determine whether or not you have the right people.
2. Do we know where we need to go?
I believe each church is unique and has a purpose given by God. If your first instinct is to mimic another church you perceive as successful, you’re selling yourself short. Why has God placed you in your city in this time? Who has He given you to reach and how has He positioned your church uniquely to reach them? These are the tough questions that clarify vision.
3. Do we know how we are going to get there?
If vision is where you are going, strategies are the steps you will take to get there.
Think of strategies as your mode of transportation for getting from ‘here’ to ‘there.’ What are you going to try? What are you going to do differently? How will you change your thinking?
The big pitfall to watch out for is letting your strategies replace the vision on your scale of importance. (That’s what leads churches to get stuck -- being married to their methods.)
4. Do we know what systems will sustain the strategies?
You’ll need a mechanism for accountability. You’ll need processes to make your new strategies work. You may need some new staff positions. The goal at this stage is to make form follow function.
5. Do we know what environments will be required?
You should have a clear sense at this point of how space fits into the big picture. How are the buildings you have (or don’t have) now a help or a hindrance to the success of your strategies? Look further down the road, too: For the vision to happen, what spaces will be required?
It’s easy to look at a the lack of growth in ministry and blame it on the facility. Sure, facilities and locations can impede ministry impact, but, the greatest facility or location in the world can’t fix an unhealthy church. That’s why I rank it last.
Healthy churches are built around people God calls pursuing a vision He delivers.
Churches are shaped by the strategies and systems, or lack thereof, that they embrace. (By the way, some churches choose not to worry about strategy, but that is also a strategy.) Getting from ‘here’ to ‘there’ takes courageous leadership in each of these five areas. Are you willing to be that leader?
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