December 1, 2009 Tony Morgan

Church Math

more staff = fewer volunteers

lack of planning = financial challenges

more meetings = less ministry

unclear vision = packed ministry calendar

packed ministry calendar = volunteer burnout

more announcements = less ministry engagement

more ministries = more announcements

fewer people inviting friends = smaller crowds

lack of added value = fewer people inviting friends

fewer constraints = less creativity

same methods = same results

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

Comments (25)

  1. Tony have you ever written about how churches can encourage people to bring new friends? And have you ever heard of churches rewarding their people like a children’s church or youth group would? I would love your thoughts on that.

  2. Peter

    I followed (and agreed with) most of that except for the “fewer constraints” item. Can you explain that one a little more?

  3. Mary West

    Tony: These are great thoughts. Sounds typical of some of the churches around me. Some things apply to my church. I dont catch the meaning of fewer constraints=less creativity. Would you explain. Thanks. Mary

  4. You are right on target with most of your equations. Only one seems a little off base.

    Fewer constraints do not always lead to less creativity. In fact, the opposite is usually true. Truly innovative ideas grow best in environments where there is freedom and simple boundaries.

  5. Tony, I love the concept of “Church math”. I think (maybe) you meant “more constraints=less creativity”. Right?

    I wonder though too about the “more staff=fewer volunteers” one. I think at first glance that is true, however, if the right staff person is added, hopefully they add the appropriate “value” to the church and encourage even more volunteers. We recently hired a new Serve Pastor, a new Children’s Pastor and a new College Pastor. We are a 4 year old, rapidly growing church. Each of them have added to the total number of volunteers in our church as they create energy, bring passion to the area of ministry, and find people with strengths appropriate that gives them a sense of purpose and meaning, helping them mature spiritually.

  6. Just me guessing what Tony meant on the fewer constraints line, because I’ve heard Steven Furtick of Elevation Church teach something similar. Pastor Furtick likes to say (and I apologize if I don’t get this word for word – it’s late), “Stop thinking outside the box and for once think inside the box. When you think inside the box you’re forced to use what you already have and you’re forced to be creative with what you already have.”

    Again, just my interpretation, because Tony will have to speak for himself to clarify, but I’ve found that when my leaders have given me more restraints it forces me to focus my creativity down to the exact direction they are leading, as opposed to fewer restraints which, while still allowing for creativity I’m also kind of all over the place because I don’t really know exactly what they want.

  7. Tony,

    Great thoughts. Love the concept. So much truth here.

    Wondering if you can unpack the following equation a little more: “lack of added value = fewer people inviting friends”

    Tell us more about “lack of added value”.

    Thanks man!

  8. This one hit me:

    unclear vision = packed ministry calendar

    It’s like the menu at the Cheesecake Factory. The thing is literally a book. My wife hates eating there for that very reason. “The Cheese” as I call it, doesn’t know what kind of restaurant it is. It confuses the patrons. Too many choices = overwhelm.

    What if our churches looked more like In N’ Out Burger and less like the Cheesecake Factory?

  9. Tony M.

    yes, i meant to say “fewer constraints = less creativity.” looks like i have ammunition for a new post.


  10. bradtrussell

    great list!

    fewer constraints = less creativity

    all church planters get this math, another version of necessity is the mother of invention and affluence breeds complacency, we don’t create until we have to, we don’t change until we have to, churches that endure constraints whether by choice or by circumstance tend to be more creative

  11. Great post, I like the more staff = fewer volunteers. Too many people at the church I am at think we are way understaffed, but they have never looked to the hundreds of volunteers that are waiting to be invited to serve.

    This generally comes from the last one, same methods = same results.

  12. Brian

    You might have accidentally said that but I have a tendency to agree with some of the implications of
    fewer constraints=less creativity.

    Its been a philosophy of mine for some time that “creativity loves constraints.” You can read some more about it here.

    Many think that the lack of a framework means creativity will explode when in my experience that isn’t necessarily true.

    I understand why some of your readers could misunderstand this. Likely because many new church leaders feel like they are trying to eliminate lifeless traditions and thus they associate traditions with constraints.

    I think a set of strong purposeful constraints can be one of the most empowering aspects of the creative process.

  13. As a creative, I can attest to the validity of fewer constraints = less creativity.

    One of the most maddening sentences that a Pastor/Church leader can say to a creative when asked to provide direction on a project/campaign/series/etc is “Just make something (insert creative adjective here)”.

    When constraints are completely eliminated, it dilutes the creative process. Often times a creative, when not given any constraints, will chase down concepts that aren’t effective. When constraints are in place, and vision in clearly communicated, then the creative can pursue options within a framework that will yield much more effective and creative results.

  14. Totally agree with Chad, Brian and Tony.

    There is the thought that you are freeing people to be more creative but instead it opens up the “Well, that’s not what I was looking for.” but as the creative person you did not know that when there was no direction or constraint given.

    Creatives like to have some ability and openness to be creative, but with a vision or goal given. If you don’t give that “constraint” then you are wasting the time of everyone.

    Some of the most creative ____ (fill in the blank) happened due to constraints on money, time resources/people. It forces people to think different and be creative to get through the challenges.

    Unless I am missing Tony’s point there needs to be a balance on what the constraints are.

    Give direction without suffocating.

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