March 18, 2011 Tony Morgan

Unstuck: How do we get different results?

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but sometimes it makes me feel better to know that other organizations are feeling the pain as well. For example Borders was in the news last month. They announced they are shutting 200 bookstores. They’re faced with liquidating $350 million of inventory. Though people are still reading books, Borders is stuck.

A couple of years ago, you and I became owners of General Motors. The U.S. government had to use a $50 billion (that’s with a “b”) bailout to keep the company afloat. GM went from a 45% market share in 1980 to under 20% thirty years later. People are still buying cars, but GM is stuck.

The United Methodist Church has lost about three million members since 1970. The number of people attending at least one Church of England service each month is down by 50% since 1968. Today less than three percent of the population attends services. Denominations are stuck.

I get to work with and communicate with church leaders across the country every day. Here’s what I know to be true — churches are stuck as well. Sometimes they don’t know they’re stuck. But, the symptoms are fairly obvious. Here are some symptoms to identify whether or not your church is stuck. Some of them are more obvious than others:

  • The church has stopped growing.
  • The congregation is aging.
  • Giving has declined.
  • Spiritual growth has stalled. People are just “consuming” ministry.
  • People aren’t serving.
  • People have stopped reaching their neighbors.
  • The church isn’t developing leaders.
  • Communications are confusing and lack purpose.

One of the main reasons I believe churches are stuck is because their systems and strategies are broken. Churches continue to use their same systems, but hope and pray for different results. The only way to get different results is to engage different systems. But, unfortunately, many churches (and denominations) would rather stay stuck and eventually die rather than making changes that might make people (including leaders) feel uncomfortable.

I’ve been reading through Exodus again in recent days. God had a plan for his people. He had a better place for them. Moses was called to lead the people to that better place. It was someplace the people had never been before. Though Moses was trying to lead the people following God’s plan, the whole congregation grumbled. It wasn’t just some of the people grumbling — everybody grumbled. Sound familiar?

Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to share a series of posts to help you get unstuck. Maybe it would be a good idea, though, to start with a little self-assessment. Take a look at the list above. Are there any symptoms that might indicate your church is stuck? Be honest.

Jim Collins said this in How the Mighty Fall:

“Those in power blame other people or external factors – or otherwise explain away the data – rather than confront the frightening reality that the enterprise may be in serious trouble.”

Now I’ll ask again — where are you stuck?

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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.
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