Understanding the 7 Phases of a Church’s Life Cycle | The Unstuck Church


Regardless of uniqueness, every church has the potential to go through a very similar life cycle.

I’ve been charting this observation for years now. I’ve worked for and with churches across the U.S., in Canada, and in the U.K., churches of many different styles, backgrounds and geographic settings.

They all believe they are unique. (As an example, every church seems to think they are the only ones who “teach the Bible.”) Most have seen seasons of energy and vitality. All have felt, or will feel, the frustration of slowed momentum and mission-drift at times.

Without aware leaders and intentional focus, the life cycle plays out predictably through seven phases. That life cycle looks something like this:



It’s true. Most churches start, grow, thrive, decline and eventually end.

But I believe God’s plan for our churches is that they grow in maturity towards a peak of sustained health, and that as methods and traditions and culture change, they continually reevaluate and refresh, finding new ways to lead people towards Jesus.

I’ve endeavored to capture my observations about the characteristics of a church in each of these phases, along with top-priority next steps to help you move towards sustained health. My new book, The Unstuck Church: Equipping Churches to Experience Sustained Health, will be available from Thomas Nelson on May 16.

Why is it important for church leaders to understand every stage of church growth, and not simply focus on the one where your church sits now?

A lot of churches get stuck in one of these phases. It happens for different reasons, and I dig into those in the book. The key thought I want you to get today is this: If you as a church leader can learn to recognize the characteristics of each phase and the steps that get you unstuck, you are much better positioned to lead a church for the long haul. A church that bridges generations, not just a few years of trends or fads.

  • If you’re on the growth side of the life cycle, you’ll be aware of the temptations and pitfalls ahead of you.
  • If you’re on the decline side of the life cycle, you’ll have a clear understanding of what got you there, and the uphill battle you must resolve to engage.


More on that in this short video clip:

Why Pre-Order The Unstuck Church

There are some perks for pre-ordering now rather than waiting to pick the book up around May 16:

  • Access to an invite-only webinar I’ll host to dive deeper into The Unstuck Church, and a chance to participate in the live Q&A portion of the event.
  • Coupon code for free resources from the TonyMorganLive.com store for the rest of 2017 (a more than $250 value).
  • And, your church will be entered to win a free on-site Ministry Health Assessment with The Unstuck Group (a $5,000-$10,000 value, depending on the size of the church). In May, one winner will be selected at random from all entries.

Pre-Order The Unstuck Church

This book is designed to revisit the methods we embrace in the church.

(Because we really do worship our methods.)

Let’s wrestle with what God has designed the church to be. If we engage that journey, my hope is we’ll also discover how to get the church unstuck.

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About Author

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He's written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com.

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