The Unstuck Group’s team has served 150+ churches in the last year, and most of our consultants are actually still on staff full-time in local churches. They have a pretty unique opportunity to gain perspective on what’s going on at a broad level across North America (and beyond).
So, we recently polled the Unstuck team on Slack (a great team communication and collaboration tool, if you’re not already using it, especially for multisite churches). We asked them about trends they’ve noticed over the last year as they have facilitated Ministry Health Assessments, Strategic Planning and Staffing & Structure Reviews with churches of all different sizes and denominations.
What major trends related to church leadership are you observing in the churches you’ve served over the last year?
Here are some of their insights, which ended up falling into a few categories:
Tony Morgan: Generally, I think more churches are talking about leadership development. That’s positive. I’m just not convinced many churches have figured it out.
Paul Alexander: Trying to find an off-the-shelf program for leadership development instead of realizing and embracing the fact that the church itself is a leadership development program.
STAFFING AND STRUCTURE
Tony Morgan: Letting someone stay on the team who either isn’t a culture fit or doesn’t have the capacity for the specific role.
Sarah Bouma: I was going to respond exactly as Tony did, but adding “or people whose roles have outgrown their leadership capacity and/or passion.” The best specific example I can share is a children’s pastor at a church of just under 1,000 who expressed that his ideal role was just to sit with a small group of children and disciple them.
Tammy Kelley: Lack of clarity on the role of an executive pastor.
Amy Anderson: Senior pastors are often lacking a Driver (a teammate with a faster-paced/task-oriented wiring) on their executive team. Instead, they are more often surrounded by (albeit great) teammates who are more people-focused and work at a slower pace. Without the complementary Driver personality in the mix, I see teams struggling to make decisions, take action, and I ultimately see senior pastors who are overextended and tired because they are having to shoulder most of the “action” energy.
MULTISITE / MULTI-VENUE
Paul Alexander: The upside to the multisite trend (done well or not) is the commitment/heart to reach more people for Jesus! That’s a good thing! Unfortunately, I’m also seeing a lot of churches choose to do multi-venue/multi-style services to keep more people happy (insiders) rather than as a strategy to reach new people.
Chris Surratt: Unwillingness to make hard decisions. Some of it is due to poor governance models, but some of it is due to lead pastors not leading.
Mark Morgan: Fear of conflict and having the hard conversations.
Dale Sellers: The most positive, and encouraging, trend I’ve seen lately is the willingness of lead pastors and trustees/boards to reach out for help. It’s one thing to realize you need help but quite another to actually be proactive in seeking out help.
Ron Baum: There is a lot of talk today about millennials across the spectrum. In my opinion, not all millennials are created equal. I am seeing a trend of millennials who are looking for mentoring from Gen X and Boomer generations. Those that are experiencing the opportunity to be equipped and empowered are experiencing success on many levels in church ministry.
Michael Moore: I’ve seen a trend in congregations committing to allocate resources and attention to young people and young families. That’s positive.
Dave D’Angelo: More imitation than innovation.
Dale Sellers: I think the major trend that I’ve seen is most pastors’ inability to develop a good strategy and then implement it. Most of the folks I’ve worked with are chasing fads (or things they see at conferences) instead of developing a specific strategy for their specific church and community.
Gabe Kolstad: I keep running into huge volunteer turnover, and it seems like the common denominator is lack of timelines for volunteer positions. In other words, people think they have to serve forever so they burn out and quit, or they shy away in the first place because the terms are undefined.
Paul Alexander: Scheduling people to fill volunteer roles instead of using volunteer opportunities to develop and disciple people.
Clearly some of these are positive trends and some are not so positive. Are you seeing any of these in your church? If so, know you’re not alone, but also let this serve as a wake-up call. While the negative trends are common, as we’re helping churches get unstuck we’re often helping them break out of these tendencies. Be encouraged; it can be done!