A few weeks ago we hosted a private webinar for folks who pre-ordered their copies of The Unstuck Church. The group that participated sent in questions ahead of time, and we thought a few of them might be good ones to answer for blog readers as well. Here were a few of those questions and how we answered them:
1) How long can you consider a church a “church plant” or in the “Launch Phase?”
Every church is different. I don’t think there’s a black-and-white answer to this question. Some churches quickly gain momentum and enter the next phase, while other churches spend quite some time in the Launch Phase. It’s also important to recognize that, in some cases, churches don’t experience every phase of the church life cycle. We’ve seen some churches go straight from the Launch Phase all the way over to the right side of the life cycle. The goal, though, is to get through the launch phase as quickly as possible.
2) What do you consider healthy “grow” numbers from Launch to Momentum Growth?
Once again, I don’t think there’s a black-and-white answer here. You’ll know you’ve entered Momentum Growth when you’re experiencing it. When you’ve entered this phase, there will be a significant increase of people getting connected with your ministry and taking next steps. What this increase looks like will be different for every church. Generally, though, I would say if a church is growing at least 5-10% every year, that is healthy growth.
3) We have a value of helping people take their next step. It’s great, but the problem I have is that we’ve made it way too broad. Everything fits in the “next steps.” What have you seen that helps to narrow that focus?
We can actually do a lot to help people take their next steps when we limit their options. Here are a couple suggestions:
- Cast the vision around the value, not the step you’re asking them to take. If you want people to take their next step, they need to know why they should take that step, not specific details about what that next step is. If you want people to serve, consistently talk about why serving is important. Don’t spend all your time describing the serving opportunities your church offers.
- Be sure that every step you offer connects to one of your priority values. Churches struggle to prune what they’re offering. The hard part is that churches need to not only prune programs that aren’t producing life change, but also prune programs that are producing life change, so they can continue to become better and better. Greater simplicity will help people take those next steps.
- Develop your church’s discipleship path. If you haven’t already, make sure your church begins the process of developing a simple path people can follow. A path makes the next steps clear; an overwhelming amount of programs clutters the journey and confuses your audience.
4) Can you expound on why churches get stuck in the Strategic Growth phase or jump to the Maintenance Phase, missing Sustained Health all together? How common is that?
I wouldn’t say that it’s common for churches to completely skip Sustained Health. I think it’s more common for churches to experience a season of Sustained Health, but quickly slip into the Maintenance Phase without realizing it. I think it would be wise for every church leader to read the Maintenance section in the book so they can recognize key indicators of this phase. Here are a few common attributes:
- What you do as a church becomes more important than why you do it.
- The church becomes more insider-focused than outsider-focused.
- The church becomes more complex, adding programs without a clear path.
You want to know when you’re in that Maintenance Phase because, as a leader, that completely changes what your ministry strategy will look like moving forward.
5) At what point in the life cycle is it best for a church to consider going multisite or planting new locations?
During the Strategic Growth Phase would be the short answer. You definitely want to think about going multisite when you are growing and have momentum because you will replicate what you currently are. It’s important to keep in mind that multisite is not a growth strategy; it’s an evangelism strategy.