August 9, 2017 Austin Savage

5 Unfortunate Trade-Offs Churches Are Making Today

As The Unstuck Group continues to work with churches on strategic planning through our 4-phase process, we are noticing several “trade-offs” keeping them from moving forward. These trade-offs often result from near-sighted leadership, a focus on short-term effects rather than long-term results. Sometimes short-term decisions feel like wins but, in reality, they are drifting you further and further from your mission and vision.

Here are 5 trade-offs many churches are making today:

1) Trading long-term health for more people in seats.

I get it, numbers matter. Every number is a name, every name has a soul and every soul matters to Jesus. Whether you are part of a church of 100 or 10,000, growth is extremely important. However, there is a big difference between drawing a crowd and building a healthy church. Concerts draw crowds. Sports events draw crowds. Crowds come and go. Simply getting people in seats is never a wise trade-off for long-term health. A wiser approach may be to know who you are trying to reach and look for unique and innovative ways to help them take their next steps.

2) Trading strong volunteers and leaders for non-committed followers.

Be honest with yourself here: How important are people to you? Do you communicate their importance to them? When was the last time you paid attention to the turnover rate of your staff and volunteers?

If hanging on to dynamic leaders is a challenge, there is a strong possibility that you have stopped caring for and developing the people who are serving in your ministry. We know that staff and volunteer health is definitely a blind spot for many leaders. Maybe it’s time to focus less on filling roles and more on developing people.

3) Trading your goals for things that don’t matter.

This is definitely an issue. Many church leaders don’t follow-through because they struggle to stay focused long enough to accomplish anything significant. It’s so easy to waste time, money and energy on efforts that do not produce lasting results.

For example, many churches pour time and resources into events and programs for people who already attend their church, thus neglecting to have any effective external impact. Now, investing in your congregation matters. But, as a church, it is our mission to reach people outside of the church and introduce them to Jesus. We can’t do that if we are internally focused. Churches also often pour resources into decades-old traditions or programs that have lost their impact. The list could go on and on. These same distractions tend to get churches off track year after year.

4) Trading wisdom for speculation.

Too many churches are guessing about whether or not they are winning. One of the first steps to leading change is finding out where you are and developing a plan to move forward. This is why our team developed The Unstuck Church Assessment, a short survey that tells you exactly where your church is in its life cycle and practical steps you can take to move towards sustained health.

5) Trading fun, upbeat, creative services for boring and predictable experiences.

Are your attendees bored out of their minds? Seriously, are they? Look around on a Sunday morning. If people look sleepy and disengaged, something is off. It might be time to work on your creative process. You may be trading your creative energy for packed calendar events that no one wants to go to.

While it often feels easier to trade long-term results for short-term effects, healthy change takes time. It’s important to stay focused on your vision and the steps it will take to get there. If you feel like your church could use an outside perspective to clarify your vision and craft a strategic plan to move forward effectively, take a look at how we help churches get unstuck.

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Austin Savage

Austin Savage is the Director of Communications at 95Network, a ministry designed to connect small and mid-size churches to BIG resources. From Normal, IL, Austin gets that ministry can sometimes feel anything but “normal.” He grew up leading in the small church his dad pastored, and has since served on the launch teams for two church plants. He holds a Communications degree from Moody Bible Institute and is passionate about seeing churches grow healthier and make a difference in their communities. Austin and his wife, Larisa, currently reside near Peoria, IL.
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