At any given time, there are close to 100 different churches that are considering working with The Unstuck Group. As our name implies, the churches that contact us have a sense that they are “stuck” in some way. I can sense in some of these early conversations, though, that some of the churches aren’t stuck enough.
I know this because we’re in the change business. We help churches change how they engage ministry so they can experience different results in the future. The challenge is that people generally don’t like change. Since churches are made up of people, churches don’t like to change either.
What I’ve come to realize is that for a church to be ready to get unstuck, the pain of staying the same must be greater than the pain of the necessary change. In other words…
No pain, no change.
Fortunately, some churches experience sufficient pain when they realize they’ve stopped growing. Some churches reach that point when they recognize there are fewer people deciding to follow Jesus. Many churches don’t get to this level of pain until the money begins to run out.
On top of the pain not being great enough, there are also some common, inherent attributes of stuck churches that prevent them from experiencing change.
In fact, here are six more reasons your churches choose not to change:
1. They are structured to avoid change.
Much like our national government, churches often have various levels of bureaucracy involving multiple committees and boards and, oftentimes, votes of the entire congregation for changes of any significance. This makes changes involving vision or ministry strategy particularly difficult, if not impossible, unless the church is willing to eventually shift its governance structure to that of one that empowers leaders.
Because it’s so difficult for people with power to give up power, that change rarely occurs.
2. They’ve always hired from within the church.
The staff leaders only know what they know. That’s why stuck churches need to consider hiring from the outside to bring leaders on the team with fresh perspective. A new set of eyes will help the church move beyond its existing ministry approach.
If the church is really stuck, then it’s going to take more than one outside leader to lead the culture shift that is required.
3. The misguided notion that everyone should have a voice.
Attempts to give everyone a voice in what’s working and what’s wrong in the church through tools like congregational surveys tend to create division rather than unity. People commonly have different perspectives and even if their voice is in the minority, they feel ignored if action isn’t taken to address their concerns.
Trying to include everyone’s perspective usually highlights the differences in opinions that exist, therefore leading churches to maintain the status quo to avoid rocking the boat.
4. Insiders always have a louder voice than outsiders.
That means the preferences of people who already are connected to the church will be more important than the needs of the people the church is trying to reach. Over time, more ministry becomes focused on people who are already Christ-followers and already part of the church.
This leads to stuck churches becoming ever more stuck because the ministry reaches fewer new people.
5. The focus is on this coming Sunday’s services.
And Sundays are alway coming. There’s another one coming this week. Stuck churches become slaves to their ministry calendars. There’s always another service. There’s always another event. The next thing is always what’s most urgent. It gets the most attention.
If everyone is constantly busy, there’s no time to ask the question: Are we helping people become more like Jesus?
6. There’s a lack of accountability for life change.
When coaches don’t win games, they get fired. When business leaders don’t produce a profit, they get fired. We routinely find churches, though, that haven’t seen any adult salvations or baptisms in years. As long as the right style of worship with the right length of message occurs at the right time every Sunday, that’s the win. It doesn’t matter if no one is giving their life to Jesus. In some denominations, pastors are guaranteed jobs even if their ministry produces no fruit.
Where there is no accountability for results, there will never be change.
What’s the primary reason that’s holding you and your church back from experiencing the change needed for your ministry to produce fruit?
Begin to talk about that. If you’re a leader, own the responsibility for it. Help people begin to see why the pain of staying the same is actually greater than the pain of the necessary change. Begin with your key leaders and let the conversation and the sense of urgency grow from there.
You don’t need to go at this alone. We can help. We actually have a ministry health assessment that’s designed to bring clarity to what’s working and what’s broken.
We’ve had hundreds of churches of all different shapes and sizes go through this process. It helps both staff and lay leaders get truly honest about the church’s health. That honesty is a necessary foundation for producing the right changes to help the church thrive and experience sustained health.