How Do You Respond When What Was Working No Longer Is?
In a recent webinar, I hosted a conversation about breaking barriers with leaders from several very large churches.
In this first part, you’ll learn how to recognize a toxic culture and turn it around, as well as how to overcome a leadership void in your staff and volunteer teams:
In this episode we discuss,
The difference between doers and equippers
Moving from a “we” to “me” mentality
The dos and don’ts of leadership pipelines
The importance of humility (and humor) for culture
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Has your church experienced growth barriers? How did you overcome them? Comment or share with us on social media using #unstuckchurch.
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Tony Morgan: Welcome to the unstuck church podcast. I’m Tony Morgan. Then each week we share a conversation about getting churches unstuck. Today’s podcast. Well, it’s a little unique because recently I conducted a Webinar on reaching 2000 and beyond. When you think about it, all churches eventually hit growth barriers, even the large ones do, and the content from that Webinar was so helpful that we decided to share it through our podcast over the next couple of weeks. In this first part of the discussion that we’re sharing today, I’m joined by Amy Anderson, the director of consulting from the unstuck group, Chad Moore the lead pastor of Sun Valley Community Church in Phoenix and Matthew Cork, the lead pastor, a friend’s church in Yorba Linda, California. We’re going to talk about the first two topics from that Webinar or how to recognize a toxic culture and turn it around, and secondly, overcoming a leadership void in your staff and volunteer teams. Now, remember, this was recorded during a Webinar, so the audio isn’t the same quality you normally experience on our podcast, but hang in there because the content will be helpful for your churches, particularly the large ones that are trying to break through growth barriers. Now, let’s listen to the first part of our conversation
Tony Morgan: going today just to give you a preview of the discussion on reaching [inaudible]. Beyond, uh, we’re, we’re going to hit what we’ve identified are for kind of core barriers, uh, to growth for churches this size. The first is trying to recognize and deal with the toxic culture that can develop in a church. Will hit that one first because I want to get that one out of the way A. Secondly, we’ll talk about overcoming a leadership void in staff and volunteer teams. Uh, the third topic we’re gonna hit is multi-site model missteps and how they can serve us back. And then finally we’re going to talk about complexity creek and why it’s undermining the vision in churches, particularly large churches. So, uh, without spending any more time on the introduction, I just want to dive into the conversation. Like I mentioned, the first topic we’re going to talk about is operating with the toxic culture and uh, we’re gonna try to avoid that. We’re not going to encourage that amy, um, but, uh, you get to work with a lot of churches and a lot of larger churches and in the churches that you work with, what are some of the typical signs of a toxic culture? And Amy, how are you finding that stunting the growth of these churches?
Amy Anderson: I think Patrick Lencioni set up best when he talked through the five dysfunctions of a church, but those are really the signs that we see when we work with churches that are stuck because of this issue. So first there’s a lack of trust. So no one’s asking one another for help. The team is very guarded, they’re disingenuous with one another. Um, you observed like there’s no healthy conflict or conversation going on and then there’s a lot of meetings after the meetings that tend to happen. And the other symptom I’d say is just that the team lax performance. And that goes to your next question. So how does it stunt growth? But part of the reason is that you end up when the health, when the culture is a little more toxic or unhealthy, you end up with a lot of individual contributors on your team, and so you’re not really being able to leverage the collective talents and the collective wisdom of the team where they’re, they’re engaging in conflict in a healthy way and agreeing and disagreeing, and it’s dones growth because they’re not operating out of First Corinthians 12 where we have to recognize we’ve all been given different gifts and those gifts have been designed so that we can complete the team, not compete with one another.
Amy Anderson: So those are a couple of ideas.
Tony Morgan: Uh, you and I have actually had a recent conversation about the, I think, unique, incredible culture that has developed at friends church through the years. Amy and I have both had a chance to engage with your team and, uh, for, for, for the pastors out there that sense of a toxic whiteness, is that a word, a toxicity maybe, maybe that’s better in their culture. I mean, can you share some of the key steps you’ve made along the way to develop the healthy culture that exists at friends church?
Matthew Cork: Well, uh, yeah. That was one of the interesting things is like you, tony, somebody stepped into one of our meetings and after the meeting they just kind of looked at me and I said, what do you think? And they said people disagreed with you. Well they better, it’s only going to make us better. And I think one of the things that we’ve tried to do since I’ve been the lead pastor here now for 13 years, but I’ve been on staff 26, I took over a toxic culture. So I was kind of in the midst of, of great change. And when I came in the church who kind of blown up and gone through some stuff. So I know toxic. And yet I looked at it and from where I’m at now, I look back and I think one of the things I’ve done is I invited them into my life and when I invited them into my life that to, to do life with them, to be friends with them, to associate with him.
Matthew Cork: The agreement and disagreement is it’s, it’s part of the culture that we’ve created that allows them to have a freedom. A, we have a value called we’re not me in the weed part is huge. And if I don’t live that out, they’re never going to live it out. And if that room, whether it’s elders or your leadership team, um, if, if that we not meet as is not there and if there’s not disagreement in the room, you’re going to have disagreement outside that room. You’re just not going to know about it. And then that’s going to create a little silos. And you just, like amy said, when those conversations began to happen outside the room. And I used to watch him before I became the lead pastor. And I was like, oh my gosh, meetings are happening after the meeting and now when I walk out, meetings are happening after the meeting, but there’s laughter and fun and I’m not saying they don’t talk without me. They probably do, but I think it’s a healthy talk because we have disagreed. So as I’ve been vitamin in my life, they understand it’s we not me, the vulnerable place I kind of put myself in as a leader has allowed for us to create, I think, a great foundation to now be able to build a culture of trust. And it all starts there.
Tony Morgan: Yeah. Matthew, what would you say, uh, for the folks that have been trained, you can’t allow people to get close to. You can’t share your life with people because eventually you’re going to have to lead them.
Matthew Cork: What, how would you respond to that? Well, I think leadership actually comes with respect. And with that respect, uh, for me, the way they’re going to respect me as they’re going to see me be a normal human being, they’re going to actually see my, my strengths and my faults and my weaknesses. And if they love you and they respect you, they’re going to allow you to lead them. I mean, I look at at our staff and I had my roommate from college in a reported to me for 15 years and we have a great relationship. He’s no longer on our staff, but it ended well and we’re still great friends, but it was because we respected each other and I think it goes both ways. As a pastor, I have to respect them and I have to show them dignity and treat them like I would want to be treated. So inviting them in, yeah, you’re going to get hurt, but you’re going to be hurt worse, I think if you don’t have people part of your life and then you’re going to isolate and then you’re going to shrink up and it’s going to be about you and not about the church. And so just face it hurt, you know, schisms those things. They happen. We’re human beings, but I promise you it’s much better inviting them in and shutting them out.
Tony Morgan: That’s good. Good word, Chad. As the lead pastor help us. What are some first steps that we can be taking if we do start to sense there, there’s, there are toxic elements in the culture. How do you as a lead pastor respond when you sent something like that
Chad Moore: double bubble up? Yeah. I think what Matthew said was, was brilliant on the positive side, on the negative side, which is the context of your question.
Tony Morgan: Yeah. By the way, do you like how I asked Matthew to easy question and gave you the harder question?
Chad Moore: I noticed that Tony, when you, when you see negative things, um, I would say you get what you tolerate and as the lead person, I’m the lead person is the cultural architect. Yeah. Of the organization. And so if you have a regular things that are coming up and bugging you a, you’ve got to address that because if you don’t, you’re just tolerating it. And in some ways I’m, you’re causing
Chad Moore: it to happen. You’re saying that it’s OK. The other thing I would mention to, you know, at, at my house as a dad, as a husband and a lot of ways, you know, my wife and I are there cultural architects of the house and there are moments, uh, at the dinner table that my teenager or my nine year old and they say something that is not appropriate for the culture of our house. They didn’t respect mom. Um, I don’t wait until later to mention that to them. I call it out at the table, uh, because I’m communicating as a family. This is how we operate with each other. This is what we do. This is what we don’t do. So I think bottom line, my answer to your question, Tony, is it’s OK to be the leader and be the cultural architect and if there’s things you don’t like, you’ve got to address it and you can address it respectfully, even in front of the family. Uh, because that communicates to the whole family at once. This is how we do it, this is how we do it. And I think that’s a healthy thing.
Tony Morgan: Yeah. Yeah. It’s interesting that you highlight that role of culture architect Tad. I used to, when I was a challenging, encouraging senior pastors, particularly of larger churches, talk about three key roles. You know, you’re the primary teacher communicator at your church. You’re the primary vision cast or at your church, you’re the primary leader of leaders, particularly that senior leadership team. I used to end the job description there, but have started tube and largely because of watching pastors like you and Matthew and others through the years acknowledged there really is a fourth key role on that’s this champion of the culture that we’re trying to shape in our churches. So I’m glad to hear you talk on that. Amy, uh, help us with some practical next steps. What are you seeing a churches do to move forward and really start to shape a healthy culture?
Amy Anderson: Yeah, it’s actually really fresh with a great church, great pastor, great team members individually. They were all remarkable. But um, as I worked with them, I experienced very low level of laughter, very low level of pushback and all of our conversations. And so I knew something was off and so that’s what we wrestled with a lot was this culture topic and a real simple thing. Um, we always say at the unstuck group, you know, start with perspective. And so the five dysfunctions was actually a next step for them to do this assessment and actually take a look at how are we doing in these five different areas. And so they’re all getting a book and they’re going to take the assessment and start to work with you. Some of those exercises, but maybe even more practically, they were lacking relationships. They just didn’t know one another.
Amy Anderson: And so I encourage the senior pastor just to begin, you know, they all gather there, you know, at their weekly meetings, um, start with a relational component, help the team, get to know one another better and their samples, you know, that in the five dysfunctions. But even just giving each person a couple of minutes to give an update or what’s keeping you up at night. Let people share a little bit of who they are disclosed. Because that always builds relationship and without that fabric, than they’re all just going to. One, you know, Maxwell says you’re not going to find a level two until people actually like you and you can get along with other people. So as a senior pastor, you can start to go, how do we help our team get to know one another better? And then lastly, um, because they were engaged with us, we did the leading from your strengths assessment and it’s based off of the desk, but um, it helps one another understand how we’re just innately wired differently.
Amy Anderson: We all probably know in our marriage relationships, you know, spouses are often different in some key areas and it can be a source of laughter instead of a source of frustration when you just understand how your pace is different from someone else’s or what you focus on. So just getting to know one another are the, I think some key first steps. But the other thing is if you know that there’s a catalyst in the toxicity, if you know there’s a person or a situation, you just do have to move in, you got to move in wisely. But you can’t wait. I love the urgency, Chad, that you just talked about and you get what you tolerate. I’m only you. The leader can move in on some of those situations because you’re the only one who has decision rights. Then what to do with it. And so you can’t look the other way. Again, hope it’ll go away. You’ve got to have those tough conversations.
Tony Morgan: We’re going to move on to do here today was operating with a leadership void. And the key question that we’re going to try to ask is, our answer here is how did you overcome a leadership void in your staff and your volunteer teams? And Amy, I’m going to go right back to you here. Uh, are you ready?
Amy Anderson: Alrighty.
Tony Morgan: What are some evidences that a large church is operating with a leadership void? And how does that cap growth?
Amy Anderson: I would say is that only the top leaders are making decisions, meaning every decision has to be brought all the way up to the top for discussion for input. Um, and it’s amazing and large churches, how much of that still exists out there and what’s happened is that they just haven’t clarified some things are made the lanes really clear or set by set the vision for what they’re trying to do. So, I mean, even high level leaders, I got to check in with Chad or matthew, you know, before we do that. And so when decision making is really controlled at the top, that’s a sign that there’s a leadership void because decision muscles haven’t been developed. Um, the other thing I’d say is that most of the staff are still doers. So if you look around at your team and they are not modeling Ephesians four where they’re equipping the body to do the ministry instead, they’re just doing a lot of things.
Amy Anderson: Uh, that tends to be a huge, um, evidence that there’s a leadership void. And by the way, I find this, I know we’re talking to you about breaking 2000. Um, but the churches had hit about 1000, that’s where they really hit this crisis point and that’s the time to change it because they’ve been growing and they keep adding part time people to fill gaps and things that need to get done. And what they’ve done is they’ve hired dozens of people who do stuff and what you need to do to get through this barrier, whether it’s 1000 [inaudible], 5,000, you need to be able to hire people who are leaders in equippers and giving ministry way and building those systems because that’s the only way that you’re going to break through that leadership void. And often you’ve got to add some new people to the team to get that flywheel going as well. Even model what does that look like to be an equipper versus a doer
Tony Morgan: chance to engage with your team at Sun Valley. And one of the things that has really struck me about who sun valley is, is strong leadership culture that you have. Um, what can you help us with our practice please? Some of the, some of the things that you’ve done through the years to develop that strong culture.
Chad Moore: Yeah, something real specific and it, and it just occurred to me, it just kind of in our seasons of growth, uh, right around the time we were breaking through [inaudible], which is the context. So this conversation a is our leaders moved from being generalists to being specialists and we started looking around going, we don’t, we don’t need people who can do lots of different things. We need people who can do this thing really, really well. And so we started to lean into that. Um, I stopped carrying the ball on a lot of things and let the people who could carry it so much better than I can, you know, carry it. Um, and then we moved from, or I had to move from leading followers to amy’s point a moment ago, leading followers to leading leaders, which is a little bit different. Um, it’s not captain kirk telling everybody what to do. It’s Jean-luc Picard saying, you know, getting that council and then make it. So, I mean, that’s, that’s, that’s the shift. I’m, that was a total nerdy,
Chad Moore: um, but with that, as the cultural architect, uh, we started thinking through what makes us different, what our leadership distinctives, and we spent some time writing that down a actually announce you come in our office, it’s on the wall, uh, in hopefully it’s also happening down the hole as they say. Um, and so those are things that we celebrate when we see it. If a leadership distinctives, one of them for example, is we love first we leave second, but we always do both. And so that’s grace and truth. And so when we see that happening, um, I will celebrate that. And all staff, uh, we give away money cards for people that they don’t values were on display. They lead in a way that we want to lead a. So we celebrate that kind of stuff. We look for it and we call it out if we don’t see it. Those kinds of things. But in that shift, as you grow, you’ve got to move from generalists to specialists. So you want to have the right kind of people and you want to put them in the right roles.
Tony Morgan: Yeah. That’s good. That’s good. Uh, Matthew, uh, it probably doesn’t surprise you that in larger churches, almost every church we work with is talking about leadership pipeline. And I know this is something that you’re intentional about at friends church as well. And Hey, would you just mind sharing. You can go and either way, what are the things that have worked to develop your leadership pipeline or what are the things that you’ve learned that have been failures for you when it comes to developing that pipeline?
Matthew Cork: Well, first, uh, complexity was not our friend when it came to the leadership pipeline. Uh, and, and we’ve just come down to it. It’s simple as much better for us. And we kind of did it in three ways as we started developing leaders. And first was, as we partner with them, you watch me, we do it together, now you go do it and I get to watch them and then I get to help correct and move or motivate or challenge or learn because they do it different. And I think for me, I have a teaching team and, and uh, I’m the old guy on the teaching team now, which is kind of scary. I don’t know how that happened so fast, but I’m the old dude and I look back and I had two guys that were 28 and 26 when they start it. And the model was, and I don’t think I was the best teacher of the three, but I was the one that was on stage and I, I believe God had called me to that.
Matthew Cork: And as I started to bring them alongside of me, it was, OK, you’re watching me, now you’re going to join me. So every new teacher that teaches on our stage, we do a sermon together. The way we introduce them for the first three, four, five times is they do part of the sermon with me. And so we get to interact together and then their next step is then they’ll, they’ll do it and I get to watch them and then we get to watch them grow. And I think part of it is, is when you identify that leader, you deploy that leader, and as you deploy that leader, there’s a lot of trust that goes with that. And the trust is there going to fail and part of that is going to be there, great learning. But then I’m going to be there right beside them because if I believe and we’ve identified them as a leader, that’s going to be at our church.
Matthew Cork: Here’s one or two things are gonna happen. Either they’re going to get more responsibility with me and in this church are they’re going to go leave and take their leadership gift elsewhere because they’ve hit a ceiling and they can’t do it here. So for us, we just notify. We have great leaders, but it started to rise because they understood, oh, there’s opportunity for me here. Matthew doesn’t do anything, doesn’t want to do everything. And there’s only a few things that I can do well and just like Chad was saying, even though I didn’t understand it, is nerdy illustration heard out there that’s going. He think yeah, he was talking about, I don’t know what you’re talking about. That’s OK. I look at it and I say, and I brought them in. The exciting part was us doing it together and watching them grow, but giving them that opportunity to do something. And when they do it, we celebrate just like she. I always say we have a great celebration. I mean that’s part of the, the greatest things about coming together. We have, we have a value called contagious enthusiasm. And it’s not that all of our accountants, all of our financial people
Matthew Cork: are, are so fired up, but you go in and they’re just full of energy in life. But they are enthusiastic about the vision and the church and you can see it. And so we celebrate contagious enthusiasm and we are enthusiastic about our leaders. And when they do something great, man, we celebrate that
Tony Morgan: back to you. Uh, that, this is a constant theme that we find in working with larger churches. Um, it’s about finding high capacity senior leaders and I just want to hear from you and, uh, I have a sense of what your response is going to be, but I think this might help the pastors that are, that are listening or watching today, do you find it more challenging to find higher capacity leaders the larger your team gets? Why or why not?
Chad Moore: Yes.
Chad Moore: I think the why is because in our, our little industry, right, if you want to call it that, the larger a church gets and industry standards and all those kinds of things, once you’re a church breaks, you know, several thousand people. There’s not a lot of churches in that category anymore. And so suddenly we’re looking for people from other churches who haven’t been where you are or where you’re going. So I think you have to think outside the box. Um, what we started doing is I started looking to churches around the country that had really good executive pastors, but they were good, especially good at one particular facet of their job. And then we invited them to come and would you just do that part of the job and be part of an executive team? We started thinking through those things. But hiring good people, uh, is a big deal.
Chad Moore: It’s a difficult thing. It’s something that we’re always mining, always looking for. Um, yeah. So is it harder at? Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think you have to become more of a scout, you know, you’re always looking for talent. Um, I think it’s the church’s grows, you know, the game changes. Maybe we heard some of that language before, but, but you go from like running track when you planted the church. So like now you’re playing pro football and so you start scouting talent all the time. Um, yeah, but it gets more difficult and it’s a big deal for us. If we want to change the culture we hire from without, if we like it the way it is, we try to hire from within a. But sometimes it’s not quite that pure.
Tony Morgan: Yeah. Uh, one quick follow-up. Is there a we all swing and miss on hiring, so that’s going to happen. But is there one key characteristic that you’ve learned you have to find in the folks that you’re bringing in to these higher level leadership roles? Chan?
Chad Moore: Yeah. There’s probably several things, but you asked for one for humility, humility and timidity or not the same thing. Humility is a sober mindedness to know who you are and who you’re not, and do what’s best for the team. It’s also the chief virtue of the Christian life, right? God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Um, so if somebody is a teachable, um, and talented and there’s a humility about them and they know that through the team impact so much more, you know, so many more lives than if they were on their own. That’s what I look for. Humble people laugh a lot and they’re fun to work with humor and humility to come from the same root. So I worked for that. That’s good. That’s good. I like that. All right,
Tony Morgan: we’ll pick back up with part two of reaching thousand and beyond next week. Before we go though, we’d like to share another way that you can take your next steps. And leadership, the Unstuck Group offers leadership coaching networks for pastors a few times a year. And this spring we have four new groups starting. You can join me and a couple others from our team at the unstuck group for a seven month coaching experience on either leading an unstuck church or leading in unstuck multisite church. The deadline to apply is April 11th. You can learn more at the unstuck group Dot com slash coaching. And lastly, we hope you’ll tune in to the podcast. Again. You can subscribe on Itunes, Google play, or wherever you like to listen to your podcasts.