August 27, 2018 Tony Morgan

Why a Jam-Packed Fall Ministry Calendar Might Be a Warning Sign

Feeling too busy already? Over-programming is one of the most common indicators a church has slipped into Maintenance Phase.

We recently released our Q3 2018 edition of The Unstuck Church Report. Based on about 1,200 churches that have recently taken the team version of the Unstuck Church Assessment, 80% found themselves on the right side of the church life cycle.

I pulled this image from the report to show you what I’m talking about.

 

As you can see, the majority of churches are sitting in the Maintenance Phase. The tricky thing about Maintenance Phase is that churches are often here months, or even years, before they recognize it. These churches look healthy on the surface, but when you dig deeper, you’ll find they have started to plateau or decline.  

There are a few key indicators that a church has entered Maintenance. One of the most common? Over-programming. There are a few key indicators that a church has entered Maintenance. One of the most common? Over-programming. Click To Tweet

Rather than one team pulling in one direction, ministries begin to prioritize their programming over the health of the overall church.

This particular season of ministry seems more program-filled than others—back-to-school events, Fall Festivals, Trunk or Treat, new small groups and a lot more. I do believe some events can serve a place in the Church, but if they start driving your church instead of a simple strategy, you will likely start experiencing the pain of complexity creep.

When I work with churches, I’ve noticed a common theme: healthy, growing churches tend to approach discipleship in the form of a path. Declining churches tend to approach discipleship through lots of programs.

As leaders, the pull can be to always do more. We seem to think, “The more we offer, the more people will show up.” But getting people to show up for more things doesn’t equate to spiritual development. (I dig into this topic a lot more in a previous blog post. You should read it.)

Healthy churches are helping people take their next steps following Jesus. Healthy, growing churches tend to approach discipleship in the form of a path. Declining churches tend to approach discipleship through lots of programs. Click To Tweet

With the start of this new ministry calendar, I’d encourage you to take a step back, look at the big picture and ask yourself the tough questions.

Is your church experiencing sustained health?

Where are you seeing the most life-change within your church?

Are you feeling incredibly busy because there is so much going on?

What is all of the fall activity leading people towards?

I’m passionate about churches experiencing greater health and growth. If you’re in a season of plateau or decline, the first step towards reversing it is to recognize where you really are today.

My team and I released the tool I mentioned above, the Unstuck Church Assessment, to help leaders recognize what they weren’t able to see, so they could take steps to ultimately help bring more people to Jesus.

It’s free, and you can take it with your team or by yourself. But I highly recommend taking it with your team—we’ve noticed a big difference in the percentage of lead pastors who self-assess on the left side of the life cycle when taking the individual version, versus the number who discover their church is on the right side when they take the team version. The team version helps you eliminate your own personal bias. It’s the most reliable option if you’re really serious about understanding the health of your church.

I hope you’ll take the Unstuck Church Assessment to learn where your church sits in its lifecycle. It takes less than 15 minutes. Get started here:

 

Assess Your Church

 

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Tony Morgan

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He's written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com.