September 5, 2018 Tony Morgan

Rogue Ministries – Episode 58 | The Unstuck Church Podcast

4 Ways to Realign Rogue Ministries With Your Church

As church leaders, we have all experienced ministries that have gone rogue. You know what I’m talking about. The ministries that start fundraising on the side, the ones that demand different branding that looks completely different from the church, maybe even leaders that start to think their ministry is more important than the other ministries in the church. You know, maybe.

The truth is that we cannot allow ministries in our churches to develop an us vs. them mindset. We need to be unified.

But how?

Amy and I discuss exactly that in this week’s episode. We talk about 4 ways to realign rogue ministries with your church’s mission, vision, and strategy. The fourth one might step on some toes but it needs to be said.

In this conversation, we discussed:

  • The warning signs that a ministry has gone rogue

  • The 3 questions you need to answer to align your ministries

  • How your church’s finances can cause rogue ministries

  • How parachurch partnerships might be creating mission drift

Join the Conversation

We’ll be talking about this more on Facebook and Twitter this week. Listen to the episode and then join in.

Some things we are hoping to discuss:

  • How have you aligned rogue ministries in your church?
  • How have you kept partnerships aligned with your mission?

Join the conversation using #unstuckchurch on Twitter. You can follow me @tonymorganlive and The Unstuck Group @unstuckgroup. If Facebook is where you spend your time, I’m there, too.



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Podcast Transcript

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Amy:                            00:56               Welcome to the Unstuck Church podcast, I’m Amy Anderson, and I’m here with Tony Morgan and each week we share a conversation our team’s been having about getting churches unstuck and today we’re going to be talking about rogue ministries. Tony, that sounds a little ominous. Do I need to be afraid?

Tony:                            01:14               Well, you should be very, very afraid, Amy, of ministries, and we oftentimes talk about Sean on our podcast. Sean is our podcast engineer. I guess he would be the podcast producer. I think he’s the guy, I don’t know what the title should be, but actually the person that makes the podcast happen every week. And so we’re grateful for Sean. I’m thinking, Sean, if you can find some ominous sounding royalty, free music, that kind of music because I don’t want to pay for it. Yeah, if you can find that, that would be great because that would be a good, a good background to this conversation about rogue ministries,

Amy:                            02:01               Rogue ministries. Maybe there’s an echo right there. Sean. Tony, what are rogue ministries?

New Speaker:               02:12               All right. So, uh, yeah, you may not realize that you have a rogue ministry, but it’s possible you have won even in your church today. And at one way to think about rogue ministries is a ministry silos on steroids. So what ends up happening is you have a ministry and many times. By the way, these are ministries doing good work, but that ministry within the church begins to stand alone from the Ministry of the church. So what makes them rogue is they begin to pull against the mission and the vision that the church is trying to accomplish and when these rogue ministries are at their worst, you hear a lot of conversation about us vs. them we’re trying to do this thing the church is not allowing us to do it. Which by the way, when you have an us against them relationship, it’s really not much of a relationship at all. So that’s the description, it’s a rogue ministry and I hesitate to give specific examples though. I’ll make one up at the end of our conversation because I, you know, I’ve actually seen, I think every ministry area of a church in some churches become a rogue ministry. So this is not a, this is not a conversation today to pick on a certain ministry. It’s just to acknowledge that every ministry, if you, if we don’t do some things to keep it aligned, can become a rogue ministry over time.

Amy:                            03:49               Well said. So what are some warning signs that a ministry has gone rogue?

Tony:                            03:55               Well, so some of it’s just the language that you hear the leaders of that ministry using and you’ll begin to hear them referred to our ministry or something that would separate what they’re doing from the rest of the Church’s Ministry. I mean in the most basic cases, it’s just the simplicity of needing to have a separate branding and a separate logo for their ministry to distinguish it from the church’s ministry. Another warning sign though is when that ministry is asking for designated financial gifts or doing separate fundraising. If it’s truly a ministry of the church, why would a designated financial gift be necessary? Or why would you need to do separate fund raising? So there’s something in that ministry, the leader’s mind of that ministry any ways that they feel like they need an allocation of resources that the church is not providing. Some of it though, as far as warning signs, is around the leadership itself.

Tony:                            05:00               The leadership of that rogue ministry becomes isolated and they are either playing outside the rules or they’re complaining about the rules, or complaining about the systems that the church has for allocating money. People, promotions, time, space, and what they’re really doing by not playing along with everybody else is they’re trying to separate themselves and I think the reason is, is they think their ministry is actually more important than what’s happening in the rest of the church. And so these are just some early warning signs, I would say some rogue ministries that may exist even in your church.

Amy:                            05:41               Yeah. It sounds like, as you’re talking about the leadership of it, you’ve listed some great specific behaviors or attitudes that begin to emerge as they go rogue. What are some boundaries that churches can set to prevent ministries from going rogue? How do you keep them aligned?

Tony:                            05:59               So, Amy, I’m going to list several here. If you want me to slow down or unpack any of these, feel free to do that. But I do think if you want to prevent ministries from going rogue, it does begin with organizational alignment. And by that I mean you, you really do have to clarify the answer to the big three questions that we talk about on a regular basis on this podcast. The first one, the first big question is why do we exist? That’s the churches’ mission. The second big question is where are we going? That’s the church’s vision. And then the third big question is how are we going to get there? And that’s the church’s ministry strategy. So why do we exist? Where we going? How are we going to get there? What I would say is when it comes to rogue ministries, the essential question to answer of those three though is the, how are we going to get there?

Tony:                            06:57               Because I think it’s possible for anyone to buy into the church’s mission and the vision for where the church wants to go. It’s possible to have alignment around those first two questions but not have alignment around the third question. And so that’s where I think churches first of all, need to do the hard work of identifying specifically what’s our ministry strategy going to look like in order for us to see that vision and mission become reality. But then we need to make sure that the leadership is aligned with where the church is going and that they’re not pulling against what we’ve already agreed to is our ministry strategy. And what we’ve seen is when churches answered the first two big questions but not the third, it really does leave people guessing on what the strategy, the ministry strategy should look like. And oftentimes what happens then is the loudest person sets the agenda, they established the strategy and it’s not uncommon then for the loudest person to lead a ministry astray and for that to become a rogue ministry.

Tony:                            08:10               So that’s the first. The first preventative maintenance that you have to do is find organizational alignment. The second area and they play hand in hand is you need to get leadership alignment. In other words, you need to make sure every ministry is somehow connected to one person on your senior leadership team. We’ve talked about senior leadership teams in the past, so I’m not going to unpack that here. If you want, you can go back to previous podcast or head over to the website and find some articles on that topic, but the reality is we don’t need any lone ranger ministries. We can’t afford that, and therefore there needs to be a senior leader that’s working directly with every ministry leader to make sure that each ministry is pulling with the rest of the church. In other words, that every ministry is trying to help the church accomplish the mission, the vision, and the ministry strategy.

Tony:                            09:11               So these first two, they really do go hand in hand. Amy, we need to have organizational alignment. We need to have clarity around those big three questions for our church, but then we need to go to the next step of making sure every leader is aligned as well. And this, again, this is where it gets down to people and what I know in many cases when churches or ministries have gone rogue, that leader didn’t intend to do this. They’re good people and many cases they’re accomplishing good ministry. Frankly, I think the reason why the ministry ended up going rogue is because the church didn’t do their part, the leadership didn’t do their part of clarifying what’s our framework, where do we give leaders freedom, but where do we expect leaders to be pulling with us and how do we keep all of our ministries pulling in the same direction. Do you agree?

Amy:                            10:07               Yeah. If I could add when you were talking about organizational alignment that the. Why do we exist? Where are we going are clear, but the how we’re going to get there. That strategy piece, I think what you’re really saying too is there’s a, maybe a phrase, core strategies to get there because even a ministry that’s rogue can be accomplishing some of the things that are helping you get there, but when it takes on a life of its own and it’s obviously drawing resource time, all those things, and there’s no boundaries around it. You could be doing something that’s really good but not really getting the core results you’re going after.

Tony:                            10:45               That’s good, amy. That’s good. All right, so a third area of preventative maintenance to avoid rogue ministries is to embrace a one church, one mission model, and specifically what I mean here as an example is you should only have one budget. Don’t allow individual ministries to compete with each other for financial resources. Have one budget to support one mission, and every ministry of the church is pulling from those resources you need. One team, in other words, don’t allow ministries to compete with each other for building volunteer teams or competing for leaders, volunteer leaders for their teams. This is where you really need to have a unified strategy for team building and volunteer engagement so that ministry teams aren’t individually trying to compete for the time and attention of people. Which actually brings me to the third specific. Under this category, you need to have one message in other words…

Tony:                            11:53               Don’t allow ministries to compete with each other for people’s focus and attention. In other words, let’s put this in practical terms. When it comes to what gets announced on Sunday morning, don’t play fair; do what’s best for the church. Do what’s best for helping people take their next steps toward Christ and you know, Amy, we, you and I have talked, really it’s probably only one announcement at best that people are going to hear on Sunday morning, so you need to figure out what’s the most important next step this Sunday that we need to invite people to take rather than it being a free for all where every ministry, including the loudest ministry, including what could be our rogue ministry, gets their voice heard on Sunday morning. So make sure you’re embracing a one church, one mission model. Any additional thoughts on that one, Amy?

Amy:                            12:51               No. So good.

Tony:                            12:53               Okay. The fourth one in here. I don’t, I don’t want to step on toes and so I’m going to say this as politely as I can because ultimately I don’t think churches can do it all on their own and I encouraged churches on a regular basis to partner with other organizations in their communities, other nonprofits, other parachurch ministries, but around this topic you need to be cautious. And so the fourth area here is to be cautious about aligning with outside parachurch ministries. You know, oftentimes the mission of the Parachurch Ministry starts to supersede the mission of the local church when we are engaging with churches and the voice of that Parachurch organization. Again, it might be a ministry, a nonprofit, it could just be another community organization. The Voice of that organization gets louder than the voice of the leadership of the church.

Speaker 1:                    13:54               And so, you know, again, I always encouraged churches to partner with other organizations that are aligned with the church’s vision and strategy rather than letting other organizations establish ministries within their church. And there’s a distinction there. We’re looking for partners. We’re not looking for outside organizations to establish ministries within the church. And Amy, I’d be happy to talk a little bit about that further, but I again, I want to be cautious here because there’s some great organizations and we need their help. We need their help to accomplish the mission that God’s called our churches to. But I’ve seen in way too many cases where these outside organizations actually start to drive the agenda of what’s happening within the church.

Amy:                            14:42               And I think Tony, you know, I do think you should unpack this one a little bit more, but of course one of the things that we recognize is that some churches, when it comes to their mission, why they exist. They’ve lost sight of that. You know, we look at a lot of the churches that are on the maintenance side of the wheel where we start to understand they’re a little bit more focused on keeping people than reaching people. And so when that mission gets a little weaker, you can see how, the boundaries can get skewed a little bit in these partnerships if you’re not careful. So I know you’re hard on this because we talk about it a lot, but I just think, can you just unpack it a little bit more in a practical way for churches?

Tony:                            15:22               Yeah. So, in order not to call any organizations out, because there are again many great organizations out there that are helping to compliment the ministries that are happening in churches. So for a time, let’s pretend I’m going to start a brand new ministry. Amy, my ministry is going to advocate for helping business leaders embrace biblical leadership principles and create workplace environments that reflect the love of Jesus. And I’m going to call my new ministry is going to be called Unstuck Leadership. Okay. So rather than focusing on helping churches get healthy, I’m going to focus on business leaders, helping them practice biblical leadership principles. And I want them to win when it comes to creating environments in the marketplace that reflect the love of Jesus. And so I’m launching this ministry, I recognized pretty quickly in order to get to as many business leaders as possible. One of the best ways I could do that would be to connect directly with local churches because there were no

Amy:                            16:29               Jesus, right?

Tony:                            16:30               That’s right. Because there are business leaders in the church and every church, I mean there were 100 thousands of churches across the country and so if I want to move the mission forward for unstuck, the unstuck leadership ministry, it only makes sense then for me to try to partner with other local churches. And so I start to connect with churches directly. I start to connect with business leaders in the churches and I began to offer resources. You and I create a podcast for this new ministry. We have conferences and we start providing direct coaching to business leaders on how they can accomplish this mission. And that’s the mission that’s really driving me as the leader of unstuck leadership because it’s personally impacted my life as well when I was previously in a market place, leadership position. And so not only do I start coaching and resourcing and creating branding and conferences around unstuck leadership, I start to engage with business leaders an churches.

Tony:                            17:34               I start to connect directly with churches. And part of my strategy to move the mission forward is actually to encourag churches to launch unstuck leadership ministries, events coaching in their churches. And if I’m good at that and I’m successful at that, I am going to resource churches and business leaders in those churches well and those ministries, the unstuck leadership ministries in each of these churches is going to grow. They’re going to reach more leaders. And as a result of that, over time, if I accomplish the unstuck leadership ministry, effectively those business leaders in those churches are going to start coming to me for coaching and resources and so on. And again, if I partner in a healthy way with those churches and if the church has a clear perspective on what their mission and their vision is, this can actually be a healthy partnership. But if that clarity doesn’t exist and the leaders within the church start to listen to my coaching and direction and so on. Again, amy, my mission is to move the unstuck leadership mission forward, it’s not really to ultimately to move the Churches mission forward.

Amy:                            18:57               If the church made a decision after a few years that they weren’t going to partner with you anymore, that those business leaders, loyalty is now split. Who are they going to follow? Right.

Tony:                            19:08               Apparently you’ve lived through this. Yeah, and so you know, again, we’re talking about a fictitious ministry and I really don’t want to step step on the toes of other great organizations that are out there. I do think this is more reflection of the organizational alignment and leadership alignment that the church themselves needs to be clarifying rather than being an indictment on the other great ministries and organizations that are out there that really are trying to come alongside churches to help them move their mission forward, but I just wanted that description to be a reminder that it’s possible for good stuff to be happening in your church but not be this type of stuff that’s best for your church and your church is health in the long run.

Amy:                            19:58               Thank you Tony for the challenge today and thanks to you, our listeners for tuning into the podcast today and as always, we encourage you to subscribe on itunes, Google play or wherever you get your podcasts so that you don’t miss an episode, and we’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on this topic, so feel free to join the conversation on social media using the Hashtag #unstuckchurch. And finally you can learn more about how the unstuck group helps churches get unstuck at

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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