October 3, 2018 Tony Morgan

2 Common Barriers to Effective Church Leadership – Episode 62 | The Unstuck Church Podcast

Your leadership team makes all the difference.

We’ve found 12 common issues that routinely cause churches to get stuck. In this episode, Amy and I cover two important ones that have something in common: leadership. Whether it’s senior leadership or volunteer leaders, if we’re not structuring our churches in a way that sets leaders up for success then our churches will become stuck.

We discuss two leadership issues churches face and how to solve them so your church can grow and get healthy. I think you’re really going to find this to be a valuable discussion for you and your leadership teams.

In this conversation, we discussed:

  • How big—and how diverse—your leadership team should be

  • What your leadership team be thinking about and not thinking about

  • Shifts you can make to accomplish more as a team

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 many people are on your leadership team?
  • What barriers does your leadership team face in aligning around vision and roles for decision making?
  • What kinds of people do you want on your church’s leadership team?

We use #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

Amy Anderson:             00:10               Welcome to the Unstuck Church podcast, I’m Amy Anderson, and I hear with Tony Morgan, and each week we share conversations our teams been having about getting churches unstuck and today we’re going to talk about two core issues that are causing a lot of churches to get stuck in. Tony, we talked about five core issues that we see I think it was back in episode 42, but I think our list of core issues is actually getting longer, isn’t it?

Tony Morgan:               00:36               You’re absolutely right. In fact, a few years ago we had our team analyze all of the planning retreat, the strategic planning retreat files that we had from several hundred churches we’ve worked with in the past, and we were looking for those common themes, the most common issues, churches were finding, which was which we’re calling, causing them to get stuck as a ministry. And through that research we actually found 12 core issues. And earlier this year I wrote lessons and shot video training to address each of those 12 core issues. And we release the content in an online course for church leaders. And in fact, uh, it’s just reopening. We’re accepting new participants and the leading and unstuck church course right now and that will be open through the end of November, but amy, we do, we cover all 12 core issues in that online course.

Amy Anderson:             01:36               Yeah. So if you’re feeling stuck in the core issues, um, that we share today or the ones that we covered in episode 42 or things that you’re struggling with, we really encourage you to check it out and you can find details and actually enroll@theunstuckgroup.com slash course. But let’s get into the two new core issues that we wanted to talk about today. Tony, what’s the first one?

Tony Morgan:               01:57               Yeah, so the number one issue stuck churches aren’t effectively leading through a senior leadership team and amy, we’ve called that have a number of things in the past, a directional leadership team, senior management team, senior team, but we’re talking about that top level of leadership. And of course in larger churches this, these are commonly all staff leaders and smaller churches it may be a mix of staff and lay leaders, but here’s the deal. Churches either don’t have the senior leadership team or they’re not clear on what that team should be doing and who should be on it, but here’s what we’ve seen in churches that continue to gain momentum and experience health and growth, that leadership at the top of the organization. It shifted from one or two individuals to an entire team. And that’s one of the critical, where we see churches getting stuck is they haven’t developed this, this healthy full senior leadership team.

Amy Anderson:             03:08               Sure. So if a church does have a senior leadership team in some way, shape or form, what are some signs that it’s not working like it should?

Tony Morgan:               03:18               Yeah. So some of it just has to do with a number of people on the team. I already mentioned in some instances there aren’t enough people because it’s, it’s only one leader leading or one leader and another person that are leading the entire ministry. It needs to be a team of people. In other instances though, and this would be more common with midsize and larger churches, they’re stuck because it’s too many people on the team and we’ve seen that top tier of leadership have as many as 10, 12. In one case I saw 14 different leaders. I’ve heard about another church that had 20 some staff leaders on their senior leadership team. In reality they shouldn’t have been calling it the senior leadership team. They should have just been calling it the team because everybody on the team was on it. So that’s one issue.

Amy Anderson:             04:15               What size do you recommend?

Tony Morgan:               04:17               Alright, so yeah, if you just did the math based on what I suggested, we commonly encouraged churches to have between three and eight people on that team and so some somewhere in there, but it needs to be more than one or two and it should be more certainly more than 10. Twelve or 14. 10, 12, 14. Yeah. Yeah. It, it’s just amazing to that dynamic. It really is. And I don’t know why someone else could tell us. Maybe that’s smarter than we are. Amy. Just going from eight to nine. It’s a shift for some reason, and by the way, I have done the research in case you’re curious in the marketplace, the c suite team, commonly seven people or less, so if you want to know how marketplace does it, that’ll give you a sense, but there is something about that dynamic of a team when it grows beyond eight people that you.

Tony Morgan:               05:13               You just need to pay attention to because it really does impact the overall health and leadership of that team. Another issue with senior leadership teams is it’s not a diverse team. It doesn’t reflect the ministry you’re trying to lead. It doesn’t reflect who you’re trying to reach as a church and when that senior leadership team isn’t diverse. It really does impact the strength of the overall team and we could talk about a lot of areas of diversity, but I think for churches, the most common challenge that we find when it comes to diversity is that they don’t have women leading in this team, and again, I’ve done whole articles done series. I think when I read scripture, I don’t see any indication that women can’t have the leadership spiritual gift and I think churches have a lot of people in their churches that have strength when it comes to leadership, but they’re leaving them on the sidelines because they’re gender happens to be female rather than male.

Tony Morgan:               06:18               We need to build diversity. Not only gender diversity on our team, but in all areas of diversity. We need that. Strength is particularly in senior leadership. Another common issue we see with senior leadership teams is the level of leadership. Compat capacity just isn’t there and if we were to go and use kind of the framing of leadership capacity that is mentioned in exodus, exodus 18 where it talks about leaders of tens, leaders of fifties, leaders of hundreds and leaders of thousands. Churches tend to have lots of leaders of tens and leaders own fifties on their senior leadership team. When in reality they need to have the leaders of hundreds and leaders of thousands instead. And so they challenge. They have leaders on the team. They just don’t have the right leaders because they don’t have the right leadership capacity, and then finally I think a hurdle that we see is the people on the team.

Tony Morgan:               07:24               There are people that drain you and they’re constantly pulling in in the wrong direction, in a different direction, and this is advice I’ve given. I realized I give this advice to my best friends, but I hadn’t been giving it to everyone and then I realized if I’m giving this advice to my best friends, I ought to be giving this advice to everybody. When it comes to folks on your senior leadership team, no matter what the other characteristics, if they hit all of those, tick all those boxes or not, if it’s a person that drains you, you should not invite them onto this team. You want people on this team that you know our polling with you, that they’re bringing energy, the right kind of energy to the team because they are after the same mission. They breathe, eat and breathe. Behave the way that you want someone to behave and the type of culture you’re trying to create. They bring the best out of you because they had that it factor that really adds to the strength and the health of the team and so whether they meet those other characteristics I mentioned or not, they have to be the type of person that brings the right energy and the right health and strength of the team that you’re looking for.

Amy Anderson:             08:47               Okay, that’s a great list, Tony. So if a team establishes a senior leadership team, what are some of those first things that they need to be thinking about?

Tony Morgan:               08:56               What they should be doing for their church as a senior leadership team? Yeah. So this team, it is, it’s unique and there’s certain things that this team needs to be focused on that other ministry teams in the church there, they are going to have different wins that they’re going after. And in the online course, amy, we get really specific on this topic. In fact, we offer a number of really practical tools to help you build and keep a solid senior leadership team and keep that team focused on the things that only they can do. But let me highlight a few of the most important responsibilities for this team. First of all, this team has to close the strategy gap at your church. In other words, there are going to be other ministry teams at your church, but those teams are going to be focused more on the day to day execution of ministry.

Tony Morgan:               09:49               It’s the day to dayness of ministry that happens within the church and more specifically in people’s lives and that ultimately is critical obviously to the church. You have to have that, but if everybody else is focused on that day to day aspect of ministry, no other team is thinking about the future of where the church is going and more importantly, how are we going to see that vision that future become reality? And so this team, the senior leadership team has to be responsible for the strategy, the ministry strategy of the church. This team also needs to be responsible for unity and alignment. It’s this team that’s keeping everybody pulling in the same direction. Without that, what we see commonly in churches is it ends up being one church with many, many churches within the church, or you can call the ministry silos. In other words, all of these ministries go off and kind of do their separate thing and it could be all good stuff, but in the long run, these ministries start pulling in opposite directions because the senior leadership team hasn’t taken responsibility for building a model of unity and alignment across all of the ministries of the church.

Tony Morgan:               11:16               And then finally, I’ll highlight here, but again, we go into a lot more detail in the online course. This team has to keep everyone else focus on the direction and priorities that will move the church toward its mission and vision, and it’s that prioritization that I think is key here because there are so many good things that churches can be doing and so many good things that really could be transforming people’s lives and helping people take their next steps toward Jesus. But it’s this team’s responsibility to make sure that the church, including their staff, your lay leadership, all of your ministry teams are focused on the main thing at any given time. Tthis team’s responsibility is for setting the priorities.

Amy Anderson:             12:10               So Tony, I’ve heard you say in the past, a senior leadership team for the members that are a part of that, they need to take off their functional hat, the area that they lead and they need to think globally about the church. So if I’m over the weekend, I still have to care about discipleship. Next Steps. I still have to think and care and bring my best to family ministries. And I think that’s the thread of everything you just said with closed, the strategy gap model, unity and alignment and keep everyone focused. That’s how that team has to think.

Tony Morgan:               12:39               Yeah. Sorry to cut you off, amy. That was not very nice of me, but this is my podcast. So. Yeah. And I was just going to share. I mean I was just recently engaged at a church and it was a great team. It was a great two days of planning for the future with this team, but there was one person in the room and every moment that they had to insert themselves into the conversation and that every break they were pulling trying to pull everybody else back to just talking about their ministry area and it was like, Oh, I wish. I wish you knew what you sounded like in this conversation because you’re pulling this team away from doing what’s best for the overall health of the church because you think your ministry is so important, but it’s just a reflection of the challenge that we do see from time to time when it comes to this topic of senior leadership. It’s okay to have people that are passionate about their ministry areas, but when it comes to senior leadership teams, they have to be able to take off their ministry specific hat and be thinking about the overall health of the church. You said you have to think globally when you’re engaging these types of conversations.

Amy Anderson:             13:56               All right, well that was all core issue number one, which was what are some of the signs that a senior leadership is networking? So let’s just shift to the next core issue. The second one, Tony. What’s that?

Tony Morgan:               14:07               Yeah, so the second core issue I want to hit today, and again this is the second of 12 different topics that we hit in the online course. So Gosh, I love podcasting and sometimes I hate podcasting because you can only cover so much ground, but the second issue is this, and I’m fearful because I’m almost as passionate about on this topic as the first one we talked about today, but it’s. It’s about team building and engaging volunteers to carry out the ministry. And for me, amy, I think this topic is so personal just because I know how critical ministry using the gifts God’s put in me in me personally being involved in doing ministry, helping others. That’s been so instrumental in my faith journey. I mean, it really is a critical and just looking at my discipleship journey, the things God has used to shape who I am spiritually in my relationship with Jesus serving others has been critical to that.

Tony Morgan:               15:11               And I think because of my personal experiences, I just have great passion about helping churches effectively engage people in serving opportunities, inviting them to volunteer, to use their gifts, to build teams, to carry out the mission, the Ministry of the local church. And you know, from scripture. One great example of this is the story from Acts 6. I love this story because it really does highlight the Ministry of the church and the fact that in the story the church leaders, they were doing good stuff. But they were doing the wrong stuff in the ministry because if you look at that passage, God’s design for the leaders were that they would be only about two things really focused on doing two things. One, teaching God’s word and one being in prayer. And the challenge was the church leaders in Acts 6, were being pulled into other aspects of the ministry.

Tony Morgan:               16:13               And in this specific case, it was good ministry, it was the ministry to the widows and the church who were not being fed. And so the ministry was a bit broken even though the church leaders were trying to step in and do that aspect of the ministry, but as a result of them trying to do things that they shouldn’t have been doing, the church wasn’t healthy and the ministry really wasn’t being accomplished. And as you know, amy from that passage, what they ended up doing then was identifying some other people to take on the ministry to the widows and the church leaders got back to the two things that they were supposed to be doing, which was teaching God’s word and being in prayer. And it’s fun when you look at that passage, I think it’s the seventh verse. It speaks to them the results.

Tony Morgan:               16:59               And as a result of getting back to that focus, the church ended up being healthier. More people came to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The church continued to grow. And we actually say, see that same thing happening in churches today along two lines, number one, it’s not uncommon for leaders to be doing too much because they haven’t released ministry to others in the church and for us, that’s primarily around building volunteer teams and inviting people that are in the church to actually be the church, to figure out how has god gifted us and using those spiritual gifts to actually engage the mission of the church, the mission that God has called us to. But secondly, what we’ve seen happen time and time again is when leaders release ministry to other people and they are effective building teams, particularly volunteer teams.

Tony Morgan:               18:00               That church has a greater impact. I mean, we see the church get healthy or we see churches grow and we see churches reach more people for Jesus. I mean just looking at the data that we collect convinces us that this is accurate. So let me just say this though, every time I reflect on that passage in acts six, where the leaders. Were trying to do the, the ministry that they shouldn’t have been engaged in when they were trying to help the widows and the church. It can’t go past that passage too quickly and the reason why is this, it’s a good. It’s a good description of an instance when people that love Jesus and people who were leading in the church, they were doing the Ministry of God, but they weren’t doing the ministry God had called them to do and amy.

Tony Morgan:               18:57               I’ve seen that personally in my ministry. I mean one example going back to my days when I was a full time on staff at a church. One of my responsibilities was in the area of communications and more specifically our web strategy and I found over months that more and more of my time was being drawn to updates to the website, making sure the right things were being promoted on the website, making sure that people had opportunities to not only get information but take their next steps a through what we were promoting on the website and I was spending so much time personally making updates and tweaks to the website that it was pulling from the time that I needed to be investing and other leaders in our ministry. Building teams. Actually giving ministry away. Doing what pastors are called to do, which is to equip God’s people to do the work of God.

Tony Morgan:               19:57               And you know, I finally in the moment I caught myself and realized I’m doing ministry. I’m doing a good thing, but this is not what God called me to do. And I think periodically it’s just good for us as leaders to step back and answer that question, honestly, we’re doing, we’re doing God’s work, but are we really doing what God has called us to do?

Amy Anderson:             20:27               That’s really good. So how can they build? How can churches build a more engaging volunteer system?

Tony Morgan:               20:34               Yeah. So great question, and again, I can’t go into all the detail here, but let me give you some highlights of some specific next steps that you can take to engage more people on your volunteer teams. First, you have to identify a champion for this area of your ministry. This is one of those areas, many times in churches we see, we think everybody’s responsible for building volunteer teams and they are.

Tony Morgan:               21:02               If you’re in ministry, you are responsible for building volunteer teams in your ministry area, but you have to have one person in your church that champions this across the entire life of the church because we find if, if everybody kind of owns it, no one owns it. And this is one area where if your church is going to be healthy, you have to have somebody that eats, breathes, you know, sleeps every moment. They’re thinking about volunteer engagement at the church. Secondly, you need to deploy an iman system for onsite and online engagement. In other words, when people say, I get it, I’m in, I want to serve. You need to have an easy first step for them to take either on site, at your church commonly before or after your weekend worship experiences, or when they say I’m in. You need to have an easy first step for them to take online as well.

Tony Morgan:               22:06               Another opportunity here is to offer test drive volunteer opportunities. And so rather than trying to promote every serving opportunity at your church, which you know, one time we counted up at one of the churches I was at there were over 80 volunteer ministry opportunities at our church and we were trying to promote all of those opportunities equally and it was just confusing for people. And what we decided to do was narrow from 80 down to eight, eight test drive opportunities that people had to serve somewhere in the church. And you know, you give people a test drive if they like it. Then you open up all the other options for serving in that ministry area. Another opportunity here for churches is to develop an invite strategy and you probably already practice an invite strategy for inviting people to come to worship on Sunday. My encouragement would be to take that same approach when it comes to developing your volunteer teams.

Tony Morgan:               23:10               In fact, what you would be doing then is just challenging people who are already on a volunteer team to tap the shoulder of one of their friends, invite one of their friends to join them in serving. And so taking advantage of those already existing relationships that people have with others in the church and inviting them to take a next step into serving at the church. Another opportunity here is just to streamline the onboarding process that you have and making sure you have as few steps as required from people to move from that. I’m in stage, I want to serve to them actually serving someplace in the ministry. Another opportunity is to solidify the coaching relationships that happen within the ministry. So not only are people actually doing ministry, they’re getting some coaching and that relationship is developed as well. And then finally, let me say this, you’re never gonna win when it comes to volunteer engagement. If you’re not tracking the actual number of people that are serving in your church. And again, just in recent weeks, I was with a church that identified we need to improve our volunteer engagement. And I just asked what I thought was the obvious question. Well, okay, how many volunteers do you have today? And they couldn’t answer that. And so this is. This is one of those areas if you want to win, when it comes to volunteer engagement, you have to know how many people have already taken that step and then as a team you need to monitor and then celebrate together when more people step into volunteer engagement.

Amy Anderson:             24:57               That’s really good. All right. We covered a lot of ground today and those two core issues. Tony, any final thoughts for our listeners?

Tony Morgan:               25:03               Yeah, you actually alluded to it when you set up that last question. But these two issues both reveal similar underlying problems. The first is this, your church isn’t structured to giveaway ministry and you need to overcome that challenge. There’s a good chance that if you’re feeling overwhelmed as a leader, these are the things you need to address. And let me just add this. I’m really excited if you haven’t caught onto this. I’m really excited about the leading and unstuck church course. I’ve never been able to figure out how to scale my time to be able to coach hundreds of church leaders at once and this course has given me that opportunity. I have the opportunity to connect with more leaders then I’ve ever had before and it goes way beyond just some of the specific practical next steps we’ve covered in this podcast. Amy, we have through that course, created many more opportunities for me to give you some training, one on one training and then for you to have some tools to implement these principles in your church and so if you’re overwhelmed, if you’re a busy pastor, know that you have this opportunity and you can take that course at your own pace. You can start taking steps to get your church unstuck and I can’t wait to see who joins me in this online course this fall.

Amy Anderson:             26:30               Thanks Tony, and thanks to our listeners and we are accepting new participants in the leading and unstuffed church course through the end of November. So you can get details and enroll by going to the unstuckgroup.com/course, and we hope to see you there and start getting to know you and helping you along your journey. More personally and thanks for listening to today’s podcast. As always, you can learn more about how the unstuck group helps churches get unstuck@theinsectgroup.com.


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Tony Morgan

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group, theunstuckgroup.com. 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.