November 28, 2018 Tony Morgan

The 4 Things It Takes To Get Unstuck – Episode 70 | The Unstuck Church Podcast

Our process for getting unstuck is better than ever.


Here’s the truth: getting your church unstuck is possible. It’s a process that takes time but is effective. Our team is always working on perfecting that process and we have just made it even better.

In this episode, Amy and I talk through our newly updated 4 Phase Process for getting churches unstuck and how this process can help your church accomplish it’s mission and help people take their next steps toward Jesus.

In this conversation, we discussed:

  • The difference between being a friendly church and a welcoming church

  • Why you need a clear path for discipleship and spiritual formation

  • Which comes first: strategy, structure, or people?

  • How to take action on all of your plans


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:

  • What has been the thing that has most helped your church get unstuck?
  • How have you effectively clarified your mission and vision so everyone understands it?
  • How has your church become welcoming, not just friendly?

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.



If you enjoyed this episode of The Unstuck Church Podcast, subscribe for more here:

iTunes   RSS   Google Play  Stitcher   Spotify


Write a Review—It Really Does Help

Particularly on iTunes, your ratings and reviews really do help more pastors discover the podcast content I’m creating here. Would you take a minute to share your thoughts? Just open the the podcast on iTunes on your phone or computer, click Ratings & Reviews, and leave your opinion.




Podcast Transcript

Tony Morgan:               00:00                Hey, before we start, I wanted to share a resource I’m finding churches need but don’t often realize they can actually afford the church lawyers is a solution focused national law firms serving the legal needs of churches of all sizes. Their membership program gives you high quality legal expertise that’s really affordable. The team prioritizes the relationship part of the attorney client relationship to learn more about becoming a part of their membership program. Contact the church

Amy Anderson:             00:43                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 has been having about getting churches unstuck and today we’re actually going to be talking about the conversation our team has been having about helping churches get unstuck for about the past 12 months. It’s the conversation we’ve been having. It’s actually more than a conversation. That’s the hard work the whole team has been invested in, right, Tony?

Tony Morgan:               01:08                That’s right, yeah. This feels like victory lap here that we’re doing today, Amy, because it’s been over the last 12 months. We’ve been revisiting every single aspect of our unstuck process to update it based on what we’ve been learning as we’ve been working in the healthiest growing churches through the year. You know, amy, there’s no doubt every organization gets stuck in some aspect from time to time and you have to learn some ways of getting unstuck. I’ve said it time and time again. Hope is not a strategy. Prayer should be the foundation for everything that we do as leaders who’ve who are Christ followers, but prayer alone is not a strategy and yes, that’s biblical. We should be praying, but we should also be following through with the next steps that God’s called us to take as believers in Jesus, so whether you ever end up working with us or not, your church needs to know how to walk through some version of this unstuck process that we’re gonna talk through over these next moments.

Amy Anderson:             02:12                Yeah. Hey, before we dive into the process, Tony, let’s just go a little further back and tell the broader story. There’s probably some listeners here who don’t know what it is we do and how you actually got into this.

Tony Morgan:               02:25                Yeah, that’s right. So going back more than a decade ago actually, I started having some opportunities to coach, mentor other pastors at other churches and in that process and through the early years of what became the unstuck group, I just heard this early theme in every conversation, the sense that churches were stuck and that stuckness, Amy, looks different From Church to church. Some churches legitimately stock. I mean the church is in decline. They’re losing people. They’re losing money. They’re not seeing life change happening in their churches and in many cases these are churches led by people that love Jesus and they want the church to be on mission, but they don’t know what to do next. And in other churches, the stuckness looks different because the church, it’s actually healthy. It’s growing, but they’re stuck because they don’t know what the next steps need to look like so that they can maintain that health. And growth over time, um, most organizations start, grow, thrive, and then eventually over time they lose momentum, they begin to decline and then they eventually end. But we believe God desires that every church lives out its purpose at the pinnacle of sustained health. I talked about sustained health a lot in my book, the unchurched unstuck church and the unstuck process, the process that we use with the churches that we serve, aiming is intended to keep churches in sustained health as long as possible. So we filter every aspect of our work through the lens of helping churches find health and effectiveness.

Amy Anderson:             04:12                Well, let’s dig into the process. So let’s walk it through. How does the Church get started getting unstuck?

Tony Morgan:               04:19                Well, when something’s unhealthy in our life, we always stop, assess what’s going on and it’s, you could almost think of it like a health checkup. You know, now I’m getting into my later years of adulthood, amy and I’m actually, I just celebrated my 50th birthday. It’s hard to believe half century well, and I never give away a woman’s age, um, and a part of getting older and adulthood and becoming an older adulting person, you have these regular checkups with your physician and your physician runs all kinds of tests and even though you feel healthier, Dr will point out some areas where you need to improve your health so that you can stay healthy for a longer period of time. And this happens in all areas of our life. And we find that actually that process really works well with churches are diagnostic tests and assessments look a lot different than your physician uses, but they’re similar in that we’re looking at a whole school scope of areas in churches. And the funny thing is in many areas it’s just confirming the health that the church knows that they have. And another area is just like going to the physician. We feel healthy, but there are certain areas that through these assessments that we identify actually need some attention and it’s not just knowing that these areas need attention. Then we have to discipline ourselves to, uh, incorporate the right new patterns and how we engage ministry. So that we can get healthy in these areas. And Amy, you have actually spent quite a bit of time designing our new health assessment, the part of the unstuck process. So why don’t you give an overview of what that’s all about.

Amy Anderson:             06:13                Sure. Well, as you said, it’s all about assessing where the church is at today. So before all the planning begins, we take a pause with the church and help them get a clear picture of where they may be struggling and where they have some health. And our listeners can read about the full visit online, but there’s a couple of key conversations that stand out to me in the health assessment visit. First, it’s processing the results of the two assessments they take. So the vital signs assessment and the unstuck church assessment. Both of these are objective and they provide clarity on how stuck the church is and it and they give clues as to why. So that’s a key conversation. The second is debriefing the secret shopper visit. So when we’re on site, we come to their church as a non church attender and then we share what that was like with the church leaders and so we cover everything from checking out the website to navigating their facility, to experiences in their guest services, attending their service, exploring their kids’ areas. And you know, when you bring fresh eyes to that experience, it’s like anything else. We all habituate to our environment, right? So I like what we said once you, once you see it, you can’t unsee it, but we share what that’s like and there’s often some things to really celebrate about what’s happening in that weekend experience, but there’s always some challenges, some barriers that are there for new people. So between the assessments and that secret shopper are they provide a lot of insight to the church as to why they might be stuck.

Tony Morgan:               07:42                That’s right. So the win for the ministry health assessment, it’s really that your team gets a fresh perspective of where you’ve been, where you are now, and where your church may be stuck in a. You know, Amy, I’m reminded of an experience in a health assessment that I did several years ago, went in, visited the church through their Sunday services and the church to themselves on being a very friendly, warm church. People just love each other. And actually I confirmed that, but it was an interesting experience because I remember standing in the lobby between services with my cup of coffee, coffee and what I thought was a very prominent location of their lobby and during that time kind of looking around, trying to act like the best guests that I could ever be just to make it obvious. I was there for the first time during that time, no one, no one came up to me, introduced themselves, talked to me and it was just, for this church, it was a reminder that it’s, it’s totally possible to be a friendly church and not be a welcoming church to new guests. And that’s just one example of where we’ve. This ministry health assessment that we’ve designed a really is helpful to affirm the things that churches are doing well, but also to highlight some areas and provide some insights set, set up an effective ministry strategy process, and that kind of leads into our next step.

Amy Anderson:             09:14                Yeah. Let’s talk about the next phase which is the planning phase. So this is really where we’ve done a lot of refining this past year, the conversations we have on this visit and what have you been trying to accomplish, Tony, as you’ve revamped how we’ve helped churches plan.

Tony Morgan:               09:28                Yeah, so we, it’s, it’s a completely new process that we’ve launched in just recent months around Ministry strategy planning and a couple of things that really drove this for me. Number one, I wanted our planning process. It’s still about strategic next steps, but I wanted our planning process to be a truly spiritual process to what’s distinctive between the planning that we do with churches compared to the planning that marketplace organizations do. And at the end of the day, obviously we’re trying to discern what’s God’s will, what’s the mission that God has for our church? And so I love the new process. We don’t have enough time to highlight all the steps in that planning process, but some of the critical conversations that we have during that time include getting a clear understanding of the mission field, where God has placed our church and trying to understand who are the people in that mission field that God wants us to reach, what’s important to them and how do we respond as a church. And then once we connect with those folks in our mission field, the next critical conversation we have is to look at how do we help people take their next steps toward Christ and actually create a discipleship path. Some specific strategy for encouraging spiritual formation in our church so that we’re actually making new disciples in our church. Another critical conversation is getting very clear, specific understanding of the vision for the future that God has called our church too. And in that process. Again, I love that part of our process because we start open up with a time of prayer and then at time of solitude to try to hear the voice of God in that moment. And it’s always amazing to me how the team comes together and how God’s speaking to multiple people on the team to get clarity about the next steps that God has for the Church and the Church’s future. And then, like I said, growth that we hit growth engines in churches, we hit cultural behaviors that the team needs to embrace. But the key part of this whole process that we’ve redesigned is helping churches get to action as, as possible. And really that action will come back and talk about that in a moment. I think it’s what distinguishes the unstuck process from other planning processes for churches. And I think it’s, it’s really that area that churches need to lean into as well. But we’ll talk more about that in a moment. Aiming.

Amy Anderson:             12:14                Yeah. So the win for the planning phase is really that we’re defining this five year vision, measurable goals, clear path for action. And now we get into phase three of our process. And maybe Tony, I’ll just grab this one since I spent a lot of the time designing.

Tony Morgan:               12:28                That’s right. Yeah. Yeah. Amy, you have become our expert when it comes to staffing and structure and you’ve built a great process and a great team to support that. So do you want to unpack that for us?

Amy Anderson:             12:39                Yeah. So now that the church knows where they are today, that’s the health assessment and now they have clarity and where they believe God’s calling them the next five years. Then we moved to phase three, which is how do we structure the team that will set them up to accomplish their strategic vision? And one of the core principles in this phase is that we define strategy first, then structure, and then people and not the other way around. What I mean by that is many churches are stuck because they go the opposite direction. Who Do we have, what can they do, and now what can we accomplish? But in the planning retreat, we’ve just decided our strategies. So on the heels of that, we’re going to look at structure and again, we do more than what our cover here, but if I were a call out some of the highlights. So the first thing we do, we review their vision and their core strategies that came out of the planning retreat and then we recommend a structure that we believe will optimize their organization and this is collaborative, um, but it’s a really energizing conversation because as the facilitator, you know, if I’m facilitating, I don’t have any baggage related to why they’re structured the way they are now, what their history is with their staff and all of that. So we can usually bring some clarity because we’re not talking about names at this point, we’re just talking about boxes and structure. We can usually bring some clarity to what those key leadership roles need to be. And inevitably there’s a shift, there’s a tweak always, at least in every staffing and structure conversation that I’ve had. The second highlight would be is just as an outside voice, we can then facilitate a conversation with the senior leaders to help them assess the leadership capacity of their team members and their overall performance and contributions. And again, it’s pretty diagnostic. It’s the conversations are actually kind of exhausting if I’m honest, but they’re really important to have. We don’t pause very often and really think through the leadership capacity and strength center team because it’s always Sunday and I think the last highlight I would call out in the staffing and structure is that we lead a conversation around decision rights and we’ve talked about that on this podcast before, but you’d be amazed at how common an issue this is on teams and it’s just very. It’s very clarifying and all of a sudden they know how to make decisions again and move forward and so that, you know, coming out of that, it usually takes a few weeks after the visit to settle everything, but we come out with a new structure that we really think will point them towards their vision going forward.

Tony Morgan:               15:04                Yeah. Let me just highlight a couple of things that you mentioned, amy, related to staffing and structure. One is my surprise and maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that when we go through that second step, the ministry strategy planning process, I mentioned one of the things that we do is highlight the growth engines of the church and identify what are the top three or four growth engines. What’s always surprising for me is how few churches then have structure around those growth engines, including just identifying who’s the champion of each of those growth engines. And I love it that the staffing and structure process helps answer that question. The second, and again, it’s, maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise, but it’s, it’s just amazing to me how many times churches are looking for an easy test to take just to determine does someone have the leadership capacity needed for the leadership role? I’ve not found that test yet, but the process that you and your team facilitate around leadership capacity is about the closest thing I think at a church can get to, to really identify what does it take to lead within the context of the Ministry of our churches. And at the end of that conversation, that clarity that senior pastors and executive pastors have about the leaders on their team who has the capacity to actually lead the ministries forward. It’s, I mean, it’s just an incredible gift that you give to the churches. So I love that you’re engaging that process with them. So lastly, that brings us to phase four. We call it the action phase, and it’s not that you wait until phase four to start executing, but you really ramp things up at this point, uh, will help you build out your two year roadmap, will start helping you execute on 90 day cycles so that you’re putting your action plans into motion. And then we’ll walk with you as a coach and an ally as you start leading change in your organization. And as I mentioned earlier, Amy, this, this phase four is so critical for churches and the best I can explain it is this, it’s Sunday is always coming. And Sundays are always going to be most urgent for churches. And really they probably should be. But what that means is all the other priorities that we’ve identified that really lead to health longterm for the churches, sometimes those things, many times those things get pushed away because we’re just trying to figure out what do we need to do for this Sunday. And I know that churches, when they don’t have an action plan spelled out and a framework for accountability for follow through around that action plan, they just naturally drift back to doing what they’ve always done. And so that’s why this four step and our unstuck church processes so critical for the churches we serve because we don’t want them just to assess their health plan for a better future structure for a better future and then not do anything about it. And so we want to make sure that they actually follow through on the commitments that they’ve made to sustain health in the future.

Amy Anderson:             18:30                Yeah, we have the unstuck way, right Tony and its principles that define who we are as a team and the most important one is the last one, which is that churches get unstuck. So that’s right there to walk with them and to help them make sure they take their actions. So any final thoughts before we wind down?

Tony Morgan:               18:47                Yeah, let me just remind folks that are listening that uh, this is a new process for us and it’s based on all of the work we’ve done for the last 10 years with churches. But sometimes when leaders are listening to these conversations, they assume this process is for another church. It can’t work for our church. In fact, we don’t have the resources to make this work for our church and I just want to remind those that are listening that we really have right-sized this process for all churches and we serve many, many churches for example, with less than 200 people in attendance and we work with many, many churches with that are in the thousands when it comes to attendance, but we right size the process itself and then the cost for the process so that as many churches as possible can be engaged in an unstuck process to help them reach more people for Jesus. So Amy, just the reminder that this isn’t just for some churches that are listening, we’ve really designed this process for every church, every church leader that’s listening today.

Amy Anderson:             19:58                Well thank you tony, and thanks to our listeners, if you’d like to learn how to take your next steps towards getting your church on stuff. As always, we’ll link some resources in the show notes for this episode. It’s at the unstuck, forward slash episode 70. And if this episode has been helpful, uh, don’t forget to leave us a review on itunes that will help other leaders find this content as well. And as always, you can learn more about how the unstuck group helps churches get



Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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