January 2, 2019 Tony Morgan

Tony’s 2019 Resolutions for Churches – Episode 74 | The Unstuck Church Podcast

4 Practices That Will Make Your Ministry More Effective

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I hate the cold. It’s one of the reasons I moved to South Carolina and then Georgia. In fact, even Georgia isn’t far enough south for me during this time of year. Next week my team and I will head down to Florida for our annual Strategic Planning Retreat. 

Maybe it’s the cold, or maybe it’s the afterglow of Christmas, but there’s something about this time of year that seems to make everyone feel like making plans. 

I like change just about anytime of the year, but churches definitely seem more open to it right now. We typically get a higher volume of inquiries about the Unstuck Process in January and February.

I started thinking about openness to change, and I wondered, if I could help churches make some New Year’s Resolutions, what would they be?

I came up with four, and Sean Bublitz and I unpacked them in this first episode of 2019.

If you’re feeling open to change, I hope you’ll take a listen.

I also share one simple mindset shift that churches can adopt to stick with their resolutions and get more done. Check out 4 New Year's Resolutions @tonymorganlive thinks churches should make. Click To Tweet

In this conversation, we discussed: 

  • One thing about the way churches plan that disturbs me
  • An odd trend in the way churches are hiring staff and how it affects volunteer engagement in the long-term
  • Why live-streaming your service isn’t necessarily the primary way you should be thinking about offering on-demand content
  • The aspect of evaluation and getting perspective that’s often missing, even in larger churches
  • How churches can shift from thinking about year-long plans to 90-day plans and get more effective at execution

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 resolutions do you have for your church in 2019?
  • Where do you feel stuck?

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. What resolutions do you have for your church in 2019? Here are 4 you might want to consider. Click To Tweet

Links & Resources from the Episode

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Sean: 00:10 Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast. I’m Sean Bublitz, filling in for vacationing, Amy Anderson, and I’m here with Tony Morgan. Each week we share a conversation our team’s been having about getting churches unstuck. So Tony, Amy is somewhere much warmer than where we are today. Enjoying a much deserved break. So you’re gonna have to put up with me.

Sean: 00:29 I’m good with that, Sean, and you’re actually a capable fill in. Um, but I didn’t realize in our employee handbook that we actually allow our staff to take vacation. Why didn’t I know about this?

Sean: 00:41 I’m sorry to break the news to you this way. It’s kinda awkward. We’re in public, right? So because this is our first episode of 2019, we’re looking to the new year with some thoughts on New Year’s resolutions that we hope churches will make in the coming year. One thing I knew about New Year’s resolutions, Tony, is it’s easy to make them, but it’s hard to keep them. So, as we get started today, do you have any ideas or best practices for churches on how to make adjustments and changes stick over the next year?

Tony: 01:09 Yeah, Sean. I’m glad we’re starting here because I think you know enough about me to know a part of the tension that I feel is that we would be working with churches, helping them plan for the future, helping them clarify vision and their ministry strategy, but then for nothing to happen after that planning time. I mean it actually disturbs me when churches go through a time of planning and reflection, but then never put into anything into action and so I just want to make sure even as you listen to today’s podcast episode, that you’re looking for ways to make sure that your resolutions become actionable. Don’t just think about where you want to be a year from now. You should do that, but also be thinking about what do we need to be improving or changing within the next 90 days from now and what we’ve noticed with our team is when we can help churches think about action and shorter timeframes, 90 days rather than a year and then a year rather than five years.

Tony: 02:16 Thinking about long term vision, when we can chunk the next steps that we need to take to accomplish an initiative to make a change, to work toward our vision, when we can look at our next steps in shorter timeframes, churches get more done. So I think it’s just easier to hold ourselves accountable to what needs to happen in the next 90 days rather than the next year. So I’m looking forward to today’s conversation, Sean. We’re going to have some great conversations about some resolutions that we think churches need to consider for the coming year, but don’t just listen to the resolutions. Be thinking about those actionable next steps.

Sean: 02:56 That’s really good. Okay, so let’s get to the first resolution. It’s for churches to develop an inbound marketing strategy. So Tony, what’s an inbound marketing strategy and why do churches need it?

Tony: 03:10 Yeah. So inbound marketing really does involve attracting more people to our ministries through relevant, helpful content and adding value in every stage of their spiritual journey. And for some people, of course, Sean, we just need to recognize the spiritual journey means they’re still considering the claims of Christ. They don’t yet have a relationship with Jesus. For others, they’re going to be further along in their faith journey. They have a relationship with Jesus, but they’re still wrestling with how do I take what I know to be true biblical truth and how do I apply that to my daily life? And this is a place I think the church really has an opportunity to establish themselves as a trusted resource for answering questions that people are asking.

Tony: 04:05 But that’s where we have to start. We have to make sure that our content, the content that we’re generating is actually addressing the problems and the felt needs of the people that we’re trying to connect with. And the reality is if we don’t take that approach to provide content that addresses those questions, people are going to be looking for answers in different places. And right now, just to be honest, I think Google has assumed a place of responsibility and addressing questions that the church has neglected for way too long and when people have questions, they’re turning to Google and not to the church. So for us to be able to connect with people and eventually be able to present the Gospel, I think we have to take a more intentional look at how not only we’re creating content on Sunday mornings, but how we’re generating content throughout the week and particularly using our online strategies, which we’ll talk more about that in a moment, but creating content that’s actually addressing the questions that people are asking and then not only creating that content but offering specific next steps that people can be taking to not only take a next step in their personal faith journey, but hopefully encouraging some next steps that also connects people to our churches, which would get them into community with other believers.

Tony: 05:33 And that’s really where we see transformation happening in people’s lives.

Sean: 05:37 Yeah, yeah, that’s really good. So the term inbound marketing strategy is really about an outward focus and it doesn’t have as much to do with marketing is about us helping people take steps and reach people far from God. Is that right?

Tony: 05:50 That’s right. But we need to be leveraging the tools online, social media, things like that to the content we’re creating as churches beyond just the platform on Sunday morning.

Sean: 06:02 Very good. All right, Tony. So our second resolution for churches in 2019 is just to stop hiring so many people. Tony, there’s data behind this resolution. So why are we seeing this as a challenge for many churches?

Tony: 06:15 So yeah, Sean, this is pretty critical. In fact, the last data we looked at indicated that churches have hired one full time equivalent staff person for every 61 attendees at the church. And that may not sound like a significant number to those that are listening. But why this is significant to me is that number of staff has continued to increase through the years; that staff to attend the ratio used to look much different. In fact, I remember when it was closer to one to 80, and so the fact is we’re seeing churches hire more people. In fact, the average church now has 56 percent of their staff working part time. And so, the trend is not just full time staff but more so towards part time staff and as a result of that, particularly with part time roles, I think what, what’s happening is churches are hiring people in part time capacities when they used to empower volunteers to engage those roles. And we’re replacing volunteer positions with part time staff positions. So like I said, the average church has 56 percent of their staff working part time.

Tony: 07:32 The national average is 17 percent.

Sean: 07:35 Wow.

Tony: 07:36 And so churches, for whatever reason, are hiring more part time staff. I think in many cases it’s actually to avoid having to compensate staff not only with salary but with benefits. And that may be a shrewd way to be staffing. But my fear is, like I said, with that we’re actually taking responsibilities away from volunteers and we need to be shifting, more of our focus to empowering volunteers in our churches. So churches are hiring people to do the work instead of giving the work away or equipping God’s people to do the work of God to put it more into biblical perspective.

Sean: 08:15 Alright Tony. So our third resolution for churches in 2019 is to develop more on-demand opportunities to connect with your church. So I know many churches have a live stream of their service for people to watch. So outside of that, what are other on demand options churches should be developing and why is it important?

Tony: 08:32 Yeah, I just think it’s important for us to step back and look at the shift that has taken place in our culture and it’s just happened within the last five to 10 years. People don’t go to bookstores anymore to buy books. They’re using Amazon to purchase that book online when they want to purchase the book. People don’t sit down at 8:00 on Wednesday evenings to watch their favorite television shows anymore. Instead, they go to Netflix and they find a show and they binge on that show and they were watching that show whenever they want to watch that show. Churches though are still stuck on you have to show up at a certain time, at a certain place on a certain day if you want to engage with people in the church and if you want to hear content and teaching and, and to take your next steps toward Christ.

Tony: 09:28 We have to look at shifting the way we’re delivering ministry and we have to look at shifting the opportunities that we’re offering for people to engage in community and to take their next steps toward Christ. So we’re seeing some churches that are offering opportunities like moving their discipleship strategy, moving their discipleship pathway online and offering opportunities for people to take next steps. That way we’re seeing churches offer next new guest orientations online. So making sure that there are first steps that people can take beyond the weekend services online and on-demand. We’re seeing churches move class content from the classroom to an online opportunity. We’re looking at churches that are taking what used to be you have show up at a certain day, a certain time, if you want training, volunteer training as an example, and they’re moving all of those options online.

Tony: 10:31 I’m seeing churches that are piloting now, small group opportunities that rather than meeting in person, they’re meeting by video, so it’s still face to face interaction. There’s still interacting with a small group with and developing friends online and relationships online. But it’s happening online and the church, we’ve consistently, I think really leaned into those in-person, onsite at specific times and days engagements. And Sean, I crave that too. I know you do as well, but every other aspect of our culture is shifting to an online on-demand option. And I think for us to stay connected to the culture and to be able to leverage the, the ministries and the content, the teaching that we’re providing, we have to look for opportunities to be doing that. As well, so our team, we operate this way, we’re a mobile organization, we live all over the country and we meet most of the time via video, we’re talking to each other, that’s the right times we gather in person and it’s good to be in person and there’s just a different feel to each of those.

Sean: 11:46 That’s right. But in the culture we live in today, there is this great opportunity to leverage technology to be with each other at times that we wouldn’t be able to.

Tony: 11:54 That’s right. Yeah. So just the rhythm of our team is that we’re meeting weekly through video conversation and then once I would say every three months we actually get together face to face some place in the United States. But Sean, I don’t, I mean, I don’t know what you think. I think the relational connection on our team is still very, very strong. And so, uh, I think there are ways for us to accomplish that in very important relational connection and still not lose the flexibility of being able to use online tools like video conference saying to continue those relational connections. Just an additional great tool that the church should be leveraging.

Sean: 12:36 Yep. Okay. So our last resolution that we hope churches will make in 2019 is to get some outside perspective on their ministry. So Tony, why is this an outside perspective, so important for churches? Why is it important to get fresh eyes on your ministry?

Tony: 12:51 Well, I just think about my personal life and my personal leadership journey and I know that sometimes others can see things before I expected, before I can see them in my own life. And I know that is true for churches, the churches that we serve as well because over the years we’ve had the opportunity to serve well over 300 churches. And the frequent feedback that we get from the churches that we serve, Sean, is that it’s, you’re helping us identify things we’ve never seen before. We knew we were doing some things that were healthy. We knew we were stuck in some areas. You’re just helping us identify those areas that we were stuck that we couldn’t see for ourselves.

Tony: 13:36 And I think some of that, Sean, is just the reality of we have engaged with so many churches now and we’re seeing what’s working and what’s not working and many, many churches. And as a result of that, we’re just able, through our experience and through the lens of ministry that we’ve experienced, we’re able to offer some insights that church leaders can’t see for themselves. Especially because they’re living in the ministry in the day to dayness of ministry. And you know, again, I see the same thing in my own personal life because I’m living in the day to day business of my personal life and my leadership journey. I don’t see things that others can see because of the filter and the perspective that they can bring. And so I think it’s important for us to from periodically open ourselves to not only what other organizations other churches are doing and what they’re experiencing, but periodically to invite somebody in. And it’s actually a position of humility to open ourselves to both the encouragement and the accountability and coaching that somebody from the outside can offer to our church ministries.

Sean: 14:48 Yeah. Yeah. Very good. Alright. Tony are our resolutions for today. Any final thoughts?

Tony: 14:55 Again, I kind of want to end up where we began this conversation today. Sean. We have to be intentional about our next steps. We can’t just identify opportunities for next steps, opportunities for change, opportunities for health and our ministries. We have to be intentional about the next steps we’re taking, if we’re actually going to experience that change. And I would just argue the mission is way too important and we need to move forward rather than sitting in the status quo of where our churches today.

Sean: 15:27 Yeah. All right. Thanks Tony. And thanks to our listeners for tuning in today. If this episode has been helpful to you, don’t forget to leave us a review on iTunes that helps other leaders find this content as well. And as always, you can learn more about how The Unstuck Group helps churches get unstuck at theunstuckgroup.com. Happy new year, everybody.

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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.
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