About Chris Surratt

Chris Surratt is a ministry consultant and coach at The Unstuck Group, with over twenty-two years of experience serving the local church. Chris served on the Executive Teams at Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and Seacoast Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He also manages for LifeWay Christian Resources. Chris’s first book, Small Groups For The Rest Of Us: How to Design Your Small Groups System to Reach the Fringes, was just released by Thomas Nelson.

5 Reasons Your Small Groups Aren’t Working

Reading Time: 2 minutes

There are several reasons why your small group system may not be working.

I talk to leaders all the time who are struggling with small groups because their church just won’t buy into the concept of community outside Sunday morning services. Most of the time as I continue to go deeper into these questions, similarities pop up. (more…)

By |2018-07-25T11:04:15-04:00April 3rd, 2018|Strategy|0 Comments

Four Reasons Why Pastors Need Community

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We all need community. In fact, we were designed by God to be in community. You can see it modeled for us with the perfect relationship of the Trinity in Genesis.

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” (Gen 1:26)


By |2018-01-29T14:08:41-05:00February 6th, 2018|Leadership|0 Comments

3 Common Issues With Multisite Strategies

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I remember when the multisite conversation started at Seacoast Church around the year 2000. Basically – we were out of room, the city would not let us build and we had to do something. I can honestly say I had no idea that 15 years later, our step of desperation would turn into a movement. I am now surprised when I discover a large church that is not multisite. There are over 8,000 multisite churches in the United States alone.

Although more than one site has become the normal, I still see a lot of the same issues that come with this model. Here are 3 of the most common issues I see, and what you can do to help manage them:

1. Communication

Good communication across an organization is difficult enough with one site. Adding locations and distance between them just multiplies the problem.

A typical church will over time develop vertical silos. As the church grows, each ministry becomes more complex and the leaders become more specialized. A high-capacity leader could oversee multiple ministries in the beginning, but now has to focus on just one. The common result of this change is ministries stop talking to each other. When you add multiple sites to the mix, you not only have individual ministry silos, you now have multiple versions of them. One site’s children’s ministry may not look the same as another site’s.  The small groups system at the “original campus” may not work as well at a smaller, new campus.

While there will always be communications tension at a growing church, that tension can be better managed with a functional central support system. Some kind of central support is an absolute necessity after a church has more than two sites. A central team is not only there to make sure each site is properly supported, but to also make sure the DNA of the church is carried all the way through the ministries. They are the quality control team.

The key to a successful central support is consistent, open dialogue. The first step to distrust and silos is information that is withheld and then leaked out later. Open communication from the beginning leads to trust and loyalty down the road.

2. Flexibility

The temptation when going multisite is to make every site look and act exactly the same. What works at the larger campus is re-packaged and implemented at every other site. This approach works better with some areas than others. I am a big fan of making the Sunday experience feel as much the same as possible. Branding is very easy to replicate across campuses. A 2-3 year old class at one site should have the same name and curriculum as another site. The signage and overall feel of the building can be the same, even if one is permanent and one is portable. Even if the songs that are played may be different, there should be a style of worship that stays consistent across the church. Where it gets more difficult are the ministries that function outside of the Sunday morning experiences.

A large group format men’s ministry may not be possible at a smaller campus. They will be more successful just starting with a few men’s small groups.

It may not be possible to pull off a high-impact student ministry from day 1 of the campus. They may need to start with small groups and continuing to join the original campus for large events.

Small groups connection events will need to look a little different at each campus. A smaller campus has the capacity to make their events more personal and intimate, where a larger one has to get people in and out.

In the end, the right expectations lead to successful ministries for every campus.

3. Ownership

There is nothing scarier than turning the keys of the car over to your teenager. A lifetime of being in the driver’s seat of control is now being replaced with a driver with less experience. We just pray that they go the right direction and don’t hit anyone else along the way. It’s the same feeling when launching those baby campuses. We may have to do most of the driving at the beginning, but there will come a time when we have to let them take the wheel occasionally – as long as we are still headed the same direction.

There may be an event that makes no sense for the original campus’ culture, but could be a home run for the remote campus’ community. The ability to own that event will give those leaders their own identity while staying true to the church’s mission.

Local campus leaders should be invited to the table when new ministry initiatives are in the infant stage of discussions. It may be ultimately up to the senior leadership for the final decision, but only after multiple voices have been included in the process.

Turning over the keys may lead to a few dings on the bumper, but the organization will be healthier because of it.

By |2017-02-09T13:52:29-05:00January 17th, 2016|Strategy|0 Comments

4 Wrong Assumptions About Discipleship

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I think that all of us would say that the main purpose for small groups in a church is to make disciples. If we are not making disciples, then we might as well call them social clubs. The question then becomes – what is a disciple? For the sake of this discussion, I am going to use the definition that a disciple is simply someone who is taking their next steps to be more like Christ.

The really tough part is how to evaluate your groups for effectiveness in discipleship making. We can make it complicated and have the wrong assumptions about spiritual growth.

Here are four wrong assumptions that you can make about discipleship in groups:

  1. Everyone grows at the same pace.

    The worst mistake that we can make in churches is trying to microwave the growth process in our people. If we don’t get results quickly, then we feel like we have failed as leaders. Lasting growth takes time and cannot be rushed.

  2. Everyone grows in the same way.

    We are all wired differently as human beings, so we have to expect that we will take different paths toward the center. A great resource for this is The Me I Want To Be by John Ortberg. We have to create different environments to allow different people to grow in different ways.

  3. Only the small group leader can disciple.

    As long as you are one step ahead, you can take someone else along on the journey. We have to change the mindset that only mature disciples are equipped to lead others. God will equip the willing.

  4. There is a finish line to discipleship.

    As long as we are in these earthly bodies, we will be striving to be more like Jesus. We all want a certificate on the wall that says we have accomplished the goal, but as Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14,

    I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 

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By |2017-02-09T13:52:31-05:00October 1st, 2015|Strategy|1 Comment

3 Ways to Avoid Becoming the Next Amazon

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The tech world has been talking all about the New York Times article on Amazon’s work culture since it came out. The piece describes a performance first culture with little to no care for the toll it puts on employees and their families. One former employee said he has seen every person he works with crying at their desk at some point. Every age group is constantly worried that they will be replaced by someone younger who can put more time into the job. One manager admits to working 80-85 hours a week with few vacations. Turnover is high and expected. One worker says that people are seen as fungible, easily replaced by someone younger and hungrier.

The interesting part – it’s working. Amazon is more successful than ever. They are currently adding enough office space for 50,000 employees, more than triple what they had in 2013. It’s difficult to criticize a business model that is moving up and to the right. As long as customers are satisfied, profits are coming in and brand recognition is growing, why change?

It would be easy to point fingers at Amazon as an example of how the corporate world does business, but if we’re not careful, this could quickly become the picture of the local church. Just because we’re “selling” the good news of the Gospel and not howling wolf t-shirts, doesn’t mean the temptation to push for results over people is not there.

Here are 3 things to watch for to not become the next Amazon:

1. Senior leadership lives in a bubble

Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos’ first public comment after the article came out was that he did not recognize the company in the New York Times article. It’s actually not a surprise that he is confused. The last people to recognize a poisoned culture are usually the one’s who help create it. Jeff and his leadership team are obviously removed from the negative effects of their policies. As long as things are moving forward, their lives are relatively unchanged.

If pastors of fast-growing churches are not careful, they can slowly build the same kind of buffer to reality. On the one hand, you want your pastor to be free from a lot of the day-to-day operations of the church so they can focus on what they do well. On the other, they can be so far removed that they miss the culture shifting out from under them. The leadership has to work hard to stay in touch with how the drive for better is effecting the souls of the people getting them there.

2. Leaders are being hired, not developed

It is much easier to hire a leader instead of develop one. Developing an employee means putting in the hard work of walking alongside them through the inevitable mistakes and growing pains. Who has time for that when Sunday comes every 7 days and things have to get done? When a staff member has hit a ceiling of growth, the quick solution is to manage them out and bring someone with more experience in. You can see where that cyclical pattern is headed for Amazon. Everything is great as long as people still want to work there, but it will eventually end.

We have to put the time and effort into intentional leadership development. Not everyone will make all of the turns on the pipeline, but they need the tools and training to go as far along as they can. The short-term pain of developing people always pays off in the long-term.

3. Growth is the indicator of health

I can almost guarantee we would have already known about Amazon’s toxic culture if the company was sliding. Someone would have pointed to the glaring issues and said there is something obviously wrong here. But, nothing has changed because everything looks great at the bottom line. Growth can cover a litany of sins. It’s only when the growth eventually stops (and it will) that we start surveying the damage caused along the way.

It’s true that healthy things grow, but it’s also true that disease can grow and spread just as fast. Different metrics have to be put in place to make sure what is growing is healthy. It’s not worth it if your growth is ultimately killing your staff. Instead of just taking down the Sunday numbers, take the time to figure out – what is driving our staff culture and how can we measure it to make sure we’re healthy?

By |2017-02-09T13:52:31-05:00September 7th, 2015|Leadership|0 Comments

5 Benefits of Small Groups

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Chris has over twenty-two years of experience serving the local church; most recently, on the Executive Leadership Team at Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

I believe small groups are where sustained, life change happens best. When a group of people spend time together in Biblical community, spiritual growth is possible. But when small groups are the option and not just an option at a church, there are also tons of additional benefits that come along with them.

Train Tracks

Here are 5 benefits of offsite groups:

1. Offsite groups solve space problems.

Cross Point is a growing, multi-site church, and on-campus space is an issue. Even if we wanted to offer a more traditional Sunday School format for classes, we would not have anywhere to put them. A few of our campuses are portable, and they are allowed to use just enough rooms to pull off a Sunday morning experience with worship and kids. Even our permanent facilities are completely packed on Sundays with what it takes to create an effective environment for families. We could build more buildings and continue adding rooms, but there will never be enough space. Small groups in homes all over the city are the best answer to space problems for us.

2. Offsite groups limit choices.

Recent studies have shown that people are paralyzed when faced with too many choices on a decision. As Americans, we like to believe that the more options we have the better, but it’s actually the opposite.

One of my favorite restaurants in the world is In-N-Out Burger. They offer four things on their menu: Hamburgers, Cheeseburgers, Shakes and Drinks. That’s it. It helps that their burgers are really, really good, but I love that I don’t have to think about it when I go in. I just order a cheeseburger and fries. I also love the food at The Cheesecake Factory, but the twenty page menu of options gives me anxiety every time I go. Apple recognized this early on and started creating simple and obvious products. One button is all you need.

When new people visit your church and ask what they should do next, the answer should be one button: join a small group. If small groups are an option among many, they will lose every time.

3. Offsite groups broaden the span of pastoral care.

No matter how big or small your church is, you will never be able to hire enough staff to facilitate spiritual care for every person who attends your church. Starting a small group gives people the opportunity to discover their God-given gifts and abilities through leading.

Instead of always hiring more staff pastors to keep up with the growth, look to your small group leaders. Imagine having leaders pastoring their small circles of community all across your city. The group leaders at Cross Point have become the first line of care in the church. If one of the pastors is required to make a hospital visit because of an emergency, the person’s small group is almost always already there waiting.

4. Offsite groups create a natural pipeline for leadership.

A question most churches are asking is, “Where do you find leaders?” A small group system is an ideal incubator for potential leaders and future staff members. If you want to find out if people will follow someone, ask them to start a small group. If you want to find out if someone can build teams, ask them to coach 3-5 small group leaders for a semester. Looking for your next campus pastor? Look for the small group leader whose group is now the size of a small church.

5. Offsite groups make a large church feel small.

We all want our churches to grow, but the downside to growth is the loss of personal intimacy. After the church grows beyond 300 people, it’s impossible for attenders to know everyone. This is exasperated when a church goes to multiple services, and it is completely lost when a church becomes multi-site (more than one location). The only way to keep people from falling through the cracks is by creating a system to catch them. Small groups help the church keep people who would otherwise drift back out in anonymity.

We all long for the feeling that someone knows our name on Sunday. Small groups provide it.


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By |2017-02-09T13:52:32-05:00July 7th, 2015|Strategy|0 Comments