How Great Missions Turn Into Routine Jobs – Episode 76 | The Unstuck Church Podcast


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“Great missions turn into routine jobs if they aren’t pursued by great teams.”

I wrote that back in December in an article called, “Why I LOVE My Fellow Unstuckers.” I got a lot of questions (and comments) about that claim, so Amy and I decided to record a podcast episode to expound on what I said, which is probably a little surprising for two reasons…

For one, I’m a church consultant, and consultants are all about crafting mission and vision and strategy and things like that.

Two, I’m a “mission-driven” leader, in general. It’s my natural wiring to be more focused on the mission and tasks than people. (More on that in this episode.)

But those two things aside, I stand by my claim that a great mission is not enough. You need a great team. And without one, a great mission—even the greatest mission—starts to feel like just work.

Great missions turn into routine jobs if they aren't pursued by great teams. Click To Tweet

In this conversation, we discussed: 

  • A particularly effective aspect of how I build my team that is counter to how church leaders often build theirs
  • Why you need a variety of people on the team who excel at doing what only they can do
  • The key characteristics I’m looking for as I add people to our team
  • Why success in “early adulting” is a key indicator for the capacity and potential of younger team members
  • How to create an environment where teams can accomplish great things
  • What it means to “do life together” as a team, how to help it happen, and why it makes a difference in your team’s effectiveness

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 were some of the characteristics of the best team you’ve ever been a part of?
  • Do you agree with the statement “Great missions turn into routine jobs if they aren’t pursued by great teams”? What or why not?
  • What’s the bigger challenge for you as a leader: Protecting a clear mission or build an excellent 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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Sean: 00:10 Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast. My name is Sean Bublitz. In each week our team is having a conversation about getting churches unstuck. Recently Tony wrote an article about the team he’s building at The Unstuck Group, affectionately called the Unstuckers, and he made some ripples online when he said great missions turn into routine jobs if they aren’t pursued by great teams. Today, Tony and Amy are going to dive more into that topic and discuss some ways that you yourself can build and know you have a great team. Here are Tony and Amy.

Amy: 00:40 So Tony, today we’re talking about teams and specifically our team at The Unstuck Group. I think this was prompted by an article you wrote before the holidays called why I love my fellow unstuckers.

Tony: 00:52 And you liked that phrase unstuckers, don’t you? Yeah. Maybe sometime in the future, Amy, we should do a podcast on why we call our teammates the unstuckers. What do you think? Would that be fun?

Amy: 01:02 That’d be super compelling to hear how we call ourselves that. Well, let me begin, Tony, with that quote that jumped out to me. You wrote that great missions turn into routine jobs if they aren’t pursued by great teams. So as I read that, are you saying that the mission really isn’t as important as the team?

Tony: 01:23 Yes, I am saying that, which may sound a little bit surprising on too because of two factors. Number one, I am a consultant by trade and consultants are all about crafting mission and vision and strategy and things like that. But from that perspective, I still think the team is more important than the mission. And the other reason why they should be a little bit surprising for podcast listeners is, Amy, you and I did a podcast several months ago where I admitted when it comes to my wiring as a leader, I tend to be more mission focused than relationally focused. But even with that natural wiring in me, what I have learned is where I am today, the team that I’m on the mission with is more important than the mission itself. And I don’t know that that’s always been the case to be frank. I think when I was younger the mission was more important and I just assumed if it was the right mission I could engage that mission with anyone. But the older I’ve gotten, I’ve learned that the team is actually more important.

Amy: 02:35 Do you mean you’re just rounding out, getting a little softer?

Tony: 02:38 Well, I don’t know about that. Let me, let me say though, our team is accomplishing a great mission. I wanted to just share some examples. And this is really more about our team than it is about me personally because almost every one of these examples involved other people in our team. So for example, one small in Texas just let us know recently that they’ve doubled their attendance to 200 people since we began working with them two years ago and recently they had five people commit their lives to Jesus. And in a recent service another five people went public with their faith through baptism. And so, you know, we hear stories like that and it tells me the mission that we’re about— helping churches get unstuck—it’s actually working. Another church in Washington indicated their attendance had increased by 20 percent in recent months and they’ve returned to over 4,000 people gathering in worship every week for the first time in eight years.

Tony: 03:40 Another church in Florida that we started working with four years ago, sent us an update. And over the last two years, attendance has increased by 12 percent. Small group participation though, has gone up by 30 percent. And I love this. Over a thousand people have accepted Christ over the last few years. I hear stories like that and I just think that is a good thing. The Unstuck Group has a great mission. We’re helping churches get unstuck, get healthy, thrive, grow, reach more people. Life change is happening. We see stories like that. I love the mission we’re on, but Amy, I love the team more than I love our mission.

Amy: 04:24 Well, those results, just by the way, make me so happy, but back to your quote. So you said that great missions turned into routine jobs if they aren’t pursued by great teams. So let’s just switch gears. How do you build a great team?

Tony: 04:36 So this is going to sound like I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth right now, but I start building a good team by finding people who are passionate about our mission. Do you see what I did there? So the team for me is more important about the mission, but I have to find the team that is passionate about the mission and so I don’t think we would have such a great team if we didn’t have a mission to help. Hundreds and thousands of churches have a growing kingdom impact and so the 25 people who get paid to be a part of The Unstuck Group probably wouldn’t have joined our team if we didn’t have that kind of mission to support all of those churches. Amy, and I personally wouldn’t like being on a team if my teammates were just going about their job. If they were just getting a paycheck rather than really pouring their lives into accomplishing a significant mission. I wouldn’t want to be a part of that team.

Amy: 05:36 No, we don’t just need a job. Teams began with a great mission, but again, that’s not the only ingredient. So when you think about The Unstuck Group, what else did you do to build the team?

Tony: 05:49 Yeah. So, this is by no means an exhaustive list, but I wanted to share some of the key ingredients, some of the key characteristics that I’m looking for when it comes to inviting people to be on our team at The Unstuck Group. First of all, obviously we want to find people who love Jesus and love his church. And, the bottom line on that is, I know I can’t change somebody’s character. I can’t change someone’s heart for Jesus in someone’s heart for the church. And so we need to see that that’s present, that’s evident in their lives. And, that’s foundational. The second thing, we find people we like and many times, in fact, the people we like, their leading attribute is humility. And so people who think too highly of themselves, I just want to be honest, they rub me the wrong way.

Tony: 06:43 However, by the same token, I do like people who are appropriately confident in who they are and what they can accomplish based on the strengths that God’s given them. A third attribute is we find people who can do things that we can’t do. Amy, you and I have talked about this. We believe in building a strengths based team and because of that, we’re looking for people who can compliment the giftedness that’s already on the team. And so for an example, and we were just talking about this over the last few days, Tiffany is on our team. Tiffany has taken our entire marketing strategy to a completely different level. I remember the days when I was the marketing strategy and believe me, it was not good. We got it to a place where we were helping a handful of churches, but Tiffany helped us get our story out to more people in a more effective way and no one else on our team has that wiring and those strengths.

Tony: 07:45 Mark on our team has this ability like no one else on our team to develop long term relationships. He’s able to nurture relationships with other key leaders in denominations and networks and no one else on our team is really able to do that. Jacinta manages all the logistics for our team. In fact, we joke about it, but she’s the only one in our team of 25 that really has that analytical detailed systems wiring and it comes to her naturally and that’s why she’s so gifted with it, but because of Jesus, because of that wiring and giftedness, she’s able to set up the systems for the rest of us that don’t have that natural strength to be able to do what we’re able to do so effectively. And Amy, I mean, you’re in that same boat, you were able to take what was a pretty organic process in my brain and create a way for us to replicate that consistently with quality and excellence in every church that we engage with and I couldn’t have done that without your strengths. And so we need to find people who can do things that we can’t do and you know, that’s pretty counter actually to how leaders typically hire because usually they’re looking for gifted people, gifted leaders that are like themselves, don’t you agree?

Amy: 09:15 Yeah. So churches all the time, they end up with a staff that’s pretty non diverse when it comes to strengths and the way that they think because we are drawn to people who are like us, right?

Tony: 09:27 Another characteristic is we find people who have demonstrated huge capacity and potential. And so for those who are more mature, we’re looking for people who have in the past helped lead a church to health and growth. And then for younger people on our team, that primarily serve in support roles for us. We’re looking for have they been successful in their early adulting, if you will, and taking the initiative to accomplish something significant, and you know, some of those younger folks on our team, Tiffany, Ryan, Sarah, Jacinta, we could look at the early years of their life and their engagement in different ministries and organizations and say, they’re young, but they’ve already proven they have high capacity and they’re going to be successful if we invite them to our team. And then the other thing is when it comes to finding the right people for our team, we hire together.

Tony: 10:30 In other words, I don’t make all the hiring decisions on my own. You don’t make all the hiring decisions on your own. We do team based-hiring as well. And this is actually something that I learned way back when I was still in my twenties. I wasn’t in ministry yet. I was working full time in local government. I was a city manager and it’s crazy. Back in my twenties I was hiring the police chief, the fire chief, the street superintendent roles like that. And I was going to be their leader, their boss, if you will, but I knew nothing about policing and putting out fires, I mean actual fires and things like that. And so I learned quickly if I make these decisions, these hiring decisions on my own, I’m going to make some huge mistakes. And so even back then I would build teams to help me through the hiring process. And based on your decision rights, how would we describe this? Everybody has input. I have the final decision. Everybody else has input, but everybody else knows. Ultimately it’s my decision, but I want their input. I need direct input to make sure that I get the right people on the team. Now, Amy, you’ve been around our team for several years now. Would you, is there anything else you would add when you were thinking about some of those key ingredients? When it comes to the people we bring on the team?

Amy: 11:56 Yeah. I’d probably just affirm the humility part. I think that really is the headline. There’s a sense of who fits on our team. And that goes back to how we describe our culture as well, but I also think about Lencioni’s Ideal Team Player when he talks about the characteristics of being hungry and then being people smart, you know, for the work that we do and how we’re spread out across the country. We hire people that are hungry, they’re looking for more, they don’t need a lot of management, they don’t need a lot of prodding and also have people smarts because we work with all types of people and having good EQ. So those are some things as well. It’s not an original thought, but I just affirm it. And of course, being on our team, you have to have a pretty good sense of humor. So we like to laugh a lot if you’re, if you’re too serious, you probably don’t fit.

Tony: 12:41 Yes. And we proved that the last few days are our team was hanging out together. We had a planning retreat for this coming year in our leadership team got to hang out and we got some things accomplished it. But the best part of that time was just hanging out, sharing life together a little bit, eating meals together and laughing way too much.

Amy: 13:02 I think know my stomach still sore. So we’ve talked about how to build a great team. So how do you encourage the team to do great things?

Tony: 13:15 Yeah. So the reality is, Amy, you and I could do hundreds of podcasts on that topic, but let me highlight for you some of the first thoughts that came to mind when you asked that question. The first is we do focus well. We stay focused as a team. We focus on what only we can do and that’s precisely helping churches get unstuck. We don’t do anything else. And actually a part of our planning conversations over the last few days. We were talking about the things that we will not do because this is our primary focus. So as examples, we’re so focused on helping churches get unstuck that we don’t do one-on-one coaching for leaders. That’s not a part of what we do. We don’t help churches hire staff. I mean, you could argue that that helps churches get unstuck, but that’s not our focus.

Tony: 14:15 We don’t help churches raise money. So there are other organizations out there that do that, that do that well. But we’re focused on helping churches get unstuck primarily around their ministry vision and their ministry strategy. How do we help churches move forward with strength in those areas? The other thing is we don’t help churches who don’t want to get unstuck. So, and I share that because as we highlight our principles, our philosophies, how we approach helping churches periodically, there’s someone who’s kind of the antagonist out there that’s kind of being nitpicky about all of that, suggesting that we’re not about the mission that we should be on. And frankly we just ignore those people who don’t think we should be helping churches grow. We ignore people who think the church should only be about discipling people who are already have a faith in Jesus.

Tony: 15:12 And we ignore people who believe we shouldn’t be trying to do anything to reach people outside the church and outside the faith. That’s part of how we stay focused. The other way we stay focused on is to make sure that of all the things that we could be working on to accomplish our mission and vision, that we are limiting ourselves to just three initiatives. And the funny thing is we eliminated one of those three initiatives in our planning retreat just this past week. So in 2019 we moved from three to only two initiatives that we’re focused on in the coming year. And I’d love to share what those two initiatives are, but it’s a secret. So you agree, Amy focus is key.

Amy: 15:58 You make us as an organization, Tony, stay in our lane. You’ve said no to a lot of ideas that I’ve that got thrown at me from various churches and just, it’s a relentless focus that’s kept us effective.

Tony: 16:11 And what’s amazing is the more, the more focused we get, the more churches that we’re able to help. And it’s so counterintuitive and we talk about this with churches all the time. You think in order to serve more people, to connect more people, to help more people take their next steps toward Christ, that we have to offer more ministries, more programs, more events, and we don’t see that work in churches and we’ve not seen it in our own experience at The Unstuck Group. The more focused we get at the unstuck group, the more churches we get to serve. Another way that I think we actually accomplished great things as a team is everybody on our team knows their responsibility. Um, every church we serve as different. Every church has different needs. But what I alluded to this earlier, we know that in order to guarantee a great experience and outcome for the churches we serve, we had to build great systems that everybody on our team can use to help all the churches we serve.

Tony: 17:14 And so what? Every church we engage with, everybody knows what their role is. Everybody knows what they’re supposed to do, where they need to deliver. And this, this may shock you, but with every church we serve, I counted them up. There are a hundred and 16 different actions that we need to engage in order to serve those churches well and so we have systems built around all of those action steps and we know who’s responsible for doing them by when do they need to be accomplished and how do they need to be accomplished because we’ve outlined the system for accomplishing that step and everybody’s been trained on it and then everybody gets assessed on it based on the assessments that we’re engaging with churches after we’re onsite working with the churches and we know that we’re doing well because we. We actually get that feedback from the churches were serving and I’m pretty proud of this.

Tony: 18:16 Again, this is gonna sound like I’m bragging about myself, but really I’m bragging about Amy and the team that she’s building and training because after every engagement we do a customer service satisfaction survey with the churches that we serve and we’re using. It’s called a net promoter score and I won’t try to explain that. You can google that if you want. We may even include a link in the show notes so that you can kind of assess that a little bit further and maybe even find out how you could use that to assess your ministries as well. But with this net promoter score scores, our engagement with churches from a range of minus 100 to positive 100 and our team has consistently above 80. And that’s a phenomenal score because when you look at average net promoter scores for other consulting teams, they typically are in the mid forties.

Tony: 19:17 So that’s a significantly high score for a consulting coaching team like The Unstuck Group. And it really speaks to this clarity about who does what by when and how they do it. We need to know clearly what our responsibilities are in order to accomplish great things as a team. And another thing that we do, and again I’ve just alluded to, is in order to accomplish great things as a team, we share life together. And I’ll tell you that’s actually a challenge because we are a remote team. There are 25 of us on the team and none of us live in the same, in the same community. And so we’ve learned that we have to be really intentional about the times that we get together and some of that intentionality about sharing life together is through video meetings that we have so that we’re, even though we’re not in the same place, at least we can see each other and communicate with each other.

Tony: 20:15 And we have those planned out both for our leadership team and all team gatherings. The other thing we do though is we’re intentional about face to face time together and so our leadership team gets together quarterly, face to face, someplace in the country and our entire team gets together annually, someplace in the country. Another way that we share life together though is through slack. And there are other tools out there like this, but slack is a way our team stays connected. It’s kinda like a Facebook group, but it’s internal for our work group. And it allows us to not only communicate about the churches that we’re working with and the projects that we’re working on, but it’s also a way for us to share what’s happening in our lives as well.

Tony: 21:08 And one of the, the one, one of the little tricks that we’ve done over the last, I don’t know, it’s probably been a couple of years, amy, is every Friday our team lists the highs and the lows from the last week and sometimes that’s about work highs and lows, but most times it’s about highs and lows happening in our lives. And it sounds pretty simple, but that simple engagement on slack has, I think been really helpful for us as a team, not only to know what’s happening in each other’s lives, but more importantly to know how we can be praying for each other. Uh, so all of those, all of those things really I do think help us as a team share a life together. What’s, which helps us as a team accomplished great things as well.

Amy: 21:58 So we’re remote team, so of course I resonate with all that, but a lot of our churches there are together a lot, meaning just getting ready for church now I’m saying that generally, I’m sure there are some teams that are more remote as they prepare for the weekend or prepare for ministry, but how do, how do teams that work together regularly in face share life together because it’s not just about proximity and being in the same space, but what kind of encouragement would you give church leaders, um, to share life together a little better?

Tony: 22:31 Yeah. The crazy thing is it may actually be easier for us as a remote team to share a life together because we have to be so intentional about creating those times for us to actually share life. And I think that same framework that I talked about of making sure we’re intentional, not only about the times when we’re together to get a mission accomplished, but we’re creating space for us to eat meals together, to laugh together, to be entertained together. We as a team that’s in one physical location. You have to be maybe even more intentional about creating space for that and I would argue even if you are a team in one physical location, having a tool like slack is pretty critical because otherwise you’re relying on email for a lot of communications and it’s just impossible for everybody to be sharing what’s happening in their life through email. That’s not a practical way to do that. So I don’t know. Amy, any other thoughts that come to mind for you as maybe even as you think about your previous life working at Eaglebrook?

Amy: 23:45 Yeah, I would say one, one thing because it’s fresh and we just finished our strategic planning, but once a year, Tony, you not only fly us together but you bring our spouses with and I think that’s a really a great layer. It helps my husband engaged with what I’m doing at The Unstuck Group. I understand my colleagues better as I get to know their spouses and it’s just a value statement. I think many churches, the staff just knows each other, but the spouses in a sense are excluded. They may be seen at church, but the intentional gathering once a year with spouses, I think has led to the fabric of our team to some degree.

Tony: 24:23 Yeah. And Amy, with the way of, I’ve always thought about it is I really can’t know how to pray for you and lead you if I don’t know Jason, your husband and what I can be praying for him about as well because you’re a team together. And so, it’s just, we can’t really know each other. We really can’t share a life together unless we’re also engaged with our spouses as well.

Tony: 24:48 So the final thing I would mention when it comes to doing great things together as a team, and you know this, Amy, we live this out. We track results and so it’s probably one of the reasons why we’re so adamant about helping churches identify the results that we’re going after. We’ve actually seen this work for us at the unstuck group and I think great teams want to win and we have great teams and because they want to, when they need to know what’s the goal that we’re shooting for and that goal needs to be clear. It needs to be clarified in writing and visible so that everybody knows what we’re going after. And one way to know whether or not we’re winning, whether or not we’re getting results is to listen for stories. And you know, I just, I mentioned three specific stories earlier in this podcast from churches that shared this is the change that we’re experiencing and we love hearing those stories and it helps us confirm, yes, we’re getting the results that we were looking for.

Tony: 25:52 But the other thing we do though is we have to track numbers to make sure we’re getting the results that we’re looking for. And our lead team, Amy, you’re a part of this. Every month. We’re looking at our dashboard to make sure we’re hitting those key metrics those key numbers that we’ve identified that we know are important to the success of us accomplishing our mission. And so we’re tracking as an example, the number of churches we’ve served. So as of last month, we know we’ve served 339 churches in different parts of the world. We’re tracking that net promoter score to make sure when we engage with a church that they’re getting the experience that they want and more. And that’s how we know that our net promoter scores is 83, we’re tracking the financial sustainability of our team because the people that work for us actually want to get paid for the work that they do for us. And so we’re monitoring our financials. We’re looking at how many churches are we talking with about engaging with our team. And so right now, I mean, if you want, you can be praying for the 73 churches that we’re talking with today who are considering engaging with The Unstuck Group to go through our coaching and consulting process. These are just some of the key numbers that we’re monitoring to make sure we’re tracking toward the results that we’re trying to accomplish as a team.

Amy: 27:26 And Tony, you know, historically the term out there has been setting smart goals and that’s been the industry thing for a long time, but we’ve really switched with churches we’ve worked with to set fast goals, which means there are frequently discussed, they’re attainable, they’re specific and they’re transparent and I think when you have those goals out there all the time and you adhere by those four qualities, again, everyone knows what the win is and what you’re striving for.

Tony: 27:52 Yeah. And the end result of that, Amy, is it’s creating a lot more unity on the team because everybody knows where we’re going and everybody then can start pulling in the same direction.

Amy: 28:05 Yeah. It gets you out of your silos a little bit when the whole team owns those goals. Right? Even if you just have a little part in them. Alright, well we’ve talked about this for a while. Any final thoughts before we close it out?

Tony: 28:15 Let me just share this. I’m always a little bit concerned about talking about our team publicly because I know that it’s going to generate some interest for those who want to join us on our mission. And so, Amy, you get a lot of those inquiries. I know that they’re coming in frequently. For your sake, I just want to let you know that we currently do not have any openings. We don’t have any openings for new unstuckers on our team. That wasn’t the point of today’s episode. It wasn’t trying to convince you to become part of our team. We’re trying to convince you to join a great team and to build a great team and that great team can be the team that you’re leading today. So I hope you’ll lean in maybe even re-listen to this episode with that in mind, and try to figure out what are the first steps I can be taking in my leadership, not only to build a great team, but to lead a great team going forward. Thanks for joining us.

Sean: 29:18 This conversation on building great teams. If you’d like to learn more on this topic, you can check out the show notes at If you’re enjoying this podcast and helpful for you, would you consider leaving us a review on itunes? We so appreciate your help in getting the word out. As always, if you’d like to learn more about how we’re helping churches get unstuck, you can visit us at Next week, we’re back with a brand new episode on how to better embrace mediocrity in your ministry. Have a great week.

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