Our 2021 Year in Review – Episode 225 | The Unstuck Church Podcast

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Here’s what we’re celebrating from 2021!

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As we reach the end of 2021, I realize that there is a widespread sense of exhaustion and weariness. At the same time, there is so much to be grateful for and look forward to in the coming year. On this week’s podcast, Amy and I are sharing some of the things that we’re thankful for from 2021 and why we’re optimistic about what’s next.

THE UNSTUCK GROUP’S YEAR IN REVIEW

Before we dive headfirst into 2022, we wanted to take a good look back to celebrate what God’s been doing at The Unstuck Group, and through the churches that we’ve served, over the last 12 months.

Speaking of the churches we served this year… the Unstuck team facilitated 90 different engagements with churches and denominations/networks in 30 states and 3 countries (Idaho and North Dakota finally made the list!) 60 of those were brand new churches—and we celebrated serving church number 500. (Here’s to 500 more!)

We also celebrated some of the new core initiatives we launched (or re-launched) in 2021, including:

We’ll dive deeper into some of the wins from the churches we served in the episode. If my team can be of service to you in the new year, don’t hesitate to reach out. 2022 is filling up quick!

We focus on behaviors because it's how we act toward each other that really shapes the culture of the organization—rather than focusing on the values, it's the actions that drive culture. [episode 225] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet Even as we recognize that our mission is the same, we always want to revisit how we're engaging our ministry strategy in this new season. [episode 225] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet

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Transcript

Sean (00:02):

Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast, where each week we are exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. As we hit the end of 2021, there’s no doubt there’s a widespread sense of exhaustion and weariness. At the same time, there is so much to be grateful for and look forward to in the coming year. On this week’s podcast, Tony and Amy share some of the things that they’re thankful for from 2021 and why they’re optimistic about what’s next. Before today’s episode, we want to offer a free resource to help you as you plan for this coming ministry year. Having a ministry calendar allows us to communicate what’s important, identify what’s essential and maintain team alignment despite the things that change around us. That’s why we’ve created “Planning Your 2022 Ministry Calendar,” a free comprehensive resource with video and written content to help you identify your next steps for planning your 2022 ministry calendar. You’ll get insights from Tony Morgan and pastors, Derwin Gray, Tim Stevens and Eric Geiger on the topics of planning your teaching calendar, planning your events and outreach calendar and planning your leadership development calendar. Identify your priorities, define your goals and plan to win in this ministry season. Visit theunstuckgroup.com/planning2022 to download. Now let’s join Tony and Amy for our last podcast episode of 2021.

Amy (01:27):

Well, Tony, I don’t know about you, but I am still on a high from our all team gathering last week. I think it’s been two years since we were able to get the entire Unstuck team together. And I’ll tell you what, getting outta Minnesota wasn’t that bad either. How about you?

Tony (01:42):

Yeah, yeah. No, I agree. I’m still on a high from that gathering and, you know, Amy, we were a remote team from the very beginning, but once a year, we gathered in the same location to refocus our mission and just to have some fun and hang out time together. And you’re right after two years, we were finally able to bring everybody together. We were in West Palm Beach for several days and goodness, Todd and Julie Mullins and the team at Christ Fellowship were such gracious hosts for us during that experience. Yes, they’re great people, great leaders, wonderful church, but they just made us feel at home for a few days in West Palm Beach. So we really appreciate that. And 24 of the 25 teammates on The Unstuck Group were able to join us. The only person that could not make the trip this time was our friend who’s a ministry consultant, but he lives in the UK. And so it’s still because of travel restrictions, it wasn’t possible for him to join us, but everybody else did. And really I think among the 24 that were with us, Amy, about half the spouses were able to join us too. And I love that. I said, you know, when you join the team at The Unstuck Group, whether they want to or not, their spouses also join our team. So it was good to have them with us. And during that time we did a lot of fun things, but one of the things was just to kinda look back at 2021 and to celebrate together what God’s been doing through The Unstuck Group. And of course, primarily what that means is through the churches that we’ve served over this last 12 months.

Amy (03:21):

Yeah. That was really fun to pause and just look back. It’s been a really full year, and God has been so good. And actually that’s what I wanted to talk about on today’s podcast. You know, we’ve covered a lot of ground in the previous 50 episodes this year. And today I wanted to pause with our listeners, really, and celebrate what the teammates at The Unstuck Group have accomplished in 2021, you know, to improve our ability to help churches get and stay unstuck. In fact, let’s actually begin with the new initiatives that the team launched this year. You wanna recap those?

Tony (03:53):

Yes, let me do that. Of course when we were all together last week, I called out people by name. And I hope I didn’t embarrass them all too much, Amy, during that process, I won’t do that for this conversation, but I do wanna highlight our team has been very busy over these last 12 months. And it’s just remarkable. I was able to go through this long list of new initiatives that the team has pursued, including rolling out our new Unstuck Teams assessment, which led to new reporting around the assessment results and then a master class as well on that topic. And I think that master class, the content in that course is going to last us for a long, long time.

Amy (04:40):

Yeah. In The Unstuck Team Assessment, we’ve rolled that into our staffing and structure engagement. And I’ll tell you what, Tony, it gives lead pastors and executive pastors such a great picture of where their strengths are from a team perspective and you know, where can they get a little bit better in the process. And so that was a great addition.

Tony (04:59):

Second, I mean, this is huge, especially a number of months ago, but continues to be. Some tools and resources that we use today with churches and it’s all around our digital strategy offering. So now we have an onsite consulting engagement that we do with churches to help them look specifically at their digital strategy. And it’s not only pulling from the things that we’re learning from the churches that we’re serving, but honestly, these are just some of the best practices we’ve leveraged at The Unstuck Group to help church leaders through the years, and now we’re sharing some of those best practices with churches to accomplish their mission. So that’s been a fun new addition in the last 12 months. Related to that, we launched a brand new website just a few weeks ago, and gosh, the team worked so hard on that. And I was just excited because this is the first iteration of one of our websites that I wasn’t personally involved in the process. So I’m just so grateful for the team around that.

Amy (06:04):

And so are the people who engage with our website.

Tony (06:07):

Yes, very thankful. And then related to our team, we actually, I mean, we practice what we preach at The Unstuck Group, you know, so we pulled away for a couple of days earlier in this past summer, and we just spent some time talking about our culture shaping behaviors as a team, what are the behaviors that shape our culture at The Unstuck Group? And it had been several years since we had that type of conversation with our team. And so I love that. It was just so fun to hear from everybody across all the different levels of our organization, of their perspective, of our unique culture and the behaviors that are driving that. And Amy, we’ve talked in the past, we really focus on behaviors because we’ve learned that it’s how we act toward each other that really shapes the culture of the organization, rather than focusing on the values, the things that we believe in, it’s the actions that really drive culture. And so it was fun to do that with our team. This year we started consistent quarterly webinars. Our last one with Andy Stanley was all about leading a divided church. And actually this year we went over 10,000 registrations for our various webinars that we’ve done through the last number of months. And so, I mean, that’s something to certainly celebrate as well.

Amy (07:34):

Absolutely.

Tony (07:35):

And again, kind of getting back to the digital strategy, right? That’s been one of our front door opportunities to engage with new church leaders. And we’ll talk more about that in a little bit, but again, it’s how our digital strategy is offering maybe those first baby steps for people to engage with our team. And likewise, we’re always encouraging churches to think about what are those initial baby steps that you can offer to help people in your community connect with your church as well? In 2021, we offered three brand new master classes. All of that content is in our brand new learning hub. That was new in the past year. And in the learning hub, not only do you find our masterclass content, it includes our online courses, our full resource library, you and I are actively engaged with others from our team in a private Facebook group for those who are part of that learning hub. And so that’s kind of an ongoing way for us to engage, not only with the churches that we’re serving, but really churches, all different sizes, who may not have the resources to bring us on site, but we can still provide them tools and resources to help them take their next step in their leadership and in their ministry. And then finally, again, talking about digital strategy, I can’t believe it is 2021, but we never had an intentional Instagram strategy. We never had an intentional strategy around YouTube and video. And so our team has been working hard in the last number of months to bring us into the year 2021, where not everybody consumes content through writing, through podcast, really trying to shift more of our content strategy around video delivery as well. And so, Amy, there were a lot of other big projects and initiatives in the last year, but those are some of the highlights that our team has been working on. And I hope, for the listeners, you’re starting to benefit from some of the work that our team has been doing in the last 12 months as well.

Amy (09:42):

Well, they all go back to our mission, which is to help churches get unstuck. And so that is our prayer every week that we’re putting out content that is bringing hope and some new ideas to pastors out there.

Tony (09:52):

That’s right.

Amy (09:53):

Tony, several of the initiatives you mentioned were related to our digital content marketing strategy, and we’ve been talking a lot about how churches have the opportunity to leverage their digital strategies, to both reach and connect with new people. Based on your comments last week, it sounds like that digital strategy is working, at least for how we’re leveraging it at The Unstuck Group. Can you talk through that a little bit?

Tony (10:16):

I agree, Amy, in fact, I’m gonna rattle off some key stats. And it’s really not to share the momentum we’re experiencing with our digital strategy, but rather, maybe to help you think about as a church, as a ministry, what are things that we need to be paying attention to? So for example, we have talked in recent weeks about the importance of tracking how many people are becoming known to our ministry. How many new names, how many new people do we have with their contact information? And for The Unstuck Group, in the last 12 months, we’ve had 8,000 new church leaders engage with us, engage with our content. And so that, for me, is so exciting because, well, number one, it’s just a great reminder. There are so many churches and church leaders that we’ve not connected with in the past that, gosh, I hope these new church leaders are benefiting from the resources that we’re putting out, Amy.

Amy (11:19):

And can I just comment? You know, it’s not that those 8,000 new contacts came because 8,000 new people listened to our podcast. It’s a multiple product, you know, strategy. And so I still talk to churches frequently and there’s still just hoping that that online weekend service is gonna attract all these new people. And I keep challenging churches. No, what are the other avenues? What’s the other content strategies you can use, in tandem, you know, with what you’re doing with your online service? But I hope that 2022 is the year we find some pioneers learning how to put new content out there that’s gonna reach the people in their community.

Tony (11:59):

Yeah. So let me give you another example of this. I mean, I mentioned the webinars earlier, but another example of where we’re engaging with new leaders is through our email strategy. And I think unlike what I commonly see with some of the churches that we’re engaged with Amy, we look at our email strategy as another avenue for helping church leaders, for providing helpful content, for providing tools and not as a way of just promoting what’s happening at The Unstuck Group. And I would say too many times what I see with church email newsletters and so on is it’s all about promoting what’s gonna be happening at the church in the coming weeks and months. And yes, a piece of that is important. And you would find, even in our email strategy from time to time, we’re promoting new opportunities that are coming in the weeks and months ahead. But our primary focus with our email strategy is about resourcing church leaders. We wanna provide helpful content to allow church leaders to take their next step in their leadership, the next step in their ministry. Along those lines, the podcast, hopefully you’re listening today. And as a result of that, you’re maybe one of the new podcast listeners. In fact, over the last couple years, our podcast downloads have continued to grow, and we have about 10% more podcast listeners than we had a couple years ago. And there’s a big milestone that’s coming up in the, I think it’s gonna be the next few months. So I’m looking forward to celebrating. I’m not gonna give it away now, Amy. But we’ll celebrate that in the coming months. And then again, because we’re engaging with new church leaders, there have been more and more new opportunities for us to help churches consider a next step, working with The Unstuck Group. And, by the way, our marketing team is very busy right now. I heard that one of the guys on that team has had conversations with 13 different pastors, 13 different churches, just this week. But right now we have more than 70 proposals out to churches that will hopefully say yes, we want The Unstuck Group to come onsite to help us take a look at where we’re heading into the future and help us shape the structure, the team that we need, to accomplish that mission and vision at our church. And so again, I could go on and on here, but this is, it’s just fun to see how the team is working so hard to engage with new church leaders. And as a result of that, we’re starting to actually see some momentum on the other side.

Amy (14:41):

Yeah. All that is such good news related to how we’re reaching new church leaders. And it’s also led to some fun news related to the churches that we actually served in 2021. So share some of the highlights, Tony, that you shared with our team about what we’re seeing with our churches.

Tony (14:56):

Yeah. So this is what I get most excited about. And, in fact, in 2021, we had 90 different engagements with churches and denominations or networks. And my goodness, I told our team, Amy, you will recall this at the very beginning of the pandemic, back in spring of 2020, I said, it’s gonna be a rough go. Because everybody that we serve right now is in lockdown mode, they’re doing church online. They’re certainly not interested in reaching out to us in this season. But I told the team, my goodness, if we can just stick through it, if we can just continue to work our strategy that on the other side of this, there’s gonna be all kinds of opportunities for us to serve great ministries, not only in the US, but around the world. And I think we’re starting to see the signs of that now. And so we’ve worked with churches through our Unstuck Process. We’ve worked with church, a number of churches in recent months, around multi-site and mergers. I mentioned earlier, we’ve worked with some churches around their digital strategy. You’ve done a lot of work, and the rest of the consulting team, helping churches think about their staffing and structure on this side of the pandemic and how some of that needs to change because of shifting priorities around ministry strategy. So quite a bit of work there. We did work with 12 different denominations and church networks in the last year, and that gets me excited. I should have done the math because that probably represents more than a thousand different churches. And so very encouraged by that opportunity. Among those 90 churches that we worked with in this last year, 60 of them were brand new churches, including the 500th church we’ve ever served at The Unstuck Group. And we celebrated that a number of months ago. It happened to be a church out in the state of Oregon. And so, I just, again, I love that we get to work with all kinds of churches and all kinds of ministry contexts.

Amy (17:06):

And, you know, you mentioned the 60 brand new churches, which of course we love, but I actually love that 30 of them were previous clients of ours.

Tony (17:14):

That’s right.

Amy (17:15):

And we’ve been able to develop an ongoing relationship with them, helping them continue to work their plans forward. That says a lot. I mean, makes me happy.

Tony (17:21):

In fact, after the holidays, we’re gonna be sharing a number of conversations with pastors of different size churches. And one of those pastors was one of the very first churches that our team has worked with. 10 years ago was the first time that we were on site with that church. And so it’s just fun to reengage with some of those ministries that we’ve been able to partner with for so long. So yes, I’m looking forward to sharing that story. So what that means is then we were able to be in 30 different states, including for the first time North Dakota and Idaho.

Amy (18:00):

Yeah, North Dakota.

Tony (18:01):

There you go. That’s up in your area.

Amy (18:03):

It’s my neighbor.

Tony (18:03):

Yeah, that’s right. And included work with churches in three different countries, including not only the US, but many churches in Canada in this last 12 months. And another great church in the UK. So it’s been a great season. And Amy, I do, I wanna highlight this. We, I mean, we get to work with literally every shape, every size church. And I don’t know that listeners would recognize this, but actually, I don’t know, my suspicion is maybe a good 30-40% of the churches that we work with are probably a couple hundred people or less in attendance. Depending on the communities they’re located in, those could be very large churches. But you might be thinking, you know, The Unstuck Group, they work primarily with larger churches. That’s just not the case. But on the other hand, it’s been fun to, in this last season, some very large ministries reached out to us and I’m not gonna name names, but my goodness, I just appreciate about these large churches that though they’ve experienced a lot of success, if you will, in ministry, I mean, thousands and thousands of people’s lives have been impacted by their ministries, that these churches we’re willing to say, you know what, with open hands, we recognize our mission is exactly where it was two years ago, but we wanna revisit how we’re engaging our ministry strategy in this new season. And so I love it when large churches, particularly like the ones we’ve had the opportunity to serve in the last 12 months, reach out to us to allow us to be a part of that conversation with their teams.

Amy (19:49):

I absolutely agree, coming from a large megachurch. You know, when I left, it was about 20,000 people in six different locations. It’s a certain culture that goes, you know what, let’s actually get an outside perspective.

Tony (20:02):

That’s right.

Amy (20:03):

So me too, they were some of my favorite ones to work with. I actually, Tony, had a little downtime this week too, and God brought some of the teams that I’ve worked with this pat last year to mind. And I just dropped a few emails out, and it was so exciting to hear what they’ve been doing. One pastor shared, you know, this is well, I won’t get into the size and shape, but one pastor just shared, you know, they have some real challenges in their area, but they’ve already kicked off two of their strategic initiatives, and they are on a roll towards some great expansion opportunities. And another pastor shared that they’ve baptized 250 people, actually a few more than that I’m sure by the end of the year, this past year. And so it was just so fun to celebrate with them the work that they’ve done just by that steady work of their plans.

Tony (20:48):

A similar conversation I had this past week with another pastor and, it’s I mean, great pastor, great team. They’re engaging in some phenomenal ministry in their community. And two things that I just thought, man, we celebrate this. Number one, they actually have names and contact information for 2000 new people that this church has connected with in the last 12 months. And similarly, they’ve celebrated, I think he said, 150-160 people going public with their faith through baptism. And, Amy, you know me, that’s where my heart is. That’s what I wanna help churches see. I want churches to be impacting people’s lives in that way. And so I love hearing stories like that. It’s certainly what motivates me to do what I get to do.

Amy (21:43):

Yeah, at the end of the day, that’s the stuff our team celebrates. Well, Tony, any final thoughts before we wrap up today’s conversation?

Tony (21:50):

Well, I know here we are at the end of 2021, but many church leaders are thinking about the brand new year and it is, it’s a brand new start for churches, and so because of that, I mean, it may look different. How we could help your church may look different. You may need to go through our Unstuck process to help you assess where you are today and refresh your vision and ministry strategy for the future. And then help you rethink that staffing and structure that you’re using to accomplish your mission. Some churches, and we’re hearing from several, are looking at multi-site opportunities and merging opportunities that are on the horizon. We’d love to come alongside you for that. We talked today about revisiting at this point, here we are couple years into the pandemic, but revisiting, what does our digital ministry strategy need to look like for the long run? And we’d love to share that process with you as well. And then finally you may think, gosh, it’s not an issue of vision. It’s not an issue of strategy. All of that is solid, but it does feel like we need to make sure the right people are in the right roles for this new season of ministry. And especially on the heels, I’m hearing from many churches, churches are not like other organizations in this season. We’re all dealing with some of the consequences of that great resignation you’ve heard people talking about, and if you’re experiencing that as well, our staffing and structure process could be really the conversation you need to be having in this season of your ministry, too. So if you have any questions about how we might be able to come alongside you in your leadership and your ministry, please reach out to us and you can learn more at theunstuckgroup.com/start.

Sean (23:37):

Well, thanks for joining us on this week’s podcast. Don’t forget today to visit theunstuckgroup.com/planning2022 and download the free resource on planning your ministry calendar. At The Unstuck Group, our goal is to help pastors grow healthy churches by guiding them to align vision, strategy, team and action. With every tool and process we develop, our priority is to help churches help people meet and follow Jesus. We’re here to help you get your church unstuck. Start a conversation with us today by visiting us at theunstuckgroup.com. Next week,, we’ll be taking a week off from the podcast to enjoy the Christmas season. So until 2022, have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

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