September 28, 2017

Leaders See It First: An Interview with Christ Harbor United Methodist Church on Sidestepping Stuckness


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“Leaders see what’s coming before everyone else.” 

That’s what John Kearns said to me on the phone as we were talking about his church’s journey from church plant to their current community of about 400 people in Northport, Alabama. John was assigned to plant Christ Harbor United Methodist Church in 1998. They began in unity with other congregations around the area who sent four pioneer families to the effort. The church first met in John’s den, moved to an elementary school gym, then a high school cafeteria and eventually built their current building in 2005.
The Unstuck Group recently served alongside Christ Harbor, helping them assess the ministry’s health, plan strategically towards the vision, and structure for where they are headed. I asked John when they had a sense they were stuck and might need some outside help. That’s when he made the comment I shared above.

His church was actually increasing in attendance, giving and small groups, but the rate of that increase was slowing.

That’s what led John to see stuckness in their future if they didn’t dig into the church’s health and strategy and take action.
When did you sense you might need some outside help?
“About two years ago. Things were going well. We were still seeing increase, but the rate of increase was slower than it had been. We tried a few different things that didn’t work before reaching out to some respected United Methodist pastors at growing churches, as well as our North Alabama conference leader, who recommended The Unstuck Group.”
What was your biggest takeaway from the Unstuck process?
“We realized we had three main areas to tackle: a need for a staffing restructure, including hiring a worship leader and creating an administrative pastor role; to tweak our assimilation process; and to make plans to build a new building.
One of the most helpful aspects of the process was how collaborative it was. Because we worked together as a leadership team to build the action plan, everyone has ownership. It eliminated the need to do a sell job. The leaders who were in the room become the “sales people,” so to speak, for the rest of the congregation.”
Could you share a story of something God is doing in your church as a result of your engaging this process?
“Well, initially we dropped 5% in attendance, but we realize now that was a normal part of clarifying vision. We’re now about a year out and we’ve seen that trend reverse. We believe this new attendance increase we’re experiencing will be more sustainable because of our new ways of doing things. Our leadership team is rowing in the same direction, which is huge.”
How did the process help to shape your leadership approach going forward?
“We’ve learned how to collaborate and lead with everyone on the same page. Our leaders know and are committed to the action plans we have created. We’re in agreement. We’ll do what it takes to keep this unity as we lead into the future.”
Would you recommend the Unstuck process for other small and mid-sized United Methodist churches?
“Yeah, I would. This process does two things really well: It helps you clarify your vision for the future and gets your leaders on the same page to accomplish it, knowing what, why and how to act. That’s invaluable.”

Do you see stuckness on the horizon? Learn how The Unstuck Group’s 4 Phase Planning Process helps churches clarify vision and action plans to move the church towards it.

Tiffany Deluccia -

Tiffany is our Director of Sales & Marketing. She graduated from Clemson University, and before joining The Unstuck Group, worked in public relations with major national retail brands, nonprofits and churches on content creation, strategic planning, communication consulting, social media and media relations.

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