January 10, 2024

Stupid Church Tricks: Leadership & Staffing – Episode 330 | The Unstuck Church Podcast

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Stupid Church Tricks (Part 1)

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This series has been a long time coming. I just reached the milestone of 25 years of working in and with churches. Along the way, I’ve seen many amazing ministries. In fact, there are many more healthy, growing churches out there than you’ve probably heard about. That’s part of what makes my job at The Unstuck Group so much fun. I’m encouraged almost daily by the thriving churches I encounter…

At the same time, though, I’ve run into some crazy ideas. There’s some funky stuff happening out there. Churches are innocently making decisions today that will likely be quite damaging in the long run. 

I’m confident that churches don’t try to sabotage their ministries on purpose. However, any person who is disconnected from the situation and looking from the outside in would likely say, “That’s not going to end well.”

In other words, these are the things we see happening in churches all the time that we can’t believe are still happening. And I’m hoping that 2024 is the year churches stop doing these things.


To be clear: we’re not calling the church leaders who make these mistakes stupid. Rather, we’re calling these tricks stupid because they lead to pain, problems, and dysfunction… and they always have. Meaning, your church won’t be the exception.

There’s a quote, “A fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” So our goal in this series is not to call out churches or discourage you, but to help you learn from the mistakes of others. It’s always our goal to speak the truth in love and to assure you that even if you find yourself in these situations–there’s hope.

To kick off our series, Amy and I are unpacking some of the stupid church tricks we see churches make when it comes to their leadership and staffing, including:

  • Plurality of leadership & giving everyone a voice
  • Trying to make everyone happy
  • Avoiding a succession plan & ignoring span of care issues
  • Hiring family members & lack of staff diversity
Every church needs an emergency succession plan, and any leader aged 60 and over needs to have a plan in place for who will become the next leader and when that will happen. [episode 330] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet The only way to make everyone happy is to avoid making anyone mad… And the only way to do that is to keep things the way they are. [episode 330] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet Mediocrity is a place where there are few critics, but it’s also a place where few people become really passionate about ministry and their relationships with Christ. [episode 330] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet We need to make sure that the gifting on our team reflects the entire body of Christ and we're not just hiring people like us. [episode 330] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet
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This Episode is Sponsored by PlainJoe Studios:

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Through architecture, branding, interior design, website development, themed environments, and more, PlainJoe champions churches as Sacred Storytellers and collaborates with a wide range of world-changing people and organizations. 

To learn more about working with PlainJoe’s team of down-to-earth specialists, architects, strategists, artists, and problem solvers, visit plainjoestudios.com/getunstuck.

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Sean (00:02):

Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast, where each week we are exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. You might find it encouraging to know that there are far more churches that are healthy, effective and growing than you’ve probably ever heard of. At the same time, there are churches who are making innocent mistakes that ultimately sabotage their ministry. On this week’s podcast, Tony and Amy begin a new series on what we can learn from and how we can avoid these stupid church tricks. Before we go there, though, if you’re new to the podcast, head to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast and subscribe to get the show notes in your email. When you do, each week you’ll get resources to go with that week’s episode, including our Leader Conversation Guide, bonus resources and access to our podcast resource guide. Once again, that’s theunstuckgroup.com/podcast to subscribe. Now, before this week’s conversation, here’s Tony

Tony (00:56):

PlainJoe: A Storyland Studio partners with churches, nonprofits, faith-based organizations and educational environments to create unforgettable strategic, digital and spatial stories that lift the spirit. Through architecture, branding, interior design, website development, themed environments and more, PlainJoe champions churches as sacred storytellers and collaborates with a wide range of world-changing people and organizations. To learn more about working with PlainJoe’s team of down-to-earth specialists, architects, strategists, artists and problem solvers, visit plainjoe studios.com/getunstuck.

Amy (01:44):

Well, happy New Year to all of our listeners. We’re glad to be back, and we’re glad you’re back with us. Tony?

Tony (01:50):


Amy (01:51):

How have you been these past few weeks?

Tony (01:53):

I’ve been great. I’ve been great. But I wanted to hear about your experience, your first trip to Lubbock, Texas. Is that right?

Amy (02:00):

Yeah. Last month, I had the opportunity to go to Lubbock, Texas. Never been there before. In fact, when we opened up our time together, I said, “I really don’t know where I am. Can someone tell me where Lubbock is? ‘Cause I just book the flight. I just rent the car. I just show up and go to the courtyard by Marriott.” But it was tough ’cause I, my airline didn’t fly there, so I had to go in a different one. My car rental place didn’t work there, so I had to rent a different one. So I was a little outta sorts, but there are great things happening in Lubbock, Texas. What a great church that we got to work with. I think you were there before me, so you got to go as well. Did you try the Korean food?

Tony (02:35):

I did, I did not try the Korean food in Lubbock, Texas, but it is a great church. I mean, they’ve experienced a lot of health and growth, especially in recent months, and because of that, they’re getting ready to step into multisite. And they reached out to us for some help with that. And I couldn’t think of sending anyone else from our team to help them step into multisite that would be better than Amy Anderson. So, Amy, thanks for going out and helping them.

Amy (03:01):

Yeah, it was a great end to my year, but I’m glad it’s a new year because, as promised, we are jumping into a new series today called Stupid Church Tricks, and I have a feeling, Tony, that’s going raise some eyebrows. So, why don’t you explain where we’re headed in this series and why you wanted to kick off 2024 with this topic?

Tony (03:20):

Yeah. So I, I’ve been working long and hard to finally be able to do this series, and I think I twisted enough arms and convinced you that we could do this, both you and the rest of the team. And here’s how I wanna start off today. This series has been a long time coming, and I just reached the milestone of 25 years of working in and with churches. And along the way, I’ve seen many, many amazing ministries. In fact, there are way more healthy growing churches out there than your, you’ve probably even heard of. That’s part of what makes my job at The Unstuck Group so much fun. I’m encouraged almost daily by the thriving churches that I encounter. At the same, same time, though, I’ve run into some crazy ideas. So, there’s some funky stuff happening out there in church world, and churches are innocently making decisions today that will likely be quite damaging in the long run. And I’m confident that churches don’t try to sabotage their ministries on purpose. However, you know, any person who’s disconnected from the situation and looking from the outside in would look, likely say that’s not going to end well.

Amy (04:35):


Tony (04:35):

In other words, there are things that we see happening in churches all the time that we can’t believe are still happening. And I’m hoping that 2024 is the year that churches stop doing some of these things.

Amy (04:47):

And just to be clear, we are not calling the church leaders who make these mistakes stupid. Like you said, leaders aren’t out there trying to sabotage their churches on purpose. Rather, we’re calling these tricks stupid because they lead to pain, problems and dysfunction, and they always have. So meaning, listeners, your church won’t be the exception. Right, Tony?

Tony (05:10):

Amy, thank you. Yes.

Amy (05:10):

We hear that a lot: Our church is different.

Tony (05:12):

Yeah. Yeah. So, that’s, that’s exactly right. And here’s a quote, and I can’t remember where I picked this up along the way. But the quote is this, “A fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” So, our goal in this series is not to call out churches or discourage you, but to help you learn from the mistakes of others. I mean, it’s actually one of our stated values at The Unstuck Group that we say the hard things, but we also bring hope. So, while we might be a little more snarky or direct in this series than usual, it’s always our goal to speak the truth in love and to assure you that even, even if you find yourself in one of these situations, there’s still hope.

Amy (05:55):

Well, that’s a good setup to kick off this series. And we’re gonna start with stupid church tricks related to ministry leadership first. So what’s the first one, Tony, that comes to mind?

Tony (06:05):

And just know, we’re gonna go kinda rapid-fire through this series. So, first one is this. First stupid church trick is having more than one lead pastor where everyone is equal and there’s no primary leader.

Amy (06:18):


Tony (06:19):

And, unfortunately, we’ve seen way too many examples of churches trying to do this. The one that came to mind as we were preparing for today’s content was a church out in Missouri a number of years ago. They had six different pastors. All of them had equal authority, if you will. It was kind of a situation where they consider themselves a plurality of elders leading the church. So everyone was equal. Everyone had to agree on every decision in order to move anything forward for the ministry. And, you know, the reality is that model of leadership worked when the church was smaller. But, then as the church started to grow, that, as you can imagine, led to a lot of complexity around decision-making and making changes in the ministry. And so over time, the church started to plateau, and then, it started to decline. And that’s when they called us because they got stuck. They were stuck because they were unwilling to change, and they couldn’t reach agreement on almost any decision that they were trying to meet, to make. But here’s the biggest reason why this is a stupid church trick. For people that are gifted leaders, it’s gonna push, if you, if you try to maintain shared leadership, it’s gonna push great leaders away because leaders need to use their leadership gift. I mean, it’s part of what God has put into them. And if everyone is, on the team, is, has equal authority, equal leadership responsibility, then your best leaders are eventually gonna look for a different place to use that leadership gift. And in fact, for this church, because they continued to press forward with that shared leadership model, every one of those pastors that was leading, and I don’t know. It’s been about seven or eight years ago, I think, Amy, that we served that church. Every one of those pastors now has, has left the church. They’ve left the team.

Amy (08:23):


Tony (08:24):

Because no one had the opportunity to actually lead. So, it’s an, it’s an example of equal leadership can be challenging. Now, don’t mishear me here. We still are firm believers in team-based leadership, but we think it needs to be a, a team where there’s a clear leader on that team. And so, the reality is, I can’t name one instance where I’ve seen shared leadership work in the church where it’s led to more health in the church and more growth in the church.

Amy (08:58):


Tony (08:58):

Now, I can give you many examples where churches have tried shared leadership, and they’ve maintained. They’ve, if you will, shepherd a decline in the church. But I’ve, I can’t name any examples where it’s led to more health and more growth.

Amy (09:14):

Well, you said it probably better than I can say it, but as I was prepping for content for this, I have the same story. In fact, one of the churches was here in Minnesota that you and I served. And I think they started out with maybe 14 or 15, something like that, all sharing in this, this plurality of leadership. I think you called it plurality of elders, very similar. And again, I bet it worked for them when they were smaller. But if you remember when, when we started working with them, they had been in decline for 14 years, and they made the changes that they needed to make. And it wasn’t easy. But they prayerfully went after this. They, they were, they didn’t wanna decline anymore. They wanted to grow. And they made the hard choices. But also small churches, it doesn’t always work either. I worked with the church over Covid in the Pacific Northwest, and it was a dying church. They went through our planning process. They had big dreams where they believed God was calling them. But this issue of plurality, when I came in for staffing and structure, we tried so hard to tackle it. They actually all wanted the change. I actually did individual interviews, and they said things like, “Over time, you know, our situation has grown where there are just too many leaders, and we have a difficult time identifying where leadership actually comes from.” And another said, “As a result, we have a lack of real togetherness on the team. There’s no hostility.” He said, “We’re just not clicking. And when we don’t click, we don’t pull together.” Another said, “W”e just can’t seem to get anything done. And he said, “Why work on something when it goes to the meeting, gets ripped apart and then has to reconstruct it. You have to try and please everybody and you can’t please anybody.” And, again, they don’t have the energy to fight anymore. They said it’s easier to just get passive than to really dive in. What they wanted, what they said they wanted is they want decision-making to be clear. They want decisions that would actually be made. They wanted accountability. They wanted ownership. And at the end of the day, they just couldn’t pull the trigger. And I looked at their website and many have left. I’m not sure that they got unstuck unfortunately. I would just add one more thing to this. Plurality and leadership also doesn’t work on an interim basis. So, even if you’re in a gap, plurality is not the plan. Just think if you took a sabbatical and you just said, we’re all in charge, that wouldn’t be good for our, for our ministry, for our company. Anyways, before I go on for 30 more minutes as to why plurality in leadership doesn’t work, what’s the second stupid church trick?

Tony (11:40):

Well, unfortunately, the, the second stupid church trick is kind of a parallel to the first one. And it’s when we give everyone a voice and a vote as often as possible. And so here, we’re not just talking about leadership. We’re talking about the entire church, giving the church, the congregation a voice and a vote as often as possible. So, as we know, giving everyone an equal voice, it’s how democracies run. And I’m for democracy when it comes to government, but it’s not God’s design for the church. Let’s, let’s face it, every time you vote as a church, there are going to be winners and losers. People will take sides. But voting also, also, because of that, fosters division, as we’re, we’re gonna soon be reminded of this, as far as U.S. politics are concerned in the coming months. The biblical model for running a church involves appointing qualified leaders based on their spiritual maturity, based on their knowledge of God’s word, based on their ability to disciple and mentor others and their ability to model good character among other things. It has nothing to do with voting on the most popular person.

Amy (12:52):


Tony (12:52):

And also, related to this, when we have open forums as churches and we give anyone a voice, it doesn’t help us build consensus. And many times, again, it just leads to more division. And sometimes, it actually leads to arguments. And related to that, all church surveys, it’s just another example of how we’re trying to give everyone a voice and a decision. When we use all church surveys to make tactical decisions, it’s always going to set up some people for disappointment when their preferences aren’t chosen. So, let me just also say, when we give everyone, not just a voice, but we also give them a vote, think about, think about it this way. You are giving among those voters, you’re giving people who are spiritually immature. I mean, some may not even be Christ-followers, just to be frank.

Amy (13:46):


Tony (13:46):

You’re giving people who may not be aligned with the mission of your church. In the worst cases I’ve seen, you’re giving angry people the opportunity to have an equal voice and an equal vote in the decisions that are going to impact the future ministry, the future mission of your church. And so, I just think we need to be really, really careful about, again, it sounds like a good thing. Let’s give everybody a vote. Let’s give everybody a voice. But, it’s not God’s design for the church.

Amy (14:16):

Yeah. You made a great case. I really, I really agree with that winners and losers kind of feel after a vote because, you know, people then feel hurt, and then, hurt people don’t always act in healthy ways.

Tony (14:30):


Amy (14:30):

This idea of voting, I think, is especially prevalent in smaller churches. I, I actually don’t think you can become a very large church when you have voting in the mix on those things. I mean, small churches, they can vote on everything. You know, I worked, boy, this was several years ago now. One of the first churches I worked with, maybe the top 10, but I worked with a mission-minded pastor in South Carolina. And after hearing, she actually heard you on the Carey Neuhoff podcast, and you were rattling off all these symptoms that you might be stuck. And she just said she was in her car. She’s like, “Yep, yep, yep.” Like every box checked. So, and, and she was a leader. She had been, you know, newer to this church in the, in a couple of years. And so, she was used to doing strategic planning. And so, she brought us in to help her church get unstuck. And they came up with great plans. God had ’em in an amazing location, amazing mission field. They were mission-minded plans, God-sized plans. But the problem was their governance was to vote on everything. And I won’t get into all the details, but in the end, after about a three- or four-year battle, preferences not mission prevailed. And eventually, the church blew up through division, after division, after division, after division. So, in reality, you know, the church, it’s supposed to be unified, led like you just described. And that’s honestly why we get requests, right? Will you do a congregational survey, you know, before you come in, you know, so that the whole church can voice in on it before we work with them. And we never do that because, again, it rarely ever fosters the kind of unity that scripture models. Okay, Tony, what’s the next stupid church trick as it relates to ministry leadership?

Tony (16:12):

Yeah, this one’s really all too easy to fall into in any leadership position; it’s trying to make everyone happy. Now, the only way to attempt to make everyone happy is to avoid making anyone mad. And the only way to do that is to keep things the way they are. If you do anything new or you try to focus your efforts to become great at something, you run the risk that you will alienate some people. And when you do that, it’s going to create some level of pain in their lives. And when you do that, you’re going hear about it. And because of that, it’s just easier then if you’re trying to keep people happy, to not rock the boat. And, of course, to avoid rocking the boat, that means you’re going to have to embrace mediocrity.

Amy (16:57):

That reminds me of those signs you used to see on the wall that were fake leadership, inspirational ones. One of them was mediocrity. Anyway. But I agree with you, Tony, because success, whether it’s in the marketplace or in ministry, it also seems to foster some contempt.

Tony (17:16):


Amy (17:16):

I mean, we had a great growing church, but we got criticized. You’re not deep enough. You don’t offer this program or that program. You don’t invest ministry dollars here or there. You’re not Methodist enough. You’re not Baptist enough. You don’t use the right music. I mean, your message is married too much to the culture. Should I keep going on <laugh>? It’s just amazing the grief you get when your sole purpose, honestly, just to point people to Jesus.

Tony (17:40):

Exactly. And that’s why I classify this trick is stupid because, sure, mediocrity is a place where there are few critics but it’s also a place where few people become really passionate about ministry and the relationships with Christ. And that’s why in our recent series on casting vision and bold moves, we kept repeating the point: A strong vision, a healthy, strong vision will both rally people, and it’s going to repel people. And that’s a good thing. That’s a good thing for a healthy church to have a strong vision that is going to, it’s going to impact and rally a lot of people to be a part of that vision. But at the same time, it’s gonna push some people away. That’s a good thing. In other words, sometimes, we have to lose the approval of a few to reach the people we’re called to reach as a church. And, hopefully, that’s the goal of every church leader listening today.

Amy (18:34):

And with that approach, in a sense, you’re deciding who you’ll rally, who’s, who’s gonna stay and who you’ll repel, who’s going to leave.

Tony (18:42):

Well, Amy, I could talk about that one for a while, but now we’re going to shift our conversation to some of the stupid church tricks involving staffing. And, Amy, since you’re our staffing guru, I’m expecting that you’re gonna jump in on part of this conversation, but the first, but the first, it, there’s too many too many words there.

Amy (19:10):

Why don’t you say stupid staffing? No?

Tony (19:13):

Yeah, yeah, yeah. But the first stupid staffing trick is this: It’s elevating someone to a leadership position over a campus or a core ministry area when that person is maybe only 95% on board with your ministry strategy or your church’s values. And you may not have known this, but it’s completely possible for someone to 100% love Jesus, for someone to 100% love you in the love your church, but only love 95% of your strategy or your church’s values. And when you let someone either lead an entire congregation at a campus or lead an entire core ministry area of you, your church, that last 5% gap, it can become huge. So, how we accomplish the vision and the behaviors that shape our values, those are very, very important.

Amy (20:11):

Yeah. As you’re talking, Tony, it’s reminding me of the principle of the skewed arrow. If you can picture a big arrow all going to the left full of a bunch of little arrows all going to the left. I think it was John Maxwell who said, who’s more dangerous to an organization: the arrow that’s pointing to the right or the one that’s pointing to the left but is just skewed a little bit? And of course, it’s the skewed arrow because they look so much like us. But if you, if you think about a plane that just goes off trajectory by a few little points, by the time they fly from Los Angeles to New York, they’ve landed somewhere completely different because of that little bit of a skew in their flight pattern. That make sense?

Tony (20:49):

It sure does.

Amy (20:50):

We’ve seen that, right? With a leader with positional influence that’s in charge and there’s that gap, there’s that skew in alignment, and that gap gets magnified by everyone they influence. In fact, if someone’s in leadership and they’re not fully in alignment, the people that person influences, they have no reason to be fully aligned either. Because before long, you know, you’ll see, you’ll have an entire congregation of people moving in a completely different direction. And we can all imagine how that plays out.

Tony (21:20):

Amy, you and I don’t even have to imagine it because we’ve seen it happen to churches we’ve worked with and been a part of.

Amy (21:27):

Yeah. You know, probably the saddest experience I ever had in my time here with Unstuck was with a, I think it was four- or five-location multisite church. And they had Jesus-loving campus pastors, but they all had just a little different take on the core ministry strategy of the church, particularly on the weekend strategy. And because they were all campus pastors who also taught in-person at their campuses, those little cracks quickly became large gaps as they tried to stay one church in multiple locations. And those schisms, it broke up the church. And most of the locations are no longer a part of the church. And it’s sad to me because it didn’t have to be that way, but full alignment is critical, whether it’s overseeing a campus or a core ministry area.

Tony (22:10):

That leads us then to the second staffing stupid church trick. And I’ve seen churches make it on many occasions, and it’s this: it’s avoiding a succession plan so that young leaders are forced to move on because the young leaders will eventually move on. It will either happen because of the uncertainty created when there’s a lack of a clear plan for who will become the leader. Or it’ll happen because that young leader needs to lead their own thing, and there’s no plan in place for them to assume that next leadership role. In either case, you’re essentially encouraging them to plant their own church or to lead another church in your community. And they might as well do that because they already know the community. They know the people in it. They have a base of financial and people resources that they’ve developed. So, naturally, rather than, you know, move across the country, why wouldn’t they either plant or look to lead another church in your community?

Amy (23:03):

Yeah. And we know that succession is a hot topic in churches today because we’ve had an increasing number of churches reach out to us for help and guidance in this area. And I wanna commend those churches, honestly, for being proactive because it’s true—every church needs an emergency succession plan. And any leader, age, what 60 and over, needs to have a plan in place for who will become the next leader and when that will happen.

Tony (23:26):

Yeah. And, Amy, the great thing is, though we’ve seen some mistakes along the way when it comes to succession, we also have a number of examples with churches that The Unstuck Group has served that have moved through succession in a healthy way. I mean, a number of churches come to mind. The Crossing in Costa Mesa, California, we’ve actually shared a bit of their story in our content in the past. Journey Christian Church near Orlando, Florida, they’ve recently gone through a very healthy succession. The Woodlands Methodist Church near Houston, Texas, I’m actually in the Woodlands this month to help them again. But they’ve recently gone through very successful succession process, and then a church that’s in the middle of this, but the hand off is going so well, is Center Point Church in Utah that’s out near Salt Lake City.

Amy (24:23):


Tony (24:23):

Gosh, there’s so many good things happening at that church. But one of the best things is how their pastor, who has been there for several decades, has identified the right leader, and they are so intentional and purposeful about what the, what the hand-off process is going to look like.

Amy (24:43):


Tony (24:43):

And I just think, I mean, this is basic stuff. But the, the senior pastor that’s retiring has a plan for what their next steps are gonna look like. The, the, the new senior pastor, they’ve brought us in to kind of map out what their next steps are gonna look like.

Amy (25:00):


Tony (25:00):

And then, they’re preparing their church for what the next steps are gonna look like, and it’s just, you can tell they’ve thought it out. They’re working their plan, and on the other side of this, it’s gonna be a healthy church. And everybody is gonna look back and say, “That, that was incredible how they handed off leadership to the next leader.”

Amy (25:21):

Yeah. And I think with our church in Utah, which again, I was so impressed by them, you know, they’re coming up with their strategic plans, their vision, their bold moves. And the outgoing, founding lead pastor will be able to cash in his chips and really endorse that new leader. And they aren’t, I don’t think they’re gonna miss a beat. In fact, I think they’re just gonna soar.

Tony (25:39):

That’s right.

Amy (25:40):

Did you wanna share any succession that didn’t work by name? Just kidding. Moving on. All right.

Tony (25:51):

I’m thinking them in my, in my head, but I’m certainly not gonna share them on the podcast.

Amy (25:56):

Yes. That’s right.

Tony (25:57):

Alright, Amy, I like to hear what else is on your stupid church staffing tricks?

Amy (26:02):

Hmm. How, we’re almost outta time. All right. Lemme see how fast I can go.I would say the first is when the senior pastor has a really large span of care issue. So then, he or she hires an executive pastor and transfers all those same direct reports to them. Right?

Tony (26:18):


Amy (26:19):

“Why would they do that?” you ask, right? I mean, in essence, they resolved one issue for the senior pastor but created another for the executive pastor. And here’s, here’s actually why I think they do that, Tony. And it plays into one of the stupid church tricks you said before. I think they have long-standing staff who’ve been in these positions for a long time who are older in years, and then they believe those people would say they could never work for fill-in-the-blank. So, they never wanna, you know, pare it down, get a, get the right leader in that place because this person has been so accustomed to reporting to the senior pastor for so long. And so everyone stays at the top of the org chart, and no one’s feelings are compromised then. I, I worked with one church, Tony, where there were 14 direct reports of the lead pastor that were then passed to the executive pastor. But to their credit, they, they knew that wouldn’t work and brought us in because they needed that outside perspective to help them right-size the span of care of their team and their leadership team in a sense. And so I say it’s a stupid church trick because span of care issues and not making those tough calls to get the right structure, I live that and I can see where it just tangles, and it, what’s the word? It just kind of puts the church in neutral for a while. It kind of idles because we, we have too many people to manage. Another example that I’ve seen, we’ve seen far too many times are church leaders who hire their whole family. Right? Now, I get why we hire family members. Good people are usually married to good people, and being in ministry is not a job you just leave at the office each day. It’s much more consuming than that. So I, it’s tempting to add your family members because hey, they love the church. They’re talented. They love Jesus, or it’s easy to add family members of other staff team members or family members of the board and elder team. But I’m just saying, it gets messy. For example, team members can become uncomfortable challenging ideas because the pastor’s wife is in charge of that, for example. Or we have an underperformance in a ministry area, but Ooh, that’s the son of the elder board chair. Or non-family staff can often feel, you know, the ones who aren’t related, can maybe feel like there’s favoritism. I know communication can be tough. My husband and I were in ministry for 12 years, and I’m sure it was hard on the people around us. And we had to have boundaries on pillow talk and what we shared, what we didn’t. And also, of course, if you’ve had any of that on your staffs when one person leaves, any attached family in other roles leave, too. In other words, when it goes bad, you know, it goes pretty bad. And I’ve worked with many churches that have husbands and wives scattered throughout the organization. And my advice to them is just to reduce and not increase the familial relationships where they can. It just works better. And then, lastly, the final mistake that comes to mind is just not embracing diversity on staff. That’s a stupid staffing trick, meaning we don’t have enough diversity of age, ethnicity, gender and giftedness. Most church leadership teams that I work with, they’re great, but they’re fairly homogenous. And when they are, they’re lacking that diversity of thought. The diversity of ideas and perspectives. And I say this all the time when we’re going through leading from your strengths: We all know, like in our, in our head, we know that we are are not all alike, but yet we tend to be drawn to and hire people who are just like us. So, I don’t know, Tony, anything to add to that?

Tony (29:48):

No, but as you were talking about that last one, the, I, there’s a church that came to mind. This is the church, I think it was somewhere in the southeast. And over time, the staff team, the entire staff team became older.

Amy (30:02):


Tony (30:02):

It became whiter. It became more male than their mission field did.

Amy (30:07):

Mm-Hmm. Wow.

Tony (30:08):

And that’s not because the staff changed, it was because their mission field had changed and they weren’t intentional about adding staff to the team over time that reflected their community in the mission field, the people that they were trying to reach. And so, I, I, I couldn’t agree with you more, Amy. We just need to make sure we’re embracing diversity in all those areas and particularly around giftedness too. You know, among all of those areas, it may be gifting where we see sometimes the biggest gaps on teams.

Amy (30:42):


Tony (30:43):

And so just making sure that the gifting on our, on our team reflects the entire body of Christ and not, we’re not just hiring people like us.

Amy (30:51):

Yeah. You know, I actually think this is one value that corporate America might do better than the church. I think there’s much more intentionality in business to have a diverse team and for different benefits, right? I mean, a business win is very different than our church mission win, but I think we need to have that same type of approach to add diversity so that we can be more effective.

Tony (31:12):

Especially because our win is much more important than a business.

Amy (31:17):

That’s right.

Tony (31:17):

Well, Amy, I wish we were making these things up, but we’ve seen that each of these examples leads to church splits. And the funny thing is that any reasonable person would probably look at these situations and say, “Tony, you’re just, you’re stating the obvious. Of course, these examples will lead to divisions and churches. Churches pay you for that type of advice?” They do. And I can understand, though, if you come to that conclusion, but if the advice is so obvious, why do so many churches continue to go down these same paths, thinking that their situation is somehow unique?

Amy (31:53):

Exactly. And just to reiterate what we said at the start, we aren’t calling these stupid church tricks because pastors who use them are stupid. In all of our years of consulting, I have yet to meet a pastor who wants their church to fail. But that’s why we wanna make you aware of these stupid church tricks, what they are and how they’ve played out for other churches so that you can learn from them and do it differently.

Tony (32:14):

Yeah, that’s right, Amy. We’re all called to be good stewards of the limited time and resources we have available, and that’s why we’re pulling for you to maximize your potential and avoid some of these crazy ideas that have landed other churches in trouble.

Sean (32:30):

Well, thanks for joining us on this week’s podcast. At The Unstuck Group, our goal is to help pastors grow healthy churches by guiding them to align their vision, strategy, team and action. In everything that we do. Our priority is to help churches help people meet and follow Jesus. If there’s any way we can serve you and your church, reach out to us today at theunstuckgroup.com. Next week, we’re back with another brand new episode. Until then, have a great week.

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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