January 31, 2024

Stupid Church Tricks: Multisite & More – Episode 333 | The Unstuck Church Podcast

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Stupid Church Tricks (Part 4)

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Pride can sometimes cause us to think that we won’t make the same mistakes that others have made, or that we can be the exception to the rule. However, when we don’t learn from the hard lessons of others, we can end up in the same difficult place that others have been before us. 

We did this series because I hope that the church leaders who are listening today will be willing to learn from the mistakes of others and not go down these paths. 

As leaders, we’re called to be good stewards of the limited time and resources we have available. That’s why we want you to maximize your potential by avoiding some of these crazy ideas that have landed other churches in trouble.


In this week’s episode, Amy and I are going to cover some miscellaneous stupid church tricks that didn’t fit into our other categories, like mistakes related to multisite, church websites, church buildings, etc. My team doesn’t let me rapid-fire rant publicly very often, so this is probably the closest I’m going to get. 🙂 

(By the way: If you do find yourself stuck because of some of the mistakes we’ve discussed in this series, our team would love to walk alongside your church as you seek to get back to a place of health. You can start a conversation with our team at theunstuckgroup.com.)

Listen in as we discuss:

  • Common multisite & staffing mistakes
  • Church website mistakes
  • Budgeting by faith
  • More miscellaneous stupid church tricks
Focusing on what's different/distinctive at each campus is a great strategy for church planting, but a really bad strategy for multisite. [episode 333] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet When the campus pastor is teaching every Sunday, they become the primary voice and vision-caster for the campus. If your intention for multisite is to remain one united, cohesive church, this is not the approach we would recommend. [episode 333]… Click To Tweet Churches that are wise with their financial resources create more opportunities for generosity—including investments in new Kingdom initiatives that the foolish will never be able to afford. [episode 333] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet The goal should always be making it as easy as possible for new people to visit our church and hear the Gospel. Your church website is a big part of that. [episode 333] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet
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This Episode is Sponsored by PlainJoe Studios:

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 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. Pride can sometimes cause us to think that we won’t make the same mistakes that others have made, that we can be the exception to the rule. But often as church leaders, when we don’t learn from another’s hard lessons, we can end up right in the difficult place that others have been before us. On this week’s podcast, Tony and Amy finish our series on Stupid Church Tricks with a rapid-fire conversation on some of the more common mistakes they see when working with churches. Before we go there, though, if you’re brand new to the podcast, head to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast and subscribe to get the show notes in your email. When you do, you’re gonna get resources to support each week’s episode, including our Leader Conversation Guide. 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 plainjoestudios.com/getunstuck.

Amy (01:42):

Well, welcome back to all of our listeners. Tony, good to see you. You’ve been a little busy these days, haven’t you?

Tony (01:48):

Yeah, yeah. It’s pretty fun, though. I don’t know, Amy, for whatever reason, the beginning of 2023 was just, it was kind of a slow time and to the point that I was looking for opportunities to get out on the road and to engage with churches. 2024, it’s a brand new year because I, my, I looked, just looked at my calendar and I am scheduled all the way through and past Easter now at this point. So, it’s fun to be engaging with so many great churches in the season, and I love it because a lot of these conversations are around the fact that churches are growing again. They’re healthy.

Amy (02:29):


Tony (02:30):

And they’re just trying to figure out how do, how do we continue to take our next steps to carry out the mission God’s called us to. So, definitely a fun season to be engaged in “unstucker” work.

Amy (02:41):

Yeah, it, that’s a fun kind of stuck. I was just talking with the church yesterday, and they’re experiencing 40 to 50% growth right now.

Tony (02:49):


Amy (02:49):

So, something big is happening in Louisiana.

Tony (02:52):

That’s right.

Amy (02:53):

Fun stuff. And, hey, this series has been fun. Are you sort of disappointed that this is our, our last podcast in the series on Stupid Church Tricks?

Tony (03:01):

It has. . .

Amy (03:01):

Hopefully, by the way, we haven’t offended too many of our listeners.

Tony (03:07):

I just figure, you know, Amy, if, if they’ve been listening to us all these years and this is the first time they’ve been offended, they really haven’t been listening. So, I, we’ve done, we’ve, we tend to sprinkle our offensiveness, if you will, in throughout our conversations in every episode.

Amy (03:26):

Don’t loop me in on that one. That’s you.

Tony (03:31):

Well, I certainly hope we haven’t offended too many people. After all, we’ve said this before, these aren’t stupid church tricks because we think people who do them are stupid. I, I haven’t met many pastors who are trying to sabotage their churches on purpose. Rather, we’re calling these tricks stupid because they lead to pain; they lead to problems.

Amy (03:51):


Tony (03:52):

They lead to dysfunction in churches. And gosh, Amy, they always have.

Amy (03:57):

They have. And kind of, in other words, if you’ve been listening to this series and thinking, “Well, maybe we’re the exception.” You probably aren’t.

Tony (04:06):


Amy (04:06):

Because these have been proven things that have led down roads that we don’t wanna go down. And so far, Tony, we’ve talked about stupid church tricks related to leadership, to staffing, complexity, lack of alignment, last week, making things louder than the gospel message. So, because this was sort of your idea for a podcast series, how do you wanna wrap up our series today?

Tony (04:29):

Ha. Yeah. So, in today’s episode, we’re going to just cover a lot of miscellaneous stupid church tricks that didn’t fit into any of those previous categories. So buckle up. This should be fun. We’re gonna talk about mistakes related to multisite, to church websites, church buildings and so on. And my team doesn’t let me rapid-fire rant publicly very often. So that’s what you’re gonna get today. This is probably the closest that we’re gonna get to just kind of a rapid-fire reaction to some of these topics.

Amy (05:01):

That’s exactly what I was thinking as you started talking. You just wanna kind of roll off a bunch of things that are still sitting in your craw. So, Sean, if you’re editing this podcast, there might be more editing than usual, and we’ll see, Tony, what makes the final cut.

Tony (05:16):


Amy (05:16):

All right. You, I think you said multisite. So, why don’t we start with the stupid church tricks related to multisite.

Tony (05:22):

All right. So the first stupid multisite church trick is hiring a campus pastor and then letting them teach every message at that new campus. Now, I, I know that this is going to be a slightly controversial opinion. But our team has worked with enough multisite churches of all shapes and sizes, and we actually just released a multisite-focused research report back in December that confirmed what we’ve seen; this approach, letting the campus pastors teach all the time, that’s, that’s great for church planting, but it’s not so great when it comes to, to multisite strategy.

Amy (05:58):

Yeah. We’ve definitely seen a lot of churches make this mistake because, you know, Tony, it sounds good in theory. But what we’ve seen in this approach, it actually leads to disunity organizationally. When that campus pastor is teaching every Sunday, they become the primary voice, the primary vision caster for that location. So if your intention for multisite is to remain one united, cohesive church in multiple locations, this isn’t the approach that we would recommend.

Tony (06:26):


Amy (06:26):

And after all, the campus pastor role, it’s a unique one. It’s one of the most important hires you make when you’re going multisite. And the qualities that make a good church planter actually make for a pretty bad campus pastor. Church planters should be strong preachers, visionary, evangelists, and if you put someone with those qualities in a campus pastoral, pretty soon you’re gonna have an independent campus on your hands.

Tony (06:50):

That’s right, Amy. And we’ve seen this firsthand, and the issue of campuses becoming independent also tends to happen when the church makes another common multisite mistake. And that’s focusing on what’s different or distinctive at each location, rather than what all the locations should have in common. And this is a, again, a, it’s a great strategy for church planting, but it’s a really bad strategy for multisite. In multisite, we want to figure out what do people who are trying to reach have in common. In church planting, instead, we’re focused on what’s distinctive about the people that we’re trying to reach. In multisite, we have one mission. We have one vision. We have one ministry strategy, and that’s the key: one ministry strategy across all locations. In church planting, it’s the same mission, but often, there’s a different vision that each plant is pursuing and certainly different strategies to reach people in different communities. So, multisite and church planting can both be super effective strategies for expanding our reach and helping more people find Jesus. But we have to be clear on which approach we’re pursuing because they have different outcomes. In multisite, we’re trying to become one church in multiple geographic locations. In church planting, the end goal is multiple healthy churches in multiple geographic locations.

Amy (08:20):

And since you’re getting to rant a little bit in today’s episode, I thought I’d like take a minute to share some of the common mistakes I see when it comes to staffing and multisite. Is that all right?

Tony (08:29):

Oh, yeah. Please do that, Amy.

Amy (08:32):

This actually comes from a church I just worked with, and we had a good chuckle about it. But you know, primarily in the staffing area with multisite, the issues I’ve seen really come down to a lack of willingness to make tough staffing decisions. And by the way, we see this in all kinds of churches not just multisite. But in multisite in particular, we’ve seen situations where instead of having a hard staffing conversation, the pastor took someone who should have been removed from the team and they move ’em around. The most common place I see they get moved to is the care pastor. Again, instead of addressing the issue, they, they put ’em in a, a little bit safer role, or I see them continuously reduce the responsibilities of that person. And by the way, responsibility somebody else has to pick up, but they make no salary adjustment. Sometimes, they recommend them for a job at another church or make them maybe a district superintendent. In some cases, they make them a campus pastor.

Tony (09:29):


Amy (09:29):

But I like how Pat Lencioni talks about underperformance in his book The Ideal Team Player. If someone doesn’t have the competency skills to do their assigned job, in other words, if they’ve got high character and high chemistry on their team, but they just don’t have the competency to do their job, Pat calls them a lovable slacker. In other words, everyone loves them, but they really aren’t contributing to the team. And I think for many pastors character issues are actually the easier ones for them to move on, but they struggle when it’s competency. And I, I get it. I’ve sat in those awkward rooms and been the one to initiate those hard exit conversations. Some of them went well, and others didn’t. But this ultimately, for me, becomes an issue of stewardship. Right? Stewarding our financial resources well and how we spend our staffing dollars and also stewarding the time of the person who’s on that team that isn’t succeeding in their role. And we just aren’t doing them any favors by keeping them around or moving them around or taking any of those unique alternate options I just mentioned. All right. Well, we’ve harped on our multisite friends. That’s enough for today. But what are some other miscellaneous stupid church tricks that come to mind, Tony?

Tony (10:39):

Yeah. Here’s another one that really stands out to me. When church websites are clearly designed for insiders, meaning the people who are already attending and connected to the church. That, I mean, everything on the website is for people that are already in the church. So, here are a few real-life examples of how we’ve seen this play out. One example, the physical address is not listed on the website. Yeah. This is a real thing.

Amy (11:05):


Tony (11:05):

There have been many times where a church has reached out to us to work with them, and we’ve gone to their website. And we have no idea where the church is located. And so, particularly churches that are in bigger communities, if you’re expecting new people to show up on Sunday, I might suggest you put the address someplace on your website. Here’s another one: Not listing service times on the website. And again, this is something we’ve seen many churches forget to include. So they talk about all the great things that are happening at their church, but people don’t know specifically when they’re supposed to show up to their church. Not providing contact information on the website, this is, I think it’s become more prevalent in recent years, certainly for businesses. But unfortunately,, we’re seeing churches that are doing this as well. So, there may be a way for to email the church. You, some churches have added a chat feature, but I mean, we’re in ministry. There are gonna be times when somebody needs help.

Amy (12:11):

That’s right.

Tony (12:11):

There, there ought to be a phone number with somebody to call on the other side. And if you can acknowledge upfront when you call this number, this is, this is who is going to pick up the phone and chat with you, that’s gonna make it a lot easier for people to, to make that call. So, that’s another one: Not providing clear contact information on the website. And this one, Amy, it’s surprise, surprises me every time. It’s amazing how many church websites don’t talk about Jesus anywhere on the website.

Amy (12:45):

Yes. Yes.

Tony (12:45):

I mean, I’ve seen that happen way too many times.

Amy (12:48):

I can’t think of a church website that I’ve actually seen that. I was just having a conversation with a fellow ministry leader, and I’m like, y’all need to have a webpage that talks about Jesus. Every church has their, their theology, right? What we believe. But so few churches have anything about Jesus. And we’ve said this before, Tony, you know, the website is the church’s front door. This is the one area where it’s easy to make small mistakes that have a huge impact. So, again, if I’m new to the community or exploring spirituality and your church comes up in my Google search, but I don’t know where you meet, when you meet or what to expect when I get there, I am either moving onto the next church or maybe just giving up altogether.

Tony (13:30):

Exactly. And our goal should be, of course, to make it as easy as possible for new people to visit our church and hear the gospel. So, we want to remove every barrier, big or small, that might stop that from happening. And your web, your website, that’s a great place to start. And speaking of barriers, Amy, here’s another one. I’ve seen, again, way too many churches build big buildings, big auditoriums and have parking that’s just nowhere near adequate. So as, as an example, I worked with a church several years ago, brand-new 2,000-seat auditorium. This is a big church, but brand-new, 2000-seat auditorium. And they only had 500 parking spots on their property. And we know from the calculations that we’ve done in the past that for every parking spot, there’s only gonna be about 1.5 people. So what that means is that 500 parking spots will only allow for 750 people in that 2,000-seat auditorium. In other words, we’re building the room two big, and we’re not thinking about can we actually accommodate that many people on our property through parking.

Amy (14:45):

All right. So we’re going down the math wormhole. So, what’s next? I can see where you. I, I can see it in your eyes.

Tony (14:52):

Yeah. Yeah. So this one, it really does irk me, Amy, and it’s probably goes back, it just probably goes back to my days working in public administration. I was a city manager. This has been close to 30 years ago now. I was overseeing a $20-million budget. And here’s the stupid church trick related to this. It’s budgeting by faith. Now, should we have faith in Jesus? Absolutely. Should we have faith that God’s gonna provide resources for us to accomplish the mission he’s called us to? Absolutely. But should we be planning to spend 10%, 20% more than we’ve ever seen come in through giving in our churches? Absolutely not. I mean, there, there really are two types of churches when it comes to building and managing a budget. The first group looks at what came in last year, then adds a percentage and hopes and prays that it’s going to receive that, that bigger amount in the coming year. They view that additional percentage as kind of the faith portion of their budget. And it sounds spiritual, but it’s often quite foolish. The second group, on the other hand, begins to look at what came in last year. However, they then subtract a percentage from what they expect to receive in the coming year. They would argue that the entire budget requires faith. And I consider this the wise approach. And ultimately, churches that are wise with their financial resources create more margin financially and that allows for more opportunities for generosity, including investment and new kingdom initiatives that the foolish churches will never be able to afford. So, when it comes to budgeting, rather than budgeting what came in and then adding a percentage, we should look at what came in and subtract a percentage so that over time we create more financial margin and we can accomplish more ministry.

Amy (16:54):

That’s really good. And that’s enough math for today. Hey, Tony, our podcast-series sponsor, PlainJoe Studios, which I just learned, they actually, my husband just took a new lead pastor role here in the Twin Cities, and they worked with our church and did a phenomenal job. But they serve churches, nonprofits and more through architecture, branding, interior design, website development. And we asked them for some of their stupid church tricks, what they see from their seat. So, I’ll, I’ll just roll through a couple of these and see what you think about them. The first thing they said, stupid church trick that they see is initiating major change without the communications rollout plan to properly communicate the why and bring the congregation along. He’s, they said this is a struggle anywhere, but they see this specifically within the churches where they’re not building a communications plan. Second, they said, another mistake is building a massive sanctuary, kinda what you just talked about that way overestimates growth, but then their kids’ area is too small to support it. So very similar to the parking lot mistake. Next one, spending heavily on state-of-the-art technology that quickly becomes outdated and useless. In other words, choosing flashy over functional. Now, I was a weekend person, so I was all about having good gear. But I was always so thankful to have some reasonableness within our team of playing those decisions forward and making some wise decisions. And then lastly, just launching a major project or campaign without sufficient research into the changing community or future needs. So any thoughts on those, Tony?

Tony (18:33):

Yeah, especially that last one. I was just with a church, and we were looking at some of the demographic shift that has happened in the church in recent years, and they, it just caught them by surprise. They, they weren’t aware of how quickly the community was changing, and had they known that, they probably would’ve made decisions not only about facilities a little bit differently than they had but, even more specifically, the strategies that they’re engaging to accomplish their mission. So it’s, it’s just good to be aware of what’s happening in the community around us, what’s happening in our mission field to shape decisions that we’re making about the future of our ministries.

Amy (19:13):

Yeah. The last one that they shared was along this website that we just talked about. They, they just said, you know, small adjustments that you make to your website can make a huge impact and keep things fresh without breaking the bank. I think the stupid church trick here is sometimes churches drag their feet because they envision we have to revamp and do a huge web redesign. Where really making some of those small adjustments we talked about are gonna give a lot of bang for the buck. Well, this has been an interesting series to say the least. Tony, any final thoughts as we actually wrap up the conversation on stupid church tricks?

Tony (19:48):

Well, it’s been, it’s been fun. However, I am really looking forward to what’s gonna happen as a result of churches really wrestling with some of the topics that we took, talked about over these last several weeks and figuring out how can, how can we get aligned and continue to be effective in how we’re engaging our ministry so that we can help more people meet and follow Jesus? And we did this series because we hope that church leaders who are listening today will be learning from the mistakes of others. And they won’t go down these same paths. As leaders, we’re called to be good stewards of the limited time and resources that we have available. And that’s why we want you to maximize your potential by avoiding some of these crazy ideas that have landed other churches in trouble. And if you do find yourself stuck because of some of these mistakes, our team, we would love to walk alongside your church as you seek to get back to a place of health. So, you can start that conversation with our team at theunstuckgroup.com.

Sean (20:50):

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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