4 things churches don’t need, and what they really need instead (Part 4)
When The Unstuck Group first began, most churches reached out to us because they wanted to clarify their mission, vision, and values. And, in many cases, they were right—there were certainly some gaps in those areas that were contributing to their “stuckness.”
However, after years of serving these churches, we learned that just clarifying mission, vision, and value statements and running an improved version of the same old playbook for reach and spiritual formation strategies did not necessarily help churches get unstuck.
In other words: It’s possible to have clarity and alignment around your mission statement, vision statement, and core values—and still be doing the wrong things to get the results that you want. As we wrap up our series on the four things churches don’t need (and what they really need instead), we’ll address one final topic: why churches don’t need more evangelism training and Christian education.
WHY YOU DON’T NEED MORE CHRISTIAN EDUCATION (AND WHAT YOU NEED INSTEAD)
Every church wants to reach people for Jesus and help them take their next steps towards faith. However, in many cases, the strategies that they’re using to do so aren’t providing the results they want to experience… Often due to churches taking an educational approach, rather than creating opportunities that encourage real life transformation.
Instead of increasing their efforts around evangelism training and Christian education, we believe that churches need to develop reach and spiritual formation strategies that help people experience real life transformation. Join in as we discuss why we believe this to be true and help you develop these two essential strategies. Amy and I will cover:
- Why more training and education isn’t what most churches need
- The two key strategies every church needs for life transformation
- 3 components of an intentional, life-changing reach strategy
- Our unique 3-step process for developing a spiritual formation strategy
This Episode is Sponsored by Planning Center:
Planning Center is all-in-one church management software where you can organize your ministries and give your congregants a place to connect and get involved. With a unified platform of products, you can keep people from falling through the cracks by creating workflows to follow up with first-time guests, accept online donations, and empower your staff and volunteers to run individual ministries smoothly.
Learn what else you can do at planningcenter.com and get a 30-day free trial to start exploring for yourself!
Other Episodes in this Series
- You Don’t Need a Mission Statement – Episode 265
- You Don’t Need Core Values – Episode 266
- You Don’t Need a Vision Statement – Episode 267
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Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast, where each week we are exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. It seems to be an age old tension within the church. Some churches pride themselves on their focus on evangelism while others spotlight an emphasis on discipleship. On today’s podcast, Tony and Amy share how the healthiest churches balance both reach and discipleship and share some practical ideas of how your church can too. Before we get into today’s episode, though, if you’re new to the podcast, head over to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast and subscribe to get the show notes in your email. When you do, you’re gonna get resources to go along with each week’s episode, including our leader conversation guide, bonus resources and access to our podcast resource archive. Again, that’s theunstuckgroup.com/podcast. Now, before this week’s conversation, here’s a word from Tony.
This episode is sponsored by Planning Center, an all-in-one church management software where you can organize your ministries and give your congregants some place to connect and get involved. With a unified platform of products, you can keep people from falling through the cracks by creating workflows to follow up with first-time guests, accept online donations, and empower your staff and volunteers to run individual ministries smoothly. Learn what else you can do at planningcenter.com and get a 30 day free trial to start exploring for yourself.
Well, Tony, I’m actually bummed. This is the last episode in our current series. I feel like the topics that we’ve been working through really reflects our mission, which is to help churches get unstuck, and you’ve been pushing against things I think pastors have been told by consultants, you know, are necessary for organizational clarity for years. So just for a review. Week one was on that topic of mission statements, and you said that you can be a healthy church without a great mission statement, but you can’t be a healthy church without knowing your mission field and making the point that many churches spend a lot of time coming up with a mission statement, etching it on their walls, and it’s not a bad thing. We all need to be pointed to the great commission. It’s why our churches exists. But then you said healthy churches think about the who before the how, and healthy churches think about the people they’re trying to reach and disciple before designing ministry strategies. And I guess I really hope that podcast got churches to shift some energy to learning about their community, determining who’s in their community that they should be focused on reaching, and then designing ministry strategies that will connect with that mission field. So it was a great week. Week two you addressed why churches don’t need core values. Rather, they need to shape their culture through defined behaviors. And it starts with the lead pastor, how he or she treats other people. And this is where you used the phrase “organizational statement clutter.” And I think that was my favorite part of the podcast, because I mean, we see it all the time, right? So many words and catchy statements that really don’t cause people to behave differently. And then last week you covered vision, calling out the common flaws you see related to vision statements, you know, like just being another mission statement, lacking specificity, being too broad, et cetera. And I hope that caused lead pastors to think about if their vision is really creating a clear sense of direction for the future, because that’s what it’s supposed to do. So I’m bummed we’re almost done. But I’m curious, what’s in the final act of this series? What do you wanna close with?
Yeah, Amy, this really has been an energizing series, at least for me. And this comes out of my very personal wiring and calling to see churches get unstuck. And it’s certainly our team’s passion. And while we enjoy leading churches through our process, helping them with their vision, having strategic ministry conversations and identifying the priorities for the next 12 months, those are certainly key, but what we love the most is hearing about the success that they’re actually getting healthier, and we love hearing about the changes that they’ve made and the new results that those decisions are producing. And Amy, I love the email you shared with the team a few weeks ago. You had reached out to a pastor. This is a church our team worked with, just to ask about the progress that they were making on their plans. And you asked why he thought they were seeing the results that they were seeing. And this was his response. “We’re absolutely winning with new people. We’ve worked hard this year to make our guest services excellent. We have managed to keep our children’s ministries functioning at a high level, and I’m convinced that our vision of 40 church plants and 40 people in ministry over the next five years has been a huge help. It gives us a goal line for discipleship, which also has been incredibly helpful. And seeing our teaching connect between the pulpit and groups and children’s and student ministry has also been a real win,” He finished by saying this. “I would say all of this is culminating together. We are seeing people who have remained with us throughout the pandemic that are buying in and they’re buying into where we’re going, which is key. They’re now inviting their friends to church in large numbers, and we’re ready for their friends with very good guest services and family ministry.” Amy, I just, I love seeing these stories from the churches that we are having the opportunity to work with because these are the results that I’ve been praying for and we’ve been trying to create the unstuck process with these types of churches in mind. And so to start to see this impact that churches are having in people’s lives. I mean, it’s just so rewarding.
Yeah, I totally agree. So let’s finish strong here in week four.
Yeah. So today we’re going to talk about why churches don’t need evangelism training and why they don’t need more Christian education. But what they do need is an intentional strategy for reaching new people and spiritual formation.
I’m curious, Tony, why did you pick this topic to finish with?
Well, Amy, as I’ve worked with a number of churches through the years, I mean, there’s no doubt about it. Every church I work with, they, they wanna reach people for Jesus. They want people to take steps towards Jesus. But the strategies that they’re engaging aren’t necessarily providing the results that they want to experience. And I think that begins with looking at, you know, it’s more of an educational approach that they’re taking versus trying to encourage real life transformation. And the fact is most of us don’t need more knowledge to become more like Jesus. What we do need is what Paul kind of outlined for us in Philippians 4:9. He said this, “We need to keep putting into practice all that you have learned.” In other words, most of us don’t need more teaching and study on what Jesus modeled for us, but most of us just need to put into practice the things we have learned. You know, certainly there’s a place for Bible teaching, and we should be getting that teaching every week at church. And we should embrace and practice spiritual disciplines like studying God’s word and praying and fasting. I’m just making the argument that some churches put far too much of their ministry energy into creating more education offerings rather than helping people actually put these into practice. And Amy, that’s why I say I don’t think we need more evangelism training, and we don’t need more Christian education. Instead, we need strategies on both sides of the spectrum that actually help people experience real life transformation.
True story, Tony, on the subject of Christian education. Several years ago I was at a church, and I noticed that many of the attenders, they were wearing these lanyards around their neck. And upon closer inspection, I realized they were actually wearing name badges that had stickers on them representing all the classes they had taken at the church over the years. It was so funny.
Oh, geez. I don’t recommend that.
But that’s what I’m talking about to some degree. I’ve never seen the specific situation. But I was working with a church a few years ago, and the group was really frustrated. They had worked so hard to put together an evangelism training, and they had every person from the church actually engaged in that training. They had gone through the training, but since the year they launched it, no one person had ever been baptized at that church. And so it wasn’t a knowledge gap. Again, the strategies weren’t actually helping people put these into practice.
All right. So let’s get to the practical side of this challenge. First, I wanna start with how a church creates an intentional reach strategy, and then we’ll talk about spiritual formation. And obviously the church that you just mentioned, I mean, they had a passion for the right results, right? They wanted their body of Christ to be introducing the gospel to their friends and families, and that’s all good. Unfortunately, their how, their strategy, didn’t work and hopefully they failed forward. I don’t know where the story went from there, but, you know, learning from what they just tried that didn’t work, that they failed forward. But Tony, just curious, what intentional strategies are you seeing on the reach side of ministry that’s producing that life transformation?
Yeah, so I mean, I think a lot of churches just assume that we’re going to disciple people and then send them out, and they’re just naturally going to be leading people to Jesus. And that desire to build and equip people and then send them out, that’s good, we shouldn’t lose that. But for the churches that are getting this right, where they’re actually reaching new people and connecting new people to the church, it’s really both strategy that the church is engaging as a body and encouragement for the individual that’s a part of the congregation as well. And so let’s talk first about what the church is doing as a whole. I think one thing that they’re doing is they’re creating an invite culture. And Amy, you’ve referenced this recently in some of our content. I know I’ve looked at this personally, too, in the churches that I was engaged with personally in my past life in ministry. And then even as I look through data in current churches that we’re working with, I mean, it’s like 85-90% of people who start attending a church come because someone has invited them. And so as much weight as we put on websites and social media and marketing and all those things, really when it comes down to it, it’s still going to be people inviting people to connect with the church and then hopefully leading them to connect to Jesus and connect to faith as well. So when you help your body understand that their missional role is to build relationships, then the church can partner with them to share the good news of Jesus. And once a relationship is built, people are often more open to that invite to church. And Amy, I do know that some people lead others to Jesus in a one-on-one setting, but in my experience, I think this happens more frequently in a gathering when a person can sit under a gifted teacher, hear and ponder God’s word, and then begin to wrestle with that teaching and then respond. And so that’s the part that the church needs to do to kind of create those environments, create those opportunities, as the body of Christ to prepare for new people and to be able to present the gospel and encourage people to engage but also then take steps towards Jesus. But what that means, what that implies then, is the other side of this is we really do have to equip people in our church to build relationships. We need them to identify who are those people that God already has in your life. So we don’t need to go look for these people. It’s probably our family members, our neighbors, our coworkers, our friends. Who are we doing life with, and are we leading a life that’s pointing people to Jesus? And there are a number of ways that we can do this. We can begin by praying for people. We can actually engage in intentional time and conversation with people. We can serve people based on the needs that we’re seeing. And I think if we develop relationships well that on the other side of that is not gonna be us forcing the gospel message on people. They’re almost gonna pull that out of us because they see us living a life filled with joy, filled with purpose, filled with hope, filled with God’s love that’s being reflected in how we live our lives. And so we won’t have to force that story on somebody else. Here’s the thing though, Amy. I think we have to be more intentional about how we are equipping people. So we can’t just assume that people know how to build relationships, as crazy as this may sound. I think we have to be more specific about what that relational development needs to look like. And then, like I said, on the other side of that, hopefully, as that relationship builds, there’s an invite to connect to the church, whether that’s a worship service or some other environment. And then for the church, we need to be prepared when those guests, when those new people, show up for the very first time. And then last lastly, and this is kind of like a bridge for both the relational side of this and then how the church approaches it. It’s the content that we’re creating, both in our weekend teaching but also our digital content. We just need to make sure that periodically at least we’re answering the questions that the people are asking, the people that we’re trying to reach, are asking. And so, it might be good for you and your team to sit down and just kind of brainstorm what are the key questions that people are asking, the people that we’re trying to reach? And I would just encourage you to think specifically today, because I think some of those key questions have actually changed in recent years mm-hmm. But once you identify what the questions are, then begin to talk about what are some of the answers we can be providing? What are some of the resources we could be creating? How can we start to bridge and connect with people that are currently outside the faith and outside the church and create content that draws them to what they might experience at the church? But also what you’re doing when you do that is you’re creating content that your congregation can be sharing with their friends on social media. That’s so that third piece around content is really part of the bridge that will hopefully encourage people that are building relationships to invite their friends and prepare their friends for what they’re going to experience once they connect with the church.
That’s really good. All right. Now let’s talk about spiritual formation. Once somebody puts their faith in Christ, what are the intentional strategies that you’re seeing that are helping people to be transformed into looking more like Jesus?
Yeah, Amy, that’s a great question. And before I unpack that a little bit, would you be willing to share your story? I mean, once you put your faith in Christ, what transformed you into looking more like Jesus?
Oh, okay. Well, my backstory is that I gave my life to Christ as a kid at camp. I was eight years old, and those weeks at camp every year were super transformational. I know as a camper, we had these large group teachings, and then we hung out with our cabin mates to process that information. We also at camp had times of solitude. We’d read our Bible. We’d journal. And here’s a problem for me though, Tony. That week was transformational, but that was only one week of my life that year. The other 51 weeks, you know, were at my church. And the church I grew up in was very traditional, including many rites, you know, sit, stand, kneel, repeat after me. And so 51 weeks of the year, there was very little transformation, honestly, in my life. But if I jumped to my mid-twenties, this is really where my faith got traction. A friend of mine invited me and my husband to go to church with her and her husband, and she knew our marriage was struggling, and we had three little kids, and life was hard. But we said yes, and that decision to give their church a try, you know, changed the entire trajectory of our lives. And for Jason and I, it started by hearing really practical, relevant Bible teaching each week. I don’t think, honestly, I don’t think we missed a week for three years, Tony. It was like a fuel, a gas station, for our souls. Let’s see. Then we started serving at the church, first in kids’ ministry. And this was where we really got to know some people at the church, which was really nice. And eventually we joined a small group with some of them, the ones that we met while we were serving. Our group had longtime Jesus followers, by the way, and Jay and I often felt like we were the weakest link, but their personal invitation to invite us to the group, what we learned, was just really intentional on their part. They opened up their group and took us under their wings. So that was very transformational. And probably the last thing I’d say is we went from tipping to tithing. That was a big deal, because we were a one income family, and there was five of us: my husband and I and our three kids, and we were giving, what, $20 a week? And then we went to the whole tithe. But I’ll tell you what, that was probably a step taken out of obedience, but God did some of his most transformational work there when we took that step. So those are the top examples that come to mind. And you know, it’s interesting, Tony, even as I just shared from childhood to adulthood, it’s interesting the similarities between what made camp transformational and then what made, you know, through my church, what caused some of that transformation. Anyways, why’d you ask about my journey?
Yeah, well, Amy, thanks for sharing your story, and it’s actually exactly what I expected to hear, because I see you live out a transformed life. And I suspected that your story included some of these catalysts, because these are the catalysts that I commonly hear in almost every believer’s faith story. In fact, I challenge all of our listeners to forget about your church for a moment. Forget about all the ministries in your church, and instead, kind of go back in time to when you began your spiritual journey and think about how God stretched your faith and shaped who you are now. What happened in your life to help you move from someone who was considering the claims of Christ to becoming a fully devoted follower of Christ? You know, Amy, I first learned about this specific exercise from Reggie Joiner, and Reggie is the founder of The Rethink Group. But in his previous life, he was one of the leaders of NorthPoint Community Church in Atlanta. And when Reggie was still at NorthPoint, their leadership team actually did this exercise together. And it’s what helped begin to shape their ministry strategies, their spiritual formation strategies, at NorthPoint. In fact, they encouraged each other to identify the top five things that God used to grow each other’s faith. And they shared their personal stories, and then they tried to find similarities in each other’s stories. And what they learned through the exercise is that God often uses Biblical teaching, relationships with other people, spiritual disciplines, ministry, or kind of serving other people, and then life experiences to shape our faith, so it might be a good idea for you to engage that same conversation with your team. What did God use in your lives? And if it worked for the leaders in your church and they demonstrate full devotion to Christ, then it’s quite possible those same things, those same strategies and environments, will be important to others who connect to your church as well. Use that conversation as a foundation for establishing how the church can come alongside people and help them experience that practical teaching, the mentoring relationships, engaging spiritual disciplines, serving others and then preparing for those pivotal moments in life where we really need to lean on God. And if you started from scratch, how would you design that type of path that helps people move from where they are to where God wants them to be? How would you best equip someone to do the work God wants them to do? And remember, you can’t force spiritual maturity on anyone, but you can create those ministry environments that begin to foster the opportunity for people to experience the things God uses to grow their faith.
Yeah. Tony, I like as you talk about that, because you’re kind of coming back around from where you started. These really are life transforming steps that people have taken, those catalysts versus the education.
Yeah. That’s right. So hopefully as we talk both on the reach strategy, Amy, and about spiritual formation and discipleship, you start to see what I mean by creating intentional ministry strategies that help people experience that transformation that we’re talking about. And, you know, many times I just, when I hear people’s spiritual formation stories, it’s less time in classes and more time developing ways for people to get connected in relationships and discovering their spiritual gifts and actually practicing personal disciplines. And yes, Biblical teaching is a key component of spiritual formation, but it’s much more focused on the how do we get people actually practicing the things that we’re talking about? So maybe this is not the way you’ve approached your reach and spiritual formation strategies in the past, but it’s a staple part of The Unstuck Process, and we’re seeing it make a difference in the results that other churches are seeing. And again, Paul challenged us to actually put into practice what we’ve learned and hopefully these strategies will create those types of environments so that people in your churches begin to experience this as well.
Well, thank you, Tony, for sharing those thoughts on reach and discipleship strategies. Any final thoughts before we wrap up, really not only today’s conversation, but wrap up this series?
Yeah, I mean, you kind of outlined, again, the conversations that we’ve had in the previous three episodes, but with this series, I hope you have heard this as an encouragement. I don’t want you to think, Tony’s not satisfied with where we are right now as pastors and church leaders. That could be the furthest thing from the truth. I just think this is an opportunity. All of us are facing the challenges of engaging ministry in this season, and I think a lot of pastors that I’ve heard are just a little confused, and they know their ministry is stalled. But they’re confused because, you know, they’ve previously done the hard work of clarifying mission statements and vision statements and core values. And they’ve talked about strategies for reach and for spiritual formation, but they’re not getting the results in this time. And so I hope this series has been an encouragement for you to step back and maybe really focus on what’s at the foundation of all of these statements that we have? Where do we need to, to start to take some steps that will help really clarify and maybe solidify the foundation of who we are as a church? So that we are reaching people in our mission field for Jesus and helping them take their next steps toward Christ.
Well, thanks for joining us for this week’s podcast. Here 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 we do, our priority is to help churches help people meet and follow Jesus. If there’s a way we can serve you in your church, reach out to us today at theunstuckgroup.com. Next week we’re back with another brand new episode. So until then, have a great week.