How to Embrace Bold Moves in 2024 (Part 4)
This week, we’re wrapping up our series on “How to Embrace Bold Moves in 2024.”
So far in this series, we’ve explained WHY we believe every church needs at least one bold move they’re working towards, discussed HOW to clarify those bold moves, and then gave some examples of bold moves from real churches—both those that succeeded and those that failed.
Now, in the final episode, we want to discuss some of the common themes we’ve seen in churches we’ve worked with that contributed to their bold move succeeding. Obviously every church is different, but I think there are some commonalities that leaders can take away and apply to their own leadership.
MAKING BOLD MOVES ACTIONABLE
Working with hundreds of churches over the last decade, it’s become clear: Churches generally seem to struggle with follow-through on strategic shifts—including bold moves.
In this episode, Amy and I will discuss why many churches struggle to implement bold moves, offer tips for making your bold moves actionable, and explain how to structure your team to implement your bold moves.
- Why churches struggle with implementation
- How to make bold moves actionable
- How our bold moves inform our team structure
- Common staffing & structure mistakes
This Episode Is Sponsored by Planning Center:
A lot of people in ministry feel overwhelmed by the amount of details they need to organize, volunteers they need to schedule, or events they need to plan to cultivate community. But Planning Center, an all-in-one church management system, can help you organize your ministries and give your congregants a place to engage. Anyone can sign up for the free plan of any product to try it out today at planningcenter.com!
Other Episodes in This Series
- Why Your Church Needs to Embrace Bold Moves – Episode 320
- How to Clarify Your Next Bold Moves – Episode 321
- When Bold Moves Succeed (and Why Others Fail) – Episode 322
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Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast, where each week we are exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. Determining what your next bold moves are is typically not as challenging as actually implementing those bold moves. In fact, most churches don’t have a planning problem. They have a follow-through problem. On this week’s podcast, Tony and Amy wrap up our series on how to define the next bold move for your church with a conversation on how to implement and follow through well. If you’re new to The Unstuck Church Podcast, before you listen, go to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast to subscribe to get the episode show notes. When you do, each week you’ll get an email with our Leader Conversation Guide, bonus resources and access to our podcast resource archive. Again, that’s theunstuckgroup.com/podcast to subscribe. Now, before this week’s conversation, here’s Tony.
A lot of people in ministry feel overwhelmed by the amount of details they need to organize, volunteers they need to schedule or events they need to plan to cultivate community. But Planning Center, an all-in-one church management system, can help you organize your ministries and give your congregants a place to engage. Anyone can sign up for the free plan of any product to try out today at planningcenter.com.
Well, welcome back to our listeners, and Tony, always good to see you. Today, we’re gonna wrap up our series on How to Embrace Bold Moves in 2024. It’s hard to believe, isn’t it, that we’re almost at the end of the year and looking to 2024.
Have, have you been on the road again this past week?
Yes. I’ve been on all sides of the country. So, I was in Seattle just about a week ago and then Augusta, Georgia, in recent days.
And got the chance in Augusta to work with Quest Church. They’re doing so, they’re doing so great, Amy. It’s, it’s funny; sometimes, I feel like I have to apologize for being called The Unstuck Group because we don’t really work with stuck, stuck churches that often.
Usually, the stuckness is around healthy, thriving, growing churches that are just trying to figure out: What does our next step look like?
And it was so fun being with that team because they’re seeing so much life change right now, and they’re talking about how do, how do they continue to expand so that they can continue to reach more new people in their community. So, and I know you see this all the time, too. I mean, the churches we serve are doing great ministry.
And it’s just fun, fun to come alongside those pastors and church leaders.
Yeah. The church I was working with, they’re a two-location multisite church. They’re up and to the right. They’re actually in sustained health. So a healthy church, top of the life cycle. It was all just about how do we untangle, reform and get ready for what God has next, you know, as they look to the future. So, I agree; these are fun churches to work with. And this series, I think has been really helpful for people to be thinking about next year: What bold moves are we gonna make? And I appreciated the examples, and we got some feedback from our listeners, too. They appreciated hearing examples of what they’re doing. So, well, back to this series. You know, we’re in the last episode, but so far, we’ve really explained why we believe every church needs to make at least one bold move that they’re working towards. And we’ve discussed how to clarify those bold moves. And then last week, you gave some great examples of bold moves from real churches, ones that both succeeded and failed. So where do you wanna go today, Tony?
Well, at the end of our episode last week, we talked about some of the reasons bold moves go wrong or sometimes why they fail. But we’d like to end the series on a, on a positive note. Are, are you good with that today, Amy?
Yeah, let’s not go the Tony route. Let’s go the Amy route. Let’s go positive.
So anti-cynicism today: we’re down with cynicism.
And we’re gonna talk about how we can approach bold moves in a positive way.
Yep, they’re gonna hear our smiles through the podcast recording here. Yeah, so, we wanna discuss some of the common themes or strategies that we’ve seen in churches we’ve worked with that have contributed to their bold move succeeding and taking off. And, obviously, every church is different, but I think there are some commonalities that our listeners can take away and apply to their own leadership.
Yeah. And we’re gonna go deeper into couple of those commonalities in a moment, Amy, but first, let me just state the obvious. Churches generally seem to struggle when it comes to follow through on strategic shifts, big changes that they’re making, including the types of bold moves that we’re talking about. In fact, if you ask your staff team to anonymously vote on whether or not the team is good at following through on plans for the future or not, my guess is that the majority of your church staff teams would indicate that this is actually a challenge. There’s a challenge following through, and I say that because that’s what the raw feedback is that I’m hearing from many, many church staff teams that I’ve worked with through the years. So, and I think some of that challenge with follow through may be because of reasons like this. There are pastors and then senior leadership teams that they’re almost characterized by serial starting, but they have trouble finishing big ideas. So, it’s almost like they’re always chasing the next new idea.
Mm-Hmm. You know, just to weigh in on that, I was just looking at, you know, our Unstuck Teams Assessment where we look at health and performance. There’s 72 questions on there, and I just went back to pull out what the averages are. We’ve got some 3,000 entries in there now, and this, this thing of “We start new things but we don’t see it through,” was the seventh worst score of all 72 questions. So, it is a habit of churches to start things and not see them through.
Alright, this probably has nothing to do with bold moves and action plans, but what, what was the worst score for teams? Do you recall?
Training on risk issues is still the worst score that churches and that’s a solvable problem, right?
We need to know how to respond to those. But, sadly, the second worst score is still people reflecting on their own health saying that I regularly take my Sabbath.
And so they’re . . .
Very high on the list is that our team, my supervisor encourages it, you know. But that I actually take it is still the second worst score on the assessment.
Wow. Yeah. So that’s just an indication that leaders, pastors are encouraging Sabbath, but the team is not actually taking advantage of that. Okay. Well.
Yeah. Again, nothing to do. Well, it probably has a lot to do with bold moves, actually, because if you’re not practicing Sabbath, you probably don’t have the energy and the focus that you need on the big bold moves in front of us. So maybe they are connected here. But that’s, that is one of the reasons is the serial starting. And so making sure that we’re not constantly chasing the next new idea. I think another reason why church staff teams struggle with follow through is they have the wrong mix of people on the team, and there’s, there’s really not somebody in the room with that wiring to drive follow through.
And we’ll get to some of that in a, in a bit. And then maybe a lack of a written plan with accountability. I see that time and time again. So there’s a clear vision for what the team is wanting to see happen next, but they don’t actually have a written actionable plan that they can use for accountability, for follow through. And then, I think maybe last thing I’ll highlight here, and then we will shift to more of a positive approach in the rest of the conversation, is that sometimes church staff teams, it’s, it’s because they don’t have the right structure to support the strategic direction. So there’s, there isn’t clear ownership of the strategic shifts that they’re trying to make, including bold moves. On the other hand, I’ve worked with several, several teams that have excelled in moving new initiatives forward. And let just rattle off some of the characteristics of these teams, the, the teams that succeed in seeing bold moves all the way through to completion. First, there’s an urgency. I mean, the bold move is big enough that there’s an urgency that they sense demands an action plan. So, they wanna make sure they start moving on whatever that bold move is. Secondly, that action plan is actually written down; it’s documented so that everybody is aware of it. They also have a plan for progress check-ins. So, periodically, they’re checking in to see how are we doing when it comes to moving these action plans forward?
And that then makes sure there’s good accountability in place. Another good practice I see is that the team was structured to confirm ownership and to make sure there are clean lanes of responsibility. So everybody knows who’s responsible for what. Another example is that they’ve not only identified the initiative and the owner of each initiative, they’ve built teams around those initiatives.
And commonly, those teams include both high-capacity staff leaders but also high-capacity lay leaders from the church. And then, lastly, I think one of the commonalities I see in churches that actually succeed when it comes to follow through is that the top leadership, so think about the church board or elders, the senior pastor, the executive pastor, the senior leadership team, they’re all completely bought in and aligned around this future direction. So, as I’m kind of just considering all of those, Amy, it seems like this is the common theme. The big thing is that they’ve made an action plan, and then, they’ve structured their team to implement that plan.
I love that, Tony, and that’s probably the key takeaway from today’s episode. Churches who succeed in their bold moves have an action plan and they structure their team to implement that plan. So, let’s start with the first part. How do we make our bold moves actionable?
Well, let’s begin. You need to have a plan. You need to have a plan of attack for how you’re actually gonna see this bold move through to the very end. And so these are the characteristics that we coach churches to make sure that they have in place when it, when it comes to their action plans. First of all, we don’t recommend listing out everything that needs to be done to accomplish the bold move and just running after all of those tasks and action items. Instead, we encourage teams, even the largest teams that we serve, to just look at 90-day sprints, where within that 90 days, they’re being reasonable about who will do what by when within these 90 days. So, they’re not trying to accomplish everything at the same time. They’re really working through priorities to make sure they focus on first things first. Secondly, these plans are clear. The goals are measurable, and there’s kind of built-in accountability that goes with that. And so, when we are working with teams to start to define the initiatives to move a bold move forward, we wanna make sure that they clearly identify upfront for each initiative: what’s the objective?
What are we really trying to accomplish? And is it tangible enough that we know at the end of this initiative we, we did the work that we were supposed to do? So making sure that it’s measurable so that we can have accountability around that initiative. And then, lastly, we just start, we encourage rhythms around measurement evaluation and then, when needed, shifting course. So just making sure that as we get into the action plans, that we’re making room for the adjustments that will be needed. And the reason I say that, action plans are much like budget plans. We don’t know exactly, at the beginning of a fiscal year, we don’t know exactly how all of the money is going to be spent dollar-for-dollar, cent-by-cent. What we do know is that we have a plan for how that money is going to be spent, and within that plan, churches know, healthy churches anyways, we need to build in some flexibility because there are going to be some unexpected expenses or unexpected opportunities that we need to pursue. And we just need to make sure that the budget can be flexible as we run into those opportunities. Same way with action planning. We should do our best upfront to know exactly this is what’s gonna be done by who, by when. But it’s just like a budget plan. Once we get into the action plan, there will need to be adjustments, and we need to be able to be flexible and have the right strategy in, in place so that we can shift course as needed. So, here’s one thing to remember related to all that: there’s no such thing as a perfect action plan. The best plan is simply one that’s underpinned by a clear mission. So, we know why we’re doing what we’re doing.
We have clear strategies. We’re, we know how we’re gonna move this, this bold move forward, and it’s being executed by an aligned team so we know who’s going to be responsible for it as well. And the reason why I mentioned that is I’ve worked with some teams, with maybe too many perfectionists around the table. And they’re, they’re trying to get to the perfect plan, but because they’re pursuing the perfect plan, they’re not actually taking any action. So, we just need to remember there’s no strategic plan that is so good that it can’t fail. We need to remember there’s no strategic plan that is a replacement for a well-structured, high-capacity team. And we need to remember there’s no strategic plan that is a win in and of itself. In other words, the win isn’t having a plan. The win is completing the plan and celebrating the mission impact on the other side. And so, let me just say this for the senior pastors that are listening, you need to have a plan. I know some of you think I can just preach my way to the accomplishment of this bold move. And yes, we need you to preach. We need you to cast vision. We need you to rally the congregation with their prayer, their time, their financial resources to see this bold move through to the end. But preaching is not enough when it comes to these bold moves. So you, you need to find somebody on your team that can help you create the strategy, the action plan to actually see the vision through. Alright, Amy, so we’ve covered the first part of the equation, which is having a clear, measurable action plan. But for this next part, I think I’m gonna defer to you. Once this action plan has been created, how should our strategy kind of inform our team structure to move that plan forward?
Yeah. You know, when I work with churches, I think it always starts by assessing your current structure. Questions that leader, the lead pastor, the executive pastor needs to ask. First question I always ask when I look at restructuring around new plans is: Does our current structure allow the lead pastor to do what only he or she can do? And we, we hammer this all the time; you know, the spiritual leadership, primarily through teaching, that lead pastor has to do that. They need to be the leader of leaders for both the board and the staff. They need to be the primary vision caster and the champion of culture. And the reason I say that, Tony, is it’s gonna be very hard to plan and execute bold moves at the church if the lead pastor, you know, doesn’t have time to get around the table to dream about the bold moves, if the lead pastor doesn’t have time to invest in creating and casting a compelling vision around those moves or if the lead pastor is so consumed by the whirlwind of ministry that there isn’t any energy to keep a focus on the bold moves.
So, that’s why I always start at the top of the org chart to make sure that lead pastor is in their right seat. Another question I often ask the church when we’re kind of assessing a restructure is: Do we actually have enough high-capacity leaders in key positions that can lead the action plans? And by high-capacity leaders, I mean people who are great at building teams and delegating the core pieces of the action plan. As you were just talking about, you know, creating the plan and executing it, it just occurred to me, we as churches, when I do staffing and structures, we are always covered on that pastoral shepherding side of the equation. And a lot of churches really are missing these type of leaders who know how to build action plans, project management. But we need those people, especially if we’re a growing church; they need to get into our team. We need those, those strengths of theirs. Because without these types of leaders in place, many bold moves are really choked by a few people trying to do everything. Right? They kind of clog it up because we’re, we’re not building teams or asking these one or two people to do something. And while you need doers on those teams that you build, you don’t want the leader to be a doer. And you mentioned it, too; I’ll just throw it in here. When you mentioned about having too many bold moves, it might’ve been the last episode when we were talking about that, there’s a diminishing return when we have too many bold moves. And so I think as I’m looking at the structure and assessing the high-capacity leaders, I’m re-asking the question: Do we have the leadership strength to accomplish both our ministry strategies and these bold moves? And if I sense they don’t, we’ll talk through a less-is-more type of approach and how to phase that out because bold moves require leaders who can provide focus leader, leadership, not really dispersed to everything. Which leads to my last question, is just: Do we have the staff leadership capacity to make this bold move? In that, if the team’s already underwater, in other words, with too much ministry, there’s not gonna be sufficient time and energy for a bold move. In fact, you know this. When we work with churches that are getting ready to go multisite, one of our multisite readiness assessment checkpoints is staff capacity. Right? Going multisite, of course, is a bold move, and it will add to a team’s workload. So we have to ask: Do we have margin in our staff? Can they add more? And if not, is there a way that we can create this stop-doing list to make room for the bold move? So all of these, I’m not saying we’re not gonna do a bold move, but when it comes to structure and capacity, these are the things we take a step back before we really pull the trigger fully on that bold move.
Alright, that’s, that’s very good, Amy. But let’s get practical here. How should churches practically go about structuring their teams to implement their bold moves?
Well, once a team is clarified their core ministry strategies, so both their reach strategies and their discipleship strategies and their bold move strategies, then they’re ready to move into that structure phase. So, practically, here are the steps I take when helping churches on this. First, you have to create the structure first. In other words, we wanna create the positions and the boxes and look at those roles and responsibilities. So structure first. Put people out of your mind as best you can, and get your current structure out of your mind, as well. We, you know, when you take this opportunity to restructure around these bold moves, let’s not try just to add on to a current structure. But take a step back; forget the people. Forget the structure for a minute if you can. This is your opportunity to rebuild around your strategies versus building it around who’s on the team and around legacy reporting structures. You know, we often ask that in a like, HR situation, “Would you hire that person again?” You’re kind of giving yourself permission to go, “Would I really structure this way again? Would I have this role? Would I have this person in this role?” This is your opportunity to, to back up and think that through. Second, you mentioned it earlier, we wanna start thinking about clear ministry lanes. So we wanna design this structure based on core ministry strategies so that ministry lanes are clear. I mentioned this church I was working with this past week. There was a lot of, like, there is a multisite, lots of dual roles and crossovers, but the ministry lanes had just gotten a little murky. And how I, I think they started figuring out who they had and who could lead what. We wanna get that out of our mind and really just clear up those ministry lanes so that we have clear leaders, clear owners of the high ministry goals. For example, you know, one, one role I often talk about in churches, larger churches is this serving director role. Everyone needs to recruit team members. Every, every pastor, every ministry leader needs to have the responsibility of recruiting. But you do want one person who owns: How do we do serving at our church? What are the various tiers of leadership that we wanna build into this? And we wanna have one way to respond when people raise their hand to serve. And we wanna have multiple onramps. So when you have a serving director, they think through all of that for your church. Versus having 20 different people in different ministry areas all create that. So, that’s what I mean by clear ministry lanes and ownership. And then, third, as you’re building the structure, you wanna think span of care and just be realistic about how many direct reports each leader can handle. And this is especially important for the lead pastor as I mentioned earlier. The more people that are reporting there, the less that lead pastor can focus on those things that they wanna do. So practical step number one is just create that structure first. Then, of course, the next step would be now determine who’s the right person for each role. And if you’ve been around our content, our listeners, you know, I’m gonna say this: People in positions should not be based on seniority or tenure; rather, it should be based on the proven performance and their leadership capacity. You know, we’ve all heard the stories of people who get promoted beyond their abilities. Well, putting a large leadership role on someone who doesn’t have the required leadership capacity will be the lid on your effectiveness of living out these bold moves.
Yeah. And if I might, I’d like to add to not just seniority or tenure but title.
In other words, there are some with the pastor title that are very good pastor shepherds but not very effective when it comes to leading other people.
So, just because someone has the pastor title doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the right person for this role either. Amy, you know, our team, we’ve probably led several hundreds of churches through these structured conversations. What are some common mistakes that churches make in this area that you’d want to warn our listeners to avoid?
Hmm. Good question. You know, our, our process is pretty thorough, and we address these most common mistakes as we coach churches to their new structure. But without that coaching, here’s what I think churches, where I think they might make mistakes. Number one, we’re alluding to it. Putting the wrong leaders in place is one of the biggest mistakes through a structure conversation because they probably haven’t done a solid, cross-functional diagnostic assessment of their team members. And because of that, they often put the wrong leaders in their place. So what I mean by cross-functional is one of the exercises we do is we review people’s performance and their leadership capacity. And there’s typically three or four leaders in the room. And when we, and by the way, we have this conversation ’cause we wanna know how to effectively coach and raise people up. It’s not a punitive conversation. It’s a what, where’s the gap and how can we remove some blind spots so that these people God’s entrusted to us, that they can really be the best version of themselves. It’s not unusual at all to have three leaders in the room. And we’ll, we’ll put Tony up, “All right, let’s talk about Tony’s competence.” And the lead pastor might go, “Oh, Tony is a home run. Every time I ask him to do this, he gets it done and then some.” Then, the other two are at the table going, “Well, that’s what you see. But behind the scenes with his peers leading down. . .” I’m just making that up, but that’s not an unusual conversation.
And then the, in fact, I just had this last month, you know, the senior pastor just kind of leaned back in his chair, and he is like, “This is really helpful information. I, I would never would’ve known that had we not talked about it.” And that’s common for a lead pastor because they get surprised because being at the top of the org chart, they often only have “a view” of their leaders. And so being diagnostic in the areas of character, chemistry, competence, leadership capacity also gives us a great working language for how we need to and where we need to coach people. But when it comes to restructuring, without those conversations, we can put the wrong leaders in the wrong seats. Another common mistake, I think around restructuring to your bold moves is not paying enough attention to diversity when it comes to senior leaders. And you were just saying, you know, a lot of, when we talk about titles and pastors, pastors aren’t necessarily project managers. They’ve got, they’ve got some mad skills; skills I don’t have. But too much of one thing is not good. We need the diversity. So it could be diversity in just their natural strengths. We talk about our Strengths Wheel, drivers, amiables, those types of things. Diversity in maybe generational diversity, different life stages to be helping think holistically around something. Gender is a good place for diversity. So, all those things, when we have a good diverse team, when we are thoughtful about that, we get good thinking. We get good ideas. We sharpen each other. Ideas go from good to great. But I think churches, a mistake they make, is we’ve had the same kind of leaders in the same age range, maybe the same gender, maybe the same ethnicity, like all of that. Churches, what we were talking about, some of the bold moves around multi-ethnic, multi-generational, those churches that are doing it well are so strategic about getting multi-ethnic, multi-generational leaders around the table. And then I think the last one that comes to mind is, again, we start building the structure around the people we have versus the strategies that we wanna implement. And because of that, there’s often a disproportionate responsibility within the top leaders. Meaning that, I can’t think of a church I’ve worked with that hasn’t been shy a leader or two. And instead of going after those additional leaders and really putting leaders of leaders in the structure, they put a bunch of stuff on a person because they know how to get things done. And then what they do is they group the wrong ministry lanes together. So we get, again, what can people do? And one of the most common mistakes that you and I have seen is when we have one leader overreaching new people and over discipling people because we often see in those scenarios that the reach aspect of that gets diminished next to the discipleship. So those are the three that come to mind.
Yeah. Yeah. Well, hopefully, some of our listeners are feeling ready to clarify their next bold move and start making a plan to accomplish it. But, Amy, in your experience, what should they do if their current structure doesn’t align with their new bold moves or their new action plans?
Well, I would say don’t go after that bold move until you have the structure to support it. You know, consider the information that we’ve shared through this podcast and the series, and get a team around the structure changes that might need to happen. And if you need more help, this is of course what we do, and we’d love to help. The second thing I’d say to that is don’t make a move until you have the right leader to drive and champion that bold move. Without the leader, you won’t have a plan. And without a plan, you won’t achieve the bold move. So get the right structure in place and make sure you’ve got the right leader to drive it.
Yeah, I love that. And again, it just comes, you gotta have the plan, and you gotta have the leader of the structure in place. Or you could have the best bold move that’s gonna rally your church, but you’re not gonna be able to see it through. So, Amy, good stuff. Hey, you know what? I normally do the final thought, but I’d like to give it to you today.
This has been a fun series. So, as we wrap up today’s episode and the series on How to Embrace Bold Moves in 2024, any final thoughts?
I see how you did that. I do actually. I think one of the reasons many churches like hesitate to make bold moves is because they do need an outside perspective. And these two things we talked about today, making an actionable plan and then structuring your team to that plan, are two of the core ways we serve churches in the Unstuck Process. And like you’ve said, Tony, we’ve partnered with over 600 churches now in creating a customized ministry action plan and helping them develop the structure and the systems to actually execute the plan. So, listeners, if you’re ready to make bold moves in 2024 but could use someone to partner alongside you in that journey, we would love to help. And you can learn more and start a conversation with us today at theunstuckgroup.com.
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.