Outward vs. Inward Focused Churches

Over the last several years, I’ve worked with church leaders from close to 200 different churches in consulting and coaching relationships. These churches are all different shapes and sizes. There are denominational and non-denominational churches. Traditional and contemporary churches. Small churches and megachurches. Church plants and churches who have existed for over a hundred years.

After working with all those churches, though, this is probably the key distinguishing factor when it comes to the health of the church: It’s whether the church is outward-focused or inward-focused. That issue is always what creates the most tension when it comes to the potential for change.

At the heart of the issue is this basic question: What are we willing to do to reach people outside the church and outside the faith? For some churches I’ve worked with, the answer is just about anything short of sin. For others, it’s just about nothing if it means losing people who already attend the church.

Here’s what I’ve found to be true about these two types of churches:

  • The Outward-Focused Church — The primary challenge will be how to we help people take steps in their spiritual journey after they accept Christ. The fact is, though, most outward-focused churches are very sensitive to this challenge. These leaders are uncomfortable with people getting stuck spiritually, and they recognize that people with vibrant relationships with Jesus want to continue to reach people outside the faith. Maturing Christians join the mission.
  • The Inward-Focused Church — The primary challenge will be how do we reach people who don’t have a relationship with Jesus. Most inward-focused churches are not sensitive to this challenge. These leaders are uncomfortable with any changes that might address that challenge for fear that it might push insiders away and, frankly, impact the bottom line. Ironically, any organization, including a church, that doesn’t focus on reaching new people has already started to decline and will eventually die.

This may be hard for you to hear, but I’ve seen most (though not all) outward-focused churches have a very intentional path for spiritual development. Many offer discipleship opportunities to help people take steps toward Christ outside the weekend service. And, of the churches I work with, most of the students and adults who attend those churches are engaged in that discipleship path.

On the other hand, I’ve never seen an inward-focused church have an intentional path for reaching people outside the faith. In those instances, the inward-focused churches hope (and sometimes pray) people outside the faith will somehow join what the church is already doing for existing church members. When it comes to reaching people outside the faith, I’ve never seen that strategy work.

What kind of church are you leading? In either instance, are you willing to engage the primary challenge your church faces? I’m hoping you will step up to the challenge…even if it makes others (including you) uncomfortable.

Read more from Tony here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tony Morgan

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of TonyMorganLive.com. He’s a consultant, leadership coach and writer who helps churches get unstuck and have a bigger impact. More important, he has a passion for people. He’s all about helping people meet Jesus and take steps in their faith. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). With Tim Stevens, Tony has co-authored Simply Strategic Stuff, Simply Strategic Volunteers and Simply Strategic Growth – each of which offers valuable, practical solutions for different aspects of church ministry. His book, Killing Cockroaches (B&H Publishing) challenges leaders to focus on the priorities in life and ministry. His most recent books on leadership and ministry strategy are available on Kindle. Tony has also written several articles on staffing, technology, strategic planning and leadership published by organizations like Outreach Magazine, Catalyst and Pastors.com. Tony and his wife, Emily, live near Atlanta, Georgia with their four children — Kayla, Jacob, Abby and Brooke.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

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Ministry to Millennials: An Example of Why Churches are Stuck

Saw this report earlier this week from The Millennial Impact project. It identifies several trends with Millennials that should raise concerns and more conversation among church leaders. Here are some specific examples:

  • About twice as many people are willing to volunteer if a peer invites them, but the church is still relying on events (like Sunday services) to encourage serving. In fact, 81 percent of Millennials prefer to be invited by a friend while only 43 percent would prefer to be invited through an event. Instead of encouraging people to tap the shoulders of their friends, we’re still relying on platform announcements and bulletin ads to fill volunteer roles.
  • Far more Millennials prefer to give online, but in the church we primarily focus on giving in-person. Less than half of Millennials prefer to give in-person while 70 percent prefer online. Do you have an intentional, ongoing strategy to encourage online giving? If not, you’re probably not engaging adults ages 20 to 35.
  • The number one reason Millennials have never given to a non-profit using their smartphones is because they’ve never been asked. Most churches, of course, have never even considered asking for donations using smartphones. We’re still discouraging people from using their phones in services, rather than acknowledging that most people have smartphones and tablets with them for Bible reading, giving, note taking, etc. We are still handing out paper bulletins and assuming people will write a check.

Instead of blaming young adults for not engaging in our ministries, it’s about time we start taking some responsibility. Our strategies and systems are broken. The Gospel message doesn’t need to change, but the methods we use to reach people for Jesus has to reflect our current environment.

There’s a reason why churches and denominations are in decline. We continue to be religious about using the same methods hoping and praying they’ll somehow generate different results. That’s a recipe for decline and ultimately death.

Of course, we’d rather be comfortable in our own preferences than take risks that may help us reach the next generations. And, that’s another reason why churches are stuck.

 Read more from Tony here.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tony Morgan

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of TonyMorganLive.com. He’s a consultant, leadership coach and writer who helps churches get unstuck and have a bigger impact. More important, he has a passion for people. He’s all about helping people meet Jesus and take steps in their faith. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). With Tim Stevens, Tony has co-authored Simply Strategic Stuff, Simply Strategic Volunteers and Simply Strategic Growth – each of which offers valuable, practical solutions for different aspects of church ministry. His book, Killing Cockroaches (B&H Publishing) challenges leaders to focus on the priorities in life and ministry. His most recent books on leadership and ministry strategy are available on Kindle. Tony has also written several articles on staffing, technology, strategic planning and leadership published by organizations like Outreach Magazine, Catalyst and Pastors.com. Tony and his wife, Emily, live near Atlanta, Georgia with their four children — Kayla, Jacob, Abby and Brooke.

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

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Do You Have a Strategic Operating Plan?

About a year ago, I wrote about one of the key reasons churches are stuck — they aren’t minding the gap. The gap is the space between a church’s vision and all of the ministry activity that’s taking place. In many, many churches, they’ve clarified the vision. Everyone can quote it word-for-word. And, lots of ministry is taking place. The problem is that a gap exists between the vision and all the ministry activity.

That gap is the strategy and systems. If the leadership hasn’t established a strategy and an operating plan (the systems) to accomplish that strategy, a gap exists. Visually, it looks like this:

Vision + [Strategies & Systems] + Execution = Results

Without a strategic operating plan, churches end up doing what churches have always done, but they’re hoping (and praying) for different results. Their vision may be distinct, but people have no idea what they’re supposed to do to accomplish the vision. Because of that, people expect the church to do what all churches have always done. (That defines religion.) Of course, the only way to get different results is to embrace different strategies and systems.

Unfortunately, churches continue to try to get unstuck without minding the gap. It won’t work. As I’ve shared before, strategies and systems without vision will keep people busy. Vision without strategies and systems will keep people guessing.

In the future, I’ll write more about my experiences and learnings. In the mean time, I challenge you to honestly consider this question: Do we have a strategic operating plan?

If not, you may need to mind the gap so that your church does not get stuck.

Read more from Tony here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tony Morgan

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of TonyMorganLive.com. He’s a consultant, leadership coach and writer who helps churches get unstuck and have a bigger impact. More important, he has a passion for people. He’s all about helping people meet Jesus and take steps in their faith. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). With Tim Stevens, Tony has co-authored Simply Strategic Stuff, Simply Strategic Volunteers and Simply Strategic Growth – each of which offers valuable, practical solutions for different aspects of church ministry. His book, Killing Cockroaches (B&H Publishing) challenges leaders to focus on the priorities in life and ministry. His most recent books on leadership and ministry strategy are available on Kindle. Tony has also written several articles on staffing, technology, strategic planning and leadership published by organizations like Outreach Magazine, Catalyst and Pastors.com. Tony and his wife, Emily, live near Atlanta, Georgia with their four children — Kayla, Jacob, Abby and Brooke.

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

You’re Not That Smart: Avoiding the Moses Complex

As I was reading the Bible in YouVersion this morning, I was reminded of an article I wrote a few years ago about seeking the counsel of others. I think it’s worth a refresh, so here’s part one of the series.

I’ve always found it fascinating that Solomon, the wisest king to ever rule Israel, understood the value of getting advice from other people. If God had already gifted him with wisdom, why did he pursue advice from others? It seems like it would have been appropriate for Solomon to say, “My wisdom and understanding comes directly from God. I will make decisions about my next steps based on that wisdom alone.”

The Moses Complex

There’s a dangerous trend I’m seeing in churches today that embraces this theology of leadership. I refer to it as the “Moses Complex.” In these environments, only the senior pastor can receive a vision from God and it only happens through a Mount Sinai-type experience.

In churches that embrace this theology, everyone waits for the pastor to receive a vision, and then all the staff “leaders” are responsible for executing the vision God gives the senior pastor. Many times I see this approach in the same churches that function using the “culture of honor” that I’ve written about previously.

The problem with this theology is that it discounts many passages of Scripture that offer contrary perspective on attaining wisdom. It’s based on broken theology and, in practice, it leads to an unhealthy and dysfunctional leadership culture.

Are you seeking advice from others?

Ironically, in the wisdom that God granted Solomon, the wisest man in the world understood the value of receiving advice from others. For example, Solomon offered:

  • “Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more” (Proverbs 9:9).
  • “Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers” (Proverbs 11:14).
  • “Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others” (Proverbs 12:15).
  • “Plans go wrong for the lack of advice; many advisers bring success” (Proverbs 15:22).
  • “Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life” (Proverbs 19:20).
  • “Plans succeed through good counsel; don’t go to war without wise advice” (Proverbs 20:18).

 

God granted Solomon wisdom, and part of that wisdom from God was that we need to seek wise advice from others. That’s not how I would have handled that if I was God. If I was God, I would say, “Wisdom comes from me alone. Don’t listen to the advice of others.”

 Read more from Tony here.
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| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tony Morgan

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of TonyMorganLive.com. He’s a consultant, leadership coach and writer who helps churches get unstuck and have a bigger impact. More important, he has a passion for people. He’s all about helping people meet Jesus and take steps in their faith. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). With Tim Stevens, Tony has co-authored Simply Strategic Stuff, Simply Strategic Volunteers and Simply Strategic Growth – each of which offers valuable, practical solutions for different aspects of church ministry. His book, Killing Cockroaches (B&H Publishing) challenges leaders to focus on the priorities in life and ministry. His most recent books on leadership and ministry strategy are available on Kindle. Tony has also written several articles on staffing, technology, strategic planning and leadership published by organizations like Outreach Magazine, Catalyst and Pastors.com. Tony and his wife, Emily, live near Atlanta, Georgia with their four children — Kayla, Jacob, Abby and Brooke.

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COMMENTS

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Mr. Steven Finkill — 11/29/12 8:42 am

Love this article from Tony Morgan. There is freedom in not having to be the one with all the answers as a leader.

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Who Does What? 5 Observations on Clarifying Leadership Roles

Here’s what is on my whiteboard right now. I’ve been processing this because my sense is that there’s a lack of clarity about roles within the church. When that happens, it can lead to complexity and confusion for all involved. And, as you might guess, it’s one of the key reasons I see churches getting stuck.

Church Leadership Roles

Here are some specific observations I’ve had in working with churches through the years:

  1. Roles will overlap. Every team will at times need to take on the other roles listed. The problems develop, though, when a team spends the majority of their team assuming a role that belongs to another team.
  2. Leadership vacuums develop when a team doesn’t embrace their role. Organizations get out of whack when a team abdicates its responsibility and no one carries out that function. When that happens, people will try to fill the vacuum and it oftentimes pulls the church in an unhealthy direction.
  3. Every team is naturally pulled to execution. The comfortable place to live is in “doing” the work. It’s what we know. God’s design for the church is that those of us in leadership would equip God’s people to do the work of God. (See Ephesians 4:12) When we don’t follow God’s design, we won’t experience God’s fruit.
  4. The role that’s most commonly neglected is the strategy function.Senior leadership teams get bogged down in the urgent details of day-to-day ministry. They don’t invest enough time in strategic conversations to determine “How will we accomplish the vision?” Because of that, there’s a gap that leaves people guessing what needs to happen next.
  5. We tend to invest time and attention in the “task” roles but not the “care” roles. There needs to be a balance of both. We prioritize time and systems to complete the tasks. We also need to prioritize the time and systems to care for people with whom we have influence. This is where discipleship and leadership development happens.

 

Read more from Tony here.

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| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tony Morgan

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of TonyMorganLive.com. He’s a consultant, leadership coach and writer who helps churches get unstuck and have a bigger impact. More important, he has a passion for people. He’s all about helping people meet Jesus and take steps in their faith. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). With Tim Stevens, Tony has co-authored Simply Strategic Stuff, Simply Strategic Volunteers and Simply Strategic Growth – each of which offers valuable, practical solutions for different aspects of church ministry. His book, Killing Cockroaches (B&H Publishing) challenges leaders to focus on the priorities in life and ministry. His most recent books on leadership and ministry strategy are available on Kindle. Tony has also written several articles on staffing, technology, strategic planning and leadership published by organizations like Outreach Magazine, Catalyst and Pastors.com. Tony and his wife, Emily, live near Atlanta, Georgia with their four children — Kayla, Jacob, Abby and Brooke.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.