Latest Church Trends Post-COVID with Tony Morgan

Welcome back to the unSeminary podcast. We’re talking with Tony Morgan, the founder and lead strategist of The Unstuck Group, which offers consulting and coaching for churches as well as practical resources such as courses, access to research and more – all to help churches get unstuck.

The Unstuck Group does quarterly trend reports that reveal where churches are thriving or getting stuck in this season. Today Tony is talking with us about some of the latest findings.

  • Spread the gospel. // One of the notable trends in churches right now is that baptisms have increased over the last 12 months, indicating that churches are reaching new people who are taking steps in their faith. This is an important shift because in the beginning of the pandemic, ministry leaders became so focused on taking care of their own congregations that they lost sight of the broader mission of spreading the gospel. The report on baptisms indicates that churches are bouncing back to being focused on pointing new people to Jesus.
  • Create an intentional discipleship strategy. // The average number of people that churches are baptizing is 5 people for every 100 people in attendance in a given year. In other words, if a church has 1000 people in attendance, on average between 50 and 60 people go public with their faith through baptism. Churches need to keep in mind the fact that people are on a spiritual journey. God ultimately has to work on someone’s heart to prompt them to take the step to be baptized. However churches also need to be intentional by having discipleship strategies in place that show people what their next steps are.
  • Create an intentional reach strategy. // In addition to having intentional discipleship strategies, churches need to have intentional reach strategies which engage new people outside the church and faith. The most common challenge for churches is this “front door” issue – engaging new people with the gospel. Without an intentional reach strategy we cannot live on mission, and it’s only a matter of time before our churches start to plateau and decline.
  • Decrease in church engagement both ways. // The Unstuck Group has gathered data for the first quarter which shows about a 15% drop in online engagement and a 27% drop in in-person church attendance. Church leaders have been hopeful that if people aren’t attending in-person then they’re watching online, but these numbers are indicating that church engagement overall is decreasing.
  • Engage with people online. // Our online services can be part of our reach strategy – many new people will watch a service online before they ever attend in person. However we need to create more connections with these people instead of just streaming services. Engage with people online to help them take next steps. Use social media for more than just promoting what’s happening at the church and actually interact with people. Discipleship happens in community so connect people online with each other as well.
  • More statistics from reports. // Tony shared some of the other statistics that the trend reports reveal as well. For example, growing churches have smaller boards and fewer committees. Growing churches also have less debt than declining churches and are baptizing a higher percentage of people. Most notably, declining churches have significantly bigger staff teams than growing churches, employing 56% more full time employees. Overstaffing means the staff does the work of the ministry instead of equipping the people of God to do it, as Paul instructs in Ephesians 4:11-12.

If you want to get a copy of the latest trend report from The Unstuck Group you can go to www.theunstuckgroup.com/trends and explore all of the resources available to churches.

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Episode Transcript

Rich Birch — Well hey, friends, welcome to the unSeminary podcast. So glad that you have decided to tune in. You know every week we try to bring you a leader who will both inspire and equip you and today’s absolutely no exception. Super excited to have Tony Morgan with us. He’s the founder and lead strategist of an organization called The Unstuck Group – they help churches get unstuck. Unstuck offers consulting, coaching with several kind of different areas including multi-site, staffing, digital strategy, just to name a few. They’ve been around for quite a while. Tony’s previous experience was in senior leadership roles at Westridge, at NewSpring, at Granger – he’s published several books and also hosts his own podcast. Tony is the reason why there’s a lot of reasons why I love Tony – one of the reasons why I love him is he is in the corner of church leaders. He loves church leaders and wants to help, so Tony, welcome to the show. So glad you’re here.

Tony Morgan — Rich, it’s so good to be with you, and and you just nailed ah you just nailed it. I mean that’s what I’m about. I’m trying I’m trying to help ah churches get unstuck. But honestly it comes down to the pastors and church leaders that we get to serve.

Rich Birch — Yeah, totally.

Tony Morgan — And I know especially after these last couple of years whether you’re in Canada or the us or anywhere else, my goodness these have been challenging days. Ah, and so we do, we want to be in your corner trying to help you accomplish the mission God has for your church. So thank you for giving me this opportunity.

Rich Birch — Yeah, and I know we’ve I’ve I’ve joked with your team about this and I think I’ve joked with you about it. You know I do coaching and consulting with churching on churches as well, and it seems like every time I talk to people they’re either they’ve either just talked with you, or they’re talking with you, which is great and so, which is fantastic, and there’s more than enough churches to go around. And so I I love pointing people to you guys. I really do think, right, this is not as there’s not an ad. I asked Tony to come on. I I really do think that what you do is great for churches and you make such a difference. And there are folks in this market who will remain unnamed who I get the vibe that they look at churches as just another market. It’s like they could be selling to people who run grocery stores, but they’re selling to churches, and and that’s not you guys at all. You really are you want to make a difference and so I just love that. I think it’s an honor to call you guys friends. So I love Unstuck, love what you’re up to. Well what fill out the picture there. What am I missing about Unstuck or parts of your story? I want to make sure we get out there before we we roll in.

Tony Morgan — Yeah I mean we do. We’re trying to provide all kinds of coaching and content as much of that as free…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Tony Morgan — …free of charge as we can, Rich. But at the end of the day. What we love to do is actually be on site working with churches where we walk through a process to help them kind of assess where the church is, what’s working, what’s stuck right now. Um, plan for the future. Um, and needless to say again after these last couple of years I think churches are recognizing kind of that mission, strategy, vision for the future. There need to be some tweaks right now. And then making sure your structure is in place, whether that’s staffing or volunteer structure to support that, and that’s the core of what we do to help churches. But in the meantime if there’s some content that we can offer that will be a help you and your leadership and help your team consider next steps, we’re grateful for that opportunity.

Rich Birch — Love it. So good. Well one of the things you do consistently are these trend reports – The Unstuck Church Report. Every time I see these, friends, this is on my required reading list; whenever it comes out I am always poring over it. Ah, there’s so much good stuff. Um, and we’re kind of caught when we’re recording this. We’re kind of caught between quarters and so the last most recent public one was the Q1 2022. Ah, but you know you’re working on another one. The team’s working on another one but there was a couple things in there particularly that stood out to me this report was, if i’m if I’m correct, it’s really the first report that has a whole year of data.

Tony Morgan — That’s right.

Rich Birch — Ah you know in relation to kind of the whatever you… I don’t even know what you call this anymore post-Covid you know…

Tony Morgan — Yeah.

Rich Birch — …intra-covid whatever this season that we’re in, and get…

Tony Morgan — So you’re right. And let me just confirm.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Tony Morgan — So this is the first time one of these reports when we go year to year comparisons, it’s actually on this side of the beginning of the pandemic compared to a year before when we were still in the pandemic. So I think we’re, for the first time, getting a true sense of not, and again, not just covid but the world has we’ve just experienced so much these last couple years, but we’re finally starting to see a glimpse of how this is starting to impact church ministry as well.

Rich Birch — Yeah, love it. One of the things that stood out to me was—there’s a bunch in this report again friends you want to pick it up—but one of the things that stood out to me was this whole conversation about baptisms and the fact that in the twelve months preceding that baptisms actually went up, which is ah fascinating. You know I think it it tells us a bit of a story of what’s happening under the hood. You know I’ve often joked another context I think that baptism is a great thing to measure because it’s like a real issue – you have to get people under the water. You know it’s like it’s it’s a good thing to measure…

Tony Morgan — Yeah.

Rich Birch — …outside of it’s like, you know, what it means spiritually. It’s it’s it’s kind of a fun metric. Talk to us about what you learned. What are you seeing, and what do you think the implications for that, you know, in this season for our churches are is?

Tony Morgan — Yeah, so I’m actually encouraged to see baptisms start to bounce back over the last twelve months, because you know again looking at this data a year ago. Now granted of you know, especially for Canadian churches but other churches just being locked down and not being able to meet certainly that impacted the actual number of people getting baptized as well, though we found churches engaged in some creative ways ways for folks to experience baptism and go public with their faith. Um, even though the church wasn’t meeting. But all that said, um, the baptism numbers were low a year ago. And that that was actually it was actually confirmation of what we were seeing in other areas of the data where it just didn’t look like churches were reaching many new people.

Rich Birch — Right.

Tony Morgan — And I get it, I mean especially at the beginning of the pandemic. I think churches were so focused on how do we how do we take care of our own congregations that honestly I think ministries lost sight of the broader mission, which is to spread the gospel and to point people, including new people, to Jesus. And so it’s it’s it’s just encouraging for me now a year later to see that starting to bounce back.

Tony Morgan — And in case you’re curious, and I think this is just a good barometer for any church to be considering, the really the average number of people that churches are baptizing is 5 people for every hundred people in attendance in any given year. And so if your church, you know, if your church has 1000 people in attendance, I would expect probably between 50 and 60 people on average to go public with their faith through baptism. And so if you’re curious, you know, how are we doing based on the size church we are, that’s kind of a good benchmark to be looking at. And of course we hear stories – two of churches that are experiencing far more life transformation than that. In fact, a church that Amy Anderson and I—she’s our director of consulting—we were just with them last week and gosh it’s amazing what God is doing in their ministry, especially in this season. But just, I think it was over Palm Sunday, they baptized 250 people in one Sunday and so…

Rich Birch — Wow, that’s amazing.

Tony Morgan — That’s ah, that’s what those are the stories, Rich, that I love to hear, especially now.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Tony Morgan — Because it feels like I mean we’ve had so much working against us as church ministries in these last number of years, it’s fun to see some celebration now of real transformation happening in people’s lives and…

Rich Birch — Absolutely.

Tony Morgan — And goodness, I love hearing stories like that.

Rich Birch — Yeah, absolutely. You know I know a part of my area work is helping people with this whole idea of invitability – that you know growing churches are churches that encourage their people train their people, equip them, motivate them, to you know to invite friends that that’s like a huge piece of what we have to do. And there for sure the joke I’ve made with churches through this has been there was a season there where inviting a friend to a church felt like, yeah I’m inviting you to get sick…

Tony Morgan — Yeah.

Rich Birch — …or like can you come and like you might catch a deadly disease you know, but can you join us this weekend and it makes sense that there was obviously a drop in invitability there, ah you know for a while.

Tony Morgan — Yeah.

Rich Birch — I love that 5 per 100. Again, friends, this is why Tony’s so great. He’s like… I play I play an expert on the internet,Tony actually is one. Um, when you think about churches you know, trying to encourage that number, trying to encourage baptism, um are there are there some best practices on that or some things we should be thinking about trying to move people towards that? So what would advice would you give to churches that are wrestling with that?

Tony Morgan — Yeah I mean obviously it’s it’s God moving in people’s lives…

Rich Birch — Right.

Tony Morgan — …that ultimately gets them to a place where they begin to follow Jesus and then hopefully go public with that decision through baptism. However, Rich, I mean you I could I wish I could just show you…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Tony Morgan — …practically what how this plays out in most churches. Because really one of the things we want to help churches think about is people are on the spiritual journey that for most, I mean I think for everyone, begins with in this place where folks aren’t interested in faith, maybe not even curious about faith. And over time hopefully God intervenes in their life in some way where they start to ask spiritual questions, eventually put their faith in Jesus, then engage with a church and go through a discipleship journey, and ultimately become disciple makers themselves.

Tony Morgan — And so there’s these steps that we want to, in the churches that we’re working with, that we want to help them just kind of identify what’s what’s our strategy? What’s that spiritual journey going to look like for people so that we’re encouraging folks to take their next steps towards Christ?

Tony Morgan — And what I find interesting in the churches that we’re engaging with is that there are a lot of churches that have great discipleship strategies in place once people connect to the church and once people are connected to faith. But, I think what distinguishes the churches that are seeing the most life change is not only do they have a discipleship strategy, they also have a reach strategy. It’s well-defined. In other words, they they are very intentional about how they’re trying to engage people outside the church and outside the faith.

Tony Morgan — And um, there are many aspects to that, for the churches that are doing this well, including by the way intentionality around Sunday morning worship services. Um, but I think the key and and the distinction that we see oftentimes is, for the churches that are seeing a lot of life change, and therefore baptisms are higher, it’s because they have both a discipleship strategy and a reach strategy.

Rich Birch — Yeah I love that. You know the the thing I’ve noticed, similarly, over the years in helping people on that reach strategy side, using the language that you’re using there, is I think there’s this misnomer that like churches that are thinking about the front door are ignoring the back door, and that’s just not the the case with fast-growing churches.

Tony Morgan — Right.

Rich Birch — They are working on both sides of that equation. They are thinking very clearly about what are we doing to reach new people, and to keep the people that we’re having. They’re not… it’s like it was like a preaching point for a while there where it was like you could only do one or the other.

Tony Morgan — Right.

Rich Birch — But that’s just not actually true. That’s not how churches that are making the kind of impact that we’re so that are we’re seeing, that are exceeding maybe what is normal, they really see it as both connected for sure. What would you say on that, if there was that false dichotomy in the the churches that you’re engaging with, that you’re trying to help be Unstuck, do they have more —again using the forced dichotomy—is it a a reach problem or a key problem?

Tony Morgan — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Is it is it which which of those it seems that they need to spend more time working on?

Tony Morgan — That’s a good question. I mean ah there have been some rare exceptions where we’ve gone in and attendance has been declining, not because they have a front door challenge, but because there is more of a backdoor challenge. In other words, that discipleship strategy wasn’t as defined as it needed to be, as clear as it needed to be, and so people, new people, were connecting to the church and connecting to the faith and kind of getting stuck in that spiritual journey. But by far the more common challenge, Rich, that we see is churches that don’t have a back door issue. It really is more of a front door where they’re just not engaging enough new people.

Tony Morgan — And in fact, in one of the recent podcast episodes Amy and I were talking about this. This is the great wisdom that I periodically offer, Rich, if you want to grow your church, if you want your attendance to grow, you actually have to reach new people at your church. They pay me the big bucks for wisdom like that.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes, yes.

Tony Morgan — But I think sometimes as as church leaders we forget the fact that I mean people are a living life and included in living life is job changes and moves and things like that and so there’s just this natural attrition that happens in churches. And frankly, if we don’t have an intentional reach strategy in place, it’s just a matter of time before our churches start to plateau and decline. So um, you know…

Rich Birch — Interesting.

Tony Morgan — I liken it to at The Unstuck Group. We eventually do have to make some money ah for my family to have food on the table, but also to pay the salaries and support everybody else on our team. And if we just focused on the churches that we were currently engaged with, we would be about six months out from having to shut our doors.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Tony Morgan — Because we kind we need this constant stream of new churches that we’re serving in order to pay the bills…

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Tony Morgan —…but also to help us continue to fulfill our mission. And as church leaders I think sometimes we we just are we’re so focused on ministering to and pastoring the people that are already a part of our congregation that we forget that part of the mission that God’s called us to is to actually go engage new people to try to share the gospel message so that new people began to fall in love and follow Jesus.

Rich Birch — Dude, love it. I love that. That’s ah, that’s good to hear. You know it’s an interesting… that’s a fun way to think about it that you know for some reason we can make that translation when we think about organizations or businesses, but it’s like we… I think there’s a segment of the church world that it that feels almost like unspiritual to like think about what are we doing to reach new people, which is ironic. There’s something strange about that. But but that does seem to be out there. Um, so…

Tony Morgan — Yes, yeah, go and go go and make new disciples. It’s it’s our mission, right?

Rich Birch — Yes, it’s not a new idea by any means.

Tony Morgan — Yeah, so yeah, it’s not a new idea.

Rich Birch — Yeah, so one of the things that so in the last couple years I love the transition that has happened with church online. And I love what’s taken place on that front. Ah probably a year ago I was talking to a friend who I’ve done a bunch of work with their church and he was reflecting back on his own leadership. And he said, you know, if you were to ask me in February 2020 he’s like I didn’t have a Facebook personal Facebook account. Um I was not online. In fact, I I don’t know that I ever preached against church online, but I definitely was the guy who kind of dogged it. Um, and then he said I distinctly remember it was like March 17th, whatever the date, he was he pulled all his pastors together and he said all right, friends. Y’all need to open up a Facebook account. You need to figure out how to do Facebook Live and we got to move this thing online. And then and you know it was a great statement, this great leader who’s like, listen I’m so humbled by what God’s done on our online stuff. I’m you know I’m sad that we missed it. You know all those years – it was kind of a cool engagement.

Tony Morgan — Yeah.

Rich Birch — But here we are 2 years past all that now I talk to leaders all the time, and they’re like we have all these people attending online. I have no idea who those people are. I’m not sure what do we do with those people. What so what are you seeing in the churches you’re working with? How what is what is this, you know, either the stats are telling you or just as you’re engaging in conversations as, you know, we’re kind of a couple years past this online revolution that’s happened – what where are we at today on that?

Tony Morgan — Yeah, so let me ah this is actually some you’re getting a sneak peek, Rich, at some of the new data coming out…

Rich Birch — Ooo love it! Ooo love it!

Tony Morgan — …and the next quarter’s report.

Rich Birch — First first release here, you’re not going to get in trouble; Tiffany’s not going to get any trouble here, is she? She’s not gonna like pull in…

Tony Morgan — Yeah well I might get in trouble. Tiffany’s fine, but I might be the one that gets in trouble.

Rich Birch — Yes I mean that’s what I’m saying – she’s not going to be the one that’s going to get you in trouble. That’s great.

Tony Morgan — Yeah, yeah, so um, this is ah this is the first quarter now in all I mean over these last two and a half years of dealing with pandemic and everything else. This is the first quarter that we’ve actually seen a drop in online engagement, a drop in the number of people viewing online services. It was ah the fresh data showing about a 15% year over year decline. And so here now um, in in fact, the data looking at in-person average weekly attendance in this next Quarter’s report, it’s a little bit better than the last report. The last report showed a 30% decline year over year for in-person attendance. This this next quarter I think is 27% or 28% decline year over year. So there’s a bit of an ah improvement, but attendance is still down year over year…

Rich Birch — Yes, yes, yeah, yeah.

Tony Morgan — …in churches. And I think as pastors and church leaders we’ve been kind of… I don’t want to say we’re okay with that, but at least somewhere in the back of our our mind we’ve been we’ve been using online engagement to kind of offset that in our mind. And until this last report I I could see why pastors were using that to justify that.

Rich Birch — Hmm, fascinating.

Tony Morgan — But now what the data is showing is not only is there a decrease in in-person attendance, but there’s also a decrease in online engagement. And so I think over these last number of months we’ve been hopeful that people that aren’t in attendance are still watching and engaged online. And I don’t know and I’m sure some of that is still happening, but if if it was happening, we’re starting to see that attrition in online engagement as well. And I kind of understand, I mean if the only connection…

Rich Birch — Right.

Tony Morgan — …with our ministry was by watching services online and people aren’t connected to a group, and they’re not connected to serving opportunities, and they’re never showing up in person on Sunday morning to just kind of experience what it is to be on mission together as a body of Christ, then I can see over time how there would start to be a disconnect if their only if their only involvement was watching services online. I think we’re starting to see the front end of that. And you know it was big speculation through throughout all of covid how long will people do this? It might be about 2 years and that’s it.

Rich Birch — Right. Yes, about eight quarters and here we are. Yes, yeah.

Tony Morgan — So um, yeah, so now is it going to just cut off immediately?

Rich Birch — No.

Tony Morgan — No I don’t think so but over time I do think there’s something to us um, continuing to press in, even in our online opportunities to encourage people, yeah I’d love for them to come back to Sunday worship, but at a minimum people need to get involved in in others’ lives.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Tony Morgan — There there need to be opportunities for us to engage with other believers. Um, whether that’s in a bible study or a home group or a serving opportunity. We we need that.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Tony Morgan — Um, the other thing I would add here is I still believe in online.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Tony Morgan — And what I’m seeing more and more is that when it comes we talked about the difference between reach and discipleship strategies for churches. And how they eventually overlap and and kind of feed off of each other, um the churches that are effectively leveraging online, it’s really helping them with the front door side, that reach portion, of their um ministry strategies. I think over time we’re going to learn there are some things we can do related to to discipleship online. But honestly discipleship is highly relational.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Tony Morgan — I mean it’s one life on another life. And yeah we can we can do some of that online, but we really need people kind of sharing life together….

Rich Birch — Yes.

Tony Morgan — …for that real transformative change to happen. And so when it comes to reach strategies though online, I mean there’s a lot of opportunity there for us to engage with people that aren’t currently a part of the church and aren’t currently a part of the faith. In fact ah, Rich, my volunteer serving opportunity that I engage at my church…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Tony Morgan — …is in the connection space and it’s kind of where new people stop before and after the services. I can’t tell you the last time I talked with a new person who did not, before showing up on Sunday morning…

Rich Birch — Oh sure.

Tony Morgan — …watch a service online.

Rich Birch — Oh sure. Absolutely

Tony Morgan — I can’t tell you the last time that that happened. And so it’s it’s really critical…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Tony Morgan — …I think for us and our reach strategies to be leveraging online, but we can’t be assuming that people connected to our church can live their entire ministry ah relational existence online. I just don’t think that’s possible.

Rich Birch — Yeah, it’s so fascinating. I think that’s so true and I you know as we wrestle with this I think we have to continue to lean in. A couple episodes ago we had Jay Kranda from or from so Saddleback on and I love what he talked about because he was pushing us on, you know, moving beyond the stream.

Tony Morgan — Mmm-hmm

Rich Birch — I think so many of us are stuck that that like what church online is, we’ve reduced it down to it’s just a stream. It’s just like it’s just a post of the video. Um and that’s not ministry in the same way that watching sitting in the back of a service, sitting in the back row of a service is not church, right? That’s…

Tony Morgan — That’s right.

Rich Birch — That’s something different than church. And so I think we have to keep looking at that. I love that. You know, interesting it’ll be interesting to see how, as that trend continues. Now kind of connecting these two together like do you think and I’m I’m not so I’m with you. I’m, folks that are listening in, I’m not anti-church online. Listen we first started doing church online in 2009. I’ve spent a lot of time effort and energy – I’ve burned a lot of brain cells around how do we do church online. Like I’m pro-church online. So don’t don’t save your cards and letters. But do you think that there’s a connection there between the drop we saw in discipleship stuff in 2020 early 2021, and the kind of the fact that that we were just online. Like and the fact that we now, two years later, if we’re not moving people along, we’re seeing that drop like are we seeing are we… There was a there was a moment where, and Carey Nieuwhof’s a good friend of both of ours, and there was a moment there where he was like—and Carey, I love you—but he was like you know, jumping up and down: this is the this is the revolution we’ve been all been waiting for. And I’ve always always like yeah I think it’s a part of it…

Tony Morgan — Yeah.

Rich Birch — …I think it’s a part of what we’re talking about, but I don’t know that it’s all of it. I’m not asking you to pick a fight with Carey…

Tony Morgan — No.

Rich Birch — …but tell me what do you think about all that what do you what do you think?

Tony Morgan — But yeah, and actually I appreciate Carey really pushing us as churches…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Tony Morgan — …because it’s probably causing us to think further ahead than we would normally be comfortable thinking and and making some initial innovations and take and test driving some new things that maybe we wouldn’t have considered without that push. But I will say this I just I’m not convinced that the goal for church is to become like Amazon where we’re providing ministry online 24/7 when anybody needs it. I’m just I’m not convinced that that’s the case. And again I really do think there’s some opportunity. I love the fact that you’re talking about online not just being the stream on Sunday…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Tony Morgan — …because it’s for it to be effective, it needs to be far more than that. And there are ways that we can can connect with people relationally primarily through social media channels that are available to us where we’re not just promoting what’s happening in the church, but we’re actually engaging with people online. And then secondly it’s not just the service content that people are looking for online. They’re looking for answers, next steps around a lot of different topics that people consider are considering right now related to family health, marriage health, um emotional health, and on and on and on.

Tony Morgan — And there’s so much opportunity for churches to engage people with helpful content that does begin to point people to faith and point people to the church and so…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Tony Morgan — …lots of opportunity there. But I don’t think trying to become fully online is the answer to the mission that God’s called us to.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s good. That’s a good flag. I think, you know, we again I think we want to find a good balance there. We want to leverage—I’ve said this in other contexts—I really do think church online for all of us is going to look more like what. Gent jeannine or Jenny Jeannine Allen does with IF gathering where it’s like if you look at what their strategy is, it’s like some in person, a ton of online content, you know groups that are in-person, small groups, large groups, mid-size events, like it’s like a whole plethora of kind, you know, of ways to connect with the message. I think a lot of I think we’re going to look more like that, we’re going to you know as we you know look to the future. Um, that’s exciting. It’s interesting. It’s exciting times. I love it. Was there anything else either from the last report or the next one that’s coming up… dun dun dun…That ah you want to you, you know, you find particularly interesting or you’d love to comment on?

Tony Morgan — Yeah, let me just highlight in the last report one of the things that we offered in our bonus section was just to look at some of the distinctions between growing and declining churches. And let me rattle off some of these.…

Tony Morgan — Growing churches have smaller boards and fewer committees than declining churches. Interestingly growing churches have less debt than declining churches. I think I would have expected the opposite that if the church is experiencing growth in order to help fund that growth that might they might have to borrow some money to, you know, either build new buildings or expand or whatever multisite, whatever that might look like, and actually the reverse is true.

Tony Morgan — Ah growing churches are baptizing a higher percentage of people than declining churches. I was glad to see that because again I think there’s this assumption that if the church’s experiencing growth, they’re kind of just poaching Christians from other churches, but and it would actually show, no, that’s not the case. I mean some of that may be happening but there’s ah, there’s conversion happening, faith conversion that’s happening in churches and they’re seeing more life change.

Tony Morgan — Here’s one of the big shocks for me though: declining churches have significantly bigger staff teams than growing churches.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Tony Morgan — Yeah, you heard that right. Declining churches have bigger staff teams than growing churches and quite a bit bigger. Declining churches employ 56% more full time equivalent employees than growing churches, And you know I could I don’t know if we have enough time I could speculate on why that is…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Tony Morgan — …but let me just say what we see in churches is when they kind of overstaff—and there’s a lot of overstaffing in churches right now—the staff end up doing the ministry.

Rich Birch — yes.

Tony Morgan — And the challenge is that’s not that’s not what we’re supposed to be doing.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Tony Morgan — I mean Paul is pretty clear in Ephesians we’re supposed to be equipping the people of God to engage the work that God’s called us to. And the church the growing churches commonly do a lot better job of hiring people that know how to raise up other leaders, and equip and empower God’s people to engage the ministry. And not only does that help them save some money on staffing, but it also helps them to become a healthier thriving church…

Rich Birch — Yeah, I love that.

Tony Morgan — …and that’s the more more important part of that story. Here’s what’s interesting though, Rich. When we looked at some of these differences between growing and declining churches, there really wasn’t a lot of difference post-pandemic as we were seeing pre-pandemic. In other words I really think if churches are kind of struggling to get back to where they were, whether that’s and life change through baptisms or attendance or people connecting to serving and groups and whatever, if that’s what you’re concerned with right now, a lot of a lot of the shift that might need to happen in your churches is just getting back to some of the fundamentals of healthy church. I mean it’s not new things that we need to consider…

Rich Birch — Right.

Tony Morgan — …it’s actually getting back to some of the fundamentals of what we need to be true about healthy thriving churches. And the good news that with that is you don’t have to guess you don’t have to be you know predicting what is online going to do or not going to do with our church going forward. You just you kind of need to go back to the mission God’s called you to as a church. And just recognize there are certain elements of what healthy church looks like, and we need to double down on that, because that’s what’s going to make the the biggest difference for your church today and in the days to come.

Rich Birch — Love it. Yeah, so friends you know Tony is a is a good guy. Super friendly. Nice guy. When I read that when I read this part of this report to be honest, the thing that went through my head is like ooh this is the part where Tony picks fights. Ah you know and in a good way. He’s like hey pointing out here are some of these tensions. And it’s funny I was thinking about literally that point around higher staff versus or more staff versus less staff. There’s a church I’m doing some coaching/consulting with right now on multisite and there I’m helping them walking them through launching. And um and this is a growing church and we were talking about the staff footprint at the the new location and I was pushing for a larger footprint than they wanted to do. And I was in my assumption what I was like—and and it was so great—the executive pastor and lead pastor were like, I just don’t—and they said exactly that they echoed that they’re like—I think if we hire those people it will hamper us right from the beginning. We can do this with less staff, and it was like and I had your report ringing in my brain and I because I know that I’ve said that to church leaders in the past, hey we’re overstaffed – that’s going to slow the growth of our church. And I was like it was one of those like oh yeah, that’s right, it was like another humbling moment. So ah I again appreciate the work that you do you – you and your team just do such great work. Friends, if you want to pick up a copy of either the last or by the time this comes out maybe the next one. All you need to do is go to theunstuckgroup.com/trends. Is there anything else, Tony, you want to share with us as we wrap up today – any kind of last parting thought?

Tony Morgan — Yeah. No, I just I can appreciate it. I mean number one I’ve been in ministry, like you, and secondly I’m still engaged in ministry of a local church. I just I know the challenges that pastors and church leaders are experiencing. And again, it goes well beyond covid Itself. There are a lot of other factors that are impacting what churches are experiencing right now, but more importantly, what pastors are experiencing right now. And I just want you to know I’m in your corner. Our team, I continue to pray for you on on a regular basis. We just we we we love what you’re doing. We’re grateful that you’re committed committed to this mission and if there’s anything we can be doing to support you and your ministry going forward, we would love to have that opportunity.

Rich Birch — Love it. Friends again, a hearty endorsement from me of The Unstuck Group. They’re great people. They they really do want to help and so you’d be you’d be wise to follow them and to reach out. If you’re like hm we’re stuck in an area. We we need some extra help on some things, they they would be glad to jump on the phone and talk it through. Ah, Tony, where do we want to send people if they want to connect with you or with The Unstuck Group.

Tony Morgan — Yeah, the easiest way is just to go to the website at theunstuckgroup.com

Rich Birch — Great! Thanks so much. Thanks for being here.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.