September 22, 2015

Stop “Making Disciples:” 10 Ways Church Mission Statements Backfire

Church Mission Statements BackfireThe idea of mission is simple: Do you and those who you lead know what you are ultimately supposed to be doing? While most pastors think they are clear on mission, most church attenders are not. And in some ways, how we use the default language of “making disciples” is to blame, even though these words represent a very important biblical passage.

To say it a different way, how church leaders cut and paste Matthew 28:19-20 as a crown-jewel text of the Great Commission is actually working against their accomplishment of it. Our church mission statements backfire on us!

Here are ten quirky realities about church mission statements that illuminate how they backfire. Which one is most applicable to your current situation?

Quirky Reality #1: No Process

Even though the Bible records many examples of leaders articulating the mission of God’s people, we fixate on Matthew’s version of it. Rather than going through a process to articulate the Jesus-given mission for our specific time and place, we parrot the words of one particular gospel over the others.

Quirky Reality #2: No Definition

By photocopying Matthew’s version of the church’s mission, we traffic in words like “make disciples” with little to no definition or context and in some cases very little actual experience. Because we get it from the Bible and preach with biblical intent, we don’t think we need to.

Quirky Reality #3: Anything Goes

It is easy for church attenders  to reinterpret their experience of church—whatever it may be—as a “making disciples” experience because there is little to no definition or context for these words. This creates a vicious cycle within the church of assuming we know what we mean as the church continues to make decisions, spend money and add ministries. A church can be anything it wants to anybody. It can do anything it wants to do with perfect justification underneath its undefined mission statement.

Quirky Reality #4: Missing Scorecard

Pastors validate the mission of “make disciples” with a scorecard that has nothing to do with whether or not a disciple has been made; that is with the scorecard of attendance and giving only. Concerts and circuses have great attendance and giving too.

Quirky Reality #5: Incomplete Competence

Because we can name “make disciples” as the “right answer” for the mission of the church, we think we know how to lead with mission. When it fact, we are substituting “a knowledge about” mission with the lifelong competency development of “leading from” mission.

Quirky Reality #6: False Assurance 

Because of the notion of “mission as statement,” the written statement in our membership class or website creates a false sense of completion. Stating the mission one time becomes a “been there, done that” step.” Since it is stated somewhere, we think the work of leading with mission is done, when it has hardly begun.

Quirky Reality #7: Reinforced Consumerism

In the process of articulating a “make disciples” mission, 95% of churches reinforce consumerism without knowing it. This happens because most statements imply to the church attender that they, as the disciple, are the beneficiaries of services and groups provided by the fulltime pastors. The pastors and staff, they assume, do “the making.”

Why does this occur? Simply put, the language of “making a disciple” is not accessible enough to the mindset of our culture. People don’t get out of bed and think to themselves, “I get to make disciples today.” They leave that to “the professionals” and to the “place they go” to attend church.

Quirky Reality #8: Misdirected Energy

The primary growth challenge of any church is having culture of mission. By focusing on a thousand things to grow our church, we miss the first and most important step to healthy multiplication and dynamic growth. All growth and renewal in a church comes from the process of re-founding the mission with the leadership core, which is hopefully a growing leadership core.

Quirky Reality #9: Little Transference

When a church is in its most entrepreneurial form, a culture of mission is “in the atmosphere” and little intention is necessary for people to “feel it.” The start and the big bang of the church itself substantiates the mission whether it is thoughtfully articulated or not. But once the church grows past 75 people, how you articulate the mission is critical to its transference.

Quirky Reality #10: Shadow Mission

In addition to your stated mission, every organization has a functional mission or “shadow mission.” Think of the functional mission as the unstated driver or notion of “success” that most naturally tempts us to drift off the Jesus-given mission of the church. For example a functional mission of many churches would be something like to “have more people attend worship services” or “to sustain enough giving to keep our current staff” or “to not make anyone unhappy.”

One Application: Your Own Words

Perhaps the best way to summarize this post is to recall one of the fundamental exercises of learning: “putting it in your own words.” Your second grade English teacher asked you to read something. And when she wanted to know if you understood what you were reading, she asked you to restate it in your own words.

Likewise, our people won’t understand the mission of Jesus until they can put in in their own words.

May 23, 2015

7 Reasons Why Every Church Leader Should Consider Periscope, the New Social Tool

It’s only been eleven days since I heard about Periscope from one of Auxano’s newest navigators, Chris Rivers. We were doing a leadership training event at Elmbrook Church with 500 leaders discussing their new mission and values. In seconds,  Chris started live streaming the event and over 40 people joined in. Since then, I have broadcast 11 live events, averaging one per day. Yesterday, anyone could have watched 15 minutes of Auxano’s virtual team training. Last night anyone could have chatted with me about book writing, while I hosted a 15 minutes Q&A at 11 o’clock at night trying to stay awake for another few hours. (I have 14 days left to finish God Dreams, my fourth book.)

What is Periscope? It’a an insanely simple, live streaming tool that connects with your twitter account. (Twitter bought it for $100 million.) Whatever you live stream, people can comment on, and “heart” showing realtime interaction and engagement. Best of all, it archives your live streaming event for 24 hours so that you followers can watch later if they weren’t available.   Read more at Wired or TechCrunch.

So why should every church leader jump on the band wagon?

Let me say up front that I am not a tech guy and I don’t really pay close attention to all of the new stuff that comes out. I am an opportunistic guy, who sees patterns fast and far.  What periscope will become is actually mind numbing when you consider the possibilities.  I won’t unpack it in this post.

But I do want to urge you to get on this tool and start experimenting.  Here are at least seven reason why every church leader should consider periscope, the new social media tool. 


 #1 Every new social tool is a new opportunity to learn as a leader.

I know you are busy and you can’t get distracted by everything. But the benefits of this opportunity are huge. If you keep the perspective of periscope as a leadership tool and a learning tool it will help. Think of is this way— It’s more efficient and probably more fun than reading another leadership book.

#2 Your influence may dramatically increase if you are an early adopter with a tool that will be widespread.

You want to be in the know when the odometer turns and everyone is reset to zero. That’s right, everyone is at the starting line. And the first ones to use it will begin to have differentiated influence. And every day you wait, you get further behind.

 #3 Periscope doesn’t start from scratch, but leverages your current twitter following. 

Fortunately you are not turning a giant flywheel with no momentum, unless of course you are not on twitter. For many of you, jumping into periscope will enable you to connect with dozens of people due to its integration with twitter. Yup, more stuff to retweet!


The most important factors, of course, have to do with the gospel and your ministry calling.

#4 Periscope removes the greatest barrier to discipleship—opportunities for life modeling that don’t require physical presence.

You can teach what you know, but you reproduce what you are. Periscope is an amazing tool for life modeling. Think about it. You might teach or preach to a crowd once a week. But who gets to see you do family devotions? Who might want to peek in for 5 minutes to see where you have your God times? What’s better than seeing the mission trip live from a handful of people on the ground?

What did Jesus due when he came to earth? He modeled his life so that he could start a life-modeling chain reaction. When he left he provided his personal presence through the Holy Spirit. He distributed his presence through the incredible nature of the Trinity himself. In some ways that is the same multipliable opportunity with Periscope. Periscope has been called “consensual voyeurism.” I would encourage you to think about it as “ever-present modeling multiplication”

#5 Periscope expands how a mobile society can stay connected to your ministry events.

My first post in 2015 became popular as I discussed why you most committed people will attend church less frequently. Here is a tool to address that challenge. Why wouldn’t you want to have a distributed workforce of people showing your ministry events, shared experiences and God moments as a church? I can’t wait to see the applications for church communicators!

 #6 Periscope creates a new horizon of innovation opportunity for the almost 8 billion in the world. 

The mind blowing begins when you think of the modeling, teaching and training opportunities leveraged across a growing global population of digitally connected people.  If you want some fuel to throw on your imagination, consider reading this post on 8 Predictions for the world in 2025.

Do you ever get tired of the church lagging far behind the innovation curve? Again, here is an new opportunity to leap ahead.

#7 There will be tons of distracting and even evil stuff on Periscope, so let’s saturate it with the gospel! 

Enough said.

Are you on Periscope yet? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Oh and be sure to connect with me @willmancini. Periscope up!

March 27, 2015

Powerful Quotes on Vision and Leadership by Lyle Schaller, Church Consultant #LyleLearnings

Will Mancini tribute to Lyle SchallerLyle Schaller, a church consultant who passed away last week, was the most well-known and most-traveled church consultants of the 20th century.  He was a master of understanding church vision and leadership. He wrote or cowrote over 94 books, and brought a prolific diagnostic ability to his work. I cannot express my gratitude enough for his life model and the rich learning that he passed on; especially helping guys like me practice in the arena of church consulting.

To celebrate his legacy, the Auxano team is inviting church leaders and church consultants everywhere to join in a simple social media tribute today. Share powerful quotes or insights or just shout out that he visited your church.

Use the hashtag #LyleLearnings.


On Vision

  • The safe assumption today is that no two churches are alike; each congreation has its own unique culture.
  • One of the most widely neglected facets of new church development is the value of a distinctive identity for every new mission.
  • The key variables in new church development are not location, location, and location, but visionary leadership, entrepreneurial leadership, and long-tenured leadership.
  • Church leaders operate in a longer time frame than most realize. What you do this week will not be significant for three to four years.
  • A vision for a new tomorrow usually is based on a high degree of discontinuity with the past.
  • Planned change always begins with discontent with the status quo.
  • The most serious shortage in our society is for skilled transformational leaders who possess the capability to initiate planned change from within an organization.

On Diagnosis (Lyle’s Learning and Listening Approach)

  • Too many congregations try to establish a ministry plan out of thin air.
  • Change is the name of the game, and questions are the heart of that game.
  • You can’t really effectively provide fully informed decisions on any kind of action or strategy, such as a ministry plan for a congregation, unless you first have a diagnosis.
  • One of the most important dimensions of a change agent’s job may be to foster creativity by asking questions rather than by suggesting answers.
  • It is appropriate, productive, and good for congregational leaders periodically to engage themselves in the process of appraising the role, ministry, internal dynamics, outreach, and life of that congregation.
  • The small congregation is to the megachurch what the village is to the large central city. They are different orders of God’s creation.

On Volunteers

  • Make a distinction between hiring staff to do ministry and choosing staff who focus on challenging, motivating, enlisting, training, placing, nurturing, and supporting volunteers.
  • In well over 95 percent of all American Protestant congregations, the driving force in assigning volunteers is to fill vacant slots. In the other 3 or 4 or 5 percent the number-one criterion is, ‘Will accepting this volunteer role enhance the spiritual and personal growth of this individual?’
  • Do not expect long-established groups to attract new members!

What would you add and what have you learned? Please share if you have had any exposure too or experience with Lyle Schaller as a church consultant. Remember to use #LyleLearnings

For more on Lyle Schaller’s life,  my friends at Learning Network wrote this tribute. Here is an article from Christianity Today.

February 24, 2015

The Top 10 Ways Pastors Spend Time that Doesn’t Make Disciples

What gets in our way when it comes to the church’s mission to make disciples? Let’s look at the things we do at church and they way we spend our time as pastors:

  1. Preparing a sermon or teaching message in a given week without spending time in disciple-making relationships.
  2. Spending time meeting with staff and church leaders in a given week in lieu of spending time in personal disciple-making relationships.
  3. Designing a worship experience in a given week without a prior design of a clear disciple-making strategy.
  4. Managing a weekly money gathering process from people without having a clear disciple-making vision that will be used to steward the money.
  5. Recruiting people to volunteer in ministry environments without any knowledge of their involvement in disciple-making relationships.
  6. Providing for the care needs of others in the church without a system for care to take place in the context of disciple-making relationships.
  7. Creating any content (worship guides, newsletters, social media, curriculum) without a prior definition of disciple-making outcomes.
  8. Training any small group or Bible study leaders without a prior training in the church’s disciple-making strategy and outcomes.
  9. Developing and launching programs that do not fit into a clear and cohesive disciple-making strategy.
  10. Putting out fires with or for people who could care less whether they have or you have any disciple-making relationships in life. 

What would you add? What do you think pastors do that does not make disciples?  Help me write the next 10!

January 1, 2015

The Most Important Trend of Church Trends in 2015 And What To Do About It

Church trends 2015 by Will Mancini

I like reading about trends and I like thinking about the long lists of church trends. Two of my most widely read posts on church trends include:

This year I want to do something different by focusing on one important church trend. By calling it the most important trend, I want to state up front that I am not building my case with stats. What I do have is 14 years of weekly meetings with church leaders across the country talking about what’s happening in the church.

Specifically, in the last two years, I have see one common thread become a common rope. Its presence is now ubiquitous; every church I talk with mentions this problem when we discuss the Local Predicament in our Kingdom Concept work (challenges and opportunities expressed in the local culture). I have never seen a problem discussed this commonly amidst a diversity of church sizes and denominational affiliations.


Your Most Committed People Will Attend Worship Services Less Frequently than Ever in 2015

What does this mean? Simply that people who once attended four times a month may only attend three times a month. Members who once attended twice a month will only come once a month.

Now I could build a case with stats, but you are probably a little curious. Let me say a few things and then move on.

There are some stats that validate the slow continual decline of church attendance. However, this doesn’t get at what I am seeing, mainly because it’s diluted by a mass of non-evangelical data and halo-effect responses (people answering more positively than reality would suggest).

In addition, Auxano has produced hundreds of primary research congregational surveys that do reference worship frequency data decline that would support my observation. However, I have not aggregated the data yet. If you want more info on this, you can read my post on the 20 Most Important Measurables of a church.

Finally, in 2013, Thom Rainer stated that decreasing frequency of church attendance is the number one reason for church decline.

The bottom line is that the data doesn’t reveal the significance of the increasing reality among the COMMITTED members of evangelical churches and the massive opportunity this presents for us as leaders.


There are several reasons why people attend church less frequently. The first and most obvious place, (and the only place Thom Rainer goes) is waning commitment. People attend less when spiritual priorities are less important. Let’s consider some reasons:

  • Increasing involvement with kid’s activities including more “multiple activity” commitments (sports, music, etc.) for longer durations with greater competitiveness. The growth of club sports and the intensity of competition creates a market for kids to get started earlier and be involved longer. This is literally eating our families alive when it comes to time.
  • Greater mobility in general and the rise of virtual work places. 25% of white collar Americans travel as a part of making a living. People with discretionary time are more likely to be traveling. People are working virtually and changing their habits and expectations about living on-the-go or in remote places.
  • Access to church online. Now it’s easier to stay connected to the church if you must travel or if you’re just having problems at home getting ready for church in the morning. Within two minutes, I can be streaming one of many great worship services from across the country with my entire family, from my laptop to my widescreen via Apple TV.


Again, the knee-jerk response is to lament the decreasing commitment. Remember, people are always committed to some thing. How do we help people become all God wants them to be given these cultural limitations? Or dare I say cultural opportunities.

#1 – Add value not venues 

Rather than just creating more things for people to do “at church” how can you add more value to people through fewer ministry venues? For example, rather than starting a class on prayer, how can you create more value for people’s prayer lives 24/7? Perhaps you could adapt the material for the class and provide it in existing small groups. Or, maybe you could provide that content online rather than requiring someone to drive to church?

#2 – Think training over teaching

If you attend an effective online worship service, it is actually more intimate than an average mega-church worship experience. Chat rooms, follow-up, and engagement take place with great ease. My point is that intimate community doesn’t take place in many worship environments.

Think about it: The more that worship at your church is about teaching and inspiration only, the more people will be able to substitute your church offering with digital ones. The best way to address this is to think like a trainer not a teacher. Teaching is now ubiquitous and free. Training is not. What does that look like? Instead of just preaching on prayer, give them actual tools and ways to practice. Give them back door links on your website with additional training. Hand them a book, show them how to make a prayer journal, or create a daily devotional to follow on Twitter or Facebook.

#3 Design for ministry ends not means

Most churches are already over-programmed and under-discipled. Perhaps this “negative” trend is a positive way to awake from the myth that more activity at church means greater spiritual vitality. It does not. Use the challenge to rediscover the difference between ministry ends and ministry means. Start by articulating the kind of disciple that your church is trying to produce. The win was never to get people to come to church a lot in the first place, but to follow Jesus better. You don’t need a ton of church activities to be a follower of Jesus. Think about it: Is Jesus going to give you a scorecard in heaven asking you how many times people came to your worship services, Bible studies and service projects? Or, is He going to consider what kind of thinking, being, and doing those times produced in the lives of our people?

If typical church attendance isn’t the ultimate goal to begin with, how can this trend become an opportunity?


>> Read more from Will.

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