Ten Observations from Churches Who “Get It”

Orginally published on Monday, April 02, 2007 at 6:04 AM
by Todd Rhoades

It has been my extreme privilege during the past month or so to visit some great churches… some churches that are really firing on all cylinders. I was thinking about my visits the past few days and decided that there were some similarities in these churches that I really should write down. At least six of these churches have reported over 250 decisions for Christ over the past year. In my opinion, with that many conversions per year, that should place these churches in at least the top 5% of churches who are making a real Kingdom impact in the country today. Here are some serious (and not so serious) observations about these churches:

1.  Each church has a pastor with a vision.  And it’s not just that these pastors have a vision… it’s that they have a gift for communicating that vision to their staff and their entire church.  While it might not be a surprise to anyone that churches that ‘get it’ have pastors who ‘get it’, it is a glaring similarity among these churches:  their pastors are great leaders with a great vision.

2.  Each church hires almost exclusively from within. Most every staff member of these churches was hired from within.  When asked if this was intentional, most said that it was.  Here’s the deal:  most of these churches do a tremendous job of training leaders and empowering people in ministry.  When that happens, the cream rises to the top, and that’s how they find their best staff people.  Most do not have church staff experience, but rather bring their expertise from another area of business or commerce.  And, I have to say, these are some sharp people.

3.  Speaking of staff, the staff of these churches ‘get it’ too.  The staff in these churches are very loyal to their church and to their leadership.  These are people that have a long history with the church; and they are totally sold on the mission, vision and values of their church.  They also view their job not only as to serve God, and the church; but also to come along side and support the vision and leadership of the senior pastor.  These churches have very loyal staff.

4.  A larger percentage of their staff (or staff wives) are pregnant. Just an observation here… but there are a lot of staff pregnancies at these churches.  I’ve done no official polling or investigation here… it’s just a trend I’m seeing in these churches that ‘get it’.

5.  These churches and pastors don’t have a clue what they’re doing. No really… more than one of the senior pastors told me something to the effect of “I really have no idea what I’m doing.” But, they’re having a great time doing it!  Most of these leaders have never led a church larger than what they’re currently pastoring.  One pastor said, “I’ve never even attended a church like this one.” They expressed the amount of faith they need to place in God just to lead where they are.  In other words, they don’t have it all figured out!

6.  Since they don’t have it all figured out, these pastors all shared with me their desire to connect with other leaders who can help mentor them. Each and every leader I’ve spoken to has asked in one way or another, “Who are some people that you think I should talk with?” In other words… who are the people out there that can help mentor me?  Another encouraging thing is that these pastors are also excited about mentoring others.

7.  These churches are not shy about sharing resources. Each one of these churches that I visited share their stuff with others freely.  These aren’t a group of stingy churches… they are sold on their mission; and at the same time want to help other churches and their leaders however they can.  Some are becoming ‘teaching churches’ who actively put the ‘helping other churches’ right in their DNA as a part of their identity and mission.

8.  Most all of these pastors are bloggers. Not sure what the correlation is here; but four out of the six senior pastors are active bloggers.  Some blog more to their church audience; others blog for other church leaders.  Many of these churches have multiple church staff blogs. And the influence of their blogs and voice is expanding.

9.  These churches are not afraid to make tough calls. If they see a ministry that needs cut, they’ll cut it.  A staff member that’s not pulling his/her weight?  They’ll reassign them or help ‘free their future’.  They are not afraid to make gutsy and/or controversial calls.  And best of all, it is their vision and mission that make these decisions, according to them, much easier.

10.  Numbers are important to them.  Each and every one of them.  Because each person represents someone that Jesus died for, they make an effort to count that person because that person matters.  While numbers is not the end-all measurement; it does provide insight into the amount of ministry and serves as one stat to how well you are achieving your ministry goals.  As I said, each of these churches have counted at least 250 conversions in the past year.  That’s something to count and get excited about.

Am I saying that these churches are flawless?  Not by any means.  And their pastors would tell you the same thing.  I am saying that after visiting these churches fairly closely together that these are some of the common threads that I see.  Take them for what they are worth, and see how many of these things these churches have in common with your church.  It could be an interesting exercise!

About the Author: Todd Rhoades is the Managing Editor and Publisher of MondayMorningInsight.com (MMI as most of us know it). Besides spending a good amount of time maintaining this website, Todd is on the staff of Leadership Network, helping large churches to better connect, innovate, and multiply what they do best. Todd was also the founder of ChurchStaffing.com, until he sold the site in 2005. Todd lives with his wife, Dawn, and four children in Bryan, OH. He can be reached at .

This post has been viewed 7448 times so far.

  There are 60 Comments:

  • Posted by

    Seems like you visit the same type of churches.

  • Posted by Gary Sweeten

    Todd, great insights, some probably more important than others but I think you hit key points about growing, healthy churches. I suggest that you take a look at the book, Failure of Nerve, a book brought out by the Family of Dr. Ed Friedman after his death. You will see several key principles in his book that you mention, especially vision and making tough decisions.

    Dr. Friedman also wrote Generation to Generation and taught several thousand relgious leaders about healthy family life at home, church and society.

    You did not mention higher education but implied that training within trumps formal education. The growing churches I worked with in Asia strongly emphasized discipleship rather than education. Some would not allow their staff to take off more than one year to attend seminary because they lost their vision and loyalty to the local congregation.

  • Posted by

    Todd, I am curious; were these denominational or non-denominational churches or a mix?  In my experience, the non-denominatiional churches have the greatest autonomy for growth without burdensome denominational restrictions.  What is your view?

  • Posted by

    Will – Todd didn’t say, but I’d guess these are actually very different “types” of churches.  And I would further guess, buy the comment about the number of decisions to follow Jesus, that the “get it” factor Todd refers to is that the churches reaching people and seeing lives changed.

    Observations can’t really be argued (not that I would), they are simply observations.  I do have a few comments:

    #2 – I feel that it is highly valuable and important to build leaders and hire from within, but not always.  Periodically a pair of fresh eyes is important.  Perhaps this is less important for these churches because of #6, but being mentored still cannot bring the kind of perspective as having a team new member who came from another geography and a completely different ministry.

    #6 is as important for individuals as it is for churches and organizations.

    #9 – Oh boy, there are sure a lot of churches that don’t make tough calls because it doesn’t seem loving.  The church could learn something from the corporate world here.  It is in no way loving (nor is it good stewardship) to allow someone to skate, not contribute to the team or the kingdom, not use their own gifting to the max.

    #10 is my favorite.  Not paying attention to numbers is a prescription for complacency, ineffectiveness and just plain bad ministry.  It’s like taking the precious resources of time, money, people and gifts (ours and the gifts of others), and telling ourselves we don’t have to account for what we do with these.  I remember what the master said to the steward who didn’t pay attention to numbers . . . ouch!!


  • Posted by

    Just a comment about the fourth observation. The high staff pregnancies would indicate to me that these are youthful churches. They have a relatively young staff and more than likely the congregational make up is young. There is nothing wrong with that but there are some “older” churches that “get it” also.

  • Posted by Phil DiLernia

    Interesting observations Todd.  Some seem to be obvious but let me engage those that I thought were more revealing.

    #2 - Hiring from within certainly gives the impression to others that there is hope for their gifts to be appreciated and utilized as they feel God would lead them to.  This is very important in my opinion.  Why spend so much resources discipling others that will only be able to follow the Holy Spirit in serving (as He impresses them to) at another church or ministry organization?  That makes no sense.  Since I arrived at my church in July 2006 I have developed a great working relationship with the Associate Pastor who had been here for 7 years previously and have hired our volunteer Youth Pastor as our full time Student Ministry Pastor.  We all serve together, moving forward in the same vision, and these decisions have been honored and blessed by God.  The only new person we hired was our new Music Ministry Director to get our music more updated.  He has done a wonderful job but interestingly most of my grumbling from others has come as a result of this hire from the outside.  But praise God that 80% of the people are fully supportive and appreciative of our new musical direction.

    #5 - It’s refreshing to see others in churches that God is moving in to admit that they don’t all have it “figured out.” Count me in on this.  This is my first church ministry as a pastor and transitioning a 114 year old church that at one time was a growing and thriving church (3-4 decades ago) has been challenging to say the least.  It’s not the “what to do’s” that is challenging but rather the bleeding of people who rather worship somewhere else than to stay and join a ministry that has witnessed God’s hand in saving people (24 in 8 months), re-igniting a Holy Spirit fire in the overwhelming majority of others who now sense a hope, direction, and mission that they hadn’t sensed before.  We’ve added 70-100 weekly in 8 months but lost 30 or so along the way as well.  It’s very hurtful and very stressful but all this is to say that leaders must be flexible and trust in God to be God and not trust in our foreknowledge and plans.  He does have it “all figured out.” Amen.

    #9 is my favorite.  I’d like to reword that to say making the “right calls.” The main reason they are tough is because, as it is stated above in my comments to #6, we don’t have it all figured out.  We now it’s “right” but the stress of others bemoaning the decision, gossiping about the person who made it (or just gossip about the senior pastor for any decision whether he had anything to do with it or not!), harming people’s reputations, standing as obstacles to the ministry, and any other headache makes making the “right” decision painful.  But either we’re leaders or we’re not.  Either we trust in God or we don’t.  Some are called to have somewhat of a Jeremiah-ish portion to the ministry.  Either we flee to Tarshish like Jonah when we don’t like it or we do what Paul did - serve faithfully even unto death.

    We’re growing in numbers, enthusiasm for the Lord, joy in our worship and our fellowship, and seeing/sensing the relevance of God’s Word to our lives today.  The only thing we’ve decreased in is our giving (the result of the 30 or so who left and the protest of others who have stayed who are upset with our reduction in missions overseas for our increase in missions locally.)

    People getting saved, baptized, and joining the church - all in numbers not seen in most people’s experience here over decades.  I’ll stick with God on this one and pray that we continue to remain in the 6% of churches who are growing. 

    Hey Todd ... pray for us!

  • Posted by RevJeff

    Let’s see.... I have survived my first week as the SENIOR pastor - which included a funeral and a missionary commissioning, My wife is pregnant (we’re both over forty)… and I haven’t got a clue… I could be on the way to “getting it” - I hope!

  • Posted by John Burton

    It would seem that such churches are positioned in such a way that change is not only embraced but an expected part of the process.  I wonder how other churches, leaders and members will react when the normal Sunday experience is transformed into what’s coming next.  Will they hold on to the old or embrace the new?  Most people by nature hate change, and it will take some gutsy visionaries to press through that resistance so that the new wine skin can be made ready.

  • Posted by Brian

    Yeah, they’re growing.

    But I’ll bet they’re watering down the gospel and selling out to the world, preaching an “easy-believism” gospel of all love and no repentance.

    That’s the only reason a church can see these kinds of numbers nowadays, right?


    I pray that God will allow us as we transition to become the kind of church that really gets it.

    Thank the Lord for these churches - the angels rejoice at the salvations while some of the brethren shake their heads and say it can’t be real…


  • Posted by Misty Rhodes

    I loved the article! I am so blessed to be on staff at a church that “gets it” and to personally work for a senior pastor that is such a dynamic leader who’s vision is so contageous. I was brought to this position as an outsider (which is pretty much a no no around here - hires from within) eight months ago. Honestly I have never been a part of something so amazing. I’ve seen too many “not getting it” churches. But I am blown away to watch week after week of new people who are lost come through the doors here not knowing Jesus and getting saved for the first time and then to see them back here every week and get to interact with them and hear how God is changing their lives and they can’t explain it and to watch them turn around and bring in their lost friends and family. This is the TRUE power of God that I’ve always longed to see. Souls being saved is THE ultimate move of the Holy Spirit. I grew up being taught (even though it didn’t seem correct to me) that the Holy Spirit moves when people start running the aisles and jumping pews, falling down and having “church” on a Sunday evening for 5 hours. How beautiful to see an even more powerful move of the Holy Spirit in that lost people are turning to Christ and lives are being changed and numbers are being added daily! The leadership training and hands-on, behind the scenes ministry training have been out of this world for me. I love this body’s mission and vision with all my heart and I will protect it in everyway possble.  I love being a part of a ministry that is purposed and excellent and driven but at the same time is just saturated in the spirit of generosity that it’s contageous and everyone gets that the church is not a building but it’s a people but that building and those people must set an atmophere so that soil can be cultivated so that when the seed of the Word comes forth, lives are saved smile

    (sorry for all the run on sentences but I got a little excited thinking about all that God has been doing!)

  • Posted by

    Don’t #1 - “Each church has a pastor with a vision” and #5 “These churches and pastors don’t have a clue what they’re doing” seem to be in conflict with one another?

  • Posted by John Burton

    They don’t contradict.  Visionaries see beyond the horizon.  The big picture.  How to get from point A to point B takes a lot of navigation, redirection, investigation, questions, etc.  For example, a visionary may know that God told him that they were to take a city for Jesus.  Some of the big vision includes many coming to Christ, the development of a city-wide prayer event, regular signs and wonders, etc.  They see it as if it were already happening.  How to make it happen?  Not sure- but we try and try again!

  • Posted by

    I was just wondering- how large are these churches you are visiting?

  • Posted by Tim Stevens

    Todd - loved this post. I highlighted your article and offered my comments at http://www.leadingsmart.com/leadingsmart/2007/04/churches_that_g.html

  • Posted by

    I love the hiring within one.  Although I am a full-time pastor and I have never been hired within, I have twice now chosen my successor from within the church I was leaving.  I am a big supporter of that!!!

  • Posted by

    Over the horizon comes the Anit-Christ and Daniel’s 70 th week and the things that will come upon the church in those days (no, we dont get taken out)...amazing to me with what is happening nothing metioned about such things,,

  • Posted by kent

    This article got picked up in my denomination e-mail conversation. (We have not evolved to the point of having a blog yet.) And it is already getting what I would consider the predictable reactions. Why aren’t they doing it the way we used to do it? How much of this conversion gorwth and not transfer growth. and yes they are can be legitimate questions but these churches are seeing people come to Christ. We have over 50% of our churches that would be catagorized as unhealthy. We are our own worst enemy. Well I am going to go bang my head against the wall.

  • Posted by


    Great article! 


  • Posted by Jan

    And I would add that I think a lot of these churches were started from the ground up by the guy with the vision. It is very difficult to go into an existing church and hang in there long enough to change the direction of the church.

    We have found ourselves in exactly that position.  But it has been very very tough, probably the toughest thing we’ve ever done in ministry.  And I think a lot of maybe smarter or less tenacious couples would have left long ago, or would have been fired during the process.

    So, now I would say that yeah, we fit most of that list.  Except the pregnant one.  Only willing to do so much for ministry smile and it made me laugh out loud.

    This last Sunday, I looked at the 40 people there and realized that all but 4 were all new to the church in the past 3 years.  We have NO sacred cows and are free to try new things and go for it in our community.  And numbers DO matter!

  • Posted by

    Brian, I was getting ready to slap you!  (in love, of course!)

    I work for a church that “gets it” and I tell everyone who will listen that I love my job!  I thank God every day for the blessing of seeing His plan revealed in the lives of people I know and love.

    I was hired from within.  Started as a volunteer in my current position and they brought me on staff after 6 months.  But, I am with Jan - I’m not going to get pregnant to make my church a text-book example of Todd’s article!  ;P

    Great job as always, Todd!

  • Posted by Brian L

    Kim, glad to see that you got the humor in my post!

    I’d love to see 250 people come to Christ in our entire town every year - I don’t care which churches are involved, although I’d love to see our church seeing a significant number of those coming to Christ through our ministries.

    Our church is currently in the process of “getting it.” We’ve had to examine ourselves as a church and individuals and while it hasn’t been easy, I believe that our best days are yet to come as we submit ourselves to Christ and His purposes for the Church.


  • Posted by Gary Sweeten

    After getting the “left foot of rejection” when I attempted to bring small group Bible studies into my church I decided to study how to be a change agent without killing the church or the leaders. I received a doctorate in Counseling with a minor in Organizational Development. Then I learned about the mistakes I had made.

    Bringing changes to an existing church is at least ten times more difficult that starting anew. But, if one is trained in change agentry and systems thinking it is possible.  I was involved an an internal consultant and change agent in a mega church and have consulted with many small, medium size and large churches that want to change.

    However, a ham fisted or premature intervention can mobilize the forces of resistance against you so it is important to understand what the system will do with the intended intervention.  If you want to foster systemic change you need a systemic consultant.

  • Posted by Jan

    I agree Gary.  My husband Tad was in bi-vocational ministry for many years (We alternated with who was on staff).  During this time he worked in business management and learned the ins and outs of making change without alienation and in a polictical environment.

    This has served him well in ministry.  Some of that learning, is to understand that you can’t rush into change, and that you need to give people time to process as well as to hang themselves if need be.  Sounds harsh, but what’s more political than church?

    He’s a master at this.  I stand back in awe as he deals with the anti-changers one by one and they’ve either left or bought the vision.

    Now we are at a place with no sacred programs or cows and ready to move forward.  And it’s taken a little over 3 years.

    I agree that it’s ten times more difficult, maybe even a hundred times more difficult in an existing church.  And I think we see many pastors crash and burn, because they don’t know how to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

  • Posted by

    Todd, thanks for visiting us here at C3 church, funny thing, my wife just gave birth...hmmmm. Maybe we all just love our wives, a little too much, go figure. Anyway, awesome blog!!! I’ll add it to my daily readers!!

    Cory Bolduc
    C3 church, Clayton

  • Posted by


    I find it curious that in your list of ten observations there is not one mention of the primary purpose of the church...reaching the lost with the Gospel message.  Maybe these churches “get it” by your understanding and standards but what about God’s standards? Are these churches actively teaching and disciple their members to reach out to the lost with the “...foolishness of the message preached...” in order to allow God to work through our faithfulness to His commission to build His Kingdom?  Why in the world would that not be THE NUMBER ONE observation?  Oh, I do not doubt that they fund as well as send missionaries to foreign countries but what about the business man in downtown Yourtown? Or the lady in the check out line in the grocery store next to you?  Are their souls not worth the effort?  Will we hear “Well done My good and faithful servant”?  Or will our attention to the light shows, the blogs, the new building projects, the conferences, or the numbers keep us barely treading water while our hometown’s newspaper continues to display the obituaries of those whom we were to busy to take the time to share the salvation message.

    Christianity in America needs to fall under some extreme persecution to show the true believers who are the REAL Christian pastors and show the Christian pastors who are the REAL Christians in their congregation. Jesus needs to take a whip of cords to the “so-called” Christian church today and with what is left over perhaps begin a revival in this country.

  • Page 1 of 3 pages

     1 2 3 >
Post Your Comments:





Live Comment Preview:

Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below: