Marginal Gains


There is always room for improvement within any church or organization. Today, we are taking a look at where to begin, the steps to be taken, and ultimately how to achieve your greatest goals!

This month, we are discussing our topic from the last All Staff meeting we held. We looked at how we can improve using the idea of marginal gains, and what this meant for our teams. Let’s get into it!

Be Honest with Where You Are

Be realistic about where you currently are. That sounds so simple. But leaders tend to think they are being realistic when they focus on what’s not working or on where they’re failing. William Arthur Ward said, “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” I am continually adjusting my sails. As a leader, you have to be a constant analyst.

Critiquing vs. Being Critical

One of the things that I had to input into our culture was the skill of honestly critiquing everything. Now, there’s a big difference between being critical and critiquing. Being critical focuses on the negative, while critiquing focuses on what could be improved. We critique everything we do because we know others will do it for us if we don’t do it ourselves. Therefore, we regularly analyze everything we do and ask, “Could we do it better?” We don’t always keep that analysis positive. Our tendency is to try to avoid conflict and keep everything positive, but sometimes it’s okay to allow a little bit of conflict or negative talk. This can help to dig out the real issues. If you don’t allow it in a controlled meeting, it will happen on the outside, so it’s best to discuss it while in private. My only stipulation is that if we address a problem, we must also focus on a solution to that problem. That’s how you keep things positive and moving forward.

Count Everything

If we see a slump in one area or another, we ask if we are missing something or if we need to change it. We never allow ourselves to make excuses for poor results because excuses remove our power to do anything about it. I can make excuses or I can make progress, but I can never do both. I think counting everything and analyzing the data is vital because you can’t manage what you don’t measure. When you get the data, you have a choice as to what you can do with it. You can make an excuse as to why the number is lower than expected, or you can make the necessary adjustment and set your sails accordingly.

[bctt tweet="Excuses remove our power to do anything about poor results. #leadership #marginalgains" username="kellystickel"]


Self-talk is a game-changer. We often tend to believe more of what we hear ourselves say than what we hear others say. Self-talk is not only a powerful business and ministry tool but an effective lifestyle tool if done constructively. I once heard someone define thinking as self-talk. I like that because all of us do it, whether we are aware of it or not. Once I became aware of that, I began to realize that I should consciously guard my self-talk and guide it with positive, forward-moving talk. Good self-talk doesn’t ignore the obstacle or difficulty in front of you but instead focuses you on being solution oriented instead of problem focused.

A good example of this is the difference between the 10 spies in Numbers 13, and Joshua and Caleb. The 10 spies' self-talk was focused on how big the enemy was and how strongly fortified their cities were. They were problem focused whereas Joshua and Caleb said, “We are well able” and, “God will make a way.” The two men didn’t ignore the enemy or their fortified cities, they just chose to focus their attention and talk on the solutions that would enable them to overcome those obstacles.

Think Big, Start Small

I once heard a quote from Seth Godin that read, “The thing is, incremental daily progress (negative or positive) is what actually causes transformation. A figurative drip, drip, drip. Showing up, every single day, gaining in strength, organizing for the long haul, building connection, laying track — this subtle but difficult work is how culture changes.”  The truth is, we as leaders often like to go from peak to peak, focusing on the outcomes instead of the journey. It’s our tendency to continually focus on big thinking and forget that it takes day-to-day, roll-up-your-sleeves hard work, and small steps to get there. For me, the key to continuing to think big, but at the same time starting small, has been to celebrate the little things along the way. This keeps myself, as well as my team, motivated in the mundane daily work. If I set smaller progressive goals along the way to our big destination, and then celebrate once we get there, it keeps us focused and moving forward until we reach the ultimate, big-thinking goal. Celebrate the journey every step of the way.

Focus On The Process Not The Results

Leaders have been taught for years to be results focused. Consequently, leaders tend to allow the big picture obsession to downplay the power of the process. As leaders, we are typically the visionaries or big picture thinkers, but we need to realize that most of our team is not. That means they don’t often see the end result like we do.  When we paint a picture for them of what that result will look like, they often view it as an immediate outcome, and that we will be there quickly. I know I have made this mistake many times as a leader. I see a big goal for the organization and share it with everyone prematurely which makes for disappointment when we don’t reach it quickly. Peter Drucker said, “People often overestimate what they can accomplish in one year. But they greatly underestimate what they could accomplish in five years.” With this being the case, it’s important for us as leaders to be wise in what we share and when we share it. It is wiser as a leader to focus on the process and celebrate the little steps rather than just on the big picture. This keeps the team focused and motivated to move forward.

Small Improvements Add Up to Massive Differences

Recently, I heard a story from my friend Rex Crain about the 1986 Los Angeles Lakers basketball team. They were heralded as the best team ever assembled but, ended up losing in the semi-finals that year. It was a major disappointment and you can imagine how their coach, Pat Riley, felt. In the offseason, he decided to do something about it. Instead of relying just on motivating the team as a whole to do better, he instead decided to work with each individual player on making marginal gains in their own development. He recorded every player's performance from each game the previous year and built a formula to calculate an overall personal score. Then he challenged each one to improve by just one percent in the next season. Of course, each player agreed because one percent was doable and they went to work on making their marginal gain. Then, Coach Riley used the same formula throughout the next season so that each player could see how they were progressing. It worked! Every player improved. The lowest level of improvement was 5% and the overall average was a 12% improvement. The team went on to win 2 straight championships and appeared in 4 of the next 5 NBA championships. So at All Staff, I told this story and then asked our team to work on areas in their own departments and with their own team in which they could get just one percent better. I believe if each team member and each department got just one percent better, the overall effect on the organization would be astronomical.

Progress Is In Your Control

Like I said before, we can make excuses or we can make progress, but we can’t do both. This reminds me of when I first began working with our worship team. We began with how they practiced. I attended each practice and had the team focus on how they would rehearse each song. Then, we worked on each player and vocalist and had them prepare individually for their part. We got rid of the “just wing it” mentality and had them rehearse a specific part. Then, we worked on the presentation of the songs they were learning and had each member watch videos of themselves alongside videos of other worship leaders to compare where they could make improvements.

This whole process happened over the course of 3 to 4 years. We made little steps like removing worship stands from the stage. The team was now individually rehearsed and prepared and in watching videos of themselves, they realized how much of a barrier these stands created between them and the congregation. After learning their parts, we focused on their tones because music is just a sum of sounds blended together. The better the sounds and blend, the better the song is received overall. Now, here we are 6 years into the process and we are not only better, but are now writing, producing, and releasing our own worship songs! I saw this as a goal years ago, but if I would have cast that vision from the beginning, we would have skipped a number of valuable steps along the way or would have given up in the process and settled with where we were. This way, we celebrated each step along the way and are now seeing the fruit of that progression.

Daily Investments

Small daily investments are the way to produce big changes. The secret here seems to be that in the patience of daily investments, momentum begins, though momentum at times seems nearly invisible. I challenge our leaders to listen to podcasts daily, read books weekly, and to attend conferences yearly. I encourage them to grow themselves first, and then monthly I train them in leadership at our All-Staffs as well. Each one doesn’t make a noticeable difference, but over time, these behaviours have made a huge improvement in our organization and on the individuals who have invested in themselves this way.

[bctt tweet="Small daily investments are the way to produce big changes. #marginalgains" username="kellystickel"]

As a leader myself, I continually listen to leadership podcasts, read books and leadership blogs, meet with mentors and ask them lots of questions, and attend conferences at churches much bigger than mine. I am constantly working on bettering myself as a leader because I know that if I stop growing, I will stop leading and my organization will stop growing. I take that very seriously.

What I love about the marginal gains concept is that it will work for anyone, anywhere, at any time, regardless of the size or scope of their ministry or business. The fact is, once you are realistic about where you currently are and you focus on making marginal gains in each area you are involved in, you will advance forward. You don’t build Rome in a day, but you will grow and eventually get to where you want to be. Imagine if every church leader made marginal gains this year. Imagine if every church grew by one percent. That might not seem like much for the church of 100 people. But, if every church in the world did that, there would be millions of more people in the Kingdom this time next year. So, let’s do it! Why? Because the church is the hope of the world, on a mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.

If you have questions you would like answered in an upcoming podcast, please email leadership@myvictory.ca.

Building Trust


Leadership is not a lone ranger endeavour, although it may seem like it sometimes. All churches need a team of leaders, regardless of whether they are paid staff or volunteers. What does a successful team that trusts each other look like?

At our All-Staff meeting in November, one of my teachings was entitled “6 Characteristics of a Healthy Team Member.” These traits may not shout “building trust” but they are at the heart of every trust issue. Today, we will be going over those six characteristics and how they affect our teams.

1. Heart Motivation

When speaking about this, I was referring to the motives a team member goes to work with. Are they a team player and motivated by making the team and each of its members better? Or is their motivation to make themselves look good? To take it a step further, you could ask whether they are motivated to make the church (or organization) better or just their team better. If they are motivated only to make themselves or their team better, they will be a very divisive and territorial teammate. This is very destructive to any organization. A healthy team member has a healthy heart motivation to make the organization as a whole and each member in it better.

2. Positive Demeanour

When there are conflicting ideas and options throughout the team, maintaining a positive demeanour can be a constant challenge. However, it is a sign of professionalism that maintains healthy air in the workplace. This is a big one. No one wants to work with someone who is always negative and pointing out the faults in everything. But at the same time, you don’t want to work with someone who avoids pointing problems out altogether.

The key to having a positive demeanour is to always be solution motivated rather than problem motivated. We must believe that there is a solution to every problem and that every problem can be solved. The healthy team member will not ignore the issues but instead will go to work with the team to find the solutions.

3. Courage to Ask the Tough Questions

This one builds beautifully off of having a positive demeanour because a teammate could always be positive but that may be because they lack the courage to ask the tough questions. If a team member sees problems but doesn’t challenge the status quo, they are useless to the team. They have to speak up.

When speaking up, it must be done so in a way that challenges the process without challenging the authority of the leader. The tough questions must be asked in private. This could mean one on one with your leader, or it could mean speaking up in a closed-door problem-solving meeting with your team. It is important to resist the urge to voice your concerns in public. Don’t discuss your problems about your leader or their decisions with your fellow teammates. Refrain from talking with anyone about an issue who doesn’t have the authority to make any changes. This would be deemed gossip, and that is deadly to a team. I believe that being a public raving fan and an honest private critic is how you best handle the tough questions. Being publicly critical will definitely slow a team down because it results in tensions and disharmony among the team.

If no one speaks up about obvious problems, the entire team is at risk of falling off the cliff. I have seen this occur far too many times. When an insecure leader stops listening to his team, or when they react strongly to a team member bringing up a tough issue, the team will begin to never confront their leader again. This is a problem. The entire organization will eventually become obsolete. Everyone on the outside of the organization will see the issues and will end up not trusting the leader or the team. This results in people not attending the church anymore or no longer patronizing the business.

4. Honesty Without Limitations

It is better to be honest with one another than it is to be afraid of offending others and keeping the issues you see to yourself. As Canadians, we tend to be less blunt than our neighbours to the south, or any other nationality for that matter. While I appreciate the attempt to preserve peace, I think it is dangerous to not speak the truth when there is something brewing in your heart. As a leader, I would rather be offended and stabbed in the front, than stabbed in the back. In other words, I’d rather be told upfront that something I am doing or that our team is doing is not right than have talk circling behind my back. I think it is best to always be upfront with one another, being honest with what we see and feel, and speak up with those thoughts in a respectful, tactful way.

5. Warmth and Humour

Not every person is naturally funny or warm, but I think we should all strive towards being warm and fun with our teammates. In my opinion, if no one ever laughs in the office, there is a problem. The healthiest teams and families for that matter, are the ones who laugh together and enjoy each other’s company. If everything is serious all of the time, it won’t be a productive team. There will be a bunch of individuals working alone, instead of working together as a team. We work together best when we enjoy the ones we work with.

6. Willingness to Reflect Reality

This one ties in with all of the others. It requires honesty and asking the tough questions, but it also requires a positive demeanour, warmth, and humour.  The truth is, within this list, each one of us leans towards one side or the other. Either we are great at asking the tough questions and possess brutal honesty, or we are positive, warm, and humorous. We all need to identify which of these six traits come naturally to us and which ones we need to work on. The best teammates are the ones who have a healthy balance of all six.

When it comes to reflecting reality, we must constantly evaluate where things are at. In the church world, we tend to ignore some of the problems because to us, problems are somehow linked to a lack of faith. That just simply isn’t true though. We have to be willing to honestly evaluate reality because until you know where you are, you will never be able to get to where you envision yourself being. It’s just like looking at the map in a big mall. The first thing you search for is the little red circle that says “You Are Here”. Once you locate that, you are able to chart your course to where you want to go.

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins says “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.” This resonates with me a lot as a pastor. I find it easy to be so focused on my faith that I lose sight of my current reality. However, like I said previously, I can’t reach my desired destination if I am ignorant of my current reality.

For me, it is always most difficult to confront the brutally honest facts. I tend to avoid digging deep enough into the reality of things because I often know I will discover something I’d rather not. So, I have had to set up a bunch of systems and habits in my life that regularly force me to ask the difficult questions and confront the brutal realities.

As pastors, I think we need to realize that an abundance of problems isn’t always a spiritual problem. Most times, they are people problems or system problems, so I can’t just pray myself out of them. I must be willing to ask tough questions myself and have the willingness to reflect reality before I can expect my team or church to do the same. When I identify the source of the problem, I have to have the courage to act. I believe that starts with identifying the “you are here” reality of your ministry and then working with your team to chart a course from where you are to where you want to go.

This is incredibly vital. If our teams aren’t healthy, our church won’t be healthy, and if our church isn’t healthy then our ministry to the community will not be healthy. When our ministry to the community is no longer healthy, we will cease to be the hope of the world and on our God-given mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.

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If you have questions you would like answered in an upcoming podcast, please email leadership@myvictory.ca


The 7 Keys of Culture


Culture is established either by design or default and everything has a culture; homes, businesses and even the church. You can have a great vision and mission, but without culture, everything falls apart. Let’s take a look at what it takes to create an amazing culture.

Everything has a culture whether you know it or not. Every home has a culture, which explains why you may walk into a home and feel peace and love, or tension and anger. No one has to say or do anything, you just feel it. That is culture. Businesses also have distinct cultures. This is why Starbucks attracts different clientele than Tim Hortons. Both serve coffee, but each one has a different feel and therefore attracts different people.

Every church has a culture as well, and it happens by design or default. You can either intentionally design the culture you want, or you can be a slave to the culture that happens by accident. It is your choice. But, I would rather design the culture I want than allow the culture to design the church it wants.

Culture is about behaviours and attitudes and the general feeling you get somewhere. Bad culture happens when what is advertised or said just isn’t happening. It doesn’t matter what is being said, what matters is what is being done.

In a church, culture is more important than vision, mission, or strategy. This can be tough to swallow. For years, I tried to introduce what I thought was an incredible vision only to have it fall flat. It felt like I had hit a brick wall. But, the truth was, I had hit a brick wall, and that wall was culture. For example, I could have the vision “to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means with the Gospel of Jesus Christ” — as all of our Victory Churches do — but if the culture of my church is insider focused, it does not matter how good the vision sounds, it will not work.  My culture will trump the vision every time and I won’t actually be able to fulfill what I intend to do. This problem describes the majority of my ministry, and I was frustrated. That is why I am so passionate about culture and teaching pastors the importance of it.

[bctt tweet="Culture is more important than vision, mission, or strategy. #culture #church" username="kellystickel"]

I pride myself in being a master strategist. I love strategy and I love talking about vision and mission. It is fun because it inspires people, it gets people excited. In contrast, culture isn’t all that enjoyable to speak about. It’s often hard to define or clarify. It doesn’t inspire people because it often requires a change in behaviour and its results aren’t always immediate. Yet, culture always wins. If I don’t make culture the most important thing I design, then I will not be able to implement effective strategies or be able to reach exciting visions. In my opinion, the first thing a pastor needs to do, before they talk vision or strategies, is examine and define their culture. Does the culture they currently have make it possible for the vision to work? If it doesn’t, then the culture must be changed before the vision is laid out. Otherwise, the pastor and his team will become frustrated, the pastor will lose credibility as a leader because the culture is fighting the vision, and therefore the vision will not work as projected.

With all that being said, let’s dive into the 7 Keys of Culture. The keys are an acronym for the word “Culture”, which makes them easy to remember.

1. Control

When evaluating your culture, there are some key questions to be asked on the basis of control.

  • Would you say there is too much control from the top, too little, or just the right amount?
  • Do people know what is expected of them, or are they confused sometimes?
  • Are the lines of authority and responsibility clear on our team? How can we tell?

People function most effectively on a team if they are given control or authority along with responsibility. It is extremely frustrating to be given responsibility for something without the authority to actually make decisions in that area. So, when evaluating your culture, you have to firstly evaluate issues of control and communication. People thrive on teams that have a free flow of information and ready access to resources. It is important that the “top” doesn’t keep all of the information to themselves, or it will lead to frustration. Is there a risk to not having all of the control at the top? Absolutely. But, I think the risk is greater if there is too much control from the top down than if people are given the authority to make decisions for their area of responsibility.

2. Understanding

This one builds off of the first one, especially when it comes to communication. So, the questions a team must ask in order to evaluate their culture in the area of understanding are questions like:

  • Do most lines of communication on our team flow from the leader, or is there good cross-pollination?
  • Do people on our team feel understood, valued, and directed to give their best each day?
  • Is the vision for our team both God-sized and specific?

This point is all about clarity. Every person on the team needs to have a clear grasp of the vision, as well as a clear idea of their role in facilitating that vision. They also need to have a clear understanding of the gifts and contributions of their teammates, and the way the team best functions together.

A healthy team culture is reliant on everyone clearly knowing what the vision of the team is and each ones role in making that vision happen. The more they understand these things, the healthier the culture will be. A lack of clarity or understanding in these areas can cause the culture to become toxic and it will hold the vision back. 

3. Leadership

This one is not necessarily about the leader as a person or the leadership team and their particular abilities as much as it is about the “culture of leadership” within the organization as a whole.

  • Does the organization have a culture of leadership development? John Maxwell calls this having a healthy growth environment in which everyone is challenged to grow as a leader.
  • How well are we doing at identifying and developing rising leaders?

I think it is important to note that there is a difference between developing and training leaders. Developing people into leaders requires a focus on heart and character as well as on skills whereas training is more about equipping someone to perform a particular task. Another important question to ask is what kind of resources (time, money, personnel, etc.) are we devoting to leadership development? A healthy culture will include a healthy growth environment where people are not just being trained for the tasks at hand, but are being developed into leaders.

4. Trust

Trust is obviously important to a healthy culture; up, down, and across the Org Chart. When people trust each other, they make a strong connection between the vision, their own roles, and the input of others both in strategic planning and in the steps of implementation. Trust may be freely given, but it is usually earned as people watch each other respond in good times and in bad. Trust most effectively grows in an environment that is HOT; honest, open, and transparent.

Trust is an interesting one as a leader. You would think that the only way a leader earns trust is when they do something right, but I have seen trust effectively earned by the way a leader handles failure, sometimes even more so than by one who had great success. That is part of transparency in earning trust.

At this level, teams need to ask:

  • In what ways is trust being built or eroded on our team?
  • How is failure treated on our team? How does that response affect the level of trust?
  • How does the team handle gossip? Are there clear guidelines?

When you get a handle on the answers to these questions, you will be able to evaluate the level of trust and health of your culture in this area.

5. Unafraid

This one is really about the risk level of the organization. A healthy organization is one in which the team is not afraid to take risks and this happens when they are unafraid to make mistakes. An organization that is afraid to take risks is one that will stop moving forward. Great leaders don’t squash risk taking by jumping on every mistake. Great leaders also welcome dissenting opinions, as long as they are offered in good will and with an eye toward solution and the organization moving forward as a whole. The team must ask:

  • How open is our team to taking risks?
  • What are some examples of courage on our team in the past year or so?
  • How does one person’s courage to take risks affect the team?
  • What happens when a person is courageous without being wise?

If we have an unhealthy culture, then people on our teams will be afraid to make mistakes. People who go to work afraid to make mistakes are often tentative and not at their best and usually make more mistakes. We don’t want people to work from the basis of fear, but we want them to work from a place of courage and a clear conviction of the nobility of their cause and a commitment to the people fighting next to them.

[bctt tweet="An organization that is afraid to take risks is one that will stop moving forward. #unafraid" username="kellystickel"]

6. Responsive

This one is subtle but so important. Responsive teams don’t just focus on the big goals and sweeping strategies, but they develop the habit of taking care of little things, because little things often become big things if left unchecked. Little things include promptly returning phone calls or responding to emails as well as communicating decisions to everyone that needs to know, when he or she needs to know it. I have found that as the organization grows, the amount of energy that needs to be invested in being responsive, to people inside and outside of the team, needs to grow as well. Questions we need to ask are:

  • How often do “little things” like returning phone calls and emails fall through the cracks on our team?
  • Does our team’s current organizational system foster responsiveness or hinder it?
  • Are we clear as to who should respond to what by when?

I know this one seems a bit trivial in the big picture, but I assure you it really isn’t trivial at all. Our ability to respond to people in a timely manner communicates that we care about them and our mission. Not responding in a proper time frame or manner will kill trust and create an unhealthy culture.

7. Execution

Execution has a lot to do with accountability. Excellence demands accountability. And, accountability happens when winning is rewarded, losing is penalized, and mediocrity is challenged. If one or more of those things doesn’t happen, it is a dysfunctional system. People don’t do what we expect, they do what we inspect. So, plans and visions become worthless if they don’t have targeted goals, deadlines, access to resources, and a budget.

[bctt tweet="Excellence demands accountability. #leadership " username="kellystickel"]

I believe a healthy culture happens when there is a clear plan of execution. Execution requires a clear goal, a clear strategy, a scoreboard that clearly shows where we are in the process, and accountability. Without these things, we can spin our wheels and be busy, but we will never be productive or get things done. So, questions a team must ask in this regard are:

  • How clearly defined are the goals and responsibilities for each person in our organization?
  • How are people held accountable on our team?
  • How do team members give feedback to each other about their performance and communication?

Clearly answering these questions will help you evaluate this part of your culture.

Culture trumps vision. And we have a great vision! But, in order to for us to be able to achieve that vision, we have to design the culture that will be conducive to that vision. This may require us asking ourselves some tough questions to identify what needs to change in order to move our vision forward. The first tough question to ask yourself is, “Are we getting the results we expect from our vision?” If we are not, and we are frustrated, then we most likely have a culture problem to fix in one or more of these seven areas. We must go to work on fixing that issue and designing a healthy culture because souls are depending on us to fulfill our great vision; to be the hope of the world, and on a mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.


If you have questions you would like answered in an upcoming podcast, please email leadership@myvictory.ca

The 7 Growth Points of Every Organization


The church is a movement and movements move. Jesus spoke of a church that He would continually build into, so it is expected that the church should be continually growing as well. We need to master this growth in all areas of the church.

Our focus today is from one of our recent All-Staff training days on the subject of “The 7 Growth Points of Every Organization”. Before we dive in, here is a list of the seven points:

  1. The Leader must grow

  2. Grow your team

  3. Grow your systems

  4. Grow your numbers

  5. Grow your income

  6. Grow the expectation in the church

  7. Grow your facilities

I came to discover these growth points through discussions with my mentors as well as other pastors, and through observations from being a pastor myself over the past 20 years. These were the first things I taught the staff here in Lethbridge when I arrived six and a half years ago. They have remained a regular part of our discussions and have made a huge impact on our growth as a church. We are always looking at which of the seven are our current weakness; which one we need to focus on in the season we are in to move the church forward.

Growth Point #1: The Leader Must Grow

I believe that when a leader stops growing, he stops leading and the organization will no longer grow. So, it is imperative that a leader continually grows themselves. I take this one very seriously and have developed a personal growth plan within each of my priorities.

My growth plan includes learning daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. I want to grow as a pastor and leader, so daily, I listen to a podcast of a leader or pastor who has gone further than me. Weekly, I read a book on leadership, pastoring, marriage, management, biographies, etc. Monthly, I will connect with a leader who has gone further than me and ask a series of questions that will help me in my situation. Yearly, I attend a mega-conference at a church that is much larger than my own so I can physically see and experience a church of that size, and learn form the leaders there as well. This type of regimen takes time and money, but it is an investment into my growth and I believe that if I intentionally grow, then what I lead will grow too.

Growth Point #2: Grow Your Team

I very much believe that our church’s “secret sauce” is the fact we very intentionally grow our team in leadership. John Maxwell defines leadership as influence, so it seems reasonable that if we grow our people in leadership, they will grow in influence and our church will inevitably grow. So, from the beginning, we have spent a lot of time and money on intentionally growing our team.

For the first 5 years, I taught our whole team a leadership lesson for an hour a week. When we expanded to 4 campuses in 4 different cities, we decided to invest in an entire day a month dedicated to teaching our teams. And then, we added this weekly podcast for our team. We have also invested in books for them as well as in sending them to conferences together. I feel that we have saved ourselves years of training by simply learning and growing together at a conference. We then come home all passionate about the same changes we feel we need to implement in our own setting.

It is so important to invest time and money into purposefully growing your team. If your team stops growing, your church will stop growing. But if your volunteers and staff continually grow, your church will grow too.

Growth Point #3: Grow Your Systems

While systems won’t grow a church, poor systems will definitely stop a church from growing. A system is all about creating movement from one level of commitment to another. A church needs to create movement from the community into the church, from first time attenders to regular attenders, from regular attenders to members, from members to partners, and from partners to the committed core. All of these steps require movement in commitment, and a good system will facilitate that. So, if we are not gaining enough visitors, then we have a systems problem at that level. And if we have a lot of visitors, but they do not stay, then we have a systems problem in retention. The list goes on.

I have learned that there is no “one size fits all” system. As our church grows, we outgrow our current systems and we need to make a change to make systems better to keep healthy movement in all aspects of our growth. 

[bctt tweet="“Systems permit ordinary people to achieve extraordinary results.” - Michael Gerber" username="kellystickel"]

Michael Gerber says that “Systems permit ordinary people to achieve extraordinary results.” And I would agree with this. Good systems make leaders look better thanthey actually are and poor systems make them look worse than they are. I think what is important in evaluating your systems is to design a clear path of movement for your people. Simply answer, “What’s next?”. Then, keep accurate numbers of each stage and evaluate whether there is regular movement and growth at each level. Once you identify an area where growth has stopped, evaluate the leaders and the systems and ask, “What’s the best way to grow that in our church?”. Also, ask “Is there anything we are doing that is hindering growth in that area?”. Once you have answers to those questions, you can go to work designing a system that will go to work for you.

I think it is important to note that systems need to work for us and serve the people, not the other way around. We don’t ever want to get to a place where we are serving the system. We make it clear around here that our systems are always open for change. We simply want to find the best way, and if there is a better way, then let’s do it!

Growth Point #4: Grow Your Numbers

This one seems pretty obvious. Every church wants to grow their numbers and this is usually how we define whether a church is growing and healthy or not. But, it is important to note that this is just one of the growth points; it is not the only defining factor. When we recognized this, we were able to more effectively evaluate this point of growth.

We began studying our trends and identified seasons in our church; seasons in which our numbers grew rapidly and when they seemed to decline. Seasons of growth for us were from Thanksgiving to Christmas and from Easter to May Long Weekend. During these times, our numbers naturally inclined. But, we also noticed that they naturally declined in July and August as well as January to Easter.

When we noticed these trends, we started to recognize our harvest time so we changed how we approached those natural growth times. We altered how we preached, how our staff focused, and how we would work our schedule to take advantage of what was happening naturally. When we were in a season of decline, we decided to use those seasons to grow one or more of the other growth points. So, in the summer, we typically evaluate our systems and tweak them to be ready to handle the anticipated numerical growth in fall. Identifying seasons has really helped us grow our numbers and to retain the growth that seems to naturally occur.

Growth Point #5: Grow Your Income

I rarely talk about money publicly. This is because I have learned that begging for money or guilting people into giving is not the best way to grow your income. To me, the best way is with clear vision. I have found that if people are clear on where you are going, and are passionate about going there with you, then they will be more apt to buy in, in every sense of the word. So, we work hard on being clear with our vision. I am not afraid to talk about money, I just feel like I don’t need to focus on it in order to encourage giving. I do teach one or two series a year about money, but it is teaching on why generosity and giving is a vital part of our personal growth, and the benefit it has to each of us personally.

Growth Point #6: Grow the Expectation in the Church

I have noticed that the higher the expectation of the people attending, the greater the level of anointing the service has. I first realized this trend as a musician who participated on worship teams during conferences. At a conference, people were engaged and pulling on us as a team within the first chord being played. Then, we would take that same team and the same set list and play it for our congregation on Sunday and it was like crickets. Jesus could do miracles everywhere except in his hometown. Why? Because they were too familiar with him and their expectations were low. This had a direct effect on his anointing.

The question I asked our team was, “How do we effect the expectations of our people attending weekly so that we can have the highest level of anointing possible in our weekly services?” We came up with two main ways to of that:

  1. With Creativity. If people are not sure what is going to happen each week, they will be more excited to come.

  2. With Excellence. If we can do everything we do with the highest level of excellence within our capabilities, people will raise their expectations. And when they raise their expectations, they will draw on the anointing and that will have a larger effect on the outcome.

So, we are constantly evaluating this area and trying to get a sense of the expectation level in our church. If we sense it is low, then we know we have to shake things up to increase the congregations expectations.

Growth Point #7: Grow Your Facilities

There is a general rule that if a room is 80% full or more, people will be uncomfortable and less likely to come back, bottlenecking your growth. This rule is true for the auditorium, kids classrooms, the parking lot, and the foyer. So, if you identify a bottleneck, then you will have to find ways to alleviate this issue. We are constantly working on this one. It is difficult because the easiest solution is often too expensive, so you have to get creative. That might mean multiplying services, splitting classrooms, renting other facilities, etc. As pastors, we love full rooms, but we have to realize that most people don’t.

My “aha” moment came when I was at a full movie theatre. I was uncomfortable when someone other than my family member was sitting in the seat right next to me. It felt awkward, and because of this, I tend to avoid opening night movies because of how I feel about full theatres. What if people are doing the same in our services? That could be a simple hinderance to our growth and we will have to remedy that problem somehow.

The Movement of the Church

The church is a movement and movements move. The church Jesus talked about is one in which He would continually build and the gates of hell could not stop it. So, the church should be continually growing. God asked us to be managers of that growth and Jesus commissioned his followers to go and create growth; therefore, we need to do it.

[bctt tweet="The church is a movement, and movements move. #growth" username="kellystickel"]

I have found that growth isn’t automatic; it is reliant on a lot more than prayer and surrender to God. It takes skills and silks are learned. God created soil to produce fruit, but He gave the responsibility of managing the growth to the farmers. If two farmers have fields side by side and one field produces a bumper crop while the other is full of weeds and minimal fruit, then the problem was not God’s fault, it was the fault of the farmer for not managing the soil better.

Paul likened us to farmers when he said to the Corinthian church that he planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. That statement does not remove our responsibility for growth, it accentuates it. We have a big part to play. Sounds depend on it and we must increase in our skill set of growing churches because the church is the hope of the world and we’re on a mission, to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.

If you have questions you would like answered in an upcoming podcast, please email leadership@myvictory.ca

How To React to Your Future Rather Than Your Past

In the book The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, John Maxwell writes in the chapter on the Law of the Mirror that to grow, leaders must “stop reacting to their past and start reacting to their future”. In other words; focus on the outcome of your intended growth rather than the outcome of your historical past.