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Monday, June 26, 2017

"When Your Church Feels Stuck" (Chris Sonksen)

TITLE: When Your Church Feels Stuck: 7 Unavoidable Questions Every Leader Must Answer
AUTHOR: Chris Sonksen
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2017, (193 pages).

Who has never felt stuck from time to time? Ever felt like the Church has become somewhat stagnant? Even the most vibrant churches encounter periods of staleness. For churches that attempt to do everything, they enter into fatigue. After a period of trying to please everybody, one realizes that it is an exercise that is futile. Those who does anything and constantly keeping up with the church joneses will also experience dryness at some point. There is only so much that can imitate. Those who never tried to do anything will also feel stuck in indifference and lack of progress. Truth is, we all need to discover and re-discover our calling especially during such moments. From church planting to church revival programs, churches throughout history have grappled with the issue of growth and renewal. Perhaps, a good way to get unstuck is to begin by asking some hard and honest questions like what author and pastor Chris Sonksen had done. We need to reconsider what talents God has given us. We must stop making excuses and to embark on a journey of faith. Sonksen also maps out the six phases of church life. Phase One is about "Launch" where a new Church or ministry begins. It can be a Church plant; a new ministry initiative; or a new Church altogether. Money and resources are core requirements. Phase Two is "Utopia" where both money and resources are increasing, adding to the zest and vitality of doing church. Growth is rapid. Phase Three is "Whirlwind" where the numbers are increasing and the structures are gradually taking shape. More money, processes, and structures are formed. Phase Four is "Increase" where the mission and vision of the Church need greater clarity. Phase Five is "Merry-Go-Round" where activities are many but progress is few and far between. There is a certain sense of being stuck in mundane activities. Here, programs have overtaken processes. Phase Six is "Slow Death" in which the Church is in decline slowly but surely. Each stage comes with a checklist to evaluate oneself. Some of the more challenging stages would have more diagnostic statements. I think Sonksen is spot on in helping us see where we are first before we jump headlong into paths forward. Without a clear sense of our identity and phase of life, it would be foolhardy and hasty to strategize what we need to do. In fact, where and who we are will determine how we answer the seven questions below. The seven questions are:
  1. Mission: "What do we do?"
  2. Strategy: "How do we get it done?"
  3. Values: "What are the guiding principles we live by?"
  4. Metrics: "How do we measure a win?"
  5. Team Alignment: "Do we have the right people in the right seats moving in the right direction?"
  6. Culture: "How do we change the culture of our Church?"
  7. Services: "How do we match what we say is important and what we really do?"
These seven questions form the basis of this book that essentially tries to help us move out of our comfort zones or stuck places. This is where the fun begins, There are many practical exercises that Church leaders and members can do as a group. They could adopt the SWOT analysis to discover their sense of mission. The triangles of purpose-led; process-driven; and programs help us to plan our strategies. The values of what it means to do Church are helpful to paint a picture of what we stand for. Creating a new scorecard is something special for all churches to do. I would encourage that each Church do the same and not imitate others. The chapter on teamwork is valuable as it reminds us that Church needs to be as a team. I like the shaping culture which highlights how stories we tell; heroes we make; and things we celebrate; really define us. The last question about services pits tradition against transformation. I suppose the author means "traditionalism" which is different from "tradition" as described by Jaroslav Pelikan's famous words: “Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. And, I suppose I should add, it is traditionalism that gives tradition such a bad name.

I'm sure Sonksen is merely using the popular disdain of the word "tradition." That said, this book has many fine practical points, especially on the checklists and guided steps to evaluate oneself and one's church. It would be profitable for leaders and concerned members of any Church to do a periodic review of one's Church, programs, and most importantly, their mission and vision. All churches need to sense what God is saying to them at any one point. This book is a great impetus to enable churches not only to become unstuck but to get back on track to God's Work and Word. I recommend this book for leaders and believers who want their Church not only to grow but to freshen up.

Chris Sonksen is pastor of South Hills Church, a multi-state, multi-site based in Southern California. He is also  and founder of Church Boom, a coaching platform to equip and enable leaders in ministry.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Baker Books and Graf-Martin Communications without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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