Why Your Church Is Struggling

One of the most common problems I encounter when consulting with major organizations is that they’re actually doing great things – just too many of them. In most cases, struggling organizations struggle because, over the years, they’ve been pulled in too many directions. Perhaps 10 years ago, they decided to start a new division, or a church launched a school, or they developed a handful of new outreaches. Sure, they sounded good at the time and probably have been pretty effective. But over the years, like barnacles on a ship, they started to slow you down to a crawl. Not to mention, deplete your bank account.

One of my favorite quotes is from the brilliant artist Michelangelo. When an admirer asked him how he sculpted such wonderful statues, he replied that he didn’t carve statues, he “just removed the excess stone so the angel inside can be revealed.”

A lot of what I do with organizations is to remove the excess stone. Typically, after years or decades, things add up, and before long, you’ve become a completely different organization. You’ve wandered from your original calling, expertise, or brand, and your customers or donors don’t even recognize you anymore.

You’re a mile wide and an inch deep. You do a lot of things but aren’t very good at any of them. The problem with cutting back is that they’re good things. And most leaders find it difficult to cut these programs, divisions, or outreaches back (just look at Washington). But the truth is – unless you can face the music and refocus, it will all eventually tumble like a house of cards.

My advice? Step back and look at all that you’re doing. What are you doing well and what not so well? What excites you and what doesn’t? What reflects your genuine calling, expertise, and brand, and what doesn’t? What will actually take you into the future?

If it doesn’t – like Michelangelo – start removing the excess stone. As we approach 2011, let’s focus LESS on what other people think is important and MORE on what your organization was really created to accomplish.

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Phil Cooke, Ph.D, is a filmmaker, media consultant, and founder of Cooke Media Group in Los Angeles, California. His latest book is “Ideas on a Deadline: How to Be Creative When the Clock is Ticking." Find out more at philcooke.com.