7 Questions with Amy Anderson
Name: Amy Anderson
Current title: Director of Consulting
Current organisation: The Unstuck Group
Amy has been the Director of Consulting at the Unstuck Group for the past 5 years, helping hundreds of churches get unstuck and back to a healthy, growing ministry. Prior to joining this team, Amy served as the Executive Director of Weekend Services at Eagle Brook Church in Minnesota, leading the church through growth from 1,800 to over 20,000 in attendance each week. Amy has been married to Jason for 30 years and lives in Lake Elmo, Minnesota USA.
1. What have you found most challenging as a church leader?
As I work with pastors in several countries, the biggest challenge I see them facing is keeping the church focused on their mission. Most churches get stuck because their methods - the way they do church - become more important to their church body than their mission to make new disciples. I recently heard speaker/author/pastor Nona Jones say, "Instead of fishing, we (pastors) are tending to our aquariums." With the onset of the COVID pandemic, some leaders are even more concerned to keep their current attender base engaged. That is not a bad thing - but if it's happening to the neglect of reaching new people through new methods, the church will eventually die. Most lead pastors feel this tension and are bothered that they are not seeing new decisions for Jesus and baptisms - but it can be very challenging to lead through this and get their other leaders and church body to stay outwardly focused.
2. How did you become a church leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
In our late 20's, a friend invited my husband and I to her church. At the time, I would describe our spiritual condition as "detached". We believed in Jesus, but had never had a church that nurtured that faith. That all changed after that invitation. God changed our lives through this church. We quickly started volunteering, we joined a small group, and after 5 years both my husband and I were asked to come on staff. SO, I left my corporate job and joined the team as the Executive Director of Weekend Services. It was my job to take our pastor's vision for the weekend service and lead all the teams that brought that "front door" ministry to fruition each week.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
All of my work is virtual these days. Instead of packing a bag and getting on a plane to fly to a church team 3 days a week, now I meet with them all over zoom. So my routine has changed! I rise around 5am each day. I enjoy the morning coffee and quiet to read, pray and think. From 8-5 each day looks a little different. Always in my home office - but I do everything from consulting with churches, coaching pastors, creating content and strategizing with my team. After dinner, my husband and I reconnect by taking a 2-3 mile walk around our neighborhood. Evenings are quiet now that the kids are grown, but that's when the other details of life get tended to - grocery shopping, cleaning, and checking in on my mom. Kind of boring - but I don't mind boring.
4. What one book had the most profound impact on your church leadership? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
When I was leading at my church, one of the profound books I read was "Deep and Wide" by Andy Stanley. We were a church that was often regarded as 1 inch deep and a mile wide. And, while there was probably some truth in that, the author put to words what I was feeling inside. Reading that book helped me put language to the purpose, or "win" behind everything we did as a church related to the weekend service. It helped us craft our overall win for our weekend, which was to "Create a Come and See Experience that engages people, builds trust, and points people to Christ." This language became the foundation of how we coached all the artists that brought the weekend together. We never wanted to be a "show". We wanted people - all people to engage with the service - whether they were long time followers of Jesus or just attending for the first time. So, for example, we created expectations about our singing time that looked like this:
The WIN: POINT PEOPLE TO GOD BY MOVING THEM FROM A CONNECTION WITH US TO A CONNECTION WITH GOD.
Here’s how we do it:
Design the experience for a believer, but keep the seeker in mind.
Be intentional about how we teach new songs. Choose songs that are singable.
Everyone on the platform is a leader of this experience. Model it.
For every part of our service we built out expectations like this and it deepened our ability to truly point people to God through the weekend experience
5. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
A significant leadership lesson for me is a two-parter. First "What gets noticed gets repeated". As a leader, the best way to bring out the best in my team was to catch them doing things right. When I caught them, I immediately praised them for it - sometimes publicly, sometimes privately. That recognition infused them with the expectations and culture of our team. And it caused them to repeat that action or behavior. I find that praise is a better developer of people than any performance plan.
The second part is equally as powerful though, which is "You get what you tolerate." As a leader, at times I would find myself frustrated by some of my team members. Maybe they were chronically late to meetings. One day it dawned on me - "Amy - you get what you tolerate." In other words, look in the mirror. Don't blame others. You're the leader. You fix it.
For example, in my role, I had the pleasure of leading a lot of artists. There has been a lot written about the artist’s temperament, but let’s just say that having a meeting with them can be like herding cats.
It was about 12:45pm and my next meeting was at 1:00pm to help plan a CD-release event for Jake, one of our worship leaders. Several of us were volunteering our time to help him, there were lots of details to walk through, and this was a particularly hard meeting to organize due to everyone’s schedules. Slowly, the various participants were gathering in my office.
Now, Jake is a guy who’s always late to meetings. He’s the guy everybody is always waiting on. In fact, he had been 10 minutes late to a meeting I had had with him earlier that morning. (He did have a cup of Starbucks with him, however.)
Now, at 12:58pm, with all the other participants in my office for the meeting, I wondered if Jake was going to be late for this meeting—the meeting he called. At that moment, I saw the sign on my office wall. It read, “You get what you tolerate.” I realized I was tolerating Jake’s lateness for meetings. For his sake, this needed to change. His chronic lateness communicated disrespect for the time of all our other leaders.
With that, I announced, “Glad you’re all here. I know this meeting was really hard to schedule with all the responsibilities on your plate.” And then I said it. “If Jake isn’t here by 1:01pm, you can all go back to your offices and Jake will reschedule this meeting for another time.”
Everyone looked at me to see if I was serious. I was. Now some nervous chatter started as everyone watched the clock. At 1:01pm, I dismissed everyone. Eight minutes later Jake arrived. His comment was, “Oh good. I thought I would be the last one here.” I replied, “You are. Have a seat.”
And with that, Jake and I had a conversation. He now knew his lateness wasn't going to be tolerated anymore. It was a tough lesson for him, but it improved his leadership and his relationship with the other team members.
These "what gets noticed, gets repeated" and "you get what you tolerate" principles have been a leadership game-changer for me personally, and the leaders I lead.
6. How do you develop a healthy leadership pipeline in a church?
Read the book, Designed to Lead by Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck. I can’t say it any better than those two gentlemen!
7. If you had to pick just one story, what would be the most meaningful story from your time as a church leader so far?
When I first started with the Unstuck Group, I worked with a church that was... well, stuck. They had been a thriving church at one time, but were declining now and couldn't see their way forward. One of the biggest blows was that their associate pastor had started a new worship venue at their church, and after growing it to several hundred attendees, he decided to plant his own church a mile down the road, gutting the church of all the younger people - both attendees and staff team members. The lead pastor was such a nice guy that he actually gave this associate pastor some money to go and plant the church! This was when he hired us.
I'm going to make a long story short, because there are so many details, but this is one of my favorite stories because of the courage that this pastor embraced as he brought his church back to health. Over the next 18 months, this pastor led through some hard changes at his church. It included:
- eliminating multiple venues/styles of worship and moving to one style they felt would best reach the people in their community.
- adding kids ministry for every service (before they only offered it at one time due to a lack of volunteers and energy)
- transforming their auditorium from a traditional dark, brown space, to a more modern space
- replaced a few staff leaders
- envisioned their church with a fresh vision to reach their community
What happened as a result? Here are the words from the pastor himself 7 months later...
"The most incredible thing is that we started praying for spiritual revival at (our church) 7 months ago and from the time we (made the changes). We've had 55 people make decisions to surrender to Christ for the first time! Also, 10 people made first time decisions for Christ in two of our international mission trips(that’s 65 salvations in 5 weeks!)! This is the craziest thing I have ever seen! And…we have gone to “out in the open, no eyes closed or head’s bowed” gospel invitations. At first, I thought people were misunderstanding…treating their decision like a “renewal of their auto tag” (just raising their hand to make sure!) but even after re-explained the nature of their decision, we are still seeing 8-10 salvations a weekend!"
This story is meaningful because it shows what can happen when mission trumps methods. 4 years later this pastor and this church are continuing to reach new people, and thousands of believers are engaged in the ministry!