There are healthy churches of all sizes.
In my previous article, Small Church Metrics: Why Average Results ≠ Typical Results, we saw that statistics, surveys and comparative metrics are not as helpful in assessing small church health as they are in assessing big church health.
So, what’s a small church to do?
Today, we’ll take a look at 8 helpful ways to assess the health and effectiveness of a church without using numbers.
1. Ask “What Should We Be Doing And How Well Are We Doing It?”
Jesus gave us the Great Commandment and Great Commission. That is the mission of every church. But the way one church is called to do that is going to be different than the way another church is called to do that.
Every leader of every church needs to know how their church is fulfilling the Great Commandment and Great Commission within their context.
We must constantly assess the health and effectiveness of the congregation based on the following questions: Are we a worshiping church? A loving church? An evangelistic church? A compassionate church? A discipling church?
But, without a numerical component, how do we assess how well we’re doing those things? That’s what points two through seven address.
2. Talk To The People In The Church
In the 1980s, Ed Koch, the mayor of New York City, was famous for walking through the streets of Manhattan, asking everyday citizens “how am I doing?”
As you can imagine, he didn’t always hear the answers he wanted, but the fact that he kept asking the question is an important lesson for all leaders.
“How are we doing?” should be our constant attitude. We need to ask the questions and be open to honest answers.
3. Hear From People Outside The Church
There’s a limit to what we can learn about the health and effectiveness of a church by talking amongst ourselves. We need an honest assessment of how our church looks from the outside looking in.
When friends and neighbors visit, we need to provide a way for them to give their feedback. Some churches ask unchurched friends to visit a Sunday service so they can tell us what they see, feel and experience from their perspective.
If you’re afraid to hear what outsiders have to say, it’s a big red flag that you know the church isn’t healthy, you’re just not ready to admit it. Or perhaps it’s too painful to hear what you already know to be true.
4. Compare Your Demographics To The Neighborhood’s Demographics
Churches typically look like their neighborhood in one of two ways:
First, unhealthy churches tend to look like their neighborhood used to look – either when the church was founded, or during the last strong pastorate. They’re freeze-dried in place, repeating patterns that no longer work. And they’ve lost the ability to speak to the people around them today.
Second, healthy churches look like the neighborhood looks today – with a similar demographic blend of ages, ethnicities and so on. They haven’t changed their core message or their values, but they’ve learned how to communicate them in a way their current neighborhood can hear and understand.
5. Does Your Bulletin Have A Mix Of Inward-Focused And Outward-Focused Events?
Unhealthy churches are concerned with their own events and comfort – and the bulletin will reflect that.
Healthy churches have a good blend of events to strengthen the current congregation (worship, discipleship, fellowship) and events that reach out (ministry teams, evangelism, compassion ministry).
6. Do You Dread Leadership Meetings Or Look Forward To Them?
“Do I look forward to church leadership meetings?! Are you kidding me?!”
That used to be my attitude.
I used to think I hated meetings because I can’t endure anything that drags even one minute past its point of usefulness. But over the years, as the church has become healthier, I’ve discovered I don’t hate meetings. I hate bad meetings. Useless meetings. Unproductive meetings.
In a healthy church, administrative meetings are short, effective and as infrequent as possible. When they meet those criteria, meetings that fix problems, cast vision, and build the team are not just endurable, they’re exciting, energizing, and even fun.
7. Do Conflicts Get Resolved, Or Do They Linger?
Healthy churches do not avoid conflict, they deal with conflict quickly, collaboratively, and effectively.
The best way to do that is to spot the conflict either before it happens or as soon as it’s noticed.
The earlier you address a conflict the smaller it will be, and the easier it is to resolve.
This doesn’t necessarily mean we pounce on every issue right away. Sometimes, smaller issues fade away on their own if you don’t give them any air to breathe. But when you know it won’t disappear due to lack of interest, the sooner you address it, the better.
8. Listen To Conversations – Are They More About The Past Or The Future?
Unhealthy churches talk a lot about “going back” to the glory days – whether real or imagined.
Healthy churches honor the past and build on it, but they have no desire to repeat it or live in it.
We must never forget what God has done among us, but our focus should always be on what God is doing now and wants to do next.
Are you wondering what the other side of this equation might look like? That will be the subject of my follow-up article, Eight Habits Of An Unhealthy Church.
(Photo by Solomon Joy)