How Do You Define A Healthy Church Aside From The Numbers?

Numbers are not the only way to determine church health. In many situations, they’re not even the best way.

If numbers aren’t the only way to tell if a church is healthy, what else is there?

I get that question a lot. Mostly from other pastors.

And no, they’re not being facetious when they ask it. They truly don’t know the answer.

Isn’t that … I don’t know … a little disturbing to anyone? Have we really become so obsessed with statistics that many pastors don’t know what a healthy church looks like, outside of crunching the numbers?

This is a follow-up to my previous article, What Is A Small Church? (An Updated Definition).

The Value Of Numbers

It’s not that I’m opposed to taking church attendance or tracking our numbers. I’m in favor of it. Accurate, relevant statistics can help us see things objectively that we might otherwise be blind to.

But just like a lack of numbers can blind us to some critical facts, an obsession with numbers can blind us to essential truths. Not only are numbers not the only way to determine church health, in many situations they’re not even the best way.

Numbers may inform us, but they don’t define us.

So, what non-numerical criteria can we use to determine church health?

I’ve been compiling a list.

It started as 6 or 7. But it keeps growing. As of today, it has 28 elements. I’ve been waiting until the list was complete to publish it, but I’ve come to realize it will never be complete. So consider this a starter list.

28 Non-Numerical Signs Of A Healthy Church

  1. People care more about doing ministry than having a title
  2. There are more ministry teams than committees
  3. Departments cooperate with each other
  4. The church cooperates with other churches
  5. The church looks like the neighborhood (demographically)
  6. The church goes into the neighborhood
  7. The front rows are as full as the back rows
  8. The bulletin isn’t just about internal events
  9. Guests feel welcomed
  10. Volunteerism is high
  11. Ministry ideas bubble up
  12. New ideas are embraced
  13. New leadership is embraced
  14. Long-time leadership is respected
  15. The energy and passion of the youth is celebrated
  16. The wisdom and patience of the older saints is honored
  17. The eternal truths of the Bible are taught and lived
  18. Worship is more than just singing
  19. People like bringing their friends
  20. Congregation members love each other
  21. Congregation members like each other
  22. People are being saved
  23. People are being discipled – then discipling others
  24. People are being sent out into ministry
  25. It’s a good place to ask hard questions
  26. People pray – a lot
  27. Failure isn’t fatal
  28. People are more excited about the future than the past

A Guide, Not A To-Do List

Please note that this list is not designed to add pressure to an already overtaxed church leadership. It’s not a you-must-do-all-these-to-be-healthy list, as much as a here-are-some-other-ways-to-look-at-health list.

While all of them are good, and many are essential, you’d be hard-pressed to find even a great, healthy church that’s doing all of them well.

So use this list as an encouragement and an aid, not a source of intimidation. Take note of what you’re doing well, strengthen the ones you should be doing better, and use others as inspiration for the future.

Great churches aren’t built on bigger numbers, but on better ministry.

(Photo by Kunj Parekh | Unsplash)


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