23 Non-Numerical Signs of a Healthy Church

sprig in cup“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 numbers that many pastors don’t know what a healthy church looks like, outside of crunching the numbers?

No, I’m not opposed to taking church attendance or tracking our numbers. I’m in favor of it. Numbers 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. Numbers are not the only way to determine church health. In some 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 23 elements. I’ve been waiting until the list was complete to publish it, but I’ve come realize it will never be complete. So consider this a starter list.

Feel free to add to it in the comment section.


23 Non-Numerical Signs of a Healthy Church

  1. Volunteers 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 Congregation Is Getting Younger, not Older
  8. The Front Rows are as Full as the Back Rows
  9. The Bulletin Isn’t Just about Internal Events
  10. Guests Feel Special
  11. Volunteerism is High
  12. Ministry Ideas Bubble Up
  13. New Ideas Are Embraced
  14. New Leadership Is Embraced
  15. Long-time Leadership Is Honored
  16. The Bible Is Honored
  17. Worship Is More than Just Singing
  18. People Like Bringing their Friends
  19. Congregation Members Love Each Other
  20. Congregation Members Like Each Other
  21. People Are Being Saved and Discipled
  22. It’s a Safe Place to Ask Hard Questions
  23. People Pray – A Lot


Not Exhaustive Or Essential

Please note that this list is not designed to add pressures 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 some elements (like #16) are essential for every healthy church, others are not. For example, if you’re in an aging neighborhood, doing #5 may mean you’re not doing #7.

While all of them are good, and some 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 an idea list for the future.


So what do you think? Do you have any ideas to add to the list?

We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
Enter your comment right below this post and get in on the conversation.

(Sprig photo from Bruno Cordioli • Flickr • Creative Commons license)

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27 thoughts on “23 Non-Numerical Signs of a Healthy Church”

  1. There’s already a crowd waiting to get in when you arrive 30 minutes before start time.

    People do what you ask them to do without browbeating or complaint.

    1. I love that, James! I remember the feeling when I started finding about needs after they’d already been met by someone else in the church, instead of every one of them being filtered through me. Truly a sign of a healthy church.

  2. Pingback: RT @KarlVaters: Non-Numerical Signs of Church Heal… | The Richard W. Hendricks Experience

  3. Yesterday I read a blog post on retroChristianity that listed small churches as the most Biblical (from the authors standpoint anyway.) in the same way this post reminds us that the current culture of bigger churches and benchmarks of BIG. One question however, why not include some signs more directly related to discipleship? (actually there are some)

      1. Thanks Karl. Of course discipleship is measured best in many of the points you made already. #1-23 are already marks of a discipled believer. BTW, living in the Philippines, I see almost the same problems as in the U.S… people favor big over deep and buildings over people. Its just that the problem is not as common (yet?) I commonly hear that churches should be big if they are doing what God wants.

  4. These are signs of health in almost any organization. None of them show up on teacher rating charts, though. They’re tough to grade in students. Most companies don’t think of themselves as congregations with a duty to the community, nor — sadly — to their workers.

    Good list.

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  6. I would expand on 17. The worship service has a format but allows plenty of room for the Holy Spirit to take it in a different direction. We have sharing time when the people get to tell about the things they’ve experience Jesus doing through them during the past week. It’s totally non-scripted. It allows opportunity for our people to stop and pray for one another or to pray for an on-going situation. It allows time for celebration and thanks giving. It allows The Holy Spirit freedom to move as He wills in a time of calm, powerful, sweet wonderfulness. And if there isn’t time for the sermon that’s OK too.

  7. I think it is important to include regular feedback from members about their ideas, input, needs and concerns. After all a church isn’t the private possession of the pastor or the church leadership. It belongs to everyone as a member of the “family” of God. A church isn’t a business but is a spiritual family and should feel more like a family than a business. Yes, leading a church involves organization and administration but it should not be the focus of the church, Loving the members and others should always be the focus.

    Also, financial transparency should be paramount and members should always know what is going on with the finances – including salaries, budgets and expenses – at all times and whenever any member requests information. This is especially important since members are asked to give of their resources including financial therefore they have every right to know accurately what is happening with what they give. This is an absolute must and any ethical and moral pastor and his leadership team will always be willing to do this-no questions asked. This to me is one of the most important and defining sign of a truly healthy church. No dictators and no blind sheep. Everyone is truly showing genuine concern for others.

  8. Pingback: Small Church CAN Be Healthy: 9 Essentials - ChurchPlants

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