Five Signs of a Healthy Church
Every year I visit my doctor for an annual check-up. The doctor often tells me things I'm relieved to hear ("Your ears are still attached") and things I don't want to hear ("I'm not sure how you are still alive, but since you are, here’s your bill."). Okay, those two things are fictitious but you get the idea.
Since the church is more of an organism than it is an organization, it's also good for a church to undergo an annual check-up. But what areas of a church should be examined?
Let me suggest five areas that, if healthy, make for a good church:
- A clearly defined - and well understood - mission.Start with this question: Why do we exist? If no one can answer that without furrowed brows, then things aren't as clear as they should be. The specific mission of every church ought to be written-out and clearly defined for all to understand. When you see and hear staff and congregation cogently articulating the church's mission, it's a sign of health.
- Volunteers who understand they are valued and important. Church leader, let's face it: without committed volunteers we are dead in the water. In a healthy congregation everyone from the senior leadership to the volunteer contributing 15 minutes a week knows that what they are doing is important and valued in the church community. They not only know and understand why they are doing what they are doing, they understand why it's important to the overall mission of the church.
- Strategy that works and is not written in stone. Strategy in a church is no good unless it bears fruit. And since culture changes, strategy should as well. "How do we best fulfill our mission?" is at the heart of strategy. Allow it to function as long as it works. When things begin to wane in a church, it may be because the particular strategy has out-lived its usefulness. Sometimes the healthiest thing church leaders can do is go back to the drawing board. Doing that is not an admission of failure; it's the sign of secure leadership who desire to be effective.
- Finances that are handled with integrity.Some churches run fast and loose with money, thus creating a bad image in people's minds (not to mention the fact that it's unscriptural, unethical and wrong). Churches should be so above board financially that there will never be even a hint of questioning by anyone. That means every penny is accounted for, recorded, budgeted, and well managed. When a church is running its finances with integrity, it's usually the sign of a healthy congregation.
- Well-maintained facilities and grounds.As I drive around, I am always amazed at how run-down some church properties are kept. This isn't a money issue either; it's one of stewardship. We can take care of the things God gives us without having to go into debt to maintain them. A good sign of church health is how well-kept the property is: from the entrance signs on the road, into the parking lot, through the lobby entrance, and into the children's areas and worship center. These are the areas which have to be kept in the best conditions since these are the areas peopled by everyone - member and first-time attender alike.
Are congregants able to state the church's mission clearly?
What strategies need to be tweaked, changed, or shelved in order to be more effective?
Are our volunteers sensing and understanding their unique role in the mission of the church?
Is our financial house in good order?
What is one thing I can do to make our most peopled areas more attractive and up-to-date?