5 Bad Things to Use When Gauging Church Health

It is not uncommon for churches to think they are healthy but in reality be slowly dying. These churches have reasons for thinking they are heathy. They have metrics that they point to, but unfortunately they are looking in the wrong places. Here are 5 bad things to use when gauging church health.

1- Finances

A lot of income or a large bank account can be a sign of health, but not necessarily. It is possible for a church to have a large bank account but then sit back and rely on their money more than they rely on God. It is possible for people to give a lot of money, but do so with a country club mentality that says they are simply paying their dues so that they can be catered to. This is not a sign of health. In fact, it is a sign of severe sickness.

2- Growing Attendance

Growing attendance can be a sign of health, but not always. Sometimes attendance is growing because another church in the area is having problems. Your attendance may be increasing from transfer growth  — people transferring to your church from other churches. If your church is not growing from people being saved and baptized, health is a fantasy. If this is what your growth looks like, you are failing to do what God has called the church to do.

3- A Busy Calendar

Activity does not always equal ministry. Just because your church has a lot of ‘stuff’ on its calendar, there is no guarantee that the church is healthy. In fact, too many activities, programs, and events can be a sign of sickness — especially if the majority of those events are inwardly focused. Churches must avoid the temptation to assume that activity guarantees health.

4- A Few Big Events Every Year

It is tempting to look at high attendance at a few big events, see the excitement those events can create, and automatically assume that your church is healthy. Those events can be part of a healthy church, but when they stand alone and do not lead to evangelistic church growth, they are deceptive.

5- Nice Facilities

When a church has nice facilities they have to be careful not to develop an inwardly focused mindset. This mindset believes that the church exists for its members rather than for disciple-making. It is a mindset that says we want the lost to come to the church rather than the biblical model of the saved going to the lost. When nice facilities lead to this mindset, health is nowhere in sight.

Churches must view themselves honestly. They must not be duped into thinking they are healthy when they are not. They must learn how to properly gauge health.

7 Signs of a Healthy Church

A healthy church is the goal of most pastors. But sometimes it is hard to know what that health really looks like. Here are 7 things that are present in healthy churches.

1- The Church Has Children & Seniors

I often hear that healthy churches have children, and certainly this is true. Without children (young families) the church has no future. However, I believe that healthy churches have both children and seniors, and everyone in between. This demonstrates the church desires to minister to all people of all ages. If a church only has one age demographic, something may be amiss.

2- Member-Care Done by Members

A church that expects its pastors to do all of the member care has limited growth potential. There is only so much the staff can do. In the healthiest of churches, members care for each other, they visit each other, and they strive to demonstrate the love of God to each other.

3- Spontaneous Fellowship

When there is true joy in a church, fellowship does not have to be programmed or scheduled – it just happens. People in these churches love being together, encouraging each other, and helping each other — and it shows.

4- Genuine Concern for Evangelism

Evangelism is not just talked about from the pulpit but also in the pew. It is something that people pray about, personally pursue, and sincerely long to see their church be involved in. Missions is often talked about. Outreach is more than an event, it is part of the lifestyle of the church.

5- Not Everyone Looks the Same

If everyone looks the same, something is wrong. In healthy churches there are people from different backgrounds, different social statuses, different races, different…everything. In healthy churches not everyone dresses the same, looks the same, or talks the same.

6- There is a Giving Mentality

I am not just talking about people giving to the church, but also about the church giving to other churches. Certainly giving to missions is included in this, but in the healthiest of churches, there is a mentality that is focused on growing the Kingdom of God, not just one local church. As a result, these churches give resources, members, and time in order to help other ministries do what God has called them to do.

7- A Concern for the Poor

This flows from a simple understanding of Scripture. Healthy churches recognize God’s call to reach out to and minister to the marginalized. Healthy churches take this seriously.

It is rare to find a church with all of these characteristics, but they are seen in the healthiest of churches. How many of these points characterize your church?

 

Why a Focus on Growth May Not be Healthy

We live in a culture where growth determines success. If a company is not growing, it’s not successful. If profit is not up, there must be something wrong. If there are not plans for expansion, then maybe a change in leadership is needed.

Unfortunately, this mindset has not just crept into the church; it has taken the church hostage. The same thought process described above has permeated the church to the point that this is how the average church member thinks. If the church isn’t growing, something must be wrong. If giving isn’t up, there must be a problem somewhere. If there are not plans for a new building project or a satellite campus, a new pastor may be what is needed.

The effect this has on churches is devastating. Church leaders feel the pressure to focus all their attention on growth, failing to realize that an over-emphasis on growth actually hinders growth. Over-focusing on expansion can actually limit expansion.

The focus must be on the health of the church. Why? Healthy organisms naturally grow.

When both of my boys were babies I did not wake up every day worried about how much they were going to grow that day, or that month, or that year. My focus as a parent was on being sure they were being fed a healthy diet, that they were safe from dangers, and if they did happen to get sick, I gave them what was needed to get rid of the virus so they could be healthy. Why was this the focus? We instinctively know with children that if they are healthy, growth will naturally happen.

What if we took that same approach with churches? What if instead of worrying about how much the church is going to grow this week, or this month, or this year, we simply focused on being sure our churches were healthy — that they had a healthy diet — that they were protected from dangers, whether they be doctrinal, philosophical, or methodological — that they were given what they needed to fight of the viruses of disunity, strife, hypocrisy, and spiritual apathy? What if we simply made sure our churches were healthy?

In my opinion, growth would be the natural byproduct of such health. It wouldn’t be overnight, sudden, or explosive growth. Your church probably wouldn’t be listed as one of the fastest growing churches in America. But does that really matter? The truth is that any growth God would give would most likely be slow, steady, healthy growth — a lot like what you would see in any other healthy organism.

Church leaders must understand that focusing too much on church growth can actually hinder growth. Health on the other hand has no down side, regardless of what size the church may be. Focus on health and leave the rest up to God.