How often do we judge the health of a church by its attendance?
Do you walk into a mega-church and think, “Man, this must be an incredibly healthy church.”
Or have you ever walk into a small church and assumed it’s dead?
It’s easy to judge the health of a church by the number of seats filled every Sunday, but we need to recalibrate our thinking. Just because a church is large doesn’t necessarily make it a healthy church, and just because a church is small doesn’t make it an unhealthy church. I’ve talked with pastors in larger churches who’ve admitted their church wasn’t as healthy as it could be. And I’ve talked with pastors in smaller churches who haven’t ever been in a healthier church environment.
So if we can’t measure a church’s health by it’s attendance numbers, how can it be measured?
Here are a few things I look for:
- Depth of community – Are people really connected or are they just "friendly"?
- Clarity of engagement – It's really important that whatever the "next step" is for people, it is incredibly simple and clear to everyone. Healthy churches also know exactly WHO has completed each step and who is stuck.
- Emphasis on retention – So many churches focus on the new faces without taking care to ensure that the old faces are still around. If you don't take the time to make sure people are "sticking", you'll quickly hit a growth ceiling.
- Communication of impact – The healthy churches I have experienced do an amazing job of communicating how lives are being changed because of their ministry. Whether it is people being baptized or needs being met in their city, these churches tell stories constantly!
If we look at these areas, we’ll have a clearer view of the real health of a church. Growth here is typically a byproduct of two cornerstones in healthy churches: solid leadership and effective processes. When the focus is here first, health AND growth will often follow.
So, that begs the question: Is there such a thing as a large, unhealthy church? Absolutely!
Sometimes churches grow because of dynamic teaching or refined "experiences.” Sometimes churches grow as a result of high emotion and not necessarily spiritual depth. Those churches may appear to be "all that" but are often very shallow when it comes to health. In order to determine the health of a church, you have to look past the number of people they draw on Sundays and focus on more lasting metrics.
What are some of your indicators for measuring the health of the church?