We have long measured outward signs of church health. They tell the story of needs met, people reached and lives changed. But do traditional measures of health tell the most important parts of that story?
Most churches measure the usual things and count them as measures of success or failure. While that can be a useful exercise, there’s more to church health than attendance and money. Andy Stanley and the North Point team say it this way:
Too many church leaders have bought into the myth that to clarify the win means establishing attendance goals and raising a lot of money. These can certainly be indicators about the health of your organization, but strong numbers in these areas do not necessarily mean you are winning.
Consider how you know your church is winning. Healthy churches are known for their worship and their witness. They are purposeful places of discipleship, ministry, evangelism and missions. They are Great Commission and Great Commandment places of authentic Christian fellowship and community.
The key is knowing with certainty whether or not those words accurately describe your church. You may intuitively know the answer based on experience and anecdotal evidence, but dig deeper to build an evenhanded picture of church health.
Consider 3 ways to measure church health objectively:
- Research who you are and where you’ve been. Research helps you know precisely where your church is at this moment. It helps you answer important questions about the people who populate your church (and the ones who don’t). Compile data and gather information on the journey your church has traveled and where it is right now. Map the trend lines over a period of several years so you can visualize areas of strength and areas of opportunity. Read more
- Ask the right questions. Analyzing the data you’ve gathered may take some time and effort. It may also require a brainstorming session of your ministry staff team and other church leaders. Pray over the results of your research. Examine the numerical data closely and stay true to what it tells you about your current situation.
• Ask “why” and “how” questions. Read more
• Don’t stop asking questions. Read more
• Consider the sample questions below.
- Consider past and present definitions of success. Focus on outputs vs. inputs. Inputs tell you what ingredients go in to something. Outputs tell you what comes out on the other side. Move beyond simple input measures to the more significant outcomes you’re aiming for. Find ways to measure success quantitatively. While qualitative measures are subjective and experiential, quantitative measures, or metrics, are objective and numerical. In most cases, quantitative measures are the best way to measure outcomes without bias. Read more
So what’s the Big Idea?
Research who you are and where you’ve been. Ask the right questions about the information you gather. And consider past and present definitions of success. That’s the way to take an unbiased, evenhanded snapshot of church health.
- Transformational Church by Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer
- 7 Practices of Effective Ministry by Andy Stanley, Reggie Joiner and Lane Jones
- Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger
- “Clarify the Win” on Serve. Grow. Lead.
- “Ministry Strategy Planning with OGSM” on Serve. Grow. Lead.
- “The American Church Faces Its Kodak Moment” on Serve. Grow. Lead.
- Ministry Action Plans
Ask the Right Questions
- What does the raw data tell you about your church?
- Is your church growing, plateaued or declining?
- Are you reaching unchurched people in your community?
- Does the church reflect its community? (race, age and more)
- How many church members did it take to baptize one person?
- Does this number seem unreasonably high?
- Are you reproducing disciple-making disciples?
- Does the church show signs of spiritual health?
- What are age division attendance patterns in small groups?
- What growth opportunities exist in those patterns?
- Is morning worship attendance advancing or declining?
Andy Stanley, Reggie Joiner and Lane Jones, 7 Practices of Effective Ministry (Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 2004), 71.