How to Spot a Healthy Church

Repeat after me:  In a healthy church . . .

This is my basic mantra for congregations.  In healthy church, we don’t talk about each other in the parking lot.  In a healthy church, we don’t sabotage the decisions of our elders.  In a healthy church, we agree to disagree because we realize that not one of us has cornered the market on The Mind of God.  Yep.

Yesterday I wrote about dying churches.  Below I share my thoughts on signs of health because there are indeed healthy, growing congregations out there.

In a healthy church . . .

  • There is more emphasis on spiritual growth than programs. (Do the most well-known events in your program year focus on deepening the faith of the participants?)
  • The “Affirmation of Faith” new people outnumber the “Transfers” from other congregations.  (How many youth or adult baptisms have been celebrated each year compared to infant baptisms?)
  • Leaders are allowed to be leaders.  (Is the Pastor expected to be “the expert” or is the Pastor encouraged to equip others to be experts?)
  • People expect the best of their pastors.  (Do church members shred the pastor behind her back?  Do people assume that the pastor doesn’t know what he’s talking about?)
  • The congregation takes scripture seriously.  (Is the Bible ever used as an idol or a weapon?  Is questioning encouraged?  Are sermons preached on a wide variety of texts?  
  • Leaders can name several church failures from recent years.  (Is the church willing to try new things, even if they might fail?)
  • Leaders are mentally healthy, spiritually mature, and do not consider the church their fiefdom.  (Has the leadership changed much over the past 5-10 years?)
  • People laugh with each other and enjoy each other’s company.  (When was the last time the congregation had fun together?)
  • The church exists primarily for the neighbors.  (How much of the budget is spent sustaining only the congregation?)
  • The congregation connects with the culture while being counter-cultural.  (If you dropped your church in the middle of 1958, would it seem out of place?)
  • The congregation includes a variety of theological perspectives, demographic groupings, and political viewpoints.  (Is the congregation primarily conservative or liberal, tolerant or intolerant, hipster or old-school?)

Imagine a church that models what The Reign of God looks like.  For one thing, it would be the picture of health especially if “being healthy” means knowing what it means to really need Good News and what it means to really share Good News.


5 responses to “How to Spot a Healthy Church

  1. Great stuff, Jan. Thanks for posting. Now, if you would just do a retreat for us

  2. Right on the money as always. I’m fist-pumping up here in God’s Left Elbow.

  3. Our Session will read this in preparation for our next meeting. Valuing, identifying and learning from failure has already sparked some fascinating conversations. Thank you!

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