With the immense success achieved by many mega churches, it’s no wonder that numbers are often utilized to evaluate the success or health of a church. In other words, if a church is experiencing high attendance numbers, then they are deemed worthy of admiration and must be a healthy environment.
Conversely, if a church typically has less attendance, there are questions surrounding its overall success. However, there are other ways, besides numbers, that determine if a church is in fact healthy and thriving. These are particularly helpful for smaller churches.
The overall mission of every church, no matter its size, is to communicate how to know Christ and to disciple believers once they are saved. According to a Christianity Today article, all church leaders should be asking their congregations/members the following question are a regular basis:
- Are we a discipling church?
- Are we a compassionate church?
- Are we an evangelistic church?
- Are we a worshiping church?
The answers to these questions should give church leaders a good idea of the church’s overall health and has nothing at all to do with numbers.
Talk to The People
Again, it’s important for church leaders to take attendance. But, they also need to talk to their members. This is helpful for any large administrative body.
There was a mayor of New York City during the 1980s who would walk daily through the streets, asking random citizens, “how am I doing?” Sometimes, he didn’t get a favorable answer, but the fact that he took time to go out and actually address the people meant he was getting constant feedback from the very people who affected the overall health of the city — it’s citizens. In the same way, church leaders need to get in there and talk to members and address these hard to answer questions — and be prepared for difficult answers.
Examine Other Churches
Another way to evaluate the health of the church is looking outside its walls into the surrounding community. This can be done by allowing visitors or neighbors or friends who aren’t members of the church to give feedback. This will give church leaders an outside perspective they simply won’t get from members who attend weekly services.
Church leaders should consider the demographic of the community in which they are placed and compare it with the demographics of their church attendees. In other words, a healthy church will adapt and change with their community — not by changing values, but by altering the ways they serve and communicate to better meet the needs of their community. An unhealthy church’s attendees won’t fit the demographic of its neighborhood, and will often look exactly the same as it did when it was founded years prior. It will exhibit no signs of growth or adaption.
Consider if There is a Mixture of Events
A healthy, thriving church will offer a good mixture of events for their congregation. These will include events to strength the attendees, such and fellowship, discipleship and worship events. However, a well-rounded, healthy church will also offer members a way to reach out to the surrounding area, by offering events such as compassion ministry, evangelism or ministry teams.
Assess Conversation Topics
Many times, an unhealthy church will constantly be looking back to a time when things were better. Conversations will often include talk of the “good old days,” when things were different. Perhaps, there used to be more people and more events. However, a healthy church will not forget their past, but they will focus on the present and the future and look towards that, not dwell on what happened years ago. Their conversations will be based on the here and now.
Evaluate How Conflicts Are Resolved
The final way church leaders can evaluate the health of their church, without looking at attendance numbers alone, is to consider how church conflicts are resolved. On this side of heaven, when dealing with sinful humans, there will be conflicts. Healthy churches deal with conflicts quickly, effectively and collaboratively, not allowing them to linger and grow into a much larger issue.
By considering the above points, church leaders can effectively evaluate the health of their church, without dwelling on attendance numbers. Thankfully, it is possible to have a small church numerically that is thriving, healthy and a powerful force within its community.
~ 1776 Christian