Building a healthy church in 2021 is a noble aspiration. Moving from aspiring to actual is the challenge many of us face. I wrote this guide to help church leaders take steps to increase their church health and see the things they dream of seeing.
For a couple of years, I worked for a megachurch in California, in a church leadership coaching role. This church had a number of smaller churches looking to it for assistance, support and guidance. My work bought me into contact with many different churches – some healthy, some unhealthy. The leaders would ask for help and counsel with certain challenges, but as I investigated, more often than not it would become clear that there were issues underneath the issues. The real, root issues were often very different.
Many times, it would be a case of ‘fruit and roots’ – the issue at hand was a consequence, rather than the cause. I knew that if I didn’t address the cause, then the consequences would simply return, or manifest in a different way later on. This is still a common challenge a church may face in 2021, healthy or not.
Over time, I found I was encountering the same problems in churches repeatedly. As I dug down into the root issues, the same challenges would reveal themselves. There appeared to be a commonality in contributing causes for the challenges churches were facing, irrespective of the church’s size, context, theology or practice. The denomination, affiliation or even size didn’t matter – the problems were universally essential. My ministry is based around helping churches work through and overcome these challenges.
Healthy Church Leadership Structure
One issue I regularly saw was with the nature of church leadership and government – how decisions were made. I’d encounter a church that had problems in its leadership structure. Perhaps too many voices involved, or not enough. There might be committees and councils and boards, or a Senior Pastor who did everything themselves – either because they were controlling and dictatorial, or exhausted because of the sheer weight of responsibility. You can find some resources around these issues here:
Building a healthy church leadership structure means having a strong theology of church structure, knowing the difference biblically between the roles and responsibilities of elders and deacons, understanding how fivefold ministry interacts with and serves church leadership, and practical steps in creating a healthy organic church structure in 2021. This series will tell you.
Healthy Fivefold Ministry
Another set of issues I’d often see would be around the nature of the spiritual life of a church. They might be struggling, or even lacking, something. They might feel flat, or plateauing. There could be confusion over how to have a healthy spiritual vibrancy or concern on how to avoid excess or unhealthy practices seen in other well-known ministries. I’d often see two extremes here. Either the fivefold ministry was entirely discarded and avoided for fear of excess, or it was overprioritised and overemphasised to the point where bad theology and bad practices were rife in the church. My resources around these issues can be found here:
To correctly and biblically harness the power of fivefold ministry, we need to be clear on what it is scripturally and not be shaped by either incorrect charismatic or cessationist teachings. We need to know the signs of fivefold ministers and know the nature of each of the five ministries – the apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. Knowing the way the fivefold should serve church leadership is key, as is understanding how to develop and grow the fivefold in our churches in 2021. This series will tell you.
Healthy Church Boards
Church boards, when healthy, can be a beautiful part of church life. They serve and support the church leader and ensure the people and the leader are protected. But when a board is unhealthy, problems always arise. This can come from ignorance – not correctly understanding their role – or malevolence – a desire to lead and rule in an unbiblical way. My resources in this area can be found here:
The essential things we need to know about church boards includes clarity on the role and areas of responsibility they carry – and how that differs, overlaps and interacts with those of the pastoral staff and senior leader. It also means knowing how to recruit and change board members, structure a board, and conduct healthy board meetings in 2021. This series will tell you.
Healthy Church Organisation
Church structure is essential. We need to be clear on what we are doing, where we are going, what we believe, and how we are going to do it. Avoiding over-organisation is as important as rejecting a lack of organisation. The fact is, both cause us to fail to steward what God has given us. If our structure and organisation is a mess, it is because we aren’t managing one or more key elements correctly. Resources in this area can be found here:
Healthy principles for church organisational structure include being clear on the difference between mission and vision, defining a clear mission that is apostolic in thinking, having a vision shaped by God’s dreams and not our ideas or plans, anchoring our core values in our mission and vision, and building a leadership structure that advances all of these things in 2021. This series will tell you.
Assessing Church Health
How do we know how our church is really doing? Sometimes we are too close to the situation and need objective data and detachment to get an accurate insight into things. We can see – and I have seen – churches highly focused but lacking spirituality. There is also the reverse – churches with a highly spiritual outlook but lacking focus and clarity. Other churches may be focused and spiritual, but the leadership practices are negating many positive benefits they would otherwise be enjoying. If you want a healthy church in 2021, you need to know what to look for so you can navigate through these pitfalls. Resources in this area can help you:
To accurately assess church health, we need to know why it is important, what numbers we need to focus on, and be familiar with the fifteen keys of church health – five organisational, five spiritual and five leadership. Finally, we need to know about metrics and trends that can help us gauge our church health in 2021. This series will tell you how.
As we look to build a healthy church in 2021, these series can help guide you as you navigate challenges and issues. I also offer FREE Church Health Assessments – you can find out more about them HERE.