My work consulting with churches has brought me into many different church contexts. So as the end of 2017 approaches I wanted to bring together my findings and share them with you. Overall, what church health trends am I finding? What themes exist? Is there a common issue surfacing again and again?
The churches that contributed towards these findings vary in size – the smallest is 15 people, the largest around 450. They are located in the USA, the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Some are urban churches, others are rural. Some churches had full-time leaders and staff, whilst for others, even the leader wasn’t fully employed by the church. Some churches are Pentecostal, some Baptist, some Evangelical, some Anglican, some nondenominational and some don’t know what they are! The range is wide because churches are wide. Yet, even within the variety of denominations, doctrines and contexts included, signs of a healthy church are constant. So here are my findings, from the strategic planning I have partnered with churches in.
How does your church compare with these findings?
Church Health Trends
Scores are calculated from the average rating of all contributing churches. All scores will be presented as a box with a rating of 0% to 100%. The higher the percentage score, the healthier the area.
Results are available for three areas of church health:
These three scores together give us the overall church health, which in effect answers the question ‘as a church, how healthy are we?’
The initial findings showed that churches most commonly struggled with their organisational aspects. Issues cited included a lack of time, a lack of knowledge on how to develop organisational health, or a lack of understanding of why organisational alignment is essential to a healthy church. Many leaders who had studied – whether seminary, Bible college or even informally – shared that they had been equipped to preach and pastor, but not to manage or direct.
Church Health Trends: Organisational Health
The first set of results looked at churches organisational health. This is a measure of the churches organisational alignment on a clear purpose. In effect, it answers the questions ‘as a church, how geared towards a successful mission are we?’
Church Health Trends: Spiritual Health
The second set of results considered churches spiritual health. This is the measure of a church’s internal and external ministry strength, using the fivefold ministry expressions given to the church by Jesus that are listed in Ephesians 4. In effect, it answers the question ‘as a church, how successfully are we manifesting the heart of Jesus?’
Church Health Trends: Leadership Health
The third and final set of results present leadership health. This is the measure of a church’s leadership efficiency. It examines five key factors that can be growth engines for a church – or potential caps to its development. In effect, it answers the question ‘as a church, how prepared are we to steward success?’
Church Health Trends: Conclusions
These findings give many insights into issues churches are currently facing. On one level, there are the pragmatic observations:
- 60% of churches do not use their church mission as the defining measure in determining their priorities.
- 70% lack a clear vision with which to measure success.
- 40% have no plan in place to act upon the prophetic words over the church’s future.
- 70% do not have clear mission, vision and values statements.
- 80% lack a plan to turn their values into culture.
- 50% do not feel they have the right people, programs and processes to move forward.
- 90% do not have clear goals, with team ownership, for their next steps.
Encouragingly, the high score of both prophetic and teaching health shows that the church is largely beginning to increasingly understand and harness the power of the partnership of the Word and the Spirit. There is also a high Team score, which suggests leadership teams are understanding that empowerment of church members is essential to seeing long-term sustainability, success, and fruit.
In contrast, of particular note is the low score of cultural and strategic health (which will impact vision fulfilment, discipleship and momentum), and apostolic and evangelistic health (both of which are a measure of the church’s true impact on the outside world).
Certainly, these findings should give us food for thought as we move towards 2018.
So, how does your church compare with these findings? What areas are you ‘above average’, and what areas are you ‘below the curve?’ Consider my Strategic Planning services as a tool to identify how healthy your church is as you head towards a new year, with all the opportunities and challenges 2018 may bring.