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Measuring a church’s health

A pastor asked:

At one of our evaluation meetings following discussion on “normal” growth indicators such as the 3 B’s (Bums, Baptisms and Budget) the question was raised “But what are we firstly here for? Is is not for our and others growth in God (Spiritual Growth)?”

Any comments (including how do you “measure” spiritual growth)?

P.S My top two would probabaly be growing people in God and developing/cultivating genuine loving diverse accepting organic christian community.

My response:

Good question (which I spend my professional life trying to answer). (PS You could add buildings to the B’s above, and another B – boring committees) to total (?) the most easily measurable items….

I agree with the importance of having a missional component in any ‘measure’ of church health…

And I agree with Gary about numbers: they’re often not indicative of anything much, other than charismatic leadership and/or ‘successful’ marketing. However, what is sometimes called ‘remnantism’ is an overreaction to the numbers thing.

Sometimes you can tease a church leaders’ group by offering a fail-safe recipe for numerical growth: ‘simply ensure that more people who come once come back again’ 🙂 But that doesn’t help much… Is it possible to diagnose/measure the health of any local church anywhere – in any culture? Church Growth ‘expert’ Peter Wagner told me a couple of years back that no one had yet published a definitive ‘medical model’ for the church universal.

It would be a daunting task: a Western downtown city ‘first church’ is as unlike an Indian village church as any two organizations can be…

But I believe it can be done with something like a ‘Rikert-scale’ type measuring instrument, where people who know the church well rank variables along a graduated scale, by answering something like: YES, ALWAYS / GENERALLY / SOMETIMES / RARELY / NEVER/NOT AT ALL to a carefully-worded question.

Just one example: probably a healthy church – of any size, in any culture – sees at least 70% of regular weekly worshippers attending small groups for ‘Faith Development’ (Bible study, sharing, prayer and a mission goal) at least, say, once a fortnight. So the relevant question might be worded: ‘What percentage of regular Sunday worshippers meet at least once a fortnight in a small group for…’ Then we would give a numerical score for each of the responses (say, 10,8,6,4,2). Now this would need to be refined of course. For example: what if the representative leaders gave wildly differing responses? That would also indicate a few important things about how well they are in touch with what’s happening – or how well the church kept records etc… By the way, a church that sees nearly 100% in small groups may have other problems: a constrictive sectarian mindset; an authoritarian leadership style; or few new people coming (who haven’t yet connected to a group).

If you want some fun, play with my suggested 100 ‘marks of a healthy church’ (http://jmm.org.au/articles/8825.htm) with a Rikert-scale measure. Some of these need refining a bit, particularly with ’emerging churches’ breaking the mold in some ways…

Shalom! Rowland Croucher September 2005


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