Church Health: Functional Health

Measuring a Church’s Functional Health

Chances are great that your church is suffering from what is called Pareto principle. This principle is a “commonly noted observation that 20 percent of the people in a church do 80 percent of the work” (Thumma, 2011, p. xxi). This principle is so prevalent in cultures globally almost regardless of the organization. It is definitely a common lament of many pastors and other church leaders. The problem for churches is that this problem has so many different pieces to it’s puzzle. As one writer puts it, “Indeed the problem is complex; it is a participant, leadership, organizational, and spiritual issue” (Thumma, 2011, p. xxv). This makes it a hard task to measure a church’s functional health but it is still a possibility, especially as a church focuses on its operational values,

Defining Functional Health and Measurable Variables

            The question then at this point is, “What exactly is functional health?” Especially as functional health relates to the church. If something is functional it is simply, “working.” In an overall view of things one might see a church solely on the term functional, but then we beg the question, “why or why not is a church functionally healthy?” Basically, that comes down to the individual parts that contribute to the whole. In a church then it is talking about the activity of the people. It’s not just the presence of the people that make a church functionally healthy but the involvement and the quality of the involvement. The vision of any church would be that all of its members would be actively serving according to their gifts. As we shared with the Pareto principle, most church’s functional health would be at 20%. Could you imagine if your entire body only had 20% of its cells or organs working?  You can now imagine the importance of functional health. If 20% of a church’s membership is doing 100 percent of the work, just think what could be accomplished; the decline of burnout, and the growth of individual spiritual health.  While 100% may not be achievable (some can’t because of their physical health or age), 60-70% would be considered healthy if these were people actively participating in ministry.

The question is how do we gain an accurate measurement of a church’s functional health. This requires quite a bit of participation on the leader’s participation. It does consist of crunching a few numbers but also an examination of some of procedures and ministries of the church. There are four main areas are where we will focus our attention for functional health, 1) membership/attendance against the numbers of those that are actively participating, 2) those who are actively participating but have been attending less than two years, 3) training opportunities for volunteers, and lastly, 4) the guidance given to clearly define ministry tasks/roles. The first two will focus more on numerical data while the last two focus on surveys.

Membership Vs. Participation & Newcomer Assimilation

            The first major component to understand this area of functional health is knowing your total number of constituents. This is your members and non-members that make up your overall church family. For those are afraid of paying to much attention to the use of numbers in church, they will pay attention when the number reaches zero. Ideally, this number becomes a base number for finding functional health, not a sole descriptor of it, regardless of size. Some other statistics that would be important to locate are…

  • Number of small/task groups.
  • Average size of small/task groups
  • Number of individuals who have attended less than two years. Number of individuals who have attended less than one year.
  • Number of individuals involved in small/task groups. Do this again for those who have attended for less than two years. Again, for those who have attended for less than a year.
  • Number of individuals that give financially to the church. Do this again for those who have attended for less than two years. Again, for those who have attended for less than a year.
  • Number of individuals that have at least one designated role/task. Do this again for those who have attended for less than two years. Again, for those who have attended for less than a year.

Simply, put there will be a lot of mathematical division taking place here. With the exception of the first statistic (# of small/task groups), you will be dividing stat by the total number of constituents to find the average. The first finding will show you how many small/task groups you have for a certain number of people (example: 100 people divided by 7 groups equals one group for about every 14 people). The remaining numbers will show a percentage of people’s active participation in a congregation, (example #1: 35 people in small groups divided by 100 overall people equals 35% of the congregation is participating in small group; example #2: 5 people who have attended less than two years with a designated role divided by the 20 people who have been attended less than two years equals 25% of the newcomers are actively participating).

Volunteer Training & Ministry Description

While the previous focus area focuses on hard numbers, the following focus can be much more telling as to what is actually taking place. The statistics gathered previously can show clearly and quickly show problems areas but the following seeks deeper connection with how the church’s functional health is taking place. These following questions could be developed into a church wide survey or could be used as directed interview questions to gather information.

  1. Has the church provided you in-house training for your ministry role or task?
  2. Did the church provide direction or stipend for where you could find instructional materials for your ministry role or task?
  3. Did the church provide outside training, through the use of a ministry school or conference that helped you in your ministry role or task?
  4. When you were recruited or volunteered where you given a description of what was expected?

References

Thumma, Scott. Bird, Warren (2011). The Other 80 Percent: Turning Your Church’s Spectators into Active Participants. Jossey-Bass print. San Francisco, CA.

Church Health: Spiritual Health

Measuring a Church’s Spiritual Health

One the hardest things for a church to acknowledge is that they may not be spiritual healthy. It may be even harder to identify what truly makes a church spiritual healthy or unhealthy. This is due to the fact that many traditions have emphasized different aspects and expressions of spiritual experience in the Christian faith. It is because of this that many churches will then gauge their own spiritual temperature based upon their own definition of what a spiritually healthy church looks like.   So, we will work off of a simple, yet, biblically rooted definition of what a spiritually healthy church will look like.

In John chapter four, Jesus is speaking to a woman that he met at a well in the most unlikely of places. There the woman tried to ignite a conversation that were their equivalent of modern day worship wars. Her question to Jesus was where they should worship.   Yet, Jesus took the conversation to a whole other level. Regardless of place, God is seeking “true worshippers” that “worship in spirit and in truth.” Biblical exposition and spiritual worship are then the call from the mouth of Jesus. While it is possible for a congregation to be involved in increasing the quality of the preaching, this is a personal endeavor for the preacher. On the other hand the overall worship experience is at the hands of people. Bob Russell writes, “The primary purpose of worship is to honor God, but corporate worship should also uplift and encourage believers” (2010, p. 46).

This is why worship should be inspiring. This is not just a positive experience through therapeutic sermons and happy feelings that are created by the songs. Healthy, spiritual worship compels people to come in with anticipation of what will take place. As the psalmist David wrote, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD” (Ps. 122:1). Not only does inspiring worship draw people in because it lifts up Christ (Jn. 13:32) but it is also inspiring because when people are sent out, they feel compelled to live out the Word of God that was brought to them in the service. This is a place where worshipping in truth comes to play. Through biblical exposition the people are encouraged and challenged to live out the Word in their everyday lives after the worship event, because they understand it is a lifestyle. They are excited to come to church because they know they will leave with greater conviction to live out the Christian faith.

The next major marker that we examine is the issue of prayer. Jesus quoted scripture when he reminded people that the temple was a “house of prayer” (Mt. 21:13). We understand that individuals are now the temple of God with their own body but it is an important aspect that the local church or congregation is also known for being a community of prayer. There needs to be atmosphere of prayer that includes intercession and thanksgiving that is promoted by the leadership and is part of the identity for the whole church.

Lastly the congregation needs to be marked by love. Jesus states in John 13:35, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Love is a badge for any believer as well as the church. While many churches may be welcoming to a point they may not all display an atmosphere of warmth and fellowship. Knowing the love of a congregation includes their welcome and integration, their promotion of fellowship, and their hospitality.

Method of Measure and Content

The main method of measuring could probably be by a survey. It is possible to use a larger survey that will help the church leadership gain a larger understanding of more than just spiritual components. A survey such as the EFCA Church Health Survey (2007) will measure ten different areas for overall church health but it does have three focal areas that include, “passionate spirituality (prayer), Spirit-filled worship, and loving relationships.” Just those three areas from the EFCA Church Health Survey would bring to the table thirty questions.

Another method of measure would be in personal or group interviews. The questions would be opened ended questions so to promote more conversation from those being interviewed. Responses from the interviewer should be there to help dig deeper into the conversation. The following would be possible questions for interviews. These are adapted from some of the questions provided by Thom Rainer’s, “10 Questions for a Six-Month Spiritual Checkup” (2014).

  1. How has the church helped you read your bible more?
  2. How has the church helped your prayer life?
  3. How has the church challenged and helped you share you faith with others?
  4. How has the church’s worship service inspired you to serve the Lord faithfully?
  5. How has the church’s worship service inspired your fight against sin?
  6. What scriptures and songs has the church’s worship services helped you memorize?
  7. How is your family involved in worship services?

References

Rainer, Thom (2014). http://thomrainer.com/2014/06/24/10-questions-six-month-spiritual-checkup/

Russell, Bob; Russell, Rusty (2010-05-20). When God Builds a Church. Howard Books. Kindle Edition.

Church Health: Relational Health

Measuring a Church’s Relational Health

“We are a friendly church.” This is a statement that has been used by most churches. The reality is that while some churches have appeared friendly during “meet and greet” times, they have no effort made towards integration and fellowship. A church with a warm greeting may still have a cold fellowship. Churches with a cold fellowship are more likely to face a declining attendance, as people no longer feel cared for by the leadership or other members in the congregation. Therefore, measuring a church’s relational health becomes increasingly important.

Relational health has been defined as different things throughout the years. In the book, Who Cares About Love (Arn, NyQuist, and Arn, 1988), the relational atmosphere in a church is pictured as the Love/Care Quotient (LCQ). That research shown that there was a direct relationship that exists between being perceived as a relationally healthy church and a growing church.   It was found that growing churches showed a significantly higher LCQ than other churches that had been declining for five years, regardless of denomination.   All of that together shows that churches that are lacking in love and care from leadership to members are usually declining. Healthy relationships attract people and a lack of healthy relationships repels.

Still, what defines healthy relationships? Biblically speaking, healthy relationships centers in on a single word, “oneness.” For example, Ephesians 4:3-6 reads,

“Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”

            In this passage we are immediately drawn to the repetitious use of word, “one.” Seven times in these four verses the word is used to remind the Ephesian believers of the oneness that is in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. So what does oneness look like? It implies closeness in proximity and togetherness in thinking, action, and goals. Therefore, creating an atmosphere that healthy relationships can flourish is vital for overall church health and growth. In the book, Comeback Churches, Ed Stetzer writes about promoting fellowship, “Intentionally connecting people in community is not an option for the church. It’s a biblical mandate—the essence of what it means to be the body of Jesus Christ” (2010, p. 151).

Measuring Relational Health

Now that we have a basic understanding for what healthy church relationships looks like we can begin to measure the relational health. We will do this through two primary methods, hard data collection and surveys. This will give a church a good starting foundation for understanding the state of their relational health.

Hard Data

  1. The first piece of hard data to collect would be looking at what material has been brought to before the church to teach them about love, congregational care, and fellowship. This would be sermons topic and in a series. Small groups and Sunday school curriculums. A key point in understanding the churches relational health can be found in whether it is a teaching topic during the last two or three years.
  2. The next piece would be statistical data. The data collected would be the average worship attendance compared to the number of individuals that attend small groups. Small groups could range from Sunday school classes, home groups, teen youth groups, and others. Small groups are a place where intentional relationships are built and an excellent place to grow healthy.
  3. The last piece would be knowing how many people arrive to the church fifteen minutes early to fellowship and don’t leave for at least 15 minutes after service. This wouldn’t include those that have to prepare for the service and clean up afterwards (most of the time) but those that are there early and are leaving late after the service because they desire to communicate with others. The time spent in worship does not provide a time for intimate Christian fellowship (it is important to worship together though) but the time before and after can.

Survey

This simple seven-question survey would be sufficient to give first time guests and entrenched members. While it would be best to remain anonymous, it would be important to also include space to obtain the persons age, and how long they have attended, martial status, and such in order to gain an understanding about different demographics relations also (These were adapted from, Who Cares About Love).

  • Were you greeted at the front door?
  • If you had children with you, were you told about Children’s church and the church nursery?
  • If you are a current attender are you currently involved in a small group (Sunday School, youth group, home group, bible study, etc) through the church?
  • On a scale of 1 – 10, how loved do you feel the pastor cares for the members?
  • On a scale of 1 – 10, how loved do you feel the members care for other members?
  • If you are in a small group, on a scale of 1 – 10, how loved do feel in your group?
  • If you are a member, on a scale of 1 – 10, how loving do you feel that you have been to first time guests or new members?

References

Arn, Win. Nyquist, Carroll. Arn, Charles. (1988). Who Cares About Love? Church Growth Press. Lakewood, Colorado

Stetzer, Ed; Dodson, Mike (2010). Comeback Churches. B&H Books. Kindle Edition.

Church Health: Missional Health

Measuring a Church’s Missional Health

The first point of business is to define what exactly is missional health. To do this we will break down the ideas between the two words, missional, and health. One of the first ideas that comes our mind when using the word missional is its likeness to missionary. A missional church is then understood to be one that basically “sends.” Alan Hirsh writes, “As God sent the Son into the World, so we are at the core a sent or simply a missionary people” (2006, p. 129). Missional has to do with the idea that God’s mission for the church is to send people out into the world to bring the lost to Jesus.

The picture of an airport, fire station, or aircraft carrier all give us a picture of what the missional church should look like (McNeal, 2008).   Together they each are only doing being missional as they send out. Being missional has nothing to do with being attractional but simply with the discipling of believers and being a launching pad for being sent into the world to lead people toward a personal relationship with Jesus.   Of course, this eventually leads to new believers in the church but the process repeats that the new believers are discipled and sent out to bring others in.

Fairly obvious is the ideas behind the word health. Being healthy and unhealthy are not distant ideas for us. The idea then that a church’s missional health can either be healthy or unhealthy can be easily understood. Especially, in light of the fact that much of Paul’s writing in the New Testament uses the body as a comparison for the church.  Overall church health is affected by the parts.  The first part is Missional health.  I would even venture to say that it is one of the most important aspects about a church.  We have got to keep the main thing the main thing.  That is leading people to Jesus and making disciples of them.  The old saying is, “A church that doesn’t evangelize will fossilize.”

In the book, Cure for the Common Church, Bob Whitesel writes, “Slowly over time most churches grow primarily inward in their focus, rather than focusing outward to meet the needs of those outside the church” (2012). When we do plan evangelistic outreach many times we do so in a way that targets people rather than approaching as Jesus would. One writer puts it like this, “The typical church’s plan to get on the stick evangelistically involves the same kind of efforts as deer hunters” (Spader, 1993). We come in as hunters to take our prey, and may leave with only one trophy. The missional church sends people out with the missionary mentality of contextualization. This is the adapting to the culture one is in so to gain access to the people in that culture and a bridge to freely communicate. This would be incarnational evangelism. As Jesus took on our flesh to save us, we take on the flesh of those we are trying to bring to Christ.

Therefore, the key difference between a healthy and unhealthy missional church is not how many evangelistic events are hosted by the church but more by the mentality of its leaders and laity to bless the people in their community in order to bring people to Christ. In the decline of people’s acquaintance to the Christian community it is becoming even more necessary to send people out. Rather than a “come and see” invitation mentality, we are in need of “go and tell.” While the first is still necessary, “churches also need to train people to “go and tell” (Stetzer, 2010, p. 101).  If you think about it, before we can ask people to come, we have to go and tell.

Methods Utilized in Measuring a Church’s Missional Health

There several methods of measuring a church’s missional health in order to diagnose any issues and hopefully present a prescription that a church can then act on. Surveys, interviews, conversations, data collecting are all options but it is best to use a wide number of inputs into the measurement. This will help to bring about a much better understanding of the church’s missional health and what steps can then be implemented to maximize strengths and minimize any weaknesses.

Surveys

Surveys such as the EFCA church health survey provide an instant toolkit to churches that want to look at the perspectives of the whole congregation. While the EFCA will focus on more than just missional health it does provide a strong start for those looking solely at missional health. Surveys can provide a non-threatening approach to members as they can do so without giving their name. It can bring honesty but at the same time it could bring brutal honesty.

Missional Health Survey Questions would include (ratings on a scale of 1-5)…

  1. I know our church’s mission.
  2. The church helps me to get out of my comfort zone.
  3. Our church has been active in helping plant other churches.
  4. Our church is faithful in using its money for the community.
  5. The church encourages people to be involved in a discipleship process.
  6. The discipleship process encourages people to win people to Christ.
  7. The church helps my to discover how to lead others to Jesus.
  8. I have x number of unchurched friends.

Interviews

            Interviewing is a good way of guiding a conversation to find answers from leaders or members. This keeps a conversation from chasing topics that don’t have anything to do with missional health. These may take more time than surveys, and are not recommended for the whole congregation (time-wise).  It does offer more information than what a survey can gather. This is particularly helpful when speaking with ministry leaders.

Some Good interview questions include…

  1. What type of community activities does the church get involved with?
  2. How much time do you spend in non-church related community events and what are they?
  3. How evangelistic do you understand the church to be?
  4. In your ministry are you challenging the people you lead to be missional?

Conversations

In order to gain an understanding of the missional temperature/perspective of a congregation, the method of conversation is an ideal way to go. The conversations can range from one on one interviews or small group times. The idea with conversation is that not just the answers that a person gives, but their reactions and the questions they ask back. A conversation implies that that communication is happening back forth whereas an interview has one person asking questions and the second answering. In fact, at some points it may become a reverse interview, or in a small group, a group interview, where the consultant or data collector is asked questions, or simply records the interactions of missional health in a group. The idea is that the members lead the conversation rather than the person collecting the information.

Conversation may look something like this…

  1. Ask a general open ended questions such as,
    1. What do you think it means to be a missional church?
    2. What types of outreach does your church have?
    3. What type of training does your church provide for evangelism?
    4. How involved is your church in community?
  2. Be prepared to only ask follow-up question in order to stimulate conversation and thinking.
  3. Record people’s reactions, their answers, and the basic understanding.

Data Collecting

            This is by far the most common and easiest method to utilize (probably over-emphasized at times due to its ease). Many times this information is already readily available and does provide some hard statistics that can aid in diagnosing a churches missional health. Some of the stats will come from knowing attendance, first time visitors, guest retentions, conversions and baptisms and such. Others can then be gathered by certain answers given after collecting surveys, conducting interviews, and having conversations.

Some of the following data points would be good indicators for church health.

  1. Regular Numbers (From the current year, or previous year).
    1. Attendance, first-time quests in a year, visitor retention, conversion, baptism.
  2. Number of leaders and members involved in active ministry outside of the church.
  3. Number of community events in the year.
  4. Number of new small groups in the year.
  5. Average number of unchurched friends leaders and members have.
  6. Number of people that went evangelism/outreach training in the year.

References

Fann, Jim. (2007). The EFCA Church Health Survey. Minneapolis, MN. Free Church.

Hirsh, Alan. (2006). Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church. Grand Rapids, MI. Brazos Press.

McNeal, Reggie. (2008). Missional Renaissance. http://blindbeggar.org/?p=703

Spader, Dann L; Mayes, Gary (1993). Growing A Healthy Church. Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Whitesel, Bob. (2012). Cure for the Common Church. Wesleyan Publishing House. Indianapolis, IN.