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.