How healthy is your church? What measures would you use to evaluate church health?
There are some standard measures of church health that are often used:
- Financial Giving.
- Small Group Involvement.
They are the most commonly used measures because they are the easiest things to measure. Measuring the number of people who have increased in their love for God, or their hatred of sin, etc. is a much more difficult.
The challenge is, these numbers don't tell the complete picture. In fact, they can give a false picture of health if not used carefully.
So I'd like to suggest some alternative ways of measuring church health. Here's 20, in no particular order. They could be measured as raw numbers, or as a percentage of the church.
- Number of people who weren’t attending any church 12 months ago. This helps to clarify how much growth is a result of people transferring from other churches. Transfer growth isn't necessarily bad (e.g. people moving into the area), but if it's the only or main form of growth then there's a problem.
- Number of visitors who were followed up. It's good to measure the number of people visiting church, but it's just as important to follow them up effectively. There's not much point praying for new people to come, and God bringing new people to the church, and then failing to follow them up when they arrive.
- Number of people who came to church once, but didn’t return. This is obviously a tricky one to measure, but if it can be measured, it would be interesting to see why people aren't coming back.
- Number of people who have invited a friend to church/small group/event/to read the Bible. There might be a lot of inviting going on, but this may not result in new people attending. It is good to recognise and celebrate the inviting – remembering that we are not responsible for whether or not the person we invite says “yes”.
- Average number of connections of church members with people who aren't (yet) Christians. Similarly, if people are so involved in church life that they have few contacts in the community, there's a problem. You can't invite people you don't know! Understanding the quality of networks might help to provide insight into whether people need to be encouraged to develop relationships outside the church.
- Number of people in the church community who aren’t (yet) Christian. This could include people who attend the church, but also part of the broader network – Mainly Music, youth group, etc.
- Average attendance rate of small groups. This is in contrast to the number of people who signed up to be in a small group. It would be a false indicator of church health to have lots of people in groups, but for attendance levels to be low.
- Number of people who have been personally encouraged to review their financial giving. Similar to the “inviting” measure above – this measures not the response but the invitation. As a pastor, you're not responsible for how much people give, but you are responsible for ensuring they know how to steward God's resources well. And as Bill Hybels has pointed out, there are good ways of asking people to give.
- Number of people who attend prayer meetings. This is one of the more traditional measures, but it's an important one (as I reflected when reading ‘Old Paths, New Power‘ last year).
- Number of hours the pastor/s spend in prayer each week. A number of years ago I saw research from Effective Ministries that indicated that the church's growth correlated with the devotional life of the pastor. Could an increase in pastoral prayer result in a healthier church?
- Number of people who pray in small group. There are many reasons why people may not feel comfortable praying in small group, but it would be an indicator of health if this number was high.
- Number of people who know how to explain the gospel. Do people know how to share the gospel? A measure of church health could be the readiness of people to give an answer for the hope that they have.
- Number of people who know how to spend time alone with the Lord. Unsurprisingly, as research continues to remind us, time alone with the Lord is one of the most powerful means of growth.
- Number of people who feel confident that if they died tonight they would be with Jesus. If people don't have this assurance, this could reflect a lack of gospel understanding and an opportunity to speak words of assurance. A friend recently asked this question in a Christian seminar and was shocked by how low the levels of assurance were.
- Number of people who know their gifts and have been asked to serve. If the number of people serving is low, could it be that they don't know how to serve? Or that no one has asked them?
- Number of people who are taking the initiative. People identifying needs in the church and the local community and taking steps to meet those needs is a great sign of church health.
- Percentage of people in the local community who know the church exists and/or feel positively towards it. What is the sentiment in the local community towards the church? “Saltiness” and “lightness” are good measures of church health.
- Number of people who feel they have quality relationships. Healthy relationships are a key indicator of church health because they show reveal to the world that we are Christ's disciples, and because we cannot run this race alone.
- Degree to which the church reflects the local community. A church that is reaching the local community is likely to reflect the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of this community.
- Number of stories of changed lives. This is one of the most important measures, but perhaps one of the most difficult. So here's a suggestion: Create a culture in small groups where each week people are sharing how the gospel is transforming their lives. Regularly feed these stories back to the pastoral team, and celebrate these testimonies as a church.