Summary: The characteristics of a healthy church compiled from nine of the most significant church health studies to date.
During the last 20 years there has been a tremendous focus on church growth. Unfortunately this has created a tendency to be more analytical than prescriptive, more quantitative than qualitative. Rick Warren writes in “The Purpose-Driven Church”; (Zondervan) "the key issue for churches in the Twenty-first century is church health, not church growth”.
Listed below are the characteristics of a healthy church compiled from nine of the most significant church health studies (See Below)to date.
1. God-Centered Worship
Church should be energized by faith and provide worship experiences that are biblically based, Christ-centered, exalt and glorify God. Be corporate, genuine, inspiring, dynamic, participatory and transforming, indigenous and culturally relevant. Public worship should be done in such a way as to lead people to a living encounter with God. Work to enable awareness of God to shape the lives of church members and the way the church functions. Help church members encounter God in the whole of life – not just in church activities.
Seek to find out God’s priorities and let them shape where you put your energy and attention. Have a clearly defined mission/purpose/vision that is broadly owned and shared by pastor and the members. Avoid the imposition of ’top down’ vision and ’selling’ a complete package to a passive congregation. Establish a clear set of priorities. Have a clear sense of direction, seeking to find out what God wants. Don’t attempt to meet every need, but rather seek to discern and focus on God’s agenda. Address the need for change in hope of future gains. Be discerning about risk, growth, change and development. The primary change begins in minds and attitudes rather than just structures.
3. Needs-Based Ministries
Work at transforming your community by meeting physical, emotional and spiritual needs of both members and the local community. Cultural connectedness is essential. See people as your greatest assets and encourage participation through a personal invitation rather than a ’general notice’ to some task. Welcome everyone’s contribution and get them involved. Listen to the hopes (and fears) of all members, drawing them into decision making wherever possible. Work to identify their gifts and to support their engagement with the issues of society. Give permission to members initiatives and resist the temptation to squeeze people into existing organizational roles that do not fit their gifts.
4. Joyous Generosity
Face the cost of change and growth. Create and maintain a reasonable budget. Utilize holistic stewardship practices. Make people aware of financial needs. People will always put their money where their passion is. Encourage “ownership” of the various church ministries and programs.
5. Empowering Leadership
The leadership must “lead from their knees”. Focus on the continuously equipping for mission and ministry and building a community rather than running an organization. The proof of a good leader is creating another leader, not more followers. Develop servant-leadership by strategically mentoring, teaching and serving the believers. A true leader’s measure of success is when they have succeeded in helping others to be successful. Leadership should be about identifying, articulating the vision and giving proper co-ordination and direction celebrating, giving expression to, co-coordinating and resourcing the ministry of the whole church.