How Is Your Church's Health?

 

            From I Corinthians 12...

 

A body is a complex network of regulatory systems

A body lives in and interacts with an environment

A body is unique

A body adapts to maintain life

 

The essays and questions by Dwight Stinnett and the Staff of the GRR are here for your study and reflection. Use these in prayer to discern where God would have your church put its focus so to become an even more effective witness and servant of Christ.

 

 

The size of the body - the church - is not a dependable measurement of its effectiveness in ministry.

 

Small churches can be highly effective; larger churches can be ineffective. 

 

When a human body is out-of-shape, it does not have the energy and resources to enjoy life nor to share the joy of life with others. God has the Apostle express that lesson in his first letter to the Corinthian Church. He focuses on this nature of the Church in the 12th chapter of that letter.

 

Captivating Vision 

 

Healthy churches have a clear understanding of who they are and what they are about.  Captivating vision creates a cohesive pattern of all the traits associated with healthy churches. When a captivating vision is present, structures, resources, and activities serve the vision, and members are captured by the power of something bigger than themselves.

 

Questions for Reflection:

 

  •  Can members tell significant stories of the church (past and present)?

 

  •   Do members have a clear understanding of what it means to be   American Baptist?

 

  •   Are vision and purpose statements clear and up-to-date? Can members   recite them?  Are they publicized?

 

  •   Do vision and purpose direct church decisions, especially in issues of staff, structure, resource allocation, and program design?

 

Compassionate Outreach

 

God's love defines the mission and method for all Christian ministry.
Healthy churches share God's passion, longing for people to find 
wholeness in Christ. They scan the horizon for those in their neighborhoods and those around the globe who need the Good News, whether it be a word, a touch, or a "cup of cold water."


Questions for Reflection

 

  • How do members show their care for others?

 

  • What are specific ways that God's love is shown to those outside the church?

 

  • In this community, who do you most care about? Why?

 

  • What is the church doing about it?

 

  • How do non-mmebers in the community describe the church?

 

 

Dynamic Spirituality

 

Healthy churches radiate a sense of God's  empowering presence.  As we listen to God, and allow that Word to influence our decisions and the way we live, the Spirit becomes evident to us. The dynamic in trying to understand God and respond faithfully may begin as a personal matter. But, since the Spirit is presentin the community, the dynamic must also be open
to community, instruction, correction, and affirmation.

 

Questions for Reflection

 

  •    How do you experience God's presence when this church is gathered?

 

  •    What attention is given to the spiritual life of individuals?

 

  •    How do different groups demonstrate the Spirit at work in the church?

 

  •    Is prayer taught and practiced?

 

  •    What about other spiritual disciplines (e.g., fasting, devotional reading, meditation)?

 

Effective Organization

 

Healthy churches have an organization that is adaptive, focused on ministry and mission, and consistent with their theology. Organization promotes wise administration and demands accountability.  It facilitates communication and reconciles differences. The dynamicbalance of appropriate pastoral leadership and empowered membership is essentia lto organizational effectiveness.

 

Questions for Reflection

 

  • How does the organization of the congregation provide adequate accountability and communication?

 

  • Who makes decisions and how?

 

  • Are organizational structure and processes documented (e.g., By-Laws), and are they followed?

 

  • How does congregational structure allow for new work and ministry initiatives?

 

Growing Disciples

 

Healthy churches know that Christ's last earthly words to us were " make disciples!" Healthy churches invite people to become disciples and begin the journey. They also encourage those already on the path of discipleship to "press on." Healthy churches are deliberate about growing disciples by teaching and modeling ethics, theology, history, Bible, missions, stewardship, compassion, and Christian behavior.

 

Questions for Reflection

 

  • How many new disciples have been welcomed into the church this year?

 

  • What opportunities are given for persons to mature spiritually?

 

  • What is the evidence that persons are growing in their discipleship?

 

  • How is financial stewardship taught as a part of discipleship?

 

 

Living Network

 

Healthy churches know that they are connected to other churches by the living Christ.  They seek shared mission and ministry for local concerns through local  alliances with other congregations.  They find strength and
opportunity for mission and ministry through 
denominational affiliation.  The strength of the network may ebb and flow, but it remains a ling reminder that Christ's church is always larger than any one congregation.


Questions for Reflection

 

  • How does the church participate with other nearby congregations in meaningful ways?

 

  • How does the church participate in American Baptist life? Area events? Regional events? National events?

 

  • Which ABC missionaries have visited the church? Do they have regular contact (e.g., newsletters, email)?

 

  • Have regional or national leaders from ABC been invited to the church activities?

 

Loving Community

 

 The first mark of a church was that they "loved one another."  Life in Christ is always urging to koinonia. In a healthy church, loving community is fostered and cherished. This will be reflected in personal relationships and small groups, theacceptance of newcomers, and constructive patterns of conflict resolution. Such communities are attractive.

 

  One way to practice being a loving community is to nurture your pastor. View a presentation of how a church can grow its pastor, especially one who may be newer to ministry.

 

Questions for Reflection

 

  • Does each member have a strong personal relationship with four or more other church members?

 

  • How many relational groups (both formal and informal) are there? Do members participate in more than one group? how do the groups relate to one another?

 

  • How does the church open itself to newcomers? How do they establish friendships and become part of groups?

 

  • How long is the average pastorate? Can you list reasons pastors leave? Why did pastors choose to stay?
    Why do members stay or leave?

 

 

Sharing Ministry

 

Healthy churches know that the gift of ministry (diakonia) is given to all Christians.  The Pastor is one minister among many ministers within a church.   Healthy churches help members discover  their God-given gifts, and then make space for them to pursue a passionate ministry.   There is a sense of teamwork and partnership with one another in the work of God's Kingdom.

 

Questions for Reflection

 

  • Is it expected that every member has a gift to be expressed through ministry?

 

  • What is the regular effort to help persons discover their gifts and find a place of service?

 

  • Do members regularly practice their gifts through meaningful Christian service? Do pastor and members show signs of being a ministry team?

 

  • What ministries are done on behalf of non-members?

 

Vital Worship

 

Worship brings participants closer to God in the context of congregational fellowship;  it energizes all the  activities of the community; and it carries the  Good News from one person to another, all the way to the ends of the earth.  In healthy churches, vital worship is theologically sound and 
contextually appropriate.  Vital worship has many elements and may be expressed in various forms.

 

Questions for Reflection

 

  • What forms and elements are used in worship? Do the worship services express the "culture(s)" of the community?

 

  • How many persons help lead congregational worship? What are the opportunities for congregational participation?

 

  • How is worship open and inviting to visitors?

 

  • In what ways do worship experiences allow persons to meet and respond to God? What difference does worship make for the rest of the week?

 

Toward a Diagnostic and Resource tool:

The Healthy Church

 

Publications to Study

 

Dale Galloway, Ten Characteristics of a Healthy Church

 

Peter Steinke, Healthy Congregations

 

Loren Mead, Five Challenges for the Once and Future Church

 

Dan Spader & Gary Mayes, Growing a Healthy Church

 

Christian Schwartz, Natural Church Development

 

Leith Anderson, A Church for the 21st Century

 

The Evangelistic Association of New England: Becoming a Healthy Church, Stephen Macchia