How To Recognize A Healthy Church

What makes a church healthy?

When it comes to our physical health, we can pinpoint “healthy” vs. “unhealthy” fairly easily.

  • Do we have the energy we need to accomplish our work each day?
  • Are we experiencing any significant aches or pains?
  • Are we running a fever or have high blood pressure?

All of those are indicators of our health status.

So, what indicates whether our churches are healthy?

Indicators of a healthy church include:

  • More people are deciding to follow Christ each week, each month
  • The percentage of the congregation involved in a small group and/or serving in some capacity at the church is increasing
  • Church staff members are usually able to work reasonable hours (not lots of overtime)
  • The church is growing (this doesn’t have to be 100s per month but some steady growth is always a good sign)
  • Volunteers know what’s expected of them and they enjoy serving
  • The pastor has sufficient time dedicated to developing messages each week
  • People within the community who don’t attend the church still have a favorable impression of it’s impact on the community
  • When you think of whether people are maturing spiritually in the church, at least a handful of names come to mind of people whose spiritual growth you’ve witnessed
  • Church leadership maintains a budget, the church is debt-free or making steady progress towards becoming debt-free, and it has sufficient cash flow

Indicators of an unhealthy church include:

  • Church attendance is steadily decreasing
  • Staff members are exhausted and overwhelmed
  • The pastor is so busy with other tasks that he regularly puts together the sermon on Saturday night
  • There’s no succession plan for the pastor or other church leaders
  • Fewer people are serving and those who do volunteer aren’t well-trained
  • There’s a high turnover rate on the church staff
  • Leadership (or the congregation) is reluctant to change and/or eliminate things that are no longer effective
  • Debt is increasing, cash flow is tight, and sometimes the church is barely able to make payroll

These lists aren’t all-inclusive, so what would you add to them? Do you disagree with what I have included? Let me know in the comments. Agree or disagree – I’d love to hear from you.

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  • carol

    To me, none of this matters. Jesus matters and our entire focus should be on him IMO. To many people focused on what others are doing when we should be focused on what WE are doing.

  • Shelley

    as a dedicated member, what is the right (biblical) thing to do when over time, our church becomes unhealthy? I am so sad and at a complete loss.

    • Shelley,

      I’m sorry to hear you’re going through this situation. We invest time, energy, and our emotions into our church families and it cuts deep when things go wrong. First, I would recommend praying for the leaders of your church. They may very likely not realize there’s an issue or maybe do know but need wisdom to figure out how to fix it.

      From a biblical standpoint, Matthew 18:15-17 provides a good framework. Speak directly to the individual who is in a position of authority to fix the issue(s). Do so in a loving manner and always assume that he/she has good intent. I’ve used an approach of “I could be misreading the situation…” or “Could you help me understand why…” to try and make sure I don’t put the other person on the defensive. If you don’t get clarification or receive a favorable response one-on-one, then verses 16 & 17 tell us to bring additional people into the situation. Now, I don’t know the details of your situation so you may have already tried to lovingly point out the issues to church leadership. If so, and if you see no indication that they plan to change, then you have a decision to make…stay or go?

      If you choose to stay, please pray about how to guard your heart against any bitterness or hurt. Work to find even any small ways you can support and honor your church leaders to help them.

      If you choose to leave, try to complete any commitments you’ve already made to your current church (helping at a certain event, etc). Then, quickly start looking for a new church home. It’s kind of like the old saying about if you fall off a horse, you need to get right back on. Don’t give satan a chance to let any hurt fester or for you to give up on the Body of Christ. Trust God to lead you to the right church home. Churches are lead by fallible human beings. Even those with the best intentions make mistakes. If it’s to the point where you can no longer support the current leadership or you’re seeing things that are not Biblical, then it may be time to move on.

      Whatever you choose, trust God to lead your decision-making process and to help you heal from any hurts you’ve experienced. Continue to pray for your current church leaders and, if you leave, do so in a manner that remains respectful of them. Don’t give up on church in general. It’s messy and sometimes we get hurt, but it’s still completely worth the effort to stay connected to a local church. I’m praying for you and your church.

      Here to help,

      Deborah