Is church health quantifiable? One of the ongoing projects at the Leavell Center is based on the premise that church health can be quantified, and that a universal church health diagnostic tool can be developed.
Does that mean that a church's health can be determined by its numbers? No... and yes. Numbers tell an accurate story, they just don't tell the whole story. Numbers reflect how effective a fellowship is as a whole.
But a more important (and difficult to determine) number would be what percentage of church members are effective as ministers in their weekly lives, and what percentage of newer believers are growing toward that same effectiveness.
Yet another important aspect of church health that is getting more attention today is the renewed emphasis on healthy churches reproducing new churches.
How to cultivate health in your own church...
This question was posed to Rick Warren in an interview ("Comprehensive Health Plan") published in the Summer 1997 issue of Leadership magazine. He responded with an explanation of the key role of balance:
Health is the result of balance. Balance occurs when you have a strategy and a structure to fulfill every one of what I believe are the five New Testament purposes for the church—worship, evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, and ministry. If you don't have a strategy and a structure that intentionally balances the purposes of the church, the church tends to overemphasize the purpose the pastor feels most passionate about.
In evangelicalism, we tend to go to seed on one truth at a time. You attend one seminar and hear, "The key is seeker services." You go to another: "The key is small groups." "The key is discipleship." "Expository preaching." The fact is, they're all important.
When a church emphasizes any one purpose to the neglect of others, that produces imbalance—unhealth. That causes a lot of churches to remain stunted. (pp. 24-25)
Rick Warren went on in the interview to explain how he keeps things balanced:
Four things must happen. You've got to move people into membership, build them up to maturity, train them for ministry, and send them out on their mission. .... Just like when you go to a doctor and he checks all kinds of vital signs, the health of a church is quantifiable. For example, I can measure how many more people are involved in ministry this month than last month. (p. 25)
Variable aspects of church health...
In A Church for the 21st Century Leith Anderson extends the analogy between personal health and church health. Any criteria for healthy blood pressure must involve relating variables: age, weight, height, recent activity, medications, etc. Anderson points out that for churches:
What is healthy for one may be different from what is healthy for another. Healthy for a young church in a booming suburb of Orlando includes a growth rate of 50% per year. Health for an old church in a declining inner city of the Rust Belt may be staying the same size. (p. 128)
The Leavell Center's Internal Church Growth Analysis is just one of the tools we are developing to help you assess the health of your church. This internal analysis, combined with a Demographic Profile of the area around your church, lays an objective foundation for further examination of your church's health. If you have concerns about your church, please call and make an appointment to speak with one of our Directors.