We’ve worked with hundreds of churches across the globe. We’ve seen what makes churches thrive and what makes them deteriorate.
After years of working with and observing different churches, we’ve come up with five habits of the healthiest churches.
#1 – Healthy churches don’t try to do everything well.
Through Church Fuel resources and coaching, we get to peek inside hundreds of churches, and here’s one thing we’ve noticed: the most effective churches don’t offer a myriad of ministries, but focus on doing a few things well.
They don’t try to be the restaurant that offers all types of food, with a menu the size of a small book. They try to be like the steakhouse, with servers who say, “We’re known for our Ribeyes.”
One of the things we help our members do is identify their keystone ministries. These are the three or four ministries and programs that drive growth for the entire church. These ministries deserve an unfair advantage—requiring more money, more volunteers and more communication.
A healthy church doesn’t have to offer a ministry for every group of people or try to solve every problem. That’s a recipe for turning into a busy disaster.
#2 – Healthy churches continually learn, grow, and change.
Leaders that have a growth mindset are always looking for opportunities to learn. They don’t get caught in the trap of managing the mundane; they are out on the edge.
They make time for conversations and experiences that have no immediate payoff, but can make a difference over the long-term life of the church. They orient some of their finances to learning opportunities. They read (or listen to) books from people who know more than they do. They make time to be challenged.
If your church is stuck, intentionally learning from someone with a broader perspective might help you break out of your current pattern. How are you learning and changing?
#3 – Healthy churches develop leaders.
Imagine what would happen in the life of your church if every single leader got better. Imagine the impact your people could have if they learned how to lead themselves, lead others, and lead projects at a high level.
When leaders get better, the church gets better.
It doesn’t cost a lot of money to develop leaders in your church, but it’s one of the activities that has the biggest payoff in ministry. Nobody is going to beat down your door and ask you to develop leaders…it will never feel that urgent.
But equipping people to do the work of the ministry is not a helpful suggestion. It’s a Biblical mandate.
“Leaders of growing churches do not use lay workers as “helpers” in attaining their goals and fulfilling their visions. Rather, leaders invert the pyramid of authority so they assist Christians to attain the spiritual potential God has for them,” says Christian A. Schwarz.
One tool you can use is our Team Training resources. It’s a series of videos you can watch at the beginning of your team meetings or share with your leaders to watch on their own. It will help them develop core leadership skills.
#4 – Healthy churches have enabling systems and structure.
Many churches want to grow but their structure prohibits it.
Decisions are forced through an outdated structure, perhaps created in a moment of over-reaction. There are not simple and clear processes to move people from guest to attender, from attender to disciple, and from disciple to leader.
You probably didn’t get into ministry because you loved processes. But processes are the key to helping people follow Jesus in your church.
Processes don’t negate the need for the Holy Spirit and they don’t indicate a lack of freedom. They enable ministry to happen at every level. For your church to be the healthiest it can be, someone needs to make sure there are healthy systems and a correct structure in place.
#5 – Healthy churches are focused on Jesus and people.
Healthy churches focus simultaneously on Jesus AND people.
If church was only about focusing on Jesus, it wouldn’t matter if any other people were there. You could ignore everything in the world. There are a lot of unhealthy churches who turn their noses up at the world in the name of “just focusing on Jesus.”
If church was only about focusing on people, you could offer programs and ministries to meet physical needs, but never actually help people follow Jesus. Churches lose their heart and soul when they only focus on people.
Jesus was the Word made flesh – he was divinity come for humanity. And while we cannot fully comprehend, much less copy that model, in order to be a healthy church we have to focus on both heaven and earth.
It’s surprisingly easy for a church to be about stuff related to Jesus and people, but not focused on Jesus and people.
So What's Next?
Feel like your church should be growing, but it's not? From someone who used to be a pastor and church planter, I know it can be frustrating.
Ultimately, church growth is up to God. But are we doing everything we can to ensure our church is healthy? How do we overcome the barriers we feel are in front of us?
We know you care deeply about leading a healthy growing church because it means leading more people to Jesus. As a result we created a free guide to breaking barriers that will bring clarity and help begin to alleviate your frustrations.
Get your FREE copy of the Senior Pastor's Guide to Breaking Barriers today.