Vital Signs: Why Church Health Matters and 14 Ways to Measure It

I received a free copy of this eBook a few months back and practically wore out a brand new highlighter marking up the book! It is rich with wisdom. I’d encourage you to go and buy the full e-Book. It’s an absolute must to have in your collection. Below are some excerpts that speak to me and my experience at a particular local church.

TONY MORGAN is the Chief Strategic Officer and Founder of The Unstuck Group, a team committed to helping churches get unstuck. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC), and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He’s written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst, and Pastors.com.

RYAN STIGILE is the Director of Strategic Resources for The Unstuck Group. Previously, he served in leadership at NewPointe Community Church (NE Ohio) and Mount Paran Church (Atlanta, GA). With a Master of Business Administration and experience in local churches, Ryan helps visionary pastors lead with strategy. His thoughts have been included in various publications such as Outreach magazine and Orange Leaders.

The Vital Signs:

  1. Attendance Change
  2. Guests to Attendance
  3. Baptisms
  4. Young Families
  5. Students
  6. Small Group Community
  7. Volunteers
  8. Attendance to Staff
  9. Per Capita Giving
  10. Weeks in Reserve
  11. Debt to Annual Giving
  12. Percent of Staff Budget
  13. Attendance to Seats
  14. Seating And Parking

Page 16:

“With so many people coming through their doors, it would be easy to assume that RockPointe sits on a major roadway with thousands of cars passing each day. However, it is quite the opposite. Lead Pastor, Shayne O’Brien admits the church’s location is bad and its road signage is even worse. However, he’s convinced that when you create a welcoming place where people are loved no matter what, people will not be able to stay away. In fact, they’ll invite others to join them.”

Page 20:

“The health of a church cannot be determined by its size any more than the health of a family can be determined by how many members it has. If you want to understand the true health of your church, you have to ask, “Who are we reaching?” just as often as you ask, “How many are attending?” Let’s explore three key groups that indicate the health of your “Who”: Nonbelievers (Baptisms), Young Families (Children), The Next Generation (Students)”

Page 22:

“When I became Lead Pastor, our church considered themselves ‘seeker-friendly,’ but there was a lot of room for improvement. Every strategy [we use] came with push back and many people left our congregation. But these people were ‘insider-focused,’ and we knew we had to keep ‘reaching’ rather than worry about keeping'” With intentional change led from a heart for the lost, it is quite possible to regain health in this area.

Page 23:

“Nearly every church, at some point in the past, was filled with young, energetic people pursuing a vision for their community. But as they grew older, many church leaders turned to pass the baton and found no one to take it. Reaching young parents and their kids is not simply about trying to be trendy. It is about creating a sustainable organization that is reaching its community long after you are gone. If you are not reaching young families today, you may not actually feel the effects for several decades. But a generational gap in the life of your church will eventually lead to its decline. Future-focused leaders recognize this and regularly evaluate their ability to reach young families with kids.

Page 24:

“…Stonecreek is not building a great children’s ministry. They are building a great family ministry that engages multiple generations.”

“the underlying principle is in the changing, learning, and discovering what is effective.”

Page 27:

“Healthy churches are comprised of spiritually healthy people—people who recognize simply becoming a church member does not move them closer to God. Leaders of these churches understand that if their weekend service becomes the “main event,” it will be the first and final destination on the discipleship path for most attendees. They instead recognize the weekend service as a starting point from which a number of spiritual next steps can be taken. The health of your church is determined in part by the degree to which individuals get involved beyond weekend attendance.

Page 31:

“…authentic community is a big piece of God’s plan for the local church. He’s not just interested in dynamic services. He desires for people to do life together. Secondly, momentum around small groups is created when individuals are empowered to initiate and develop them. There is a fine line between equipping leaders and controlling them.”

Page 32:

“…they have developed a plan, they are working the plan, and because there is a clear plan, they are able to easily engage volunteers to advance it.”

“Healthy and engaging churches simplify their ministries around a discipleship path that prioritizes small groups. Plain and simple.”

Page 33:

“Jesus’ model of discipleship focused on smaller groups. Acts 2 describes the early church continuing this model. If we want to create true disciples of Christ, we must follow His example of creating genuine relationships for support and encouragement. Fostering community is vital to the health of your church. The percentage of adults and students engaged in small groups is an indicator of your current ability to connect people to community.”

Page 54:

“We have an action plan in place to prioritize a focused set of initiatives/objectives for the next 6 months.”

“We have a defined strategy for leadership development for both staff and volunteers.”

Amen.

Page 55:

“When you lead with a clear mission and vision in a healthy way, you give people something to unify around. Unity is developed through mission and vision, not votes.”

“I’m becoming convinced that dysfunctional boards are one of the greatest contributors to stuck churches.”

Technology: “I often hear church leaders talk about “meeting people where they are.” Today, they are online and we must continue pushing the limits to get to them. Too many churches treat technology like “one and done” projects. They develop a website, set-up a few social media accounts, and declare their presence in the digital age. Top 10% churches understand that technology is always changing. The dedicate resources to ongoing development, continually adapting in order to reach people.”

Page 56:

Defined Action Plan: Churches experiencing success did not get there by accident. They went through the process of filtering their opportunities and needs then set a clear action plan to tackle them. Todd Braswell put it like this: “When we have a goal or task to accomplish, I like to think in clear action steps that build upon one another to get the job done. This is communicated and agreed upon during staff/team meetings and is followed up on in weekly meetings until completed.” Through focused initiatives and weekly accountability, they’ve made great strides in pursuit of their vision. It is that mindset that leads me to expect they will continue growing. It is also a discipline any church must adopt in order to improve its health.

Leadership Development: I’ve already shared the importance of a leadership development pipeline to developing great staff and volunteer teams. Here, I will simply remind you: growing churches require growing leaders. And growing leaders requires an intentional strategy. Healthy churches have a pipeline for development. Waterlife defines that pipeline with three stages: Identify, Invite, and Invest. Any team leader can use that framework to identify potential leaders, invite them to take on greater leadership responsibility, and invest in them along the way. How is your own church doing in these distinctive components? What would your staff have to say about them? If you really want to know, ask them to rate their own level of agreement with the statements above on a scale of 1-5. Then begin a conversation about the ones that scored lowest. You just might find yourself defining an action plan to address them!

Page 59:

“I recommend setting goals that inspire immediate action along with a clear future vision that keeps the team moving in a consistent direction over time.”

I have shared before that hope is not a strategy. You cannot simply hope to achieve your goals. You must plan out specific steps to accomplish them.

Page 62:

“Great leadership teams hold both metrics and stories in a careful balance. They value calculated numbers but look to confirm them with real-life examples.”

Page 63:

“Encourage everyone on your team to listen closely as they interact with church attendees. Small groups, volunteer teams, baptisms, and times of prayer can all reveal great narratives that illustrate your vision in action. As you discover great stories, dedicate time in staff meetings to share them with one another. Doing so will encourage the hearts of your staff and give everyone the opportunity to see personal perspectives. As long as your church is larger than one person, there are stories out there that you have yet to discover. Those personal experiences within your church could unlock a whole new perspective for your team. As you begin to utilize your new set of metrics, take time to balance it with valuable stories that will give your team inspiration and insight to move forward.”