For church leaders, every time we turn around there’s a new book, blog post, conference, or podcast on church health. There are so many resources for leaders to build healthy churches, yet it seems so few churches are truly healthy.
Whether it’s leadership struggles, budget shortages, or declining membership, many churches have a hard time achieving health.
Sure, health is measured in many ways. What constitutes health for one church may not be a factor for another. And it’s even possible for a church to exhibit health in metrics like growth and giving yet behind the scenes the staff culture is anything but healthy.
I’d like to present five factors that I’ve seen contribute to the health of the church I serve. These are not meant to be inclusive of all health factors, but they cover a lot of ground toward overall health.
There’s been a lot written about the “3 Cs” of effective hiring – character, competence, and chemistry. While these may be a good check-list, among other best practices for hiring, I believe one of these three can be misconstrued if we’re not keenly aware of the influences that affect its misinterpretation.
The digital age has brought many benefits to interpersonal communication. But I think most of us would agree that much has been lost as well. There’s some general consensus that social media has changed our relationships with others, and not necessarily for the better.
One of the casualties of digital communication is the traditional thank-you note. It’s largely become a relic of past sincerity and etiquette. But should it? Unlike other forms of communication that have gone reasonably by the wayside, I think the traditional thank-you note is one that needs a revival. This is particularly true in church life where you need to be sure to acknowledge the generosity of your volunteers and leaders who serve and give faithfully on a consistent basis.
I’ll argue that a hand-written note, sent by snail mail, is far superior to saying thank you in an email. First, not many people send hand-written notes these days. When one is received, it demonstrates a level of thoughtfulness and intentionality that’s not conveyed in an email. Second, it’s more personal. When you’ve handwritten a note, the recipient knows you didn’t just cut and paste copy from a thank-you template you’ve saved in a file. Third, it’s special. Since not many people receive hand-written notes these days, yours will likely be appreciated and remembered more than all of the digital communication they received that week combined.
Like any organization, the church must be effective at communicating its message. The most important message, of course, is the message of the gospel. Ultimately, everything that’s formally communicated by the church should point to Christ. The gospel is the common message of every single Bible-believing church.
But it’s naïve not to acknowledge that every active and healthy church has ministry programs, initiatives, activities, service projects, and events that support the goal of reaching people for Christ and helping them grow toward Christ-likeness. Our church offers more opportunities than any one member could ever participate in. Communicating all of these opportunities in a consistent and effective way can be overwhelming.
Effectively connecting the right message to the right people at the right time is the ultimate goal of communication. In an extremely active church culture, this can only be done with a good communication strategy.
Part of my role in church communications has been to manage media relations. My “baptism by fire” learning experience came in October of 1999. I was serving in Orlando, Florida at the time, and pro golfer, Payne Stewart and his family were regular attenders of our church. You may remember the story. . .a lone Learjet was flying north with no response to air traffic controllers’ attempts to contact the pilots. A fighter jet was sent to intercept and made visual contact, only to find the windows fogged over with no signs of movement inside. Soon the chartered jet would run out of fuel and crash in a field in South Dakota, a thousand miles from its Dallas destination.
When I first got the call that Payne Stewart’s plane had crashed, I was ironically at the Portofino Bay hotel at Universal Orlando shooting a follow-up video package for a fundraiser our church’s crisis pregnancy center had recently held there. Payne Stewart was the honoree for that event, and I had been the emcee just ten days earlier. I had not yet gotten back to the church before the media calls began coming in.
I had the opportunity this past week to be trained as a “Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 31 Mediator.” You might ask, why would a church communications minister want to be trained as a court mediator? The short answer: the church needs conflict mediation.
I’ve recently considered the need for more specific attention and a strategic approach to conflict management in the church, so I began investigating what’s out there. Ken Sande’s The Peacemaker is certainly a popular and thorough approach to conflict resolution in the church, and I intend to do more follow up with the resources available through Peacemaker Ministries. But I came across the option for a 40-hour training course in mediation offered locally that I thought would be a good entree to the discipline.
Before I answer this question, I might first point out why I’ve not started a blog before now. As a church communications professional, I’ve struggled with the fact that it’s taken me this long to start. I attribute that to several causes, not the least of which is simply self-discipline. But I’ve also questioned whether I have enough to say that others would be interested in reading.
Sure, the conferences I’ve attended, the seminars I’ve led, and the multitude of emails and phone calls I’ve responded to over the years always come with the questions: “how do you do this or that?” This has reinforced to some degree the idea that I have something worth sharing. But being reactive in this regard and proactively sharing my thoughts in a blog are two different things.
I’ve also been hesitant to jump on the bandwagon when it seems there’s so much opinion already being shared out there, even among church bloggers. Does the world really need one more voice on church culture? I can’t judge the motives of others, but to the extent that many people enter the blogosphere simply to build a platform or make a name for themselves, I’m not interested in joining the ranks.