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.
In the church, as in any organization, leaders exert power to achieve objectives. Power struggles seem to be one of the most common causes of dissension in the church. Such dissension almost always leads to ill-health and sometimes to decline. The way in which a leader uses his available power is one of the keys to organizational health.
There are two types of power available to the leaders of any organization: personal power and institutional power. Many church leaders have not learned the cost of depending on personal power nor the benefits of leaning on institutional power.
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.
Membership has been a hot topic of discussion in the church over the past decade or so. Some more recently-established churches are dispensing with “membership” and developing the concept of a “partnership” that’s renewed each year. There’s some merit to this approach because the benefits of membership in the church can be quite unclear. We regularly encounter those in our congregation who are surprised to find they’re not actually members of the church, even though they’ve been attending, serving, and even giving their tithes and offerings for many years. By contrast, others play the member card even when they haven’t crossed the threshold in years.
So what does being a member really mean, and what’s the importance of “signing on the dotted line,” if you’re already “plugged in?” I believe there are at least three reasons church membership is still important.
What does it mean to be ordained? It seems to mean different things in different churches and denominations. A colleague at another church recently asked me about it. He’s sensed a call to ministry and presented himself for ordination. However, due to his specific role, his “qualification” became a matter of deliberation among his church leaders. I shared with him my thoughts:
We Baptists, and I think most Evangelicals, look at ordination a bit differently than most mainline denominations. There’s less emphasis on the individual’s formal education than there is on his calling. The large number of bi-vocational pastors among our ranks is evidence of this.
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.