I love working with local congregations. As I consult with churches, I learn so much by visiting the church, listening to the staff and interviewing members. Nothing can fully take the place of spending time with the local body of Christ.
Yet at the same time, I learn a lot about a church by reviewing its written documents. Recognizing the suggestions below are not infallible, I encourage you to evaluate your own congregation if assessed based on these documents.
A church’s calendar gives some indication of a congregation’s priorities. Take a look at your church’s calendar, and consider these questions:
Likewise, a church’s budget illustrates what the congregation believes to be most significant. Consider, for example, the church that has devoted 55 percent of its budget to personnel and 30 percent to debt retirement. That leaves just 15 percent for ministry programs and missions support, as the highest budget components are at unhealthy levels. It is possible the church is simply—and decisively—inwardly focused. Among other possibilities, it is also possible the church has experienced attendance and giving decline without making necessary staff changes as well.
Based only on a review of your church’s budget, what are your congregation’s priorities? What percentages are set aside for ministry and missions?
I am convinced churches lack power because they operate in their own strength. At the same time, I fear that too many prayer lists reflect an inward focus. With that concern in mind, think about these questions as you look at your church’s prayer list:
Bulletin and Newsletter
A quick look at what is emphasized in these documents will again tell you much about the church’s priorities. More specifically, though, these types of published materials often illustrate the church’s level of commitment to excellence. Incorrect grammar, misspelled words, confusing announcements, uncorrected errors and poor printing say more about a church than most congregations would wish. Given the electronic tools available for these tasks today, somebody should catch these mistakes before the documents are published.
The bylaws of a church typically speak to day-to-day operations and are often more easily changed than a church’s constitution. Quite often, bylaw amendments such as these examples tell us something about the church’s history:
Whether or not you agree with these bylaw amendments, what do you suppose happened in the history of these congregations to warrant such bylaws?
Many churches do not keep this information, but these data can be quite informative. Consider these questions you might ask, among many others:
These documents are only a few among many in most churches. They are just pieces of the puzzle in evaluating the health of a church—whether the church is healthy or unhealthy.
Are there any other church documents you would add to this list?
For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.