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Every year I get a complete physical from my doctor. It’s a thorough check-up from head to toe. I usually have the same initial thoughts about this invasive, needle-sticking, blood-sucking, finger-poking experience. First, I’m too busy for this. I just don’t have time. Second, This is not going to be fun! Third, I don’t want to know what I might learn! But the end result is always the same: I’m glad I did it, and it always leads to continued or better health.
Your church is similar to this experience. No one really wants to do a thorough and honest evaluation, but you are wise to do so. It leads to better church health and robust performance!
One of the “secrets to success” is asking the right questions. Dr. Martin always asks me a lot of questions. But it’s obvious he’s not just randomly asking a laundry list of standard questions. The questions are strategic and come from years of experience and wisdom resulting from over 30 years of practicing medicine.
I strongly recommend that you gather several influential leaders in your church and ask the following questions. You’ll be glad you did. Keep in mind that once you discover the answers, you need to act upon what you learn. It’s similar to Dr. Martin’s report. If he wants me to lose weight or exercise more or to take a certain medication, I need to act on that or the physical exam has no real value.
Consider these questions:
1. In what ways is the unique culture of your church helping you make progress? How would you describe your culture? Is your church culture helping or hurting as you pursue God’s purpose for your church? Dr. Sam Chand wrote a great book titled Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code. He states that more than vision, programs, money or staff, culture has the greatest impact on your church’s future. I agree! I highly recommend it to help you work through this question.
2. How would you describe the level of spiritual maturity in your church? There are so many ways to approach this question, so let me offer our spiritually strategic approach at 12Stone Church. We look for a few key indicators. First, are our people praying? Do they hear God’s voice and obey? Second, are the people serving in ministry? Third, are they giving financially? Of course, you could list more things, but if these three are strong, most everything else will fall into place.
3. Are you developing new leaders, and how are you doing that? Next to the favor of God, everything rises and falls on leadership. Do the leaders in your church demonstrate strong spiritual depth and servant hearts? What are you doing to find and develop new leaders? You will not realize your potential as a church without a serious dedication to this endeavor. I’m passionate about this topic and have written a book to help you develop leaders. Check out Amplified Leadership.
4. How would you describe the strength of your volunteers? Are your volunteers a powerful army or a struggling band of survivors? Much of that depends on how you select, train, encourage and empower your volunteers. Do you recruit to a vision or just to get a task done? All churches face the pressure of needing people to volunteer to serve, but how you build teams makes all the difference. How would you rate the overall esprit de corps of your volunteer ministries?
5. What are the financial indicators telling you? It is relatively easy to measure results when it comes to money. The weekly offering tells the truth. At the same time, one of the largest challenges a leader will ever face is successfully inspiring people to trust God with their finances and remain obedient to generous giving. It’s sad but true that in most churches, half the people could leave and the church would experience very little change financially. Of course, you don’t want them to leave, but the point is clear. Like it or not, money and ministry can’t be separated. It takes financial resources to reach people for Jesus!
6. When you think of the majority of your leaders, what impression comes to mind? Dedicated, competent and joyous? Or are they complaining, lacking excellence and apathetic? I hope it’s more the former. What are the words that come to mind when you think of your leaders? How are you investing in them? How are you encouraging them? The one-word definition of leadership is influence. How are your leaders influencing people for the sake of the kingdom?
7. Is your process of spiritual formation (discipleship) working? What are the practical steps that guide your people in their journey toward spiritual maturity? If you lean too much into mechanical lists, you can lose the more fluid and organic side of the Holy Spirit’s power. If you remove structure completely, you run the risk of “feel good” ministry that can be warm and relational but lack depth and discipline. I have wrestled with this over the years and have concluded there is no one right way. For me, I think one of the best ways to measure your process of spiritual formation is to gather stories. If there are stories of life change, you are on the right track! (This is closely linked to question No. 2.)
8. How would you describe the overall morale of your church? Similar to finances, it is easy to assess morale but difficult to improve it if it’s not doing well. I can spend a few hours with a church staff and key leaders and have a very good sense of the overall morale of the church. It’s not difficult to sense what is going on. Are the people happy? Do they trust the leadership? Are they fired up about the mission? Are they passionate about following Jesus? Is there momentum? Are problems solved with relative ease? You get the idea. Morale and culture are closely linked. If you are struggling and the culture and morale is not ideal, I urge you to pour your leadership energy there first.
9. Are you on mission? You must first be clear about the purpose of your church? What is it—exactly? It’s essential that your leaders become and remain aligned together in that mission. The bottom line is that the leaders are headed in the same direction. I have visited far too many churches that have multiple mission/vision ideas in the mix. I love to get the key leaders and staff in a room and then ask them to write the mission on a card. Not the words written on the wall, but what priority is actually lived out. It’s scary how many different things are written on those cards. And these are the leaders!
10. Do your people enthusiastically invite others to your worship services? I have coached churches where the people had very lukewarm feelings about the worship service. There was no way they would ever invite someone even if they did have a heart for the lost. This is a huge evangelistic combination. If your people are committed to the vision enough to invite people to church and your church service is worth inviting people to—that is the combination you want.
You might want to drop a question or two and add your own to the list, but I urge you to invest the time it takes to answer these questions. I pray God’s wisdom for your leadership and His favor upon your church!
Dan Reiland is executive pastor of 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Ga., listed in Outreach magazine as the No. 1 fastest-growing church in America in 2010. He has worked closely with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as executive pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as vice president of leadership and church development at INJOY. His semi-monthly e-newsletter, The Pastor’s Coach, is distributed to more than 40,000 subscribers. Dan is the author of Amplified Leadership, released in January 2012.
For the original article, visit danreiland.com.
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