After thirty-seven years of working in and alongside churches, I believe church health may be the best lens available to assess the culture of today’s church.
It doesn’t matter how sophisticated the strategy, how talented the staff, how plentiful the resources, or ideal the location, If the culture isn’t healthy.
An unhealthy culture leads to mediocrity, or worse failure.
Patrick Lencioni puts it this way:
“The health of an organization provides the context for strategy, finances, marketing, technology, and everything else that happens in it, which is why it is the single greatest factor determining an organization’s success. More than talent. More than knowledge. More than innovation.”
How would you describe the “health” of your church?
Even the most experienced leaders have trouble answering this question. It’s tough because church health is hard to measure on a chart or graph.
The truth, like it or not, is that every church leadership team, led by the pastor, is responsible for the health of the church. They are the cultural architects. And by intention or neglect, every church takes on the cultural characteristics of its leaders.
Here are three signs of a healthy church culture:
- Clarity of Vision
Healthy churches know who they are and where they are going. Clarity seems to be the area where pastors and leadership struggle the most.
Healthy churches effectively communicate and align themselves around what Simon Sinek calls the “Golden Circle.”
- Why do we exist?
- How do we behave?
- What do we do?
Lencioni adds three more questions to the mix.
- How will we succeed?
- What is most important, right now?
- Who must do what?
Healthy churches rally around clear answers to these fundamental questions. As “culture” suggests, this doesn’t happen in one meeting or via one sermon series, but over time, constantly embedded in the life and direction of the church.
There may be no greater challenge for churches today than effectively communicating a clear and consistent vision.
- Conflict Transformation
If there are people present, so is conflict, at some level. Speed Leas’ Levels of Conflict is helpful in assessing where your church may be on the scale.
Leadership teams know that transforming conflict always takes place in a culture of trust. Low trust environments are the breeding ground for division and discontent, suspicion and drama. Nothing fractures a fellowship more than the lack of trust.
Healthy church culture begins with a cohesive leadership team. Pastor and staff model open, vulnerable, and trusting relationships. It’s their default mode of operation.
Lencioni says, “When team members trust one another, when they know that everyone on the team is capable of admitting when they don’t have the right answer, and when they’re willing to acknowledge when someone else’s idea is better than theirs, the fear of conflict and the discomfort it entails is greatly diminished.”
Healthy churches don’t run from conflict, but they embrace and transform it, beginning with the leadership.
- Authentic Community
Every week churches offer opportunities for people to connect with one another through services of worship, times of prayer, opportunities for Bible study, and points of ministry.
Yet fewer and fewer people, who only know one another on a surface level, gather in half-full buildings hoping to some way make a difference in their own lives and the lives of others.
Healthy churches are about relationships with depth, relationships that move beyond just “being nice” to “speaking the truth in love.”
Healthy churches trust one another on a fundamental, emotional level. They are comfortable being vulnerable with each other about their weaknesses, fears and behaviors.
“I’m sorry.” “I was wrong.” “I need help.” “I made a mistake.” “You’re better at that than I am.” “I forgive you.” These are the statements made in authentic communities of faith.
Healthy churches are constantly striving to nurture this kind of transparency and trust.
Healthy churches believe that every person grows best when connected to others in a culture of welcome and hospitality, of acceptance and trust.
What signs do you look for in assessing your church’s health?