Seven Deadly Signs of Church Health

No matter where you live, you don’t have to look far to find an unhealthy church. It seems like they’re everywhere. Some were unhealthy from the very start. Others were healthy, even thriving, at one time yet somewhere along the way, warning signs started to show. The signs of an unhealthy church can be subtle, especially in the beginning, but over time I’ve found that these seven signs come to the surface of every unhealthy church.

  1. No vision to reach those who aren’t followers of Jesus. Most churches would never admit this, and some don’t even realize that they’re guilty of this. Somewhere along the way they lost their vision to reach those who don’t know Jesus. Instead they’ve adopted a vision that focuses on meeting the wants and needs of those inside the church. Once attendance starts shrinking, instead of reaching out, they hold even more tightly to the vision and traditions of the insiders.
  2. No signs of spiritual growth. Healthy churches should see signs of spiritual growth, just like a healthy plant should produce fruit. Are there people beginning a relationship with Jesus? Are they being baptized? Are new people signing up to serve? All of these things are rare in unhealthy churches. Many of them aren’t even measuring these things, because if they did, they would have to ask themselves why their church isn’t producing fruit.
  3. No desire to ever change or improve. I believe it takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people. With that being said though, if your church is designed to reach an older generation, what do you do when that generation dies off? In most cases, the church dies off too. At some point if what you’re doing as a church isn’t producing the results you want to see, then you need to make a change. And let me say this, if you aren’t focused on making sure children love your church, then your days are numbered.
  4. No one takes ownership. I heard a pastor say this, “Our church has owners not members, because members have rights, but owners have responsibilities.” I love that statement. In unhealthy churches, everybody wants to have a vote, but very few people actually want to do the work required to create a great church. Until you get the church to take ownership, you’ll never get the church healthy.
  5. No real community. Some small town churches do this very well. They have a great family environment where everyone looks after each other. Others offer a fake style of community in which it’s still a family environment, but this family is full of gossip and backstabbing. Have you ever been a part of one of those churches? I think small groups are the best way to foster authentic community, but I’ve also seen other churches use the Sunday School model just as well. The main thing is creating an environment where people can be open and honest about their lives without fear of judgment.
  6. No anticipation of what God might do. Do you remember when you first started reading the Bible? I was twenty years old before I got saved and picked up a Bible, but during that time I was so excited about reading to see how God would speak to me that day. People should come into your church the same way, anticipating what God might speak to them.
  7. No numerical growth. I know there are some circumstances in which numbers don’t tell you the whole story. But in most cases, numerical growth is a great indicator of church health. If the community your church is in is growing yet your church attendance is declining, that’s a sign that your church may be unhealthy. Healthy things are supposed to grow.

Have you ever been part of an unhealthy church? What did that look like? Leave a comment and let me know. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week. Also, if you want to turn around your small town church, make sure to pick up my new ebook, The Basics: 13 Steps to Turn Around Your Small Town Church free to new subscribers.

Top 10 Posts of 2017

A Quick Look Back

Happy New Year! I hope you saw God do some incredible things in your church last year, and I’m sure you can’t wait to see what He’s going to do in 2018. I feel the exact same way. I have some posts coming up in 2018 that I’m really excited about, but before we move ahead, let’s take a quick look back at my most viewed posts of 2017. Enjoy!

My Christmas Wish List – A list of some of my favorite items that have helped my church grow, and I believe could help yours.

One Big Mistake Rural Churches Make – Do you have a rogue sheep that’s killing your flock? In this post I give you five steps to help them straighten up or move on.

Talent Isn’t Enough – One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made as a leader is putting someone in charge based on their talent alone. I don’t make that mistake anymore. Now I evaluate them based on the three areas mentioned in this post.

Some Churches Don’t Need to Change – “I feel like some of us believe our churches need to do a complete 180 in order to reach our community, when the truth is, we just need to get better at the things we already do.”

Five Stages of Church Growth – What do churches and babies have in common? More than you think, as you can see in this post.

10 Tips on Church Growth – You want to see your small town church grow? Start by implementing these tips.

Small Town Church Growth – The post that started it all. If my small town church can see crazy growth, so can yours.

Four Thoughts on Christmas Services – I know, I know, it’s a bit early to be talking about Christmas, but you may want to bookmark this post for next year.

5 Reasons We Made the Switch from CCB to PCO – And I’ve never regretted it. If you’re looking for a church database management system, Planning Center Online is a great option.

5 Elements of a Great Worship Experience – I knew this post caused quite a stir, but I had no idea it would become my most popular post by a very large margin. Read it yourself, and see why it had everyone talking.

Looking back is fun, but I’m more excited about looking forward to 2018. I’m believing this is going to be an incredible year for you and me both. If I can ever serve you in anyway please shoot me an email, or check out my coaching page for the different options I offer.

P.S. I’ve added a store to feature some resources I’m developing this year. Currently you can pick up my 8 Steps to More Impactful Preaching ebook if you don’t already have it, or my new ebook The Basics: 13 Steps to Turn Around Your Small Town Church.

Four Areas to Evaluate Your Church Brand

My seven-year-old daughter recently wrote Santa a letter with a list of items she would like for Christmas. Most of it was typical toys and things of that nature, but I was surprised to see that Jordan shoes had made the list. She has never seen Jordan play, and I’m not sure she would recognize him if I showed her a picture of him. Yet the brand was important to her. Your church also is a brand, so how can we make sure it’s a positive one?

Branding is something a lot of small town churches don’t even think about, but they should. Your brand communicates who you are, and whether you realize it or not, what you’re currently communicating could be hurting your church.

So, let’s take a look at the four areas that communicate your brand the loudest.

  1. Your Website. In the majority of cases before anyone ever visits your church, they’ll visit your website. This is the day and age we live in, and it’s not changing anytime soon. If your church doesn’t have a website by now, what are you even doing? In order to reach people, you have to go where they are, and 87% of the people in America are online. The only thing worse than not having a website is having a terrible website, which many churches have embraced. And I get it, you’re preachers, you’re not web developers. So, pay someone who knows what they’re doing to help you. Find a church in your community that has a nice website and ask them if they can help you with yours. This isn’t rocket science. There’s no reason for churches to have terrible websites. It comes down to laziness and not caring at this point. Fix it! Here’s a post that can help.
  2. Your Logo. My youngest daughter can’t read yet, but she knows every time we pass a McDonald’s. You know why, because she recognizes the golden arches. Your logo is ten times more likely to be remembered than any other piece of your brand. So you need to keep it up to date and relevant. Clipart is not going to cut it. Again, invest the money to get a nice looking logo you can be proud of. One of the sites we’ve used in the past is called 99 Designs. For a few hundred dollars, you can choose from multiple options and get something really nice.
  3. Your Social Media. I encourage every church to at least have a Facebook page. Facebook is where a lot of your congregations are hanging out, so you need to be there too. However, just like your website, you can scare people away from your church if you’re not careful. If you post a picture of Jesus and say, “Share if you love God. Ignore if you want to go to hell,” you need to have your computer taken away from you. Find a young person to run your social media. They have way more experience, they’re going to be better at it, and they would love to do it.
  4. Your Church Sign. It’s possible that terrible church signs have done more damage to Christianity in America in the past 20 years than anything else. If you have a sign that allows you to change out the letters and come up with clever sayings like, “Stop, drop, and roll doesn’t work in Hell,” I want to give you a very clear next step. Take a few of those letters, put your service times and website on the sign, and throw the rest of the letters in a fire. I don’t care if its sister so-and-so’s ministry. She’s destroying your church, and you’re letting her. Stop It!

One last thing that doesn’t really fit into any of these categories, make sure there is consistency and unity with your branding. The student ministry and women’s ministry and all the others can have their own logos, but they need to have the same look and feel as the main church logo.

Putting all this together takes time and money, but if you’ll do it, you’ll discover it’s well worth the investment.

How would you rate the branding at your church? What areas do you need to work on the most? Let us know by leaving a comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.