By: Chuck Lawless
We can learn a lot about a church by reviewing its written documents. I encourage you to evaluate your own congregation based on these documents.
1. By-laws. The by-laws of a church typically speak to day-to-day operations and are often more easily changed than a church’s constitution. Quite often, by-law amendments such as these examples tell us something about the church’s history.
- Any former member who re-joins ___________ Church may not vote in a business meeting and may not serve in a leadership role for a minimum of six months after joining the church.
- Worship services at ____________ Church may take place only on Sunday.
- Persons who serve as administrative assistants at __________ Church may not be members of the church at the same time.
Whether or not you agree with these by-law amendments, what do you suppose had happened in the history of these congregations?
2. Calendar. A church’s calendar gives some indication of a congregation’s priorities. Take a look at your church’s calendar, and consider these questions:
- What percentage of activities focuses only on meeting the needs of church members?
- What percentage is intentionally and clearly directed toward reaching unbelievers and unchurched folks in the community?
- If members were to attend everything offered (or even a particular percentage of the events), would they have time to focus on raising families and reaching friends and neighbors?
3. Budget. Likewise, a church’s budget illustrates what the congregation believes to be most significant. Consider the church that has devoted 55% of its budget to personnel and 30% to debt retirement. Few funds are left for ministry programs and missions support. It’s possible the church is simply inwardly focused, unconcerned about budgeting to reach others. Among other possibilities, it’s also possible the church has experienced attendance and giving decline without making necessary staff changes.
Based only on a review of your church’s budget, what are your congregation’s priorities?
4. Prayer list. 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:
- How much does the church pray for church members? for unbelievers? for professed believers not currently attending church?
- How strong is the focus on praying for the church members to be evangelistic (Eph. 6:18-20)?
- Does the church pray consistently for missionaries (or only when you hear of missionaries who face difficulties)?
- Do you pray for sister congregations in the community?
5. Attendance records. Many churches don’t keep this information, but this data can be informative. Consider these questions you might ask, among others:
- Is the church growing numerically? If so, is the church growing through reaching non-believers? by members of other churches transferring their membership to your church?
- Is your church’s back door wide open – that is, are more people leaving your church than joining?
- What percentage of your church’s worship attenders are also involved in a small group? in doing ministry? in giving?
- On average, how many guests attend your church every week? What percentage returns for subsequent visits? What percentage joins the church?
These documents are only a few among many in most churches. They’re just pieces of the puzzle in evaluating the health of a church. What other documents would you add to this list?