In my last post I mentioned I was going to flesh out five phases a church must go through in order to move toward and to remain in a place of strong health. Please read this entire series as I walk through the phases of: Assessment, Identification, Vision Development, Adjustment, and Implementation.
Church leaders must assess what it is they are seeking to grow, to revitalize or to keep healthy and how far away from that ideal they currently reside. They must have a clear understanding of the goal, the standard, and the desired outcome or they will never know how to reach it, whether they reach it or how to stay within its reach.
On a universal level leaders must have a firm grasp on sound, biblical ecclesiology. They must constantly ask and answer simple yet profound questions such as: What is a church? Who is a church? Why is a church? Leaders must assess biblical content and define the standards these answers create. They then must compare the local church in which they serve to these standards.
We must understand what the Lord desires of His church. He is and always has been the owner and master architect. All too often we confuse ownership with stewardship and we claim rights and property that are not truly ours to claim. He never gave up ownership and Lordship to us. This confusion can lead to major conflict and distraction in the church away from the biblical standards that are set by Him.
On a local, contextual level church leaders must also assess the church community of which they are a part as well as the physical community in which that local body lives and ministers. This process includes assessing the past, present and potential future of the church and surrounding area. Conducting personal interviews, surveys, statistical research, demographic studies, evaluation of current personnel and ministry structures, financial reviews, observations of the physical facilities and neighborhoods, and more can all be part of this process.
Looking back for ten years or more and graphing statistical information such as attendance, baptisms, giving, membership and more and then putting them into visual perspective can be an eye opener for the congregation and can give great indications concerning health issues a church might be facing. They can provide moments of celebration as well as moments of honest revelation.
Assessing the community around the church can provide helpful information about the people who the church should be reaching and to whom ministry should be conducted. Often specific needs for ministry can be identified through this study such as ministry to single parents or to low income families. If the area around the facility is loaded with young adults or young families, the planning of programs and projects can be guided with some intelligent wisdom and direction.
I would also suggest every leader meet with those who head the various ministries of the church regularly and assess and discuss what aspect of biblical function the specific ministry is fulfilling. For example a church can assess recent activity by studying a passage like Acts 2:42-47 and recognizing that the first church was engaged in worship, fellowship, evangelism, discipleship, ministry, and prayer. Then go back over the church calendar for the past year and categorize and assess the programs and projects by primary biblical function being fulfilled. It is often amazing to recognize those areas of biblical responsibility that are being underserved.
Where are we? Where should we be? Assessment is a necessary phase and ongoing project for a church to stay healthy. How consistent, how honest, are you being in your assessment? This first phase will lead us to the next. Watch for the next post to read all about it.