Gauging Your Congregation's Health: The Healthy Church Executive Survey

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The Apostle Paul loved to talk about the church as a body. And one way to think about his letters to churches would be to think of them as a doctor’s notes to his patients about their health.

For instance, in Galatians Paul is diagnosing and addressing a nasty infection of works righteousness. In 1 Thessalonians, Paul is concerned about the fragility of that congregation’s health, a concern related to the fact that the congregation was essentially a newborn baby. In 1 Corinthians, Paul is dealing with a church that has developed allergies to elements of the gospel—Christian unity, sexual ethics, and the resurrection. And in Philippians, Paul is pointing to the generosity of a struggling congregation as a sign of vitality and health. 

You can run too far with this metaphor, of course, but the issue of church health seems to be a natural part of thinking of the church as a body.

There are many tools that help today’s congregations have conversations about their health. One of them is the Healthy Church executive survey. The executive survey was created a few years ago as a shorter version of the comprehensive survey that came bundled with the Healthy Church Discernment Process. The survey features 11 questions that ask how well the congregation is experiencing the elements of spiritual health and 11 more questions that ask how each respondent him/herself is experiencing those elements of spiritual health. These 22 questions (plus a few demographic questions) encourage a church to consider broader definitions of church health than merely “are we growing?” or “are we making budget?”

There are a few ways that this short survey can help churches. First, a number of classes around the denomination are experimenting with it as a resource to enrich church visiting. The survey becomes a conversation starter about things like Kingdom Extension, Authentic Spirituality, and Intentional Disciple Making— three of the eleven elements of spiritual health. Church visitors simply move the conversation forward by helping congregational leaders review the survey findings and discern together what those findings mean for where the church is and where God might be leading.

Second, church councils are using the survey as a way to discern the relative health of their congregations as they engage in search processes. The survey helps them identify quickly where their congregations are more or less healthy, allowing both congregations and pastor candidates to discern God’s call with eyes open to the reality and opportunity of ministry together. 

And third, the survey can function as a health or wellness check in congregations. Because the instrument is so easy to use and understand, leaders can use it every few years to regain perspective on how healthy their church is and what their church’s goals for the next season should be. 

If you are interested in learning more about the Healthy Church executive survey then please connect with Pastor Church Resources at healthychurch@crcna.org

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