what makes a church healthy?

>> August 5, 2010

A few days ago, beliefnet.com published an article about a recent study of 32,000 congregations, which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to conduct. The article, "Methodists Study the Hallmarks of Healthy Churches" shares some of the study's conclusions. They were careful to point out that there is no guarantee that the study's findings can apply to any other denomination, but it's likely that there is plenty of crossover.

Top two challenges churches are facing:

  • economic pressure of the cost of the infrastructure, which is increasing at a rate that is greater than the giving
  • a creeping crisis of relevancy, (the number of) young people not growing as a percentage of the participants
The article says that the study found four "key areas that fuel vitality:
  • small groups and programs; 
  • worship services that mix traditional and contemporary styles with an emphasis on relevant sermons; 
  • pastors who work hard on mentorship and cultivation of the laity; 
  • and an emphasis on effective lay leadership.
These four factors 'are consistent regardless of church size, predominant ethnicity, and jurisdiction,' the study concluded. "

Interestingly, the study also found that "it did not matter whether ministers held seminary degrees; whether pastoral ministry was a first or second career; or how long the minister had been engaged in pastoral ministry."

In other words, effective pastoral ministry results from following a calling, not from pursuing a career.

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