It's Not the Size of the Church,
But Its Health That Counts!

I've heard many people say over the last year that, as we enter into the 21st century, it will not be the size of the church that matters, but its health that will ensure its survival.

I doubt if most people realize that more than 100,000 churches in the United States have 50 attendees or less. That means that the average church will have fewer than 100 worshippers this Sunday. So, in spite of all the press the megachurches receive, we are still a nation of small to medium-sized churches.

For some pastors, serving in a small church creates something of a self-image problem. We look at the big church on the hill, compare ourselves to that operation, and feel inadequate or insignificant. NOT SO, MY FRIEND! In The Heart of a Great Pastor (Regal Books), Neil Weisman and I write, "Every assignment is holy ground because Jesus gave Himself for the people who live there. Every place is important because God wants you to accomplish something supernatural there. Every situation is special because ministry is needed there. Like Queen Esther, you have come to the Kingdom for such a time as this. All of these factors give a pastor a much-needed sense of destiny about his assignment." In other words, there are no small assignments, and there are none of you who are insignificant in any way.

So, what about the health of the church? May I suggest a few guidelines for assessing the health of a congregation of any size?

  1. Biblically Based. Do your congregation members have a clear understanding of what they believe and substantial information to assist them in defending their faith? Is there a discipleship training program?
  2. Mutually Concerned. Do your people genuinely care for one another? Is there a system in operation that easily allows your congregation to know when people have needs and a prayer chain to respond to those needs?
  3. Socially Concerned. If you do not have a small group ministry, do you have a Sunday school program that provides adequate time for your people to break bread together? Church is fellowship as much as it is a formal worship service.
  4. Community Saturated. Are you aware of the day-to-day decisions that are made in your community that affect the school system, the social programs, and the overall moral climate of the city you serve?
  5. Financially Stable. The church that is fiscally responsible will be able to weather any situation. Every pastor and governance board should insist on maintaining a certain dollar reserve, and do everything possible to avoid paralyzation of ministry through an unrealistic building or property debt. People must be taught by example to give and to give cheerfully.
  6. Clearly Understood Vision. Every church needs to know who it is, what its calling is and how it will be directed to meet the challenge of the future. If not, many small, and even larger, churches will simply exist to support an institution.
  7. Positive Outlook. Please do not allow yourself to fall into a "poor me, small us" mentality. Little-mindedness is contagious. See yourself as God sees you — full of potential and planted for a purpose.

I'm sure there are many other "good health indicators" for churches of any size, but I urge you to consider these we have listed, then add your own ideas to the mix. One thing I know, Christianity needs you to find a way to make your ministry meaningful and to help change the way pastors and laymen alike look at the church of Jesus Christ. We are rooting for you!

Taken from Pastor to Pastor newsletter, Dec. 1995.
Article copyright © 1995, Focus on the Family.
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

Dr. H.B. London is the vice president of Pastoral Ministries for Focus on the Family and the author of numerous books on and for pastors. He served as a Nazarene pastor for over 30 years in several churches in Oregon and California. He and his wife, Beverley, live primarily in Colorado Springs, Colo., and have two sons and four grandchildren.