Is your church healthy?
A better question may be, “What makes a church ‘healthy?'”
Ask 10 pastors, and you’ll most likely get 10 different answers.
For instance, healthy churches may have:
- Spiritual and Theological Depth
- Community Outreach
- Healthy Leadership
- Discipleship and Mentoring
- Fellowship and Community
- Financial Health
- Diversity and Inclusion
- Clear Mission and Vision
These answers are fine. Or at least I think they are fine.
But how do pastors define health versus how an attendee or community member may see health?
How Do Guests Evaluate Church Health?
Not the same as pastors. We know that for sure.
When a guest decides to attend your church, they are walking in hyper-evaluative.
They are most likely nervous. They wonder if they will like the people at the church and if the people will like them. They are unsure if they can trust the church, the leadership, or the congregation.
Not every person has a bad church experience, but every person has heard so many stories that they might as well have experienced them personally.
So, when a guest is on the way to your church, they may not be expecting the best. This is where we find a healthy opportunity.
A Healthy Church for Guests and Attendees
Yes, theological depth, solid leadership, and community engagement are important.
It’s a bit terrifying that anyone can start a church regardless of their training!
Here’s the deal: A guest isn’t evaluating theological depth or financial stability directly.
However, what guests are evaluating is directly connected to many of the above-listed healthy church traits.
So what are guests evaluating?
I’d love to suggest the following are crucial for the guest:
A Guest-Expected Experience
Too many churches don’t expect guests and therefore do not plan for a quality guest experience.
One of the first signs of a healthy church is the warmth of its welcome in and around the entire church property. This includes parking lot , door, hallway, and auditorium volunteers.
QUESTIONS: Does your church anticipate and expect guests each week? Are newcomers greeted warmly and made to feel welcome from the parking lot to the parking lot? Is there a system in place to help guests find their way around the building, ask questions, and feel supported?
Building and Facilities
You’ve heard the saying, “Everything communicates.” This is so very true. And it includes the physical space you inhabit.
QUESTIONS: When a guest sees your facility, what do they feel? What does your building communicate? Is it clean or dirty? Is it tired or well-maintained? Is the decor antiquated or current?
Safety of Children and Student Spaces
Pastors and church leaders tend to focus on the teaching, curriculum, and volunteer staffing of children and student ministry. While these elements are important, they pale in comparison to the perceived safety to parents.
When a parent guest enters your church, the only question they are asking is, “Will my kid be safe here?” Unfortunately, the answer isn’t a given in today’s world. Church scandals have rocked parents and communities, making elevating safety concerns.
QUESTIONS: Are all volunteers engaged in your children or student spaces vetted with completed background checks? Do you lock doors leading to children’s spaces during the service? Is security present and visible? Do you have any signage for new parents speaking to the safety precautions you take to ensure their children have a great and safe time?
Sunday Service Excellence
Not just the sermon, but from entering the auditorium (or sanctuary, or whatever you call it). A high level of intentionality shows that you care enough to plan. Please don’t blame the Holy Spirit on your lack of planning. God is more than capable of showing up three weeks before a Sunday service to guide you and your team along a planning path.
I’m not suggesting that you refuse to alter your approach in a moment. I am suggesting (passionately suggesting) that you plan with great intentionality the entire service experience.
We have an opportunity to thread a continuous narrative for our church attendees, creating the best conditions possible for God to do what only he can do.
So plan your pre-service playlist, how you’ll begin the service, what videos or countdown elements you’ll utilize, what will be said (and not said) in the welcome, who will host (and who should not host), what songs we should sing, what order should the songs be sung, what stories we’ll share, how we’ll transition from each element to the next, how the sermon will fit into the narrative, and how we’ll inspire next steps.
QUESTIONS: Just one: Are you intentionally planning the full service experience?
It’s unfair that nearly everyone listening to a preacher would be terrified to stand on the stage and preach themselves. Yet this reality doesn’t stop everyone from evaluating what they are hearing.
A well-crafted and rehearsed sermon communicates the content and the crowd’s time matters.
When a guest experiences your church for the first time, they are most likely more curious about the sermon than any other element of the church experience. Your sermon communicates much more than the message content.
QUESTIONS: Are you building margin in your sermon planning to ensure adequate time for revising and rehearsing? Before you preach, do you feel a burden for your content? Have you incorporated visual elements to support your spoken words?
Diversity and Inclusion
I realize this is a hot-button phrase that may feel over-used, but it is crucial for the guest to see that you value those who look like them.
Additionally, and this is important to fully appreciate, the younger generation also wants to see diversity and inclusion, even when they are in the majority.
BTW, they are right for desiring this. Diversity and inclusion help organizations be better, lead better, and make better decisions. Don’t see diversity as a game of optics but as a leadership strategy.
QUESTIONS: Does your church welcome and value people from different backgrounds, ages, and life situations? When a guest enters the campus, do they see themselves?
If you’re interested, here is an additional post on this topic: Because Hiring Diverse Strengths Is Not Enough
When guests entered your church, one question they will ponder is, “What does this church want from me?”
While we know the answer (nothing), knowing the answer and communicating the answer is not the same thing.
The best way to combat this question is to be publicly and vocally FOR the community. My friend Jeff Henderson wrote the definitive book on this topic.
QUESTIONS: How are you presenting your heart for the things outside the walls of your church? Do people sense that your church wants something from them or for them?
What’s Your Next Step?
So, there you have it – my take on what makes a healthy church, from the pastor’s desk right down to the first-time guest. But the conversation doesn’t have to stop here, nor should it.
Now it’s over to you.
How does your church stack up against these characteristics? Are there areas you’ve been overlooking? Or maybe there are other vital health indicators that I didn’t cover here?
Healthy things grow. I believe this includes churches. Not always numerically, but in discipleship (which often translates to numeric growth).
I invite you to take this as a starting point to carry on the discussion within your own church. Reflect on these points, share them with your teams, challenge them, and add to them.
Remember, the strength of our churches isn’t in numbers or budgets but in the everyday actions we take to create welcoming, nurturing, and spiritually nourishing environments for all.
So, let’s continue striving for church health together, sharing insights, challenges, and victories along the way. After all, we are in this journey together. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below, or reach out directly. I’m always keen to learn from others’ experiences and perspectives.
Here’s to building healthier, more vibrant churches. Together, we can make a difference.”
Let me know what you think!