The Healthy Church Hub

How do you define the health of your church? Are you measuring it based on your attendance, website views, and registrations for the next bible study? The Unstuck Group has created helpful tools and assessments to help churches better identify the status of their church health.

In this episode, we sat down with Sean Bublitz, Ministry Consultant from The Unstuck Group, to discuss the importance of understanding the Church Lifecycle, the critical attributes of a growing and declining church, and how to maintain church growth and health. 

Church Lifecycle: What is it?

The church lifecycle is a helpful tool that allows churches to identify where they are and how to become healthier. Every church is unique, but there are common issues The Unstuck Group has been able to identify and, as a result, create a clear and concise lifecycle.

Imagine a bell curve, beginning in the bottom left, where churches would start to increase in growth and health. 

1. Launch Phase – Most churches at this level ask, “Will people show up?” These churches are just starting, have an entrepreneurial style and attitude, and focus on reaching new people.

2. Momentum Growth Phase – As the church develops, it starts noticing new energy within its walls filled with excitement, creativity, and innovation. There may be many new people attending on an ongoing basis. Although church leadership may be unable to pinpoint why this is happening, they sense a natural buzz.

3. Strategic Growth Phase – As churches grow, they realize they must begin implementing systems to keep up with the current pace. The church’s focus shifts to building teams and strategies, and the organizational structure starts to align around the vision and momentum of the church.

4. Sustained Health Phase – The church begins to strongly align and be unified around who they are. They are excited to embrace change and start to multiply. Focusing on what could be next for the church by better understanding what got them here and how they can do it again.

If a church can not be consistent within the sustained health phase, the lifecycle of the church begins to decline.

5. Maintenance Phase – The church may begin to feel like they are just “maintaining” and treading water. The church is focused internally on those already a part of their church and unwilling to reach new people. Their finances may be strong, but they begin to see a decline in attendance, become stale, and overstaffed.

6. Preservation Phase – The church begins to see people leaving. The church’s methods have become more important than the mission, and it can be difficult to turn things around.

7. Life Support Phase – There are two options for the church now; they can close their doors or start over.

There is always hope, no matter where a church may be on the church lifecycle. No church is ever too far gone, and with intentional steps, any church can get back on track to become a healthy, thriving church. 

Indicators to Assess Church Health and Culture

When it comes to assessing the health of your church, it can be easy to look at the anecdotal evidence of what others are saying and how they are feeling, but when we look at the complex numbers and data, we can better understand the current state of a church.

Two helpful indicators connect back to the Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations; these include:

  1. The effectiveness of the church’s ability to reach new people outside your church.
  2. The effectiveness of the church’s ability to disciple, equip, and develop people within your church.

Preventative Actions to Maintain a Healthy Church

Evaluating the church’s culture is essential when preventing the decline of the church lifecycle.

Culture is developed within the “Momentum Growth Phase” when church leadership identifies the type of culture they want to create and develop. The critical culture set of behaviors focuses on defining what the team does, how they behave, and what they value. 

The secret sauce of culture lies with the church leadership. As the leader goes, so does the church. It’s important to understand that the church culture will reflect what leadership does, how they behave, and what they value.  

Critical Attributes of Church Growth

By reviewing current data from thousands of churches, we can help churches evaluate common attributes of a healthy growing church.

Attributes of a declining church are:

  • More likely to have Sunday school
  • Having fewer people who are making decisions to follow Jesus and get baptized
  • Having fewer first-time connections to the church (which indicates that the decline is due to the church becoming insider focused)
  • More likely to be connected to a denomination
  • Reaching fewer young families with kids and students

Attributes of a growing church are:

  • More likely to have small groups and more people connected to those small groups
  • Spend less on paid staff and more on volunteer engagement in the church
  • More likely to offer contemporary or modern worship and no traditional worship at all
  • Have more engagement online
  • See an increase in people giving and financially supporting the church’s mission

A Shift of Digital Strategy and Church Growth

Since the pandemic, churches have shifted to strategically using technology and digital platforms. As churches began to leverage their social media platforms, we have seen many strategically focus on reaching those who aren’t a part of the church. A few examples would be:

  • Churches began developing helpful content based on the felt needs of the people that are directed in their mission field and used digital channels to distribute the content.
  • Churches began hosting more events online. This allowed them to go beyond their in-person audience to reach even more people outside of the region and area.
  • Churches began to mobilize those inside and outside the church through online communications to impact their community.

Churches that were most effective in reaching people outside the church began to engage in a two-part strategy focused on an outward-facing digital strategy and personal evangelism by building relationships and sharing their faith. This strategy has helped many churches experience growth, maintain health, and impact those in their mission field.

Final Five:

Book: The Unstuck Church
Last Thing Listened To: Tycho 
Quote: “Hope is not a strategy.” We can hope things will change, but it isn’t practical to lead to the results like strategy does.
One Thing to Communicate to Church Leaders: “Don’t just go with the waves of ups and downs, but be intentional about what God calls us to accomplish as a church and how we align our people around that purpose. Use this time to get strategic and focus on all that you do.”

Connect with Unstuck Group:

Website | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube 

Resources Mentioned 

Unstuck Group Self Assessments
The Unstuck Church Report: Q1 2023