What lessons can we learn from healthy churches?
James Slack said he saw 14 lessons for church leaders from his in-depth research on
congregations of the Southern Baptist Convention. His work reminds us that observations
worthy of consideration can come from analyzing and reflecting on demographics, spreadsheets,
surveys, interviews, and historical studies.
Below are his 14 conclusions about local churches. Which of them do you find surprising?
- New units grow faster than long-established churches.
- Aging within a church almost inevitably ushers in a ministry style that is "come"
oriented in contrast to ministry that is "go" centered.
- Older churches do not start as many new churches as do younger churches.
- Churches drift upward on the economic scale.
- The longer a church is in a community, the less it becomes like the demographics
of that that community.
- Existing, established churches have normal plateau and ministry limits.
- Only as a church effectively expands its
discipleship base will it sustain infinitely reproducible church
growth and church planting.
- More baptisms and greater membership
growth occurs in zones or areas that are farther away from existing churches and their
- The difference between ministry in so-called "responsive" and "non-responsive"
people groups is not in the average number of baptisms per church but in the number of
new units or churches that are being started.
- Churches in resistant cultures tend to begin as or soon become cosmopolitan
rather than community churches. In resistant cultures, community churches have far greater
influence on the culture than do cosmopolitan churches.
- As models of church planting, training, and materials are repeated and
age, they become hallowed -- and almost "unchangeable" -- patterns even if they are no
- If a lost person or people group is illiterate and poor, the chance of their being
evangelized decreases proportionately to the heights of their illiteracy and the depths of their
- Most theological training programs has become more academic than
- To be effective, Bible teaching, including the Sunday School and other forms of
discipleship, must be done in a context that includes intentional evangelism.
Does God like variety?
"We have some concepts about what a church is that come more from our culture than from
the Scripture. We need small churches and large churches equally. We need vibrant churches
and conservative churches as well. It seems to me that God has a diversified portfolio." -- Chris
Babcock in "Church Size and Outreach Success"
-- Howard Culbertson
Church health course
resources: Course home
page Church analysis
Programs survey Sample
graph analysis Church planting
steps Conversion age
Devotional reflections Exam
study guides Identifying
PowerPoints used in class
Why do pastors resign? Course
contextualization When trust in a pastor
10/40 Window explanation and
map Seeking God's will?
African martyr's commitment Mission trip
fundraising Ten ways to
ruin your mission trip
Nazarene Missions International resources