Many churches in the USA are plateaued, declining and dying. There are a variety of reasons for this, some of which can be addressed by asking some essential questions. Brian Howard (on the executive team of Acts 29) gives us seven questions every church needs to answer. Fasten your seatbelt as you read this, asking God for courage to make some changes for church health going forward.
Originally posted by Brian Howard
7 Questions Every Church Needs to Answer
Many churches are little more than social clubs. As a result, they are completely ineffective in reaching their communities.
No new church starts with the goal of being irrelevant, but over time, churches often lose track of their very reason for existence.
But this irrelevance and ineffectiveness can be reversed when a church invests the time and energy to answer a few key questions, and then creates a vision plan to act on the answers. (Stay with me, Theologues. This exercise is helpful for us also)
Over the past 15 years, I have coached hundreds of pastors and churches through a vision planning process that when properly implemented has the potential to move your ministry into uncharted territories of fruitfulness. Instead of settling for mediocrity, commit to answering these seven questions to move your church forward:
Seriously. Take a day, sit down, and work through these questions.
QUESTION 1: WHY DO WE EXIST?
Why exactly does your church exist? The answer to this question might seem obvious, but few churches have invested the time to answer it. Fewer yet live out their reason for existence.
Jim Collins says Successful, enduring organizations understand the fundamental reason they were founded and why they exist, and they stay true to that reason.”
Successful, enduring organizations understand the fundamental reason they were founded and why they exist, and they stay true to that reason.
What is the fundamental reason your church was founded and exists? Answering this question will keep a church from losing its way and doing all kinds of random things.
Here are a few questions to guide you through this first step:
- What is the reason that we exist? (The more idealistic, the better)
- How does the Scripture answer this question?
- Why do we exist in this particular place and at this particular time?
- If we didn’t exist, the world would be worse off how?
- How do we contribute to a better world?
- Why do we do what we do?
- How do we make our particular community a better place?
QUESTION 2: WHO DO WE SERVE?
Every church should clearly identify and clarify the people it is looking to reach. I have written about this extensively elsewhere. The following two posts will teach you how to determine exactly who your church is committing to serve.
QUESTION 3: WHAT DO WE PRIORITIZE?
You know why your church exists. You have identified your target audience. But what are your Core Values? This is not a business question but a theological question.
Core Values are the non-negotiable convictions upon which your church is built. Core values are unchangeable, already exist, and rooted in Scripture.
Here is an example of a Core Value:
Authentic Biblical Community as the commitment and experience of every follower of Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 10:24-25).
If you believed this, it would dramatically affect the way you go about ministry in your church.
Guidelines for Identifying your Core Values
- Core Values should be rooted in Scripture
- Limit your Core Values to no more than 5.
- Extra: Every leader in your church needs to be committed to living out each of your Core Values. No staff person or leader should be in place who does not completely buy into and live out each Core Value.
QUESTION 4: HOW WILL WE KNOW IF WE ARE SUCCESSFUL?
How will we evaluate fruitfulness? What will we measure? I am not asserting that you are in control of conversions or spiritual growth, but will you measure anything in order to know if your ministry is bearing any fruit? Most churches measure attendance and giving, but are these the most important things to measure? I recommend measuring things like:
- Percentage of Attenders that are Members
- Percentage of Members in Community Groups
- Percentage of Members Serving somewhere
- Number of People Baptized Annually
- Number of people who have completed discipleship or missional living training.
- Number of New Leaders Trained and Plugged in
When you define what you will measure, you will by necessity set goals and take strides toward growing in those areas.
QUESTION 5: WHAT WILL OUR FUTURE LOOK LIKE?
What will your Church look like as you live out your Core Values? Describe the future that you see as God works in your church. Create bullet-point statements as you work through your Core Values. Make sure to write each statement in the present tense as though it were already true. I suggest 15-25 statements that describe your future. Here are some examples:
- We are known as the most loving and caring people in our city.
- We partner in global mission aggressively showing mercy to the poor and needy and carrying out the great commission globally.
QUESTION 6: WHAT ARE OUR TOP 3-5 GOALS IN THE NEXT 12-18 MONTHS?
Steps 1-5 are all about what you are called to be. Step 6 answers the question, “What are we going to do in order to be?”
To identify your top 3-5 goals, read back through steps 1-5.Why do we exist? Who do we serve? What do we prioritize? What will we measure? Then ask: Where are we failing? What must we begin to work on?
What are you going to do to move these areas forward in the next 12-18 months?
- Goals need to be written down, specific and measurable.
- Don’t aim too high or too low. If a goal is 100% achievable, then you have not aimed high enough. If a goal is only 40% achievable, then you have aimed too high.
QUESTION 7: WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT RIGHT NOW?
Of your 3-5 goals for the next 12-18 months, what is most important right now – in the next 3-6 months?
Patrick Lencioni calls this a thematic goal. One clear thematic goal that an entire leadership team rallies around right now will help to guide against ministry silos.
Not sure what your top goal should be? Answer the following question:
If we accomplish only one thing in the next _____ months what would that be?
- Why Do We Exist?
- Who Do We Serve?
- What Do We Prioritize?
- How Will We Know if We Are Successful?
- What Will Our Future Look Like?
- What are our Top 3-5 Goals in the Next 12-18 Months?
- What Is Most Important Right Now?
Answering these seven questions is important for every church.
Ready to move forward? Get a day on the calendar and get to work!