Want to help your church become more effective? Here's how.
For the past two Sundays, I have led our church in an exercise we have come to call a "church checkup."
One of the blessings of small(er) churches is that you can legitimately get feedback from every person on a regular basis and include everyone in the discussion along the way. In the case of house churches, this is intentional, and such is the case with our congregation.
In yesterday's post, I focused on the biblical purpose behind church meetings, which is edification.
One of the many lessons that has been reinforced during almost three years with the house church is that actively soliciting feedback is crucial to the wellbeing of any group, and specifically, any church.
With the church that meets in our house, from the start we've focused on a two-part phrase that I repeat frequently:
Everything starts and ends with the Bible.
We strive to maintain a rigorous attention to GOD's Word and, whenever possible, imitate the pattern of behavior we find taught by Jesus and the apostles.
If we hope to make a similar impact to that of the first century church, we must do what those Christians did. And we try our best to do so.
And secondly, we recognize that everybody—every person, group and church—develops tendencies, norms, routines and traditions over time.
We strive to be diligent in searching for the most effective way to do things. This results in change periodically, which we believe is a good thing.
The only way to know how people feel about the current status of our work together and the direction we're headed is to ask them.
So that's what we do.
That's what I call the church check-up.
It's not a new concept, and we certainly didn't invent it, but you might be surprised at how few churches practice this effectively.
How to Conduct a Church Checkup
I am continuing to refine our Church Checkup process over time, but in general, the concept is to solicit individual answers to three questions:
- On a scale of 1 (terrible) to 10 (fantastic), how would you assess your spiritual situation today?
All I want initially is the score. I go around to each person and solicit their assessment. Someone else records the numbers for future assessment.
- What about our church do you feel like is working well?
- What about our church needs to improve?
I strongly encourage people to offer up potential solutions or personal commitments to fill gaps we uncover. What you want to avoid is a griping session. BUT, if people feel like griping... well, that tells you quite a bit about the health of your church, doesn't it? After all, the church is the collection of people assembled at the time.
You can conduct a church check-up in person, if your group is small enough and the environment conducive to collecting direct feedback.
This is time-consuming, however, and some people do not like to give immediate feedback without a chance to contemplate and compose a well-thought-out answer.
Be sensitive to this.
I have also collected the data via a survey.
The advantage of the survey approach is that everyone gets a full opportunity to answer each and every question, the questions are consistent across participants, and you can spend your collective time focusing more on solutions and next steps than on the problems or data capturing.
This also optimizes the time during assemblies.
Beware, though, that participation can be challenging and multiple follow-ups required to collect the needed input electronically.
Also, be mindful of those who may not use a computer or mobile device or have convenient Internet access. Get those people a paper copy of your survey.
And lastly, ensure transparency. The data should be shared freely with everyone. Nothing wrecks morale faster than people feeling like you don't have their best interest at heart.
Prepare to be Surprised
Each time we have our church check-up, I'm amazed at three things:
- How much there is to discuss and how long it can take to do so.
- Some of the ideas, thoughts or feelings that people share always surprise me. Often this is positive, such as creative ideas or suggestions for improvement. Other times, it might be areas for improvement or situations that could've been handled better, and we learn things that probably wouldn't have ever been said in a way that "builds up" the group.
- How much better everyone seems to feel in the weeks following these conversations. People are generally more upbeat. I think this has to do with people feeling that their input, thoughts and ideas is valuable, and that we really are committed to doing things as effectively as we possibly can.
In other congregations I've known or been a part of, this type of church check-up is often handled as "business meetings" or elders meeting with the men or the women of the congregation as a group.
My strong conviction is that, any time you have a subset of the entire church discussing a situation it is suboptimal.
We have an example of this, which I alluded to yesterday, in Acts 15:
1 Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. 3 The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. 4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them. ...
22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers. 23 With them they sent the following letter...
(Acts 15:1-4, 22-23a NIV)
Does your church practice some form of "church checkup" on a semi-regular basis?
Have you participated in these types of conversations, and, if so, what was your experience?