Studies have been done on many congregations to see what makes one dynamic and healthy. Most churches that experience growth have a clear mission and vision. They also excel in the following areas (click on the headings for more information):
Stewardship– A good stewardship program is about far more than raising money to meet the annual budget. The mistake most parishes make is in defining the mission of the stewardship committee so narrowly that it basically consists of a PLEDGE CAMPAIGN and focuses primarily on raising funds for the church. A good stewardship program covers the theology of stewardship in all areas of our lives- not just in relationship to the church. Stewardship is about managing what God has given us, and PART of that management includes the tithe. The GOAL of a good stewardship program is to create good stewards!!! A fruit of a good stewardship program will be a healthy budget.
Worship– This is the one place most of our members gather. Worship must be engaging, comforting, and challenging. It will involve music that engages the congregation, sermons that engage the listeners and are relevant to daily living, and prayers that reflect the concerns of the congregation.
Education for Adults, Youth, & Children– Education is often defined as “Christian Formation.” A strong education program will deal with topics that help members to apply their faith to their real life. Christian Education, contrary to popular opinion, is NOT just for children and youth. Healthy congregations offer opportunities for people of all ages to grow in their relationship with Christ.
Hospitality & Pastoral Care – Evangelism has gotten a bad reputation as a result of the rise of “evangelicalism” and “fundamentalism.” The word “evangelism” comes from the Greek “to share the good news” which is something that we are called to do in every aspect of ministry. Therefore, this area refers to the act of “hospitality,” providing welcome to the stranger, serving newcomers, and integrating them into the life of the congregation. A good hospitality program will teach members to share their faith, and to offer their worshipping community as a source of support for others. People will be invited. They will be welcomed. They will be integrated into the life of the parish. A good pastoral care program is one that offers care to the members of the parish while at the same time offering members the opportunity to show care. Good pastoral care is about the members of the congregation taking the time and energy to care for one another. As the congregation grows, the more people to care for, and the more people to do the pastoring.
Outreach– We usually refer to this as “Outreach.” A good outreach program engages the members of the parish in working with “others,” as defined as people who life in circumstances other than our own. We work with these people in an effort to offer assistance, but also to broaden our own understanding and experience of the world. It is often in working with “the other” that we encounter and work through our own prejudices, fears, and discomfort and come to a place of compassion in our own lives.
Parish Life– One of the strengths of the previous model that can get easily lost is the area of Parish Life, where we gather regularly, participating in events unique to the culture and community, and spending time in fellowship with one another.
Communications– As technology has improved, the more opportunities and challenges there are in communicating within the parish and outside the parish. Healthy parishes have agreed-upon communications that reach the intended population. The “church bell” no longer works. Thus, good communication through various means including face-to-face communication and technological communication is key in growing a healthy church.