What the Church Health Assessment Is Teaching Us
There has long been a need for a tool that Churches of Christ could use to assess the health of their congregations. Numerous survey instruments exist, but they lack the ability to address issues that are specific to Churches of Christ. Working with Dr. Carley Dodd (’70), we constructed the Church Health Assessment (CHA) to fill this need.
What has the CHA told us about churches? To date the CHA has been used in 18 congregations ranging in size from 70 members to nearly 1,000. The survey has been used in congregations in Texas, Oklahoma, Canada and California. The congregations using the CHA have been predominantly white, with more older members, and few members who were new to the congregation.
The major areas of struggle for churches surveyed have been family life stages and congregational culture and values. Participants are asked about ministries and programs targeting various stages of life, including children, teens, young adults and intergenerational ministry. They are asked about overall attitudes toward these groups, along with their perceptions of how well the church is meeting their needs. Within this factor, we see that many congregations lack sufficient parenting programs, and that singles and young adults/professionals do not feel as if they belong or are included in the congregation. We also see that the congregation understands the importance of children and youth, but that the youth group is rarely thriving and the children’s ministry also is an area of weakness. Many of the congregations surveyed also showed a lack of sufficient multigenerational activities.
Participants also are asked about the morale of the congregation, whether frustrations are present, how easy it is to recruit and maintain volunteers, membership growth and decline, and tension felt in the congregation. Many CHA respondents report that their congregations are not very open to change and that any changes that are made have led to some people leaving. Churches find it difficult to recruit and keep volunteers, and their morale is low. Most of the churches that have completed the CHA have seen substantial decline in the past five years with few new members added. However, those who are still there are very loyal and committed to one another, and to the church and its mission.
It’s not all bad news for congregations though! Several areas of flourishing are evident in these 18 congregations. In particular, churches seem to be doing well in spiritual formation and discipleship and church relationships.
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– Dr. Suzie Macaluso