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3 Tools to Assess and Improve Your Church’s Health

Like many of you, I’ve sat in countless leadership meetings. So often at these meetings we are trying to figure out the state of our church and ministries and then come up with plans for improving them. graph

Someone at the meeting might say something like, “Our youth ministry is a mess.” That might be an accurate statement, or it could just be that that person’s teenage daughter is mad about something right now. Perhaps her experience is representative of other teens, but maybe it’s not. Sometimes we say something like, “People are complaining about the worship.” But it really just means, “My wife thinks the volume is too loud.” Our discussions are sincere, but we often lack clarity because our perspectives are subjective so our decisions are based on guesswork.

Over the years our church has used different tools to measure and improve our church health. There are three that we have found most helpful and used repeatedly.

  1. Natural Church Development. Our church has taken the NCD Survey ten times over the last 18 years. It’s based on the most extensive research ever done on church health. You have 30 people who are actively involved in your church take the anonymous survey and that gives you a read on how your church is doing on eight different health measures (Empowering Leadership, Gift-Based Ministry, Passionate Spirituality, Effective Structures, Inspiring Worship Service, Holistic Small Groups, Need-Oriented Evangelism, and Loving Relationships). You get a T-score on each of these measures. A score of 50 means you are average in comparison with other churches. Ideally you want scores about 65. When we first took NCD our average score was 49. When we took it last year our average was 69. Taking the survey repeatedly has helped us know where we are healthy and where we need to focus to improve. If your church takes NCD, I highly recommend that you get the most detailed report which is called “Profile Plus” which includes a breakdown of how you rate on every individual question. This really helps you pinpoint where things are going well and where things need attention within each scale. You can learn more about NCD by visiting the website of ChurchSmart if you live in the U.S., or the NCD International Site if you are in another country. In the U.S., NCD costs $195 and the additional Profile Plus readout is $70.
  2. Small Groups, Big Impact Ministry Assessment. (Yes, this is my assessment!) One fascinating thing about NCD’s extensive research involving tens of thousands of churches is that the multiplication of a church’s small groups is the factor that most impacts the health and the growth of a church (Natural Church Development, p. 33). SGBI goes in depth into this area of your church. It gives you an accurate read on the four health measures of each of your small groups (Pray, Reach, Care, Empower) and shows you the overall health of your small group system in those four measures plus six overall ministry scales—three group growth outcomes (Conversion Growth, Assimilation, and Multiplication) and three church factors (Intercede, Coach, and Equip). To administer this online assessment, you enter the names and email addresses of your small group leaders, then the leaders are sent a link to the questionnaire. As group leaders complete it, they are immediately given the results for their group and practical suggestions for improving their leadership. Later you get the results for all your leaders and the results for your overall system. 
The first time our groups took SGBI, soon after I started here, our Coach score was 34. It showed our team immediately where we needed improvement. Through training, improved support and better recruitment in the two subsequent assessments that score improved to 50 then 60 resulting in significant growth of our group ministry. The cost of the SGBI assessment is based on the size of your church ranging from $99 to $499. But between now and May 31 you can take it for half price by entering this code upon purchase: save50. To see sample results or learn more about SGBI, visit Small Groups, Big Impact’s main site.
  3. All Church Surveys. Every year or two we do an “all church survey” on the first weekend in March asking some simple questions of every person in our worship services at every one of our campuses. This is a tool that we created ourselves after looking at similar surveys that other churches do. In previous blog posts I’ve mentioned how the multisite strategy has improved the health and growth of our church. None of what I said there was guesswork. It was based on real data that was carefully collected using this survey. Here’s the 2013 All Church Survey that we just administered this month. You’ll notice that we use Scantron forms in order to more easily tabulate our data. (When we started doing this about eight years ago a new Scantron machine cost $5000 but we found a used one on eBay for $79 that we are still using.) You don’t need to use Scantron forms, however. You can just have simple checkboxes with someone later entering results into a Google form and its corresponding spreadsheet. The key thing is to not make the survey too long. Collect just the data that is essential for you. Ours takes about five minutes to administer during a service. This is a bit of a hassle but is so worth it. We explain why we do it—to discover people’s needs and better serve them. We do it near the beginning of the worship service because it’s more disruptive to do it in the middle or near the end of the service.

No matter what tools you use, you must prayerfully and carefully process the results. How will you know if things have improved in a year or two from now? You take another assessment. Questionnaires and surveys don’t tell you everything, but they tell you a LOT. They give you what researchers call quantitative data. You can use other methods to gather accurate qualitative data. I’ll talk about that some other time.

What questions do you have about assessments? What tools has your church found helpful to accurately measure and improve your church health?

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2 Responses to 3 Tools to Assess and Improve Your Church’s Health

  1. Paul Hill August 19, 2013 at 10:56 am #

    Thank you for your good work. I am Wesleyan and accountability was always a part of our small group experience. Where in your measurements do you measure for accountability?
    Thank you in advance for your response!

    • jimegli August 24, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

      Hi, Paul. Good question. We haven’t probed that specifically but if you look at our survey for this year, on question five we ask if people are in an accountability group or discipleship group. Our concept of these smaller, gender specific groups has been influenced by Wesley’s “bands.” We find that these are the groups that offer the most transparency, accountability and challenge and thus also the most growth.

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