Consultant Terry Foland has concluded that 12 areas of congregational life are significant in determining a congregation’s health. Within each category are the challenging questions he suggests that church leaders ask themselves as they embark on the process of congregational change.
History and Heritage
- How do we value our past?
- What have we incorporated into our story of being a congregation from our successes and crises and from our failures?
- How did we evolve into our current set of norms and values, which primarily set the boundaries and determine our way of being a faith community?
- Have we been enriched by or imprisoned by the events of our history?
- When there have been bad experiences, have we had sufficient closure so that we are not limited by our shame about those experiences and our fear of repeat failures?
- How well do we value our past without letting it determine our present and future life together?
- Who are we as a corporate “body of Christ”?
- What is our culture or ethos?
- What kind of climate do we provide for people when they come together?
- Is there an atmosphere of caring and support?
- Is this a place where people can feel they belong and are accepted, regardless of their current or past circumstances?
- Are all people welcome here?
- Do we present an openness that invites strangers into the community of gatherings?
- How do we seek to be open to God’s call to us as a faith community?
- What distinguishes us from any other human organization?
- Do our efforts to worship help us discern God’s word and call to us as faithful disciples?
- How well do we employ our spiritual disciplines of prayer, study of Scripture, meditation, worship, and stewardship?
- What is our way of “being the gospel”?
- Do we regularly engage in efforts to rethink our vision of how we fulfill our mission as a faith community?
- Do we regularly collect information from our setting and look to understand the needs of people around us?
- Do we engage in prayer, meditation, and study of the Scriptures to help us develop our vision?
- How do we determine priorities for using our limited resources?
- How well do we perform the continuing task of helping people grow in their religious life?
- Do we help individuals discover and claim their particular gifts, skills, and talents?
- Do we help them connect with the faith in ways that contribute to the mission and ministries of the faith?
- How well do we prepare our members to engage in conversion efforts with people who are not part of a faith/belief community?
Ministries in the Community
- What will we accept as our rules and responsibilities to the people who inhabit our geographic space?
- What services do we provide as part of our discernment of what God is calling us to be and do?
- Does our vision include ways in which we can be engaged both corporately and as individual members in mission endeavors?
- How well do we make use of our resources (facilities, wealth, time, and members) to respond to the needs of those in our “defined mission area”?
- How big is our world going to be?
- How well do we raise awareness of the concerns and needs in the world and of our interdependence and responsibilities?
- Do we offer members opportunities to respond in a variety of ways to the myriad needs in the world?
- Has our vision included concerns that reach beyond our natural day-to-day interactions?
- How do we value differences and deal with conflicts in congregational life?
- Do we encourage individuals to articulate their own opinions and beliefs and to respect those of others?
- Do we seek to provide ways for people to get their interests and needs cared for without denying others that same privilege?
- Do we intentionally teach ways of framing conflict in win/win rather than win/lose strategies?
Facing Daily Life
- How does the congregation help people in their daily routines of work, family, and community activities?
- Does the congregation help provide moral and ethical codes by which members are expected to relate to others?
- How does the congregation provide guidelines in the areas of health, finances, life transitions, and mundane routines?
- How do we teach responsible use of resources by individuals and by the community of faith?
- Do we provide help for our members to understand how money and other financial resources are a gift from God?
- How well is the congregation developing mutual support and ministry in a partnership between clergy and laity?
- How do we share authority and responsibility?
- Do we provide effective ways to define relationships and roles?
- How do we work together to fulfill our vision of being a faith community?
Connection to Faith Family
- How do we both contribute to and receive support from the structures of our larger denomination, or faith family?
- What does our connection to such a family contribute to our sense of identity and mission?