2 Critical Questions to Evaluate Your Church’s Culture and Systems

My family owns a dog. But sometimes, it feels like our dog owns us.

Aspen, our 8-month-old lab-pit mix, is a handful. On some of her more rambunctious days I feel like I can hear Sarah McLachlan singing “In the Arms of an Angel” in the distance while a camera zooms in on my sad, defeated face.

Raising a puppy always has me second-guessing myself and wondering if I am doing an effective job. Am I disciplining her enough? How do other people get their dogs to obey them? Is it normal for my dog to attack me with the ferocity of a mountain lion? Normal questions, right?

Few leaders second-guess and question themselves more than pastors of local churches. Much like raising a puppy, leading a church can feel chaotic, like you’re barely keeping up and like it runs you instead of you leading it.

Having coached a lot of church leaders and assessed numerous churches, I’ve noticed that most of us evaluate the health of our church by asking the wrong questions. Leaders can end up feeling defeated or focused on wrong solutions if they’re not careful.

I want to refocus how you evaluate the health of your church by giving you the two best questions to start asking today.

These questions narrow the scope of what you are evaluating to, what I believe, are two crucial elements: culture and systems.

You can have a well-articulated vision, but your culture will eat it for breakfast. Regardless of the seeds you are planting, if you plant them in unhealthy soil, they won’t grow. Culture is the space in which everything at your church exists.

You can have a current strategy, but your systems will either accelerate them or make them nothing more than good ideas. Systems assure that people move throughout your church in a healthy way, creating the results you pray for.

So, how do you evaluate these two crucial areas? By asking two simple questions about every area of your ministry.

1. How does it feel?

This is the culture question. You have to know the tone and vibe of your church. It is the unexplainable feeling that draws people in or pushes them away. Does your worship service feel fresh, or is it dated? Does your facility feel life-giving or tired? Do volunteers serve with joy or out of obligation? Is the attitude of staff one of employees or owners?

2. How does it move?

This is the system question. Systems should move people from one point to another. If not, they are a waste of energy. Is there a simple, clear, obvious path to lead a first-time guest to connecting on a serving team? How does a volunteer eventually become a leader? When someone gives for the first time, how is continual giving encouraged?

So, what is your next step? The most effective way to incorporate these two questions is to give 15 minutes of every leadership team meeting you have to them. Slice your church really thin, and focus the questions on a specific area each week. Children’s check-in, worship music, announcements, website or guest experience—focus on one area and ask: How does it feel? How does it move?

These two questions will revolutionize your team’s conversations and ultimately your church.

The question is, do you have the courage to ask them?

Kevin Lloyd is the executive pastor at Stevens Creek Church in Augusta, Georgia. This article was originally posted on Lloyd’s blog, LeadBravely.org.