Thriving churches are very good at doing five critical things—and they’re the same things commonly neglected by plateauing or declining churches. Learn the 5 hallmarks of a healthy church by downloading the Church Engagement Workbook today.
What are the hallmarks of a healthy church congregation? How can they be measured—and if they’re found lacking, how can they be cultivated?
Church innovation leader Matt Engel says the health of a church depends on its ability to do five things well: attract, get, keep, grow, and multiply people. Every activity or program within a church should serve one of those goals. By understanding what the goal is, a church can then measure the effectiveness of each ministry.
In the church, Engel explains, we often “assume that an activity equals an outcome. We may say, ‘We’ve done this backpack drive, therefore we must be doing good.’” But if the backpack drive was meant to keep attendees returning to your church and all it did was attract people to a one-time event, was it successful?
“Churches are great at measuring activities while assuming outcomes,” warns Engel. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Instead, Engel advocates for a know-and-match mentality where church leaders see ministry gaps and strategically choose how to fill them. Thinking in terms of the five goals isn’t just strategic—it’s an effective pastoral framework that supports relational disciple-making.
1. Attract to Show You Care.
Before people will serve in your church, they first must be welcomed into it. According to Engel, the key to attract is offering value without a call to action. Simply put: make people aware that your church exists and that its leaders care about the well-being of people, regardless of what they receive in return.
These efforts do not need to be large-scale, expensive, or resource-consuming. Engel recommends a bite-sized statement on social media or a few-minute video with tips on how to love your spouse or have fun with your kids. It’s all about adding value to your community so that people in your proximity know there’s a church that cares nearby.
2. Get to Make New Connections.
The goal of get is to move people from awareness of your church into connection with your church. This may look like them attending an event, program, or church service, whatever ends in a new, personal connection.
Having a clear vision and goal for each event or program is essential. Take a marriage night, Engel says. One pastor may see this as an outreach designed with the goal of getting and creating those personal connections, while another sees it as a service to keeping existing congregants engaged. Both goals are good, but knowing which goal takes priority, and therefore how to measure its effectiveness, is key. One church found that by framing their marriage event this way, focussing on get rather than keep, they created as many new connections in one night as they typically would in 11 Sunday services.The goal was supported by the outcomes.
3. Keep to Build Steady Community.
Keep refers to not just welcoming new people to your church but helping them become involved as active participants in the life of the church. Every Sunday’s goal should be to keep, says Engel.
Keep isn’t limited to Sunday planning though. Launching a text campaign after a sermon series that features related resources can help engage your people since you’re inviting them into ongoing connection. Church leaders can also use data from these campaigns to flag patterns of disengagement, which can be the precursor to long-time attendees leaving the church.
4. Grow to Go Deeper with Congregants.
Rather than tracking congregational attendance numbers, Engel argues that grow should refer to individual progress, which may be reflected in the five dimensions of human flourishing: spiritual growth and development, financial well-being, mental and emotional well-being, vocational or career well-being, and relational well-being.
Knowing that 150 people participated in your church’s small group program may sound good, but does that convey anything meaningful about each individual’s relationship with Scripture, other participants, or the church as a whole? Not necessarily.
Engel advocates for a model of intention–and assessment–that provides pastors with more information and more options. One church held a date night that was grow-oriented. During this event, the couples took a pre- and post-assessment. After the two-hour event, couples who had the most to lose—those who had, before the event, circled “1” on a scale of 1-5 measuring marital satisfaction—circled “4” on the post-assessment. The success of this event was measurable and therefore repeatable. By aligning goals with staggered assessments, pastors can track meaningful growth through their various events, ministries, and outreaches.
5. Multiply to Make Disciples.
Multiply is the piece of the framework that invites congregants to “flip from a consumer to a contributor.” When church leaders encourage their congregants to join them in the work of multiplication, they are equipping them to partner with the church in meeting the needs of others rather than merely seeing the church as a place to have their personal needs met.
Long-term congregants may need support in cultivating intentional multiplication. Simple resources and calls to action, like providing congregants with encouraging videos to share on social media, can motivate and empower congregants to learn more about their church and community.
Empowered to be Effective
The point of all of this, Engel argues, is singular and scriptural: it should help churches make disciples. That’s why this system prioritizes inviting people to participate in the mission of the gospel rather than treating them as consumers.
This five-goal framework can help facilitate purposeful action in your church. Designed to encourage greater involvement, stronger relationships, and higher levels of participation, the Church Engagement Workbook provides everything you need to begin matching your programs and events to the needs of your congregation and community.