A Health Check on “Healthy Congregations” – Tom Mepham

Tom Mepham is a first-year ministry intern with KCML and a co-leader of Student Soul, a young adult congregation in Dunedin.

Since 1995’s General Assembly we have used a model for assessing the well-being of our Church called “Healthy Congregations” (see Appendix 1 in Strategic Directions). This provides us with a way to measure the health of each parish in the PCANZ. Putting this model to work would be the equivalent of sending a congregation to the doctor’s office for a full-scale health check up; and by extension, measuring the overall health of the whole PCANZ.

I wonder how healthy we are!

This model uses a qualitative assessment process (as is appropriate for measuring the most important things in church life) and focuses on four relationships: a congregation’s relationship with God; with the wider environment; with the wider church, and within it’s own life. (These are similar to the four relationships used in UK church circles: UP, OUT, OF, IN).

If I can read our most recent stats correctly (which is not a given, I assure you!), it appears that we have 273 parishes around the country. I don’t see the statistic about the number of congregations within these parishes, but the Mission Clarity document says 400. So I would like to know… how many congregations out of 400 would pass their “Healthy Congregation” check up?

Now, I fully appreciate that measuring health is an ongoing process, like sanctification, and it doesn’t just stop when a focus-group delivers a report. Even getting to the stage of having an accurate diagnosis of a congregation is a lot of work. So why bother going through with this measurement?

We bother, according to Strategic Directions, because “the local church is the agent of mission” and the whole point of being a national Church/denomination/network is that together we are more effective at “developing and sustaining healthy congregations for mission” than we would be alone.

I have some questions:

  1. How many of 400 congregations have undertaken a formal process to assess their health?
  2. How many are currently doing this process?
  3. What do we do with persistently unhealthy congregations?
  4. How many unhealthy congregations do we have?
  5. What percentage of our congregations need to be “healthy” to give the PCANZ as a whole a pass mark?
  6. Is there any way to measure the health of a denomination other than through a system-wide assessment of its congregations?

I’m not emotionally invested in the Healthy Congregations model. I was 9 years old when General Assembly approved it, and I haven’t read the minutes. Still, I can appreciate its value. Is it still a useful measure of our effectiveness in mission? If so, how do we ensure we’re putting it fully to work?

As it is a General Assembly gathering this year, maybe it’s a good time to ask for PCANZ to go for a check-up. We have a working measurement (and have had for 23 years). What’s the doctor going to say: are we headed for surgery? Going on a diet? Starting an exercise regime? Might we be talking hospice care? Or are the vital signs looking good?

Let’s find out!

 

 

St Paul’s Opunake: the light shines again

A walk-through Christmas display is one of the many new ways St Paul's is serving its community

A walk-through Christmas display is one of the many new ways St Paul’s is serving its community

Four years ago, St Paul’s was a church with a congregation of 25 in the rural town of Opunake in Taranaki (population 1360). They had no employed minister and no children or families attending their Sunday worship or connected with their church.

The leaders decided that if they were to survive they would need to focus on mission. But where should they start? Continue reading

Retirement – a personal conversation in expanding beyond “ministry”

A keen church member asked me recently, “What are you doing now that you have retired and finished your ministry?” Really? Finished ministry! How have we managed as Christians, and I suspect particularly in our mainline churches, to either teach or model “ministry” as something a minister does? Have we devalued ministry to the minority of Christians who have been ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacrament? Continue reading

Friendship before serving

When you’re down and troubled and need a helping hand and nothing is going right…

You and I need a friend. In the matters of every day, friends matter. A friend – one you can count on, who will “be there” and most of all who will hold out a welcome hand.

Friends are amazing because at the core of friendship is choice. You choose to friend and to be friended. It is the ultimate voluntary relationship. You can walk in or out of it as you please, unlike marriage and family that are complicated by contract and blood. Continue reading