Evaluation- A Key Component to Growth

May 2, 2012
Mark Harper
Mark Harper

By Mark Harper

Have you ever felt judged by somebody? Let’s face it. Nobody likes to be judged. The good news is that you have the option of judging yourself. The bad news is that judging yourself is really hard to do.

One of the signs of a mature Christian is that they have an internal compass. In other words they have the ability to judge themselves. Think about it. A young toddler does not have the ability to judge himself. He doesn’t know that it’s wrong to throw his toy truck at his sister.

“For if we would judge ourselves we should not be judged.” I Corinthians 11:31

The key to spiritual growth is the ability to do self-examination.

About fifteen years ago I was asking the Lord about some things I had in my heart for ministry that were not coming to pass. I was hoping the Lord would say something like, “In a few weeks someone is going to give you a million dollars and you will be able to accomplish your vision,” but that is not how He responded.

This is what He said to me. “If you don’t judge yourself in your weight and diet you will not see your vision come to pass.” I had to make some major changes in my lifestyle because my weight was having a negative effect on my life and my ministry.

Self-examination is the key to personal growth, but it is also the key to church growth.

Growing churches have differing theologies, worship programs and building designs, but one thing all growing churches have in common is the ability to do self-examination. The reverse is also true. When large churches reach the point where they think they have arrived and they stop evaluating themselves they stop growing. The leaders who do the greatest harm to the church are the ones who think they have arrived.

My dad, who was an investment broker, said this to his customers when they were considering investing in a particular stock. “A company is either on its way up, or on its way down. Which way do you think this company is headed?”

The same thing is true about churches. A church is either on its way up or on it’s way down. The question is not, “Are you a small church or a mega church?”  The question is, “Which way are you headed - up or down?”

There is no such thing as maintenance mode. Maintenance mode is really just a slow death. You are either growing or you are dying. If you are dying the only way to stop the bleeding is to be honest with yourself.

Are you open to change? If you don’t change you can become extinct.

A few years ago, I was listening to a tape by Bob Yandian, pastor of Grace Fellowship in Tulsa, OK.  One day Bob received a phone call from an elder of an independent church that Bob had attended as a child. The elder informed Bob that they were closing the doors on the church and he was looking for another church to donate the building to. When Pastor Bob entered the church building it was like walking into a time warp. The church had the same furniture, carpet and décor that it had forty years earlier. The pastor’s guitar was on the platform just like he remembered as a child. The only people left in the church were the five elders who were all in their 70’s and 80’s. Bob looked at his staff and said, “This is not going to be our future! We are going to change.”

The truth is the world is always changing because each generation changes it. Our challenge is to connect people, who are always changing with a God who never changes. We don’t change our message, but we change our methods. If we package an eternal message in an old wrapper it seems like an old message. If we refuse to change we will lose a generation.

How do I do this self-evaluation thing? I’m glad you asked.

Ask somebody to take some time and walk around your church on Sunday morning and look at things from the visitor’s point of view. This should be someone who does not attend your church, but someone who is new. News flash! All of your growth is going to come from people who do not currently attend your church.

Better yet, hire a church growth consultant who will give you some honest feedback. I have been consulting with churches for the past year. I am finding it is hard to give people honest feedback, but I don’t feel like I am being a good employee unless I do. One advantage with hiring a church growth consultant is that the risk is low, if he doesn’t attend your church. In other words you don’t have to follow his or her suggestions if God is not leading you that way.

Here are some steps to take when evaluating your church:

1)    Write down all the things that you feel your church does really well. This is important because there are some things you don’t need to change.

2)    Decide ahead of time what is not negotiable.

3)    Do an anonymous survey of a sampling of your congregation. (You will not get honest feedback if this is not anonymous.) Ask them to grade you church programs. Admittedly this is hard to do, but it is necessary.

4)    Take a look at what other churches are doing. Get outside of you click.

5)    Evaluate yourself in the following areas:

  • Preaching
  • Worship
  • Kids Ministry
  • Youth Ministry
  • Building Décor
  • Parking Lot
  • Bathrooms
  • Signage
  • Lobby & Hallways
  • Feel of the Church
  • How easy is it to volunteer
  • Do I have enough leaders?
  • What happens when I go on vacation?

A willingness to change helps bring new people in. It says to them that you are prepared for their visit and that you are thinking about things from their prospective.

I accepted the pastorate of a small church in Sarnia, Ontario several years ago. The Nursery had not been in use for years so Deb and I cleaned it up, painted the walls and put in new carpet. Some people asked “Why are you doing all this work when we don’t have any babies in the church?” My response was “Company is coming and we need to get ready.”

New people will be visiting your church this week. Are you prepared for them?

You can contact Mark at or 800-798-4872