Lately, I have been disciplining myself to jog much more often than I have in the past. The scale doesn’t seem to be showing the progress of my exercise, although I’ve been maintaining my weight instead of gaining it. Someone said, “Imagine what you would weigh if you weren’t exercising,” which was not very encouraging!

Peter Bonanno

Assessing our churches can be just as challenging as stepping on a scale once our metabolism has slowed down. We are hesitant because we may not like what we see. On the other hand, what if one simple question to the right people could give a greater understanding of a church’s health so that pastors and leaders could make informed and wise adjustments?

Ask one simple question: Ask people why they stay. As pastors and leaders, most often we are worried about those who are leaving our churches. We may even arrange “exit interviews” to hear their concerns. Often the standard answers we get are about the messages (not deep enough) or the style (looking for something different) or the lack of connection (weak relationships). These are really helpful comments that can encourage us to make necessary changes that keep people in the church growing as disciples.

But perhaps we have neglected the most obvious question and the most important group of people to ask that question to: those who are involved, who are attending, who are staying. “Why do you stay here at this church?”

This question is like taking a line right out of Jesus’ playbook. He often asked His followers probing and engaging questions to help them discover something about themselves; but perhaps these questions also to helped Him gauge His own effectiveness as a servant-leader.

Matthew 16 recounts this conversation between Jesus and His disciples: “'Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?' So they said, 'Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.' He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter answered and said, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God'” (vv. 13-16, NKJV).

In a similar way, when we ask those who are in our churches what it is that keeps them staying, we can open ourselves up to the reality of the mission we are living and the message we are sending. This question will take us to the iceberg underneath the surface—the parts not as easy to see as our printed mission statement and the core values that we can rattle off.

Once we ask this question, we may love the answers we get; but I would also say, quite honestly, we may not like the answers at all. If the reasons we hear have little to do with why our churches exist, it would be wise to reevaluate what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. Conversely, if we hear answers that reflect a sense of purpose connected with the mission of Jesus on the earth … bravo!

Would you be willing to take a challenge? Ask all of your key leaders to choose three people in the church to ask this simple question to: Why do you stay here at our church? Give them permission to speak freely and record the answers.

Meet as a leadership team and evaluate those answers alongside the mission, vision and values of your church, as well as Jesus’ mandate to go into all the world and make disciples. Then, take some time to pray, and then act upon what you have heard.

The scale may have been discouraging, but it also helped me to realize that in order for me to lose weight, I need both exercise and healthy eating habits. Similarly, assessing with this simple question can provide you with a first step in evaluating the health of your church. That insight can help you take measures to become healthier and more missional.

The Foursquare Church has three core missional objectives to guide our collective missional focus and develop a healthy culture in our churches. These include: (1) leadership formation; (2) church and congregation multiplication; and (3) church health and transformation. Learn more about Foursquare’s missional objectives.