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How about “health” instead of “growth?”

How about “health” instead of “growth?”

Laurie Brock is not a gardener, but she notices that we in the Church love to talk about “growth.” She if this distracts us from the health of our little corners of God’s garden.

Dirty Sexy Ministry:

Our churches are enamored with the language of growth. We love to talk about it. In the work I’ve done with churches calling a new pastor, almost all of them want to grow. We gather at clergy conferences and talk about growth. We have, I think, equated success in ministry with church growth, as if we all strive to grow wild and fast and have the biggest church plant on the block.

Sort of like kudzu.

I wonder, however, if we’ve missed the mark. Growth, as God’s creation informs us, happens best with health. Healthy plants grow. Sickly plants who are lacking enough light, nourishment, and water meander and struggle.

I ran across an article a few days ago that asked this question: Are we focusing on the wrong thing in church life? What happens if we focus on church health rather than church growth?


What if we shifted our focus not to add people and money (which is often the subtext of ‘we want to grow’) to a focus on being healthy? Honestly, focusing on growth defined by numbers is the easy part. Deep, sustainable growth in faith, health, and love takes hard work.

That kind of growth is difficult to measure. Clergy can’t brag about that kind of growth at conferences as easily, and it doesn’t make for quick blurbs on annual reports. But honestly, I think Jesus would be much more excited with “We talked open and honestly about addiction and found ways to be a supportive community for those struggling with addiction and confessed our own addictions to much in life” than “We increased our average Sunday attendance by 7578.”


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Eric Bonetti

Meant to say, “Salary/benefits”

Eric Bonetti


Love the recognition that administrative affars must be in order. Too many priests think that as long as they are cranking out the sacraments and making pastoral visits, everything is fine. But I have never yet seen a healthy church with an unhealthy office.

Also, to my friends who are clergy, don’t forget that you lead by example. When you are making a good salary/salary and tell me, a volunteer, that you don’t “have the time or interest,” to address administrative issues, don’t expect me to care, either. And if you’re not doing the job you’re paid to do, don’t be surprised if I find your moral perspective to be a little thin.

Bill Simpson

Brock is spot on. Growth is a byproduct of health. Students who study for the test and business people who do quarter chasing have the kind of misconception: confusing outcome with purpose.

Ann Fontaine

Another good essay on church health: by Richard Helmer.

3. Don’t expect anything to really happen until: a) someone is offering decent liturgy and preaching on a regular basis; b) people’s basic pastoral care needs are being met; and c) the parish’s administrative affairs are in order and are competently managed. If you can’t accomplish this yourself, find the help to make it happen, and don’t work on anything else until you do.

Corinne Denegre

I love your website and follow it closely. Many times I find articles I would love to print. Is there any way to put a print icon on the articles or is that too difficult? If not, I can continue to cut and paste things and print them that way.

Many thanks to all of you who make this website possible. It is wonderful, and I enjoy it very much.
Corinne Denegre

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