4 signs of an unhealthy church


Unhealthy is a subjective term. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to define unhealthy from God’s perspective, not our own. A church can grow with increasing attendance, revenue, and influence but be unhealthy in God’s eyes. We often look at outward appearance but the Lord looks at our heart (1 Samuel 16:7). Here are four signs of an unhealthy church.

High staff turnover

Just updating my LinkedIn account

Just updating my LinkedIn account

When there’s a pattern of pastors and staff not sticking around long, it’s usually because of one (or more) of these reasons.

1.) The senior pastor or elder board are difficult to work with. I shouldn’t have to explain why this is unhealthy.

2.) The congregation drives away staff. There could be a variety of reasons but the staff member and family feel that they cannot serve and worship in a way that brings joy and spiritual growth. In the end, the well-being of the staff was not a priority for the church and this is unhealthy.

3.) There’s no room for growth. Sometimes a pastor or staff member is in a position that doesn’t give them opportunities to develop as ministers. No one lasts long in these roles and it’s the responsibility of the church leadership to help the staff grow.

Whatever the reason(s), a church with a high staff turnover rate suggests leadership deficiencies, which always leads to an unhealthy church.

This small group is smaller than I expected

This small group is smaller than I expected

No community

It’s not a good sign if everyone immediately bolts for their cars after the benediction. Church is about worship, but it’s also about family and living out the faith journey together. Take a look at the First Century Church. Community is at the heart of the Christian faith. So if a church doesn’t have it or a model/plan to cultivate community, it’s not living out its calling.

No community impact

I had a seminary professor once say that a church should be so involved in the community that if it considered moving, the community would plead for the church to stay. The Church is called to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). So if this isn’t happening (AKA: losing its saltiness) it’s going to be the beginning of the end for that church.

I didn't get the memo

I didn't get the memo

Disproportionate demographics (including staff)

The demographics of a church should reflect the demographics of the community it serves. If it doesn’t then the church isn’t serving parts of the community and is mistranslating the latter part of Isaiah 56:7 to be “for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples…that are like me”. That last part isn’t in the earliest manuscripts, by the way.

Unhealthy churches need to address these issues as priorities. There are no instant magic wand solutions. It took a long time for an unhealthy church to get that way so it’s going to take a long time to bring full healing and restoration. But God is a God of grace and power, so there is always hope.

Stay tuned for a future post about signs of a healthy church!

Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
— Matthew 5:16