Checklists Help Determine Congregational Health

By Donald E. Skinner

Asking the right questions is a key part of learning how well your congregation functions. The new book, Churchworks: A Well-Body Book for Congregations, by Rev. Anne Heller, district executive of the Pacific Northwest District, includes checklists for committees and boards of trustees. Here are several lists to help guide you through an analysis of your congregation. For more complete lists, see the book.

Check the heartbeat of your congregation—how broad is your ministry:

    • How do we welcome and include new people?

    • Do we have an active Caring Committee?

    • Do we publicly recognize people who volunteer?

    • Are we openhearted to our children? Do we have intergenerational services? Do we provide child care for all congregational events?

    • Are our minister and staff fairly paid? Do we thank them for their work?

    A checklist for resolving conflicts. Does each person agree to consider the following before proceeding:

    • How willing am I to resolve this conflict?

    • Do I want this to work for both of us or only for myself?

    • What is the key issue or problem in this conflict?

    • Have I told him or her how I feel?

    • What can I give? How can we all save face?

    • Can we manage this ourselves or do we need outside help?

    • When considering growth, members of a congregation should ask:

      • Do we welcome diversity?

      • Do people in our congregation truly respect other points of view?

      • Do some people put other people down? Can we debate issues and still part friends?

      • Does our property look cared for?

      • Do we sing enough and get together enough for meals?

      • Do we work on conflict rather than letting it go underground?

      • Do we really care about justice, equity, and compassion? What does our congregation do for others?

    Maintenance manual:

    • Are copies of the deed and other important church documents safely stored away?
    • Are people aware of the location of electrical on-off switches and water and gas shut-off valves?
    • Is there a long-range plan for maintenance?
    • Is there a policy on who should have keys to the building? Are locks rekeyed at regular intervals?

    Building trust in meetings:

    • Do we agree to begin and end meetings on time?

    • Try not to speak in a code or shorthand that excludes newcomers?

    • Repeat comments of others to make sure we correctly understood them?

    The following are ways that congregations can talk about their community involvement:

    • Do a social justice timeline, listing the ways your congregation has served others.
    • Brainstorm new social justice possibilities and ask people to sign up for those that interest them most.

    Celebrating ourselves:

    • Cover a wall with paper where members can write everything they did to help others this year.
    • Have a Sunday where people come dressed as a social justice hero or role model from history, literature, or mythology.
    • Send thank you notes to people who work hard on behalf of the congregation.
    • Create a path or wall of honor.

    Churchworks, published in 1999 by Skinner House, is available from the Unitarian Universalist Association Bookstore at (800) 215-9076. #7008 $25

    About the Author

    Donald E. Skinner

    Donald E. Skinner was the founding editor of the InterConnections newsletter for congregational leaders and a senior editor of UU World from 1998 until his retirement in 2014. He is a member of the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Lenexa, Kansas.

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