10 Characteristics of Teachable Churches

I’m a church consultant who believes in the work that consultants do. I’m not naïve, though, to think that every church takes a final report, implements it, and moves forward. Some churches choose to ignore the report of an outsider. Here, though, are some characteristics of churches that do implement some of the suggestions – that is, of churches that are “teachable.” These same characteristics mark churches that are ready for revitalization.

  1. The senior leader is on board with the process from the beginning. When the pastor is supportive of the process – knowing that any evaluation of the church is also an evaluation of the pastor’s leadership – the church is much more likely to receive the report positively. I commend pastors who are willing to let outsiders look at their ministry.
  2. The church recognizes its need for assistance. They may not know the depth of their need, but they recognize they’ve reached a place of stagnation or division. We don’t typically need to convince these churches of their need.
  3. They put in place a revitalization prayer team. From the beginning of the discussions, they cover the process in prayer. They pray specifically for God to give wisdom to the outside team and to the church leaders. Moreover, they pray for the church to be willing to hear the ideas presented.
  4. Even when it’s difficult, they put their own ideas on the altar. Their thoughts and suggestions may prove right in the long run, but they’re willing to lay those aside during the process of evaluation. They do not worry about protecting their turf when the spread of the gospel is at stake.
  5. They involve many people in the analysis process. The more people involved in evaluating the church’s health, the less likely it is the report will be shelved. Too many ears are waiting to hear the findings to ignore them. Perhaps more importantly, the more people involved in the process, the more people who buy into the implementation.
  6. They are unafraid to look at numbers. Numbers do not tell the whole story of a church’s health, but they are indicative of underlying issues. Growth patterns, giving patterns, and community demographics do matter.  
  7. They begin to turn their focus outwardly. Often, the church is in trouble because they’ve been inwardly focused. Congregations that are most ready for consultation and revitalization begin to think differently. They begin to ask, “What do we need to do to reach the people who aren’t here?” rather than, “How do we make sure we don’t change too much?”
  8. They are open to hearing truth. It might be painful, but they want to hear it. They know they may have been ignoring reality for far too long. Even when they get defensive, they monitor each other and push for the truth.
  9. They believe in the gospel. Those churches most open to change genuinely believe that people who do not know Jesus personally are destined for eternal judgment. Lostness compels them to ask hard questions and make difficult decisions.
  10. They have a core group ready to work. They know the work is just beginning, and the tasks will fall on their shoulders. Some may not be fully on board, but a significant core group is ready to roll up their sleeves and get busy.

If you have worked with similar churches, what characteristics would you add? 

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