In 2005, the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) approved “creating and sustaining healthy congregations” as a denominational priority for the decade ahead. The decision’s rationale, in part, was that achieving the long-term goal of transforming lives and communities worldwide was highly unlikely if local congregations were not healthy. Also undergirding this decision was a general concern that the health of a growing number of congregations was in question. Without congregational vitality, denominational vitality wanes.
Guided by biblical inquiry, denomination leaders identified 11 categories of congregational health and developed a set of defining characteristics for each one. With the areas of health for a congregation identified and defined, the next step was to figure out how to use them. It was decided to design a survey for assessing the health of congregations and to have this as a significant piece of a larger, congregational-wide conversation about what God is calling that congregation to be and to do, in effect to design an interactive discernment process for congregational use.
Recognizing that too often church planning processes have not been done thoroughly, and that it is difficult for congregations to follow through on what has been planned, it was also decided that the Healthy Church Discernment Process (HCDP) should be guided by trained church coaches. Several coaches from various regions throughout the United States and Canada have been trained in the Healthy Church process.In 2010 the HCDP was pilot tested in 10 churches, five in the United States and five in Canada. A thorough evaluation was completed and approval was granted to begin making Healthy Church available to congregations of the CRCNA. We are thankful that is appears to be a helpful process. By the end of 2017 more than sixty congregations throughout the United States and Canada have completed or were actively involved in HCDP. It continues to draw interest not only from other CRCNA congregations but from other fellowships as well.