8 Signs of a Healthy Church and Healthy Leaders

Note from Floyd:  I found this article from churchplants.com to be very stimulating, so much so that I have added my own comments. Some leaders are not aware of what emotional health in their church family looks or feels like. Dysfunction is so common that most of us grow up "unhealthy" but don't know it. Perhaps reflecting on this article together with other leaders in your church will increase your desire and awareness of what it means to be an emotionally healthy church. It's been a life-long journey for me personally. Blessings, Floyd 8 Signs of an Emotionally Healthy New Church - from churchplants.com

By Paul Williams

Is the church you’re leading emotionally healthy? How do you tell if it is or isn’t? Is there a way to know if you’re on the path to good health or heading in the wrong direction? Discovering the answers to these questions is vital, especially for new churches.

For more than 65 years, the Orchard Group has planted churches. For many decades, the churches we planted were small and struggling. But over the last 15 years, our churches have grown quickly and thrived. People repeatedly ask what changed. My standard answer is to say that when you stick around long enough (I have been with the ministry for more than 30 years), God starts to feel sorry for you! In reality, we cannot pinpoint exactly what brought about our growth.

However, we are sure of one thing that has contributed to our turnaround. For 15 years, we simply have not hired a senior pastor unless we were convinced he or she was an excellent leader with the skills, wisdom and maturity to lead a great church. The older I get, the more I realize just how important emotional intelligence is to strong leadership.

In his book, Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue, author Edwin H. Friedman looks at the relational dynamics of family as a way of understanding the relational dynamics of a church family. He says the two hardest places to work in America are the family-owned business and the church. Chances are you’d probably agree.

Like families, all churches will have emotional processes they have to work through. Friedman writes that every church has “background radiation from the big bang of the congregation’s creation.” Discovering the source of that radiation and thoroughly dealing with it are critical to the ongoing health of your church. Consider what he identifies as eight signs of an emotionally healthy church (from a family dynamics perspective), and use these signs to honestly assess the deficits in your church family and what you as a leader can focus on to put your church on the path toward emotional health.

1. The church will be balanced between separateness and togetherness. 

It has differentiated itself and can say, “We are a part of the Southern Baptist Convention, but we are an independent church.” That kind of balance is rare in a new church. It’s more likely to happen in a healthy, growing church with strong leadership.

Floyd: A sure sign of emotional unhealthiness is identity confusion, i.e., when individuals and communities find their identity from being closely related to others. Symptoms: constant feelings of rejection, co-dependence, control and blame, insecurity. Unhealthy leaders are threatened by unhealthy followers and co-workers. Their identity is tied up in how "perfect" others perform. 

2. The church will show a connectedness across generations. 

Just 50 years ago, most churches were made up of multiple generations of people. Grandpa attended church with his granddaughter. In the megachurch age, that is less likely. In fact, many megachurches are generation-specific because the first generation of megachurches was populated primarily by Baby Boomers.

Newer churches tend to be focused on the Millennial Generation. It is rare to find a new church or megachurch that has successfully attracted multiple generations. This is one area of church stability not likely to change in the near future.

Floyd: multi-generational connectedness can happen via smaller units of aged based communities within the larger community...but there must be bridges that unite and build the connection. The bridges are common activities that unite everyone in the community. 

3. A healthy new church will have both volunteer leaders and professional leaders who show little enmeshment or fusion (the tendency to engage in overly involved, overly close emotional relationships).

The leaders know their issues, both personally and in the congregational environment. They might say, “We are all crazy around here. Most of the time we recognize it.”

Floyd: healthy self-awareness helps prevent enmeshment and fusion. Such awareness comes from humility and learning from life experiences, teachableness, good mentoring/discipling, and asking the Holy Spirit for correction. 

4. The church will also create a grace-filled environment.

This is appropriate in an age in which people are often converted to community before they are converted to Christ. There will be respect and support for those with different values and feelings, and the congregation will be aware of both the inside and outside influences on the church family as a whole. 

Floyd: welcoming pre-believers into the life of the community of faith requires both courage and clear conviction of core beliefs. One without the other will lead to compromise or confusion, or both.

5. Healthy new churches will also avoid triangulation at all levels.

Any two people will not feel the need to pull a third into a conversation. If triangulation is resisted at the staff and volunteer leadership levels, it will be modeled to the entire congregation. Nevertheless when people are involved, you’ll always find attempts at triangulation. The key is to confront it, and avoid being drawn into it.

Floyd: stated more simply, triangulation is the process of involving third parties in conflicts through gossip and manipulation. “Triangulation” is most commonly used to describe a situation in which one family member will not communicate directly with another family member, but will communicate with a third family member, which can lead to the third family member becoming part of the triangle. It is a term used to describe what happens in dysfunctional families, as well as work and church parties in conflict.

Triangulation can describe family members playing others off against each other, thus “splitting” the relationships. This is playing the two people against each other, but usually the person doing the splitting does so through gossip and character assassination.

6. In a healthy church family, there will be room for people to experience pain without the leaders of the church rushing in to save them. 

They will recognize that faith has seasons, or stages. Some people are in the stage in which they need rules, regulations and tight boundaries.

Others may be in a place of questioning, where they need room to move back and forth across the threshold of faith. Still, others have a mature faith that is far beyond focusing tightly on rules and regulations. All have to live under one roof. Leaders who are sensitive to this will walk the fine line between rigidity and chaos.

Floyd: People with pain don’t need someone to “fix” them. Those who constantly find fulfillment from “fixing people” may have an unhealthy need to “rescue” others. The need to rescue others demonstrates a lack of healthy boundaries in one’s own personality, and an inability to distinguish between being responsible “to” people and responsible “for” people.

Healthy church communities allow room for people be at differently places in their healing journey, and are not embarrassed by those in their midst with “problems”, whether emotional, moral or spiritual in nature. People in their church with “problems” intimidate unhealthy leaders - they believe it reflects poorly on their leadership.

"Pain" in a person's life must be confronted if it spills over into the community and causes deception, division, or damage to other members of the community. 

7. Healthy churches will believe in their church family and see its positives. 

They might say, “Of course we are messed up. But on our better days, we manage to reflect the image of Jesus, at least a little bit.” As a congregation, church leaders will understand what they are good at and where their weaknesses lie. They will maintain a healthy level of objectivity about the church they serve.

Floyd: healthy leaders focus on the strengths of others, not weaknesses. They create an atmosphere of appreciation and encouragement. Unhealthy leaders feel compulsion to correct and control the behavior and even the beliefs of others.

8. Finally, a healthy congregation will have members who utilize each other for genuine feedback, not as crutches.

In a church where the leaders are well differentiated (our ability to be objective and separate our feelings and thoughts from the environment that shaped us), genuine feedback is far more likely than in a church where too many enmeshments have occurred.

The lack of genuine feedback has been the downfall of many a charismatic church pastor. Every leadership team needs to have the strength to be honest and open with those in the highest positions of influence.

Floyd: all leaders struggle with criticism, and local churches seem to have more than their fair share of it. Yet those who are secure welcome both positive and negative feedback (as long as it is not deceptive, divisive, or damaging). Feedback is essential to create a learning, growing community. One mentor said to me, “Experience is not the best teacher, but evaluated experience is”.


I urge you to spend some time studying these eight signs both by yourself and with your leadership or launch team. How does your church fare? What can you do to improve in two or three of these areas? Start making a plan to improve. Paul Williams is the chairman of church planting organization Orchard Group, Inc., which has planted more than 70 churches, primarily in New York and the Northeast. He has served with the ministry since 1979 and during that time Orchard’s new churches have grown from an average of 50 at five years of age to an average of 500 at five years of age. Paul is editor-at-large and a weekly columnist with Christian Standard magazine, and serves as preaching associate at LifeBridge Christian Church in Longmont, Colo., and Christ’s Church of the Valley in Philadelphia.


Complicity and Confrontation

Note: These are notes from the first gathering of the Young Leaders Forum. I meet regularly with emerging African leaders to encourage them and pass on lessons learned over a lifetime. Each time we meet we focus on one biblical character, and from their life learn a competency related to some aspect of godly character. Floyd


Complicity and Confrontation – 1 Samuel 2:12 – 3:14

“Do not share in other people’s sins...” 1 Timothy 5:22

Corruption and Compromise - Whenever corruption and compromise takes place, the spotlight should be on the one who committed the sin, the perpetrator.

Complicity is the sin of hiding people’s sins.

But that can be a distraction from another sin, that of complicity on the part of those who knew about the sin and were silent. To be silent when knowing about sin is agreement with that sin.

Not so obvious is the sin of leaders in the background who know about the corruption and compromise, and are silent. There are those in the foreground, whose sin is seen, and those in the background, whose sin is not seen, but is just a great an act of irresponsibility.

It was once said, “The despicable conduct of those in the foreground is not possible apart from the irresponsibility of the leaders in the background...”

Silent PerpetratorsThose who are fearful of being rejected, who are filled with indecisiveness, concerned about their image, lacking in love for their leader or friend, clinging to the safety of being inconspicuous, saying little or nothing, turning a blind eye, claiming busyness, rationalizing responsibility, are guilty of anemic spirit; these are the leaders and friends who fear man more than God, who are prisoners not leaders, and cowards not true compatriots.

The biblical figure who was guilty of the sin of complicity is Eli the High Priest (I Samuels 2: 12-35; 3: 11-14).

Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinebas, were priests under Eli’s leadership. They ate meat that was to be offered for sacrifices and seduced young women who assisted at the tabernacle. The New Living Translation calls them scoundrels. As an old man, Eli did confront his sons on one occasion. However, it was weak and half-hearted, and therefore ineffective. He did not stop their blasphemy. He covered it up. Despite his age, Eli still had responsibility. In fact, God repeatedly warned Eli to discipline his sons (I Samuel 3:13). Under the authority of God, Eli could have dismissed his sons from priesthood. He did not. Eli could have cut them off from the community (Numbers 15: 30). He did not. Therefore, God harshly judged Eli, making good on the promise to bring an early death to Eli’s sons and the rest of his family as well as cut his family off from the line of priests.

When things go wrong publicly with a leader, look beyond the public to the private. No man or woman who sins publicly is without a private world of family and friends and fellow leaders. Who knew and did not speak up? Who spoke up but did not follow up? Who followed up but did not speak up?

What roles do leaders and leaders of leaders and family and friends of leaders play in corruption, compromise, and cowardice? We cannot claim culture when God says it is compromise.

Complicity – participation in wrong-doing. Complicity comes from the word accomplice, meaning an associate, an ally, to wrap or fold together. An accomplice is a person who helps another person commit a crime.

Complicity is the result of the fear of man. It is caused by a lack of the fear of God. It is the sin of negligence. It is to cover up, to conceal, to deny, minimizing, or otherwise failing to challenge or expose wrongdoing. Silence about the sin of a friend or family member or another leader is not love, it is cowardice.

Every leader has a choice: you can obey your culture or obey Christ. Christ or culture, who will you follow? Who will you obey?

Skill of confrontation – what should one do when a friend, a follower, a family member, or fellow leader sins?

  1. Pray for true love, for wisdom, and for courage and strength to do the right thing with the right attitude of heart and mind. 1 Timothy 2:2, “pray for those in authority”.
  1. Go to the person alone. Ask questions - don’t make accusations. Speak with respect not anger. You are not responsible for their actions; you are responsible for your actions. Do not be drawn into an argument, do not be swayed by emotions.    1 Timothy 4:12, “let no man despise your youth... but be an example”


  1. Take time for discernment – an “injury time out” of a few hours or if needed, for a few days, to reflect, to discern, and to seek God’s wisdom and guidance.


  1. Go with another person who has witnessed the same situation. Give the guilty person the opportunity to confess their sin himself or herself. Wait a few hours, not days or weeks or months to hear their response. 1 Timothy 5:1 “do not rebuke an older man, but speak to him as a father”


  1. Offer to go with them to confess their sin to their leaders.


  1. Go to the proper authority to report the sin If they don’t confess their sins openly to their leaders. Go with tears, not tantrums. 1 Timothy 1:8, “lifting up holy hands, without wrath...”


“If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words...he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which comes envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth...from such men withdraw yourself.”

Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts, which drown men in perdition and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, for some have strayed the faith in their greediness, and pierce themselves through with many sorrows...”

Flee these things... fight the good fight of faith... keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing...

Command the rich not to be haughty nor to trust in uncertain riches, but to trust in the living God, who gives us all things to enjoy...” 1 Timothy 6:3-19

See also 2 Timothy 2:14-18...

“A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God will perhaps grant them repentance, so they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will...” 2 Timothy 2:24-26













This article was adapted from other articles and sources, which have been lost. To my regret, I cannot attribute proper credit where it is due. Floyd McCLung



Samuel Style Leadership Versus the Saul Style of Autocratic Leadership

A lot of people have written to me in the last few days asking me to share more about the Saul Syndrome. Rather than focus on a negative leadership style, I would prefer to share about the positive strengths, the life-giving strengths, of Samuel's leadership, and in the days and weeks to come, I will write and podcast more about David's leadership. I have learned a lot about the strengths of Samuel in his interactions with Saul and David in first seventeen chapters of 1 Samuel. Below are some of those qualities, what I am calling the "Samuel Style" of leading. Samuel was a man trained in God's School of Leadership. He was a man who responded early to the voice of God - and he not only obeyed God, but he internalized that obedience into an inner security and confidence that allowed him to lead in a godly, confident, strong style of leadership.

1 and 2 Samuel is about leadership.... and 1 Samuel 17 is a unique and special chapter about leadership. David followed in the footsteps of Samuel...he followed in the footsteps of his mentor, in the “Samuel Style” of proactive leadership. The “Samuel Style” of leadership teaches us that leadership is primarily a mindset, an attitude, a healthy self-confidence that is imparted to others. People can hold a leadership position, but without this mindset, a person becomes a keeper of the prison walls, not an innovator and creator and liberator with God.

The Samuel Style type of leader is someone who has clarity about his or her own God given life purpose and goals, and therefore, someone who doesn’t become confused or lost in the emotions of others swirling about them. The Samuel Style leader is a person who can separate from others while remaining connected to them, they have their own identity but can connect to the hearts of other people by respecting them, engaging with them in healthy debate, loving them, and seeing their strengths – as well as their weaknesses. Samuel Style leaders build bridges of loving respect between themselves and other people.

A Samuel Style leader has a healthy self-confidence in the sense that they know who they are and what they want to do in life. That enables them to maintain a Godly, emotionally healthy perspective on what God is up to in their nation, their culture, their city or neighborhood, their church and their work or family. They don’t get thrown off-balance by the emotional issues of others, including those who are corrupt or violent or victims. They are able to manage well their own responses to the responses and reactions of people. Therefore, they are able to take stands at the risk of displeasing others without becoming manipulative. No one does this easily, but most leaders who are healthy, inspiring leaders ...do this ...and continually improve their capacity to do it.

When a self-directed, initiative taking, imaginative person is consistently being frustrated and sabotaged by others around them, like Saul did to David, we can be sure they are surrounded by Saul-Syndrome people who are highly anxious risk-avoiders. They are fearful, insecure, reactive, and anxious. These are persons who are more concerned with good feelings than progress and breakthroughs...they hold others hostage by the “victim” mentality of their culture, often because they themselves are being held-hostage by victims.

David was a man who was not a prisoner or victim of the armies raging against his nation, nor was he a prisoner of other people’s insecurities and relational issues, nor of the giant who was defying him and his people. He was not held hostage by the overpowering presence of fearful leadership modeled by Saul. David was a leader, a confident, imaginative person who followed the example of Samuel.

Samuel Style Leaders:

1. Confident in themselves – they know their own goals and purpose

2. Permission giving to others

3. Values based – Samuel style leaders don’t rely on rules and policies but values and relationships, they don’t try to control behavior but teach values behind behavior

4. Positive and encouraging - Samuel style leaders see the potential in others, like a young David, people that others overlook

5. Lead by an inner sense of what God is saying to them – and encourage others to hear God for themselves as well

6. Not sabotaged by the relational issues of other people – they carry on obeying God and pursuing the goals they have in life and don't let the emotional swirl of unhealthy relationships around them undermine them

7. They don’t make the problems of others their problems, and they don’t allow others to make their personal problems their problems

8. They take responsibility for themselves and allow others to do the same Samuel learned his style leadership even though God placed him under Eli, a weak and ungodly older leader. Samuel learned true submission, not the doormat kind of doing anything a leader asks of you without thinking for yourself.

Godly submission is an attitude of respect, honor and willingness to serve another person. SUBMISSION IS NOT being CONTROLLED, but submission doesn’t have good fruit in our lives until we can obey leaders when we disagree with them, without making a big fuss about it.

Healthy submission allows us to connect to the heart a leader and follow what they ask of us out of respect for them. Submission is not blind obedience, but an attitude of honor and respect. With this kind of submission, you can submissive, or what God has called you to do.

If a leader is an autocratic, controlling leader, at some point, God frees us from that leader, like God freed Samuel from Eli and freed David from Saul. We can tell the difference between godly, strong willed, assertive leaders like David and Samuel, and a controlling, autocratic leader like Saul, by contrasting the lives of Samuel and Saul, or contrasting the leadership style of Saul and David. Just because a leader is assertive and strong willed does not mean they are controlling.

Both Samuel and David were strong leaders who expected submission, but they were not controlling leaders. The qualities of a Samuel Style leader I describe above will help you set goals for yourself for being a healthy, confident, godly leader, and not a controlling leader. Being secure in who you are in Christ is the most important thing you can do to be that kind of leader.