Callahan, Twelve Keys to an Effective Church


Kennon Callahan, Twelve Keys to an Effective Church: Strong, Healthy Congregations Living in the Grace of God, 2nd Edition. Jossey-Bass, 2010.

Referenced in: Strategies for Congregational Renewal: Diagnostic/Prescriptive Summary

First published in 1983, Callahan’s guide is still one of the most widely recommended texts on church development. It is a highly practical planning model, written by one who is contagiously passionate about churches becoming more mission focused. The Twelve Keys approach emerged out of Callahan’s many years of experience as a church consultant, and has been both confirmed and refined through thousands of churches and fellow-consultants whom Callahan has trained through his organization, the Missional Leaders Network.

The essence of the Callahan approach is the actual twelve keys or characteristics of thriving churches, which are listed below:

Relational Characteristics – the sources of satisfaction in congregations:

  • Specific, concrete missional objectives
  • Pastoral and lay visitation
  • Corporate, dynamic worship
  • Significant relational groups
  • Strong leadership resources
  • Streamlined structure and solid, participatory decision making

Functional Characteristics – if these are not in place, are the source of dissatisfaction in churches:

  • Several competent programs and activities
  • Open accessibility
  • High visibility
  • Adequate parking, land, and landscaping
  • Adequate space and facilities
  • Solid financial resources

As one can see, this method assumes an established church seeking to increase its effectiveness. Churches may use Callahan’s assessment and planning tools to form a master long-range plan, and then continue with his materials to conduct periodic evaluations. He suggests a helpful rhythm that has given renewed life thousands of congregations: claiming current strengths, expanding some, and then adding others.

I find myself returning frequently to the Callahan approach, even if I do not always adopt the same twelve keys. This is for several reasons. One, Callahan is by far one of today’s most seasoned observers of church life, and is a highly sought-after church consultant and speaker. Dr. Callahan blends scholarship and experience into reflections that may be enjoyed by both scholar-practitioners and self-made ministers alike. His writings are a rich depository of congregational intelligence. Two, the hopeful, visionary, and challenging tone of his writings has a rare motivational quality that will inspire church leaders of all “stripes,” whether traditional, attractional (church growth), or missional. Those who look at keys such as “parking, land, and landscaping” and pull away thinking this is just another celebration of “bodies, buildings, and budgets” will miss out on the gems of church wisdom found only in Callahan. If Callahan addresses a topic, all church leaders need to hear him.

One of the greatest benefits of the Twelve Keys approach is that Callahan has authored several complementary volumes. Some of these are listed below.

**For a summary, click here for the Kindle Version, go to right column, and download the free sample. If you don’t have a free Kindle Reader on your computer, there’s a link for that too.

From the Publisher

A thoroughly revised and updated edition of one of the most trusted and authoritative strategic resources for church leaders

In this second edition of his groundbreaking book, Kennon Callahan identifies the twelve essential qualities of successful, growing churches and offers all congregations a way to unlock their potential for effective ministry. The Twelve Keys program balances practical planning with theological understanding to help churches function more effectively as they seek to grow and better serve their members.

  • Shows church leaders how to claim and expand upon their church’s strengths and become a mission growth congregation
  • Explores each of the twelve keys in depth, from mission to visitation to worship to relationships to programs to details of facilities maintenance
  • Based on a time-tested approach that has been used by hundreds of thousands of churches
  • Now incorporates the planning guide (previously a separate publication)

The book includes solid, practical guidelines and tools to help any church become a strong, healthy congregation.

About the Author

Kennon L. Callahan, B.A., M.Div., S.T.M., Ph.D. — researcher, professor, and pastor — is one of today’s most sought-after church consultants and speakers. Author of many books, he is best known for his groundbreaking Twelve Keys to an Effective Church, which has formed the basis for the widely acclaimed Mission Growth Movement.

Buy this book at US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain

***For additional information on this resource, including reviews, click the bookstore links. Check the reference at page top or the links below for resource guides on related topics.***


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