NCD to Navigate Church Growth

Author: Gary Ricci, MSC Church Strengthening Regional Director

The Problem

How do you decide what will help your church grow? Should we hire a worship director or invest in small group leaders? Are the systems of our church getting in the way of growth and need to be overhauled, or should we focus on a new outreach strategy for our community? Every church desiring to live out the Great Commision faces these challenges. One tool that my church and countless others have used to help navigate these questions is Natural Church Development or NCD.

The Basics

Natural Church Development, pioneered by Christian Schwarz, represents a holistic approach to church growth and health. At its core is the understanding that healthy churches are characterized by balance across eight key quality characteristics: empowering leadership, gift-oriented ministry, passionate spirituality, functional structures, inspiring worship services, holistic small groups, need-oriented evangelism, and loving relationships.

NCD surveys serve as diagnostic tools designed to measure these eight quality characteristics within a congregation. Congregants respond to a series of questions related to these aspects, providing quantitative data that offers insights into the church’s strengths and areas needing improvement. This data-driven approach empowers church leaders with valuable information to make informed decisions and implement targeted strategies for growth. Utilizing NCD every 1-2 years helps a church track its progress over a large course of time to see long-term trends and discover strategies that are not slaves to ministry trends or short-term crises.

Benefits of NCD

Identifying Strengths and Weakness: NCD surveys provide churches with a comprehensive assessment of their health, enabling leaders to identify areas of strength that can be leveraged for further growth, as well as weaknesses that require attention. This clarity helps prioritize efforts and resources effectively.

Fostering Unity and Engagement: Involving congregants in the survey process fosters a sense of ownership and unity within the church community. When individuals see their voices heard and their feedback valued, they become more engaged in the collective journey towards improvement.

Strategic Decision Making: Armed with data from NCD surveys, church leaders can make strategic decisions aligned with the congregation’s needs and aspirations. Whether it’s restructuring ministries, refining worship experiences, or enhancing small group dynamics, decisions are grounded in empirical insights rather than conjecture.

Catalyzing Growth: By addressing areas of weakness identified through NCD surveys, churches can overcome barriers to growth and vitality. Whether it involves nurturing leadership, fostering spiritual depth, or enhancing outreach efforts, targeted interventions can lead to transformative growth experiences for both individuals and the congregation as a whole.

Enhancing Accountability and Follow-up: Regularly conducting NCD surveys creates a culture of accountability within the church. It encourages ongoing reflection and follow-up actions to track progress and ensure that efforts to improve are sustained over time.

Aligning with Biblical Principles: The framework of NCD surveys aligns with biblical principles of church health and growth. By focusing on aspects such as empowering leadership, spiritual fervor, and community engagement, churches can fulfill their mandate to be vibrant, impactful communities of faith.

Case Study

In a recent NCD Survey I was involved in, the church discovered a weakness in its outreach effectiveness which NCD calls need oriented evangelism. They were engaged in outreach activities but not in a way their community responded to. The NCD gave the leadership some common language about the problem and allowed them to talk about it in non-accusatory ways. Everyone knew there was an issue but they hadn’t been able to talk about it openly. During our coaching session and the follow-up meetings, we brainstormed new approaches the church was excited to engage. Just a few months later they started to see new fruit of those efforts which brought a great excitement, renewed engagement and hope to the church.

The Process

If your church is interested in NCD simply complete this interest form, and we will connect you with a member of our staff to walk you through the process. Surveys can be completed on paper or digitally and are available in English and Spanish. Your church will need to gather 30 core congregants to take the survey, often at a pre- or post-service gathering or mid-week evening gathering. A short time later the church will receive the results and a member of our staff will meet with the pastor(s) and selected leaders to understand the results and walk through a follow-up/implementation plan. If you sign-up now through the end of May, you will receive our Church Health Month promo rate of $300.

As each one of us endeavors to lead our churches to greater kingdom effectiveness do not forget that you are not alone! We are here to join with you and support you at every step. We are Better Together!