My name is Gary Ricci and I am the pastor of New Hope Christian Community Church. Our church was planted in 2009 in Round Lake, Illinois. I was the associate pastor of another church in a nearby town but often came into Round Lake. At the time, Round Lake had 50,000 people, no churches, and was a working middle-class city with a strong Latino presence. God called my family to serve there, and after the assessment and fundraising process, we launched in October 2009. The church has been focused on reaching our diverse community, serving the felt needs of our neighbors, and raising leaders to reach towns like ours. We have since grown to a substantial size, own a building in the heart of town, and are involved in various church planting efforts and mission works. I am the original church planter, currently serving in my 13th year as senior pastor.
Our church recently conducted an NCD (Natural Church Development), an assessment of your church’s health based on an international study of 1,000 churches in 32 countries that discovered principles of church health that are universally valid across cultures. The research findings confirmed eight quality characteristics, or eight systems, that keep a church engaged in God’s mission in a healthy manner. We felt that an NCD would be beneficial because we had hit a stopping place in our growth and were struggling to figure out our next steps in hiring and strategy. It was recommended to us by Converge. I had read the book about NCD and was somewhat familiar with it from my previous church.
The first NCD we did showed us that we lacked effective structures. At that point, we were 18 months old and had grown from our 30-person launch team to a group of about 120. Our systems of communication, pastoral care, and finances were particularly stretched. This led to us hiring our first administrator and developing a more cohesive financial team. It also gave me back 10-15 hours a week to focus on outreach and discipleship. Within six months, our church started to grow again. Two years later, we repeated the NCD process, which led to us hiring a worship director and a full-time administrator. Each cycle removed a blockade for growth for us and we grew from 120 to over 350. Our decision to conduct an NCD was worth it, not just because of the successful changes we made, but the confidence it gave us in our decision making. We now knew why we were making the choices we were making. We also learned that we can’t grow deeper or numerically without taking an honest look at how we function. We discovered that there were many “unspoken” things we were all thinking that needed to come to light in order for us to change them.
I would encourage other churches to participate in an NCD because it reflects the truth about what’s happening in your church in areas you might be blind to because of familiarity or history. NCD puts these issues on the table and gives you the language to talk about them and the confidence to take the next steps. I don’t know a church that wouldn’t benefit from it. Churches that take NCD need to remember that it is not a judgment of your church but simply information to help you as you seek God.
You can find out more about Natural Church Development or register for one here.