How healthy is your parish? How can we realize our potential to grow? What are the barriers to growth?
“The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come” (Mark 4.26-29).
How do we measure the health of a church?
Natural Church Development (NCD) is a like an annual check-up on the health of a church. It has been used in over 50,000 churches on six continents. The NCD process focuses on eight quality characteristics of healthy, growing churches, allowing us to measure and then shape our ministry to improve our overall health. The following video provides more information about Natural Church Development:
What are the characteristics of a healthy, growing church?
According to research by Natural Church Development, there are eight quality characteristics in all healthy, growing churches, whatever culture surrounds them. Pay attention to the adjective for each one; that’s what really makes the difference.
1. Empowering Leadership
Leaders — clergy and laypeople — consider one of their most important roles is to equip, support, motivate and mentor individuals to become all that God wants them to be.
2. Gift-oriented Ministry
God has gifted every Christian with talents and abilities, and healthy churches help their members identify these gifts and integrate them into ministries that match their gifts.
3. Passionate Spirituality
Although passionate spirituality is expressed is widely different ways in different churches, healthy churches are full of people who live out their faith daily with commitment, fire and enthusiasm.
4. Functional Structures
The structures of the church serve as a means to an end, working to allow the work of the church to move forward.
5. Inspiring Worship
Different churches worship in different styles, but in healthy churches the worship service is an inspiring experience for those who attend.
6. Holistic Small Groups
In healthy churches, individuals find intimate community, practical help and spiritual interaction in small groups.
7. Need-Oriented Evangelism
Healthy churches share the gospel in a way that meets the needs of non-Christians, without being manipulative.
8. Loving Relationships
In healthy churches, members feel that they are loved and valued, and the churches tend to be characterized by laughter and joy.
The key to growth is the quality of the church, measured through each of these eight characteristics. This quality is the root, and quantity (increased church attendance) is the fruit.
The Minimum Factor
Imagine the life of the church as a wooden bucket, with each of these characteristic forming one of the vertical staves. As you can see, the height of the shortest stave will determine the total amount of water the bucket can hold. We are only as strong as our weakest link, only as healthy as our shortest stave.
We call the shortest characteristic the “minimum factor.” By focusing on measuring, and then improving the minimum factor, we will increase the health and capacity for growth.
“All-By-Itself” Growth and Natural Church Development
Even the youngest of our members knows what a houseplant needs to grow: soil, sun, water, and a big enough container to allow for growth. When we provide the right balance of these things, God causes the growth to occur; it happens “all by itself.” When a church has all of the eight quality characteristics in place, God causes growth in that church. It happens “all by itself.”
The theology behind this growth in Natural Church Development is simple. God wants the church to grow. God wants people to come to understand that God loves them, and God desires people to learn to exercise their faith in their daily lives, to be co-creators with God in the work of transforming this world into the kingdom of God.
What we have to do, to see this growth, is simple: we need to remove the obstacles that are in God’s way. The Natural Church Development process will allow us to identify the obstacles to growth, and gives us a process to help us develop plans to move them out of the way.
What are the benefits of Natural Church Development?
- It’s an objective, scientific tool that allows us to measure our performance in areas that are often difficult to measure.
- NCD is supported by trained facilitators from the Diocese of Toronto who will guide you through the process.
- Churches that participate in NCD show a consistent improvement in the eight quality characteristics of healthy congregations and an overall improvement in congregational health.
- The size of congregations participating in NCD increased by an average of 51% over the first 30 months of the program.
- “Transfer growth” (people who join from other churches) decreased in participating churches, while the percentage of “conversion growth” (people who have no previous Christian involvements) increased.
- The work load of participating parishioners, and especially of church leaders (lay and staff) decreased, as the church was able to focus its efforts on specific goals.
For more information, please contact Dave Krause, Congregational Development Consultant, 416-363-6021 ext. 207.