Natural Church Development (NCD) has quietly become a worldwide movement that is helping churches improve their health and is drawing people closer to God. We have chosen to include this process of evaluating church health as a priority where it serves as a cornerstone of measuring the vitality and effectiveness of the churches in the North Georgia Conference.
A series of research projects from 1986 to 1995 finally culminated in a highly reliable scientific study of over 1000 churches in 32 countries and led to the publication of Natural Church Development: A Guide to Eight Essential qualities of Healthy Churches by Christian Schwarz.
The eight quality characteristics identified are:
1. Empowering Leadership
2. Gift-based Ministry
3. Passionate Spirituality
4. Effective Structures
5. Inspiring Worship Service
6. Holistic Small groups
7. Need-oriented Evangelism
8. Loving Relationships
A survey was developed to be completed by the pastor and 30 key laypersons. This survey helps churches identify their strengths (maximum factors) and weaknesses (minimum factors). Unique to the NCD process is the teaching that the minimum factor is the strategic point of leverage and, when addressed, significantly improves the overall health of the church.
Also introduced were six growth forces that supported this new paradigm for the church and encouraged the development of a church health team to oversee the process in the church. A coach is assigned to come alongside churches engaging in the process to assist churches in attaining greater health.
The growth forces were identified as:
3. Energy Transformation
Now that more than 45,000 churches from over 70 different countries have applied these principles, the following results have been observed:
85 percent of the churches completing three or more cycles of NCD (usually over a span of two to two-and-a-half years) have experienced increases in both the quality of their effectiveness and the quantity of people participating in worship.
The average quality in these churches (measured by an index level for each of the eight quality characteristics) has increased by six points over an average of a 31 month period
Their growth rate increased by 51%. In other words, if the church had been growing by ten people per year before beginning the process, that number would now increase to 15 people per year.
Churches working with an outside coach have experienced even greater improvements.
These results do not represent a few select success stories. Rather, these are the average results of all the churches that have completed three or more surveys. This includes those who have experienced overwhelming success as well as those who have struggled or failed.