Growing Healthy Churches with Natural Church Development
By Jeannette Buller Slater
Several years ago in a land far away (Germany) there lived a man named Christian Schwarz. Christian was a dedicated Christian who had gone to the best schools, and was absolutely committed to seeing the church reach her full potential in Christ. He decided to travel the globe to discover what really made churches healthy. Although many church growth studies focused on quantity (what made churches big), Christian decided to focus on quality. Many people doubted that he could objectively determine quality in a church. But feeling called of God, he set forth.
Christian studied big church and small churches, he studied growing churches stagnant churches and dieing churches, he studied healthy churches and unhealthy churches. After studying 1000 churches on 5 continents, in 32 countries and in 18 different languages, Christian evaluated the 4.2 million pieces of data he had collected. What he discovered was ground breaking!
Christian discovered that of all the factors that make up a healthy church, there were eight essential quality characteristics. Each of the eight had to be present for a church to be healthy. Furthermore he discovered that the eight could be objectively measured with a carefully prepared survey which could give a church a numerical score indicating the health of that characteristic (relative to all the other churches in a particular country/language). These eight essential quality characteristics are:
· Empowering Leadership
· Gift-oriented Ministry
· Passionate Spirituality
· Functional Structures
· Inspiring Worship Services
· Holistic Small Groups
· Need-oriented Evangelism
· Loving Relationships
The key in each quality characteristic is the adjective: empowering, gift-oriented, passionate, functional, etc. Every church has some sort of leadership or worship or structure. Not all exemplify the adjective at the front of each of these quality characteristics.
One question Christian wanted to answer was “What is the relationship between health in the church and growth of a church?” What he discovered was that churches that are healthy are also growing churches (but growing churches are not necessarily healthy!)
So how can the discoveries of Natural Church Development help your church become healthier? Taking the NCD survey will not make your church healthy but it will show you where to apply your energy to get the maximum results. As you view your results you will see that one characteristic will be the lowest. This is called your minimum factor.
Imagine a barrel with eight staves, each representing one of the eight quality characteristics. The staves of the barrel each reach only as high as the score of that characteristic. With this analogy, you can only fill the barrel with ‘healthy water’ to the level of the lowest stave. So to increase the capacity of the barrel, we must increase the height of the lowest stave.
Focusing on your church’s minimum factor helps you to set timely priorities. Since all eight areas can’t be worked on with the same amount of energy and concentration, focusing on your minimum factor will yield the greatest long-range return on your investments.
NCD is not a program to institute in your church. It is a process which can help your church improve in quality to become a healthy church. A coach can help you learn more about the quality characteristics and how to develop a plan to improve your minimum factor and the health of your church.
God is using Natural Church Development in churches around the world to increase the quality of churches so that churches can more fully participate in the vision and call of the Kingdom for the glory of God.
Free NCD Tool
Download the NCD Worksheet to help you make an initial subjective evaluation of the health of your church.
Jeannette Buller Slater is a certified NCD coach and coach trainer. She offers executive coaching for pastors and church planters through www.CoachingPastors.com