This article was first published in The Salvation Army Ontario Division’s quarterly newsletter,
Corps Mission Connect
In the book of John Chapter 15, the night before Jesus’ crucifixion, He commanded his disciples – including us – to bear fruit, much fruit, and fruit that lasts. We need to be increasingly fruitful, and fruitlessness has its penalties. We are to abide in Him if we are to accomplish this, and Natural Church Development (“NCD”) is dedicated to this mission.
Natural Church Development is a way of measuring the health or quality of a church. By using a carefully prepared questionnaire with 30 members of a church, the survey will determine the health of your church in eight critical areas called Quality Characteristics.
These 8 Quality Characteristics are universally used in building healthy churches:
Inspiring Worship Services
Holistic Small Groups
In the original research that resulted in the NCD Church Survey, the most significant finding was that the vital ingredient of each characteristic of quality was the adjective. For instance, take leadership: it was not visionary leadership, pastoral leadership, decisive leadership, or even strong leadership which was the chief contributor to long-term healthy growth but empowering leadership. That is, the principal contributor to healthy growth by leadership was the degree to which leaders empowered their people to keep growing toward greater spiritual maturity and contributing to Kingdom growth. The same is true for the other seven quality characteristics. No Quality Characteristics can be sacrificed if we are really concerned about reaching as many people as possible.
For the past year and a half, nearly forty (40) Salvation Army corps in Ontario have embarked on the NCD journey; close to half of that number have already conducted their first Survey. The first leg of the journey was a meeting with the NCD leadership team consisting of the Divisional Secretary of Corps Mission Resources, Major Chris Rideout and Bill Bickle, NCD Canadian National Partner. This year joining the team are Brian and Glenda Bishop, Division Corps Mission Consultants who are tasked with rolling out NCD across the Division.
The sample of people selected is sent Survey invitations to participate in the Health Survey by NCD consisting of 86 questions. Within two weeks when all the results are in, the
NCD Result Guides are produced. This suite of reports helps shed light on the results of the survey based on what the congregation members have said about their church in response to the questions. The responses provide insight into the areas of strength, and the areas most needing attention. NCD calls these the Maximum and Minimum Factors respectively.
Why is it important to identify the Minimum Factor?
Let me give you an analogy of the Minimum Factor. Imagine a barrel with eight staves, each representing the Eight Quality Characteristics. The staves in the barrel represent the scores of the Eight Quality Characteristics. With this analogy, you can only fill the barrel 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 the Minimum Factor does not mean that we don’t pay attention to the other seven areas. As stated before, all eight characteristics are vitally important to healthy growing churches. Focusing on the Minimum Factor helps us set timely priorities. Since all eight areas can’t be worked on with the same amount of energy and concentration, we need to find areas that will yield the greatest long-range return on our investments. As illustrated by the staves forming the barrel, only by addressing the health of the Minimum Factor can you bring changes to your church’s health. NCD has developed a change process that will assist you in developing relevant goals and a plan to see the health of your church increase.
To learn more about NCD, check out this video produced by Adam Johnstone, the NCD Australian National Partner who is also a Salvationist. It provides a great explanation of NCD in 5 minutes.