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Natural Church Development

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:

Empowering Leadership

Gift-based Ministry

Passionate Spirituality

Effective Structures

Inspiring Worship Ser­vices

Holistic Small Groups

Need-oriented Evangelism

Loving Relationships

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.

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