There are many websites dedicated to the pros and cons of Natural Church Development, the process of ‘doing church’ discovered and described by Christian Schwarz in his book: “Natural Church Development:A Guide to Eight Essential Qualities of Healthy Churches,” and the follow-up volume – “Color Your World with Natural Church Development.” The church process could be summarized as ‘principle-based’ – church built upon the unchanging and unchangeable principles that God has woven through His creation, including the church, and any other enterprise we may engage in.
Anyway, I thought I would add my perspective on Natural Church Development (NCD) and how I believe it might help your church.
The number one reason for churches to take the NCD Survey still is the assessment of their current church life. In other words, a local church wants to know how they as congregation are doing and what is taking place behind the scenes. Beyond just taking a snapshot of church life, many church leaders take the chance and begin to do what can be called church development: they guide their churches step by step through the NCD Cycle. What the cycle leads to in many cases is a church that improves its quality, becomes more attractive for visitors, and begins to grow again or grow more than before.
Another good reason for taking an NCD Survey is a change of pastors in a given congregation. The NCD Survey results will give the new pastor fairly quickly a reliable picture of what his new congregation is like. Even in difficult church situations where it is not possible to work through the NCD Cycle right away, the survey results will provide the new pastor with a valuable feedback on the situation of his new church.
A third field of application for NCD Surveys is the measurement of results or the evaluation of action steps taken in the past. The latter might be action steps taken in response to a particular NCD church profile or any other action steps taken along with their effects and side effects on church life. Here it’s important to note that you won’t be able to complete the NCD Cycle with just one survey. You always need at least two NCD Surveys if you want to check the fruit of your efforts.
In critical situations, the NCD Survey can be a helpful tool to do a “Check-up”. Regardless of whether you need to assess the effects of interpersonal conflict in your church or analyze blurred situations (e.g., many church members have been leaving the church and no one really knows why), the NCD Survey results will provide you with a better understanding.
Many churches (and even denominations) use the NCD Survey for benchmark analysis: They want to know how they compare to other churches within their country or on a worldwide scale. The leader of a particular church movement, for instance, wanted to know how the churches of his movement compare to other churches throughout the world with an average worship attendance of at least 1,000 people and an annual growth rate of 10 percent and more. In what areas are those churches doing better when compared to the ones in his movement? In what areas are they less developed? And what does all of that mean in terms of strategic planning?
Another good reason: A congregation wants to raise a building and reflects in advance – on the basis of its NCD Survey results – on the implications of their strong and weak points as well as their visions and dreams for the planning and management of the building project.
You can probably find this somewhere else on the web – if you really look; but it doesn’t hurt to put it out there again – and this is only a beginning.