Growing numbers are learning about NCD, and qualifying as “consultants” to churches which want to learn from the process. Here one such consultant describes his own experience, and why he is enthusiastic about NCD.
I was preparing a course on ‘Church Growth’ for Taylor College when I first came across the Natural Church Development movement. My imagination was caught by the liberating idea that church growth is natural. The growth of a church is not dissimilar to the growth of other organisms. We do not cause growth, we only cooperate with God by providing conditions in which growth can occur.
So far, my experience is limited to working with two local Churches and teaching NCD in a classroom setting. At one church, St. James the Less in Renforth NB, we completed the first survey. St James is a growing church and the results confirmed this: most of the eight quality characteristics were well above 50 in the score. From the results, the Church decided that it would look at concentrating on ‘Holistic Small Groups’ in particular, but also to continue to develop other areas in order to score 65 or better in each category in future.
At Stone Church in St. John, we are almost ready to do our first survey. We have had a series of sermons on Schwarz’s Eight Quality Characteristics of a Growing Church, and there is a sense of anticipation building as we prepare to do the survey. Already there is a determination to improve whatever the minimum factor might be. This is a really helpful attitude as we begin to think about how we will raise our “lowest barrel stave.”
In presenting NCD in the classroom, however, I became enthused with another aspect of the program. It may not always be difficult to discover what is preventing a church from growing, but it is always a challenge to create a wholesome and effective way forward. Schwarz lays out what he has found to be the “Natural” principles of growing organisms. These then become a template for measuring any plan to address hindrances. NCD does not give ‘cookie cutter’ solutions. What the research has done is to identify the universal principles and help provide the framework in which these principles can be applied locally.
Most of us are not in the position of planting a church, or ministering in growing urban centres, where we can choose the model we want to apply. Instead, we are working in the context of a church and a community which has rich traditions. We cannot just impose a strategy, even if it has worked successfully in other situations. NCD provides a hopeful way forward in these settings.
As a result, I am pleased to have this as a tool in my classroom and I look forward to my post-classroom days when I can devote myself more fully to coaching local Churches in ‘Natural Church Development’.