How does NCD work out in the life of a local parish? One priest writes about the exciting experience of leading her parish through the NCD process.
Some years ago, I had acquired a video of a conference held by Christian Schwarz. Our vestry then had viewed the video and responded lukewarmly. In early 2002, the new Vestry viewed it. As I was mentally preparing to return the video to its now dusty case, a voice erupted. Perhaps the image of the horses pulling a wagon fitted with square tires was too much for the farmer whose voice broke the silence: “So what do we do next?”
It was the spark we needed. Within a few weeks we had begun the process of Natural Church Development, the most simple and yet effective means of achieving church growth I have encountered, affecting the whole of church life and challenging our very reason for being. I have taped one of the NCD principles on my study wall: “Growth depends not on what we do, but on identifying obstacles to what God wants to do.”
Thirty members of the parish were brought together, the survey administered–and we waited anxiously for the results. Our highest score, we learned, was loving relationships–which came as no surprise to any of us. Lowest was “passionate spirituality.” No scores were outside normal parameters. Since NCD focuses on using strengths to build up weaknesses, our top-scoring characteristic of “loving relationships” was perfect for guiding us through the remainder of the process.
Most exciting for me and for many involved in this process has been the “proof of the pudding.” It works! As we have gone through the principles and processes outlined in NCD, we have been encouraged and excited that much of what is taught has already begun in St. Paul’s. God was already ahead of us. For example, home fellowships had already been identified as desirable, and a training program was in the process of development–the beginning of an answer to our lack of “passionate spirituality.” Our prayer life has increased dramatically, which has given birth to two 24-hour vigils, the first for the healing of the land and an end to drought in our area, and the second for peace.
In the past year we have experienced only minimal growth in numbers. The real miracle is in the quality of growth. As the people of St. Paul’s have witnessed more and more of God’s grace, experienced His love and miracles of all sizes, the greater their faith has grown. They have been encouraged to risk, and have begun to disciple others in a very natural way. We are now in a position to re-visit our mission statement, to articulate a real vision for the parish, and to develop goals and objectives by which to make this vision a reality using methods that are natural, proven, and very obviously blessed by God. We have come a long way, and expect that to be borne out by our next survey, scheduled for the Easter season.