Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Natural Church Development and Christian Schwarz: An Overview of the Principles, Tools and Teachings of NCD

What is Natural Church Development (NCD)? NCD is an approach to the Christian life, a way of exploring biblical principles and church growth that was developed by sophisticated and extensive research of churches around the world. It is about growing healthy churches. Here is an overview of Christian Schwarz's Natural Church Development.

The 5 Basic Components of Natural Church Development
  1. The 8 Quality Characteristics (the 'muscles' of NCD)
  2. The 6 Growth Forces (the 'blood' of NCD)
  3. Trinitarian Compass (the 'heart' of NCD)
  4. Minimum Factor (the 'eyes' of NCD)
  5. NCD tools (the 'hands' of NCD)
 1. The 8 Quality Characteristics

These 8 characteristics, Christian Schwarz says are the key to church growth. The concept is simple: If the local church is expressing these 8 quality characteristics in a healthy manner, then statistically and most probably your church will grow. The church can not help but grow when the church, as a living organism, is healthy. The 8 quality characteristics are: Empowering leadership, gift-based ministry, passionate spirituality, effective structures, inspiring worship, holistic small groups, need-oriented evangelism and loving relationships. You will notice the adjective before each noun, that stresses the fact that leadership, for instance, needs to be empowering, worship must be inspiring and relationships must be loving. These 8 quality characteristics sum up, for the most part the foundation of a healthy church. Arguably, the NCD teaching does not overtly mention the work of justice; of offering a cup of cold water in Jesus name, what some might label 'social justice'. This in my opinion is a theological let down from the whole teaching, but there are many great things to glean about the local church from these 8 characteristics, nonetheless.

How this Natural Church Development foundation makes its mark on the local church, is by the local church completing an NCD survey, amongst atleast 30 participants, which provides a snapshot of the health of that church. The NCD survey provides an interesting look at where the local church stands in terms of each of the above mentioned quality characteristics. From a church I used to minister in, the church scored great on 'loving relationships' and 'passionate spirituality' but scored very low on effective structures. It was clear to the church, that for this church to become a healthy church, it needed to look at its leadership structures, its building limitations and its capacity to embrace future growth. If you are looking to grow a healthy church, then maybe completing the NCD survey provided by Christian Schwarz will help your local church. Here are some links for you:
2. The 6 Growth Forces

"Human growth principles can bring about results: success in business, economic improvement, even church growth. However, the problem with many of these human concepts is that there is no inherent sustainable power behind them. They depend on great amounts of outside energy, and once that energy is reduced, everything collapses. What a contrast to the dynamics that we observe in God's creation, where the following principles is at work: Remove the barriers and growth takes place 'all by itself'. It is not a human responsibility to energize the church. God takes care of that." - Color Your World with Natural Church Development: Christian Schwarz (: 81).

The six growth forces (previously called 'biotic principles'), are forces that bring about the growth of healthy churches by releasing 'all by itself' kind of growth. Think of a leaf that protrudes out from the branch of a tree. People can water the tree, and fertilise the tree and ultimately care for the tree, but the person doing the caretaking, is not 'growing' the lead per se. They are merely helping to facilitate growth. These growth forces, are related to biology and ecology, and are needed in growing healthy churches.
  1. Interdependence - "How does this decision affect other areas of life?"
  2. Multiplication - "Does this decision help facilitate multiplication or merely addition?"
  3. Energy Transformation - "Does this make best use of the resources in the environment?"
  4. Sustainability - "Do the results of this decision allow there to be internal sustainability?"
  5. Symbiosis - "Does this decision foster fruitful co-operation between different resources/activities?"
  6. Fruitfulness - "Does this decision provide tangible, visible fruit for the Kingdom of God?"
They are important growth forces to understand. Take for instance, the starting of a new Kid's Club on a Wednesday night in your church. Everything is ready to go, and everyone is excited to volunteer and participate. Six months into the program, you realise the need for quality children's resources. Now instead of buying new resources, you think about symbiosis, and you discuss with the Youth Group about sharing and utilising some of their resources (this in turn saves you $500 from new board games, gaming machines, etc). As you reflect, one of the set backs of the program is that you are now having less people attend Sunday afternoons to your kid's discipleship program (an issue of multiplication). You also question whether the intended program is achieving the goals in which it first intended (fruitfulness). This simple example, shows you that even just briefly considering these 6 growth forces, helps you examine whether particular programs and ideas should be implimented in the local church, and whether in fact it will help or hinder the growing of healthy churches.

3. Trinitarian Compass

Natural Church Development have developed the Trinitarian Compass. Now, the Trinitarian Compass is about helping Christians have a holistic worldview, to theology, church growth, expression of mission, etc. Have a look at the picture. The green section represents the reflective side of us; that intentional side of us that embraces social justice and tolerance, and reflects on the importance of God's creation - the world. The red section represents our proactive side; our tendency to focus on evangelism and discipleship, and the importance of the Word of God. The blue section of the Trinitarian Compass is that pentecostal leaning towards the work of the Spirit, the power of the Spirit and the focus on emotional health and spiritual power. The Trinitarian Compass helps us to grasp a balanced, trinitarian approach to our faith, and the challenge is to passionately live out ALL three sections of the this compass. We are called as followers of Christ, to fully embrace the work and ministry of the Spirit, to fully engage with the Word of God, and the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We are also called to recognise God's omnipotence in creation and his work and mission in today's world. Fully embrace the Trinitarian Compass - or rather, fully embrace God as Creator, Saviour and Spirit! 

4.  Minimum Factor

This part of Natural Church Development relates to the 8 quality characteristics previously mentioned. When a NCD survey is completed (see link above to NCD Australia for more details), the survey reveals the results on a bar graph. The lowest of these 8 characteristics, is called the 'minimum factor'. The Natural Church Development teaching encourages churches to work on their minimum factor as a priority to help provide an environment for a church that grows all by itself. So, for example, if after completing the NCD survey, the results show empowering leadership to be the lowest within the church, then the following might happen. The pastor/leader of the church might consider their own leadership styles, or their capacity to lead, and find areas in which to change. There might be an opportunity to invest in church leaders more intentionally, and a possibly answer might be to implement a leadership mentoring process for leaders in the church. While some literature will say, 'Focus on your strengths', NCD, interestingly says the opposite. They believe, (and can statistically prove this), that by improving the overall 8 characteristics, the church will grow, and it will grow all by itself.

5. The NCD tools

For NCD tools, you can check out the NCD International Page here. Additional tools and helpful resources for growing healthy churches, can be found by searching for NCD national partners, for example, NCD Australia, NCD New Zealand and NCD USA to simply name a few.
Some of the other tools that come out of Natural Church Development is the NCD survey. Also, the book, Natural Church Development (1996), by Christian Schwarz. Also: The 3 Colors of Ministry and  The 3 Colors of Love. Don't forget tools such as their Trinitarian Compass, the 8 quality characteristics, 6 growth forces, and the minimum factor. Thanks to Christian Schwarz and Natural Church Development for all the research and tireless work they put into growing healthy, passionate, churches that impact people's lives for Christ.
Transforming Mission's dream is to be Growing Healthy Churches. I hope this has helped you a little in that journey of yours, and in your involvement in the local church.

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