The Diocese of Coventry has adopted the principles and tools of the Natural Church Development Institute to foster growth across the diocese. Below is a brief introduction to Natural Church Development - fuller details can be found in the Introductory Handbook for the 8 Essential Qualities.
A different way of thinking about growth
Natural Church Development (NCD) is a paradigm – a way of thinking about church growth. Growth should be about quality (health) and not just quantity (numbers). In fact NCD has demonstrated that quality should take priority over quantity in church growth thinking.
At the heart of the paradigm is the Scriptural picture of the church as a living organism, not just an organisation (albeit a spiritual one). Looking at the church "organically" gives us a different perspective on what “health” and "growth" mean. The growth of organisms focuses on their health, their capacity to reproduce, and how the individual 'body' parts interact. They are grown, not built. They are nurtured, not assembled.
The NCD paradigm says that if church growth is about growing an organism, the health (quality) of the organism will have a direct impact on its size (quantity). If a church becomes increasingly healthy over time, it is more likely and better able to reproduce disciples, ministries and eventually itself.
How many times have church leaders counted the numbers of people in Sunday services but really had no true sense whether the members of the church community were growing to greater spiritual maturity and contributing all they could to Kingdom growth? Is size really a true measure of health?
The NCD paradigm helps you think about growing your church as a healthy living organism.
A long term strategic process
Natural Church Development is also a long term strategic process for progressively improving a church's health. It is a process of continual improvement, not a program which guarantees "a healthy church" if particular steps are followed. Growing a church, like growing a plant, requires a long term approach where the most critical issues impeding church growth are consistently addressed.
At the heart of the NCD process is a sophisticated diagnostic tool, the NCD Survey, developed in Germany. It is based on the only comprehensive international research ever done into what causes churches to grow or decline. The NCD Survey complies with the highest international statistical standards for validity and reliability.
Surveys are done annually, offering an accurate up-to-date "snapshot" of a church’s health. Successive surveys enable church leaders to see the current state of health, how the church's health has changed over the previous year, and what areas need greatest attention over the coming year.
The capacity to see the health of the church very accurately as it evolves year on year enables church leaders to develop a clear sense of how the “organism” is evolving and what impact various decisions and activities are having on church life. It also reveals longer term trends and enables leaders to identify and address the deeper issues that have long held the church back. As one leader put it, “It gives every church leader the clear view of their church from 40,000 feet that they need when so much time is spent in the day-to-day.”