What Is Natural Church Development?

Natural Church Development is a biblical, empirically tested process of improving the health (strength/vitality) of your church's ministry. It was developed by two German Evangelical Christians – Christian Schwartz and Christoph Schalk – who asked the question: “What verifiable characteristics do all healthy, growing churches have around the world share?”

The Eight Quality Characteristics
They studied 1,000 churches in 32 countries with 18 languages on 6 continents. For his work in this research Schalk received the highest award for academic achievement given by the University where he was completing his Doctorate.

The results: they found 8 biblical “quality characteristics” which accurately predicted which churches were growing and which were declining. These “quality characteristics” describe the high spiritual quality that any church needs to have to effectively minister. When the scores for these characteristics are put on a chart, every single church which has scored 65 of higher on all eight of these characteristics has always been a healthy and growing church, whereas every single church which has scored 35 or less on all 8 characteristics has always been an unhealthy and shrinking church.

The Survey
Out of this research Christoph Schalk devised a survey which allows a church to objectively measure the strength of each of these characteristics. It is, in a sense, a "check-up" for your church. Like any check up, the purpose of the survey measure both your strengths and weaknesses. We want to celebrate and utilized our strengths and we cannot afford to ignore our weaknesses If you go to the doctor and he says you have very healthy lungs but your heart is having problems you will want to focus on making your heart healthy. If you were to focus on your lungs, they might actually get healthier, but you will still have a bad heart.

Another way of looking at the survey is to think of it as a bucket and each of the eight quality characteristics as staves in the bucket. That bucket can hold only as much water as the lowest stave. In the same way, you can have incredible leadership in a church, but if it lacks passion for God, it will not effectively hold all the grace and power God is continually pouring out on every one of his churches. Similarly, if your love for each other is strong, but your worship service does not inspire, it will cripple your ability to reach out to others.

NCD as a Renewal Ministry
I have heard a good proverb:

Knowledge never saved us.

Knowing that Jesus is Savior and Lord and doing nothing about it does not help you. If, after a medical check-up, we did nothing to improve our health, the check-up would be meaningless. In the same way, taking the NCD survey will do nothing for your church unless you follow a process to improve the health of your church. NCD provides just such a process.

This process includes using six "Growth Forces" to insure that changes made to improve your church's health will benefit all of your ministry. For example, if you began a new ministry for young couples in your area, it would be important to consider how you will develop new leadership for this ministry both now and over time in a way that doesn't disrupt other ministries. Is there any way that the present worship service and promote and enhance this couples' ministry? Will there be a need to coordinate with your children's ministry to care for the children of these couples?

After receiving the results of the survey it takes a church an average of 12-18 months to use their strengths to address their weaknesses. Then the survey can be taken again. Through the prayer and work of the congregation this survey will show improvements made and may even indicate a new weakest Quality Characteristic. Then the process of improvement can be repeated.


Churches which have taken three surveys (worked through the process twice) have had an average increase in their outreach growth of 51%.

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