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The NCD Process

Continually Renewing your Church’s Health

Natural Church Development provides a process directing both how to use the survey most effectively to improve your church’s health and how to turn this process into continuous cycles of improving your church’s health. It is also worth noting at this point that churches that make use of a trained, licensed NCD Coach are twice as successful at completing the NCD process and have substantially better results than other churches that follow the NCD process.

The NCD Process. Most successful planning processes look alike. The key to the NCD process does not lie in being unique overall. Rather, what happens within each stage of the process determines the overall success.

  1. Vital Preparation It is a hackneyed and true saying:

    If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.

    It is no different with NCD. Increasingly we find that this is the single most important stage in the NCD process. This stage can take from several months to a year to do effectively. Three groups need to be prepared:

    The Leadership. In every aspect of the church leadership plays a key role. Not only pastors and staff, but also Elders, Deacons, and lay leaders of various ministries determine the success of any church venture. In North America we have found that leadership is the most critical element for churches. (More often than any other Quality Characteristic, Empowering Leadership is shown to be the weakest characteristic in North American churches.) As you prepare to engage in the NCD Process it will be important to strengthen these vital members of your congregation. Using a collection of different resources ChurchSmart, the NCD partner in North America, has created a process to lead leadership more deeply into knowing God’ will for them as leaders. This can be done over a period of months or sometimes as a leadership retreat.

    Of course, it will also be vital for leadership to understand the principles and advantages of Natural Church Development. Unless the leadership embraces NCD and the NCD process they will not be able to effectively use NCD for church renewal. One very brief guide to NCD is the pamphlet ABCs of Natural Church Development Another good source is the videos at the NCD International Website.

    The Congregation. The congregation needs to know that you will be engaging in the NCD process. Articles in newsletters, small group discussions, sermons on the 8 Quality Characteristics and other methods can be used.

    The Church Health Team Leaders in our congregations already have many responsibilities. It will be essential to have a group of people who will have the NCD process as a primary responsibility. These people will guide the congregation through the process and help keep the process on track. The group will best consist of no less than 5 and no more than 9 members. Among those chosen there need to be:

    A team leader to organize the team
    A strategic thinker to help the team think about "how to"
    A researcher to gather and store the results to the process
    An intercessor to gather a team to pray for the Church Health Team and the NCD process as it unfolds
    A communicator to keep the team, church leadership and congregation informed as to the progress and results of the NCD process

    These people commit only to one full cycle of the NCD process, usually a bit over 1 year.

  2. Diagnose Once you have taken the NCD survey you will need to evaluate the results. The survey results will show you the strengths and weaknesses in your church health. As explained elsewhere focusing on the single lowest Quality Characteristic will yield the most benefit. “Where are we weakest?”

    &ldquoWhy not focus on more than one low Quality Characteristic?” Experience has shown that if you try to focus on too many things you rarely do any of them well. Focusing on one Quality Characteristic will ensure that you will be the most effective you can be in improving your church&#q46;s health. In addition, all of the Quality Characteristics are linked. As you improve one aspect of your church’s health the rest of the church's ministry improve. A more inspiring worship will increase the loving relationships and need-oriented outreach. Making your ministries more gift - will bear obvious fruit throughout your church’s life.

    However, the more important question to answer will be, “Why are we weakest there?” To answer this question will require drawing on the wisdom and experience of various congregation members. You will want to draw onto your Church Health Team people who are most experienced in those areas of ministry. This will allow your Team to formulate the right questions to ask. “If we has such an inspiring worship service, why is our passion for God low?” “Since we are a very loving church, why don't we have many small groups supporting each other?” (There are extra sub-reports of the survey that can assist you in formulating such questions.)

    You will also want leaders and congregation members in general to reflect on this question. Questionnaires have a distinct and limited value in this. Better are small group discussions, focus groups and even Townhall meetings.

    Once you gather the results from these various efforts you will want to narrow your focus down to 3-5 items that you can address over the next year. Again, if you try to address everything you are likely to accomplish nothing. If you successfully address 3-5 items concerning your church’s health in one year your church will make significant progress. These 3-5 items will need to have the support of your leadership and, likely, the congregation as a whole. How you achieve that will depend on your congregation.

  3. Plan Taking each of these 3-5 items we need to again ask questions, this time leading to plans for improvement in each area. “How can we use our small group strengths to increase people's passion for God?” “Since we are a very loving church, how can that shape our worship to make it more inspiring?” Again, small group discussions, focus groups, and the like can be very useful in bringing the greater wisdom of the leadership and congregation to bear on the questions.

    These results, in turn need to be made into "SMART" goals. Such "Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-limited" goals need to be evaluated using the 6 Growth Forces found to be vital in the NCD process. These Growth Forces ensure that each goal will be achieved in a way that benefits other parts of the ministry. No one wants to build one part of a house by tearing down another. Reviewing these goals with others will improve the plans and the ownership of the goals

    Again, once these goals have been effectively constructed they need to be adopted by your church by whatever means are accepted in your congregation. The broader the consensus and adoption of these goals, the more likely they will be successfully implemented.

    In addition, it will be wise to actually chart out a time-line for these goals, including all the various actions by the various groups and individuals necessary to accomplish them.

  4. Implement The adopted goals will then need to be acted on. Your Church Health Team and all the leaders most involved in these actions will take the lead. It will be important to keep the plans before the leadership and congregation, celebrate all the accomplishments along the way, and make any corrections in the plan and/or time-table as the come up. Monitoring this process will be the primary work of the Church Health Team at this time. Knowing how to graciously ask questions and encourage progress will be vital for those members.
  5. Evaluate Finally, when the process is finished the Church Health Team and the church leadership will reflect on the journey. “What did we accomplish?” “How could we have worked better or smarter?” “Did we realize new insights that we need to take into the future of this church’s minsitry?” Celebrating the achievements of the congregation, along with thanking the Church Health Team and leaders for their work will close off the NCD process
  6. The NCD Renewal Process. Left at this point, the NCD process can be beneficial. However, churches that work through the NCD process for two or more cycles have been shown to experience an average of 10% increase in their outreach each year. As church health improves the ministries of the church become more and more able to both reach those outside the church and strengthen those already within. Many churches have used this cycle repeatedly over a decade finding their ministry improving with each cycle. Over time the Quality Characteristic you need to focus on will change, leading you to improve every aspect of your church over time.

    For more information see: