Natural Church Development

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Natural Church Development (NCD) at St Timothy’s

The Church of St. Timothy engaged in the program of Natural Church Development in 2005. Since then we have worked with a Diocesan coach to learn about and engage with the program and have conducted 4 surveys. The following describes positive results about the health of our church and the encouraging signs of growth.

Based on the following facts from the US study on church growth:

“Growing churches are clear about why they exist & about what they are doing. They grow because they understand their reason for being & they make sure they do the things well that are essential to their life as a religious organization.”

“Growing congregations are those that have intentionality about growth rather than just wanting to grow. Growth requires action & the involvement of members. Success results from the behaviour of members who promote their congregation and invite others to attend and join. The primary way people first connect with a congregation is through a pre-existing relationship with someone who is already involved.

What is NCD?

Over 40,000 churches around the world participate in NCD, which offers an enduring means for the members of a church to steadily improve on eight quality characteristics. The key eight quality characteristics are:

  • Empowering Leadership – Clergy equip, support, motivate, and mentor individuals, enabling them to become all that God wants them to be.
  • Gift-Oriented Ministry – This involves training people, matching people’s gifts with roles, providing challenges and support, and helping lay people to understand the importance of their part in our Christian community.
  • Passionate Spirituality – People live their faith with contagious enthusiasm and share it with others.
  • Effective Structures – There are clear lines of support, accountability and oversight. Leaders lead, but also develop other leaders.
  • Inspiring Worship Service – The service inspires the participants and includes transforming preaching, care in planning, care for children during worship, and welcoming visitors.
  • Holistic Small Groups – Strong small groups with spiritual orientation exist, with a built-in process to replicate themselves.
  • Need-Oriented Evangelism – Members develop relationships with one another beyond the church. People are trained to articulate their faith. People work hard to incorporate new members into church life.
  • Loving Relationships – An atmosphere of trust and affirmation is evident, allowing people to relate to each other outside of formal church activities. Conflicts are resolved amicably. People, who laugh together, grow together.

When these eight characteristics reach a sufficient degree within a church, the effect practically guarantees growth in membership.

Evaluation is conducted every 18 months by surveying 30 selected church members using a standardized tool provided by NCD. The results, provided in a comprehensive report, reveal the church’s strengths and weaknesses concerning the eight quality characteristics. The church leaders use the results to guide strategic planning. Based on NCD principles we use strengths to improve weaknesses and then monitor the degree of improvement with subsequent surveys.

St Timothy’s and NCD – wonderfully strong improvement

The results of the surveys are based on standardization of scores for churches in Canada. An average church will score 50. So above 50 equals above average health. 70% of churches score between 35 and 65. Scoring 65 or higher puts a church in the top 15% of churches and shows great health.

Our First Survey – As one of the first churches in our diocese to embark upon NCD, we conducted our first survey in January 2006. Our lowest area was Passionate Spirituality, and our score placed us in the bottom 15% of all churches surveyed to date. (Established, traditional churches normally score in this range.) Our overall score was 30.8.

We focused on the answers to a number of very specific questions that had yielded our low score for Passionate Spirituality. A number of steps were taken with the result that that included:

  • Conducted a sale of Bibles
  • Commenced Bible Study sessions
  • Organized Pot Luck Dinners (attended by over 100 people) so that people would get to know one another better, and to enhance our spiritual Anglican community
  • Created articles in Timprint, “Blessings Shared”
  • Our Second Survey – Our average score on our second survey (March 2007) increased by 43% on all the quality characteristics. While Passionate Spirituality was still our weakest area, our raw score in that area increased from 6 to 21 (an increase of more than 200%). Our overall score was 44.2.

These encouraging results directed us to continue our emphasis on Passionate Spirituality while also working on our second weakest area of Gift-Oriented Ministry.

Our Third Survey – In April 2009, our third survey revealed astounding and marvelous improvement in all eight characteristics, showing St Timothy’s to be one of the healthiest parishes in the area. Our overall score improved to 66.7.

Our Fourth Survey – in May 2011 survey shows that our St Timothy’s continues to be an above average church engaged with NCD.

We are a church with enormous strengths. Indeed, the new NCD report confidently predicts that if we stay on our current course, we can expect to grow our Sunday attendance (an NCD benchmark) to 240 members in 5 years and to 300 members in 10 years.

Characteristics – We remain particularly healthy in the areas of Empowering Leadership• Effective Structures • Gift-Oriented Ministry• Loving and • Inspiring Worship Service. In addition the new NCD reports reveal that we score well on several themes namely Joy, Creativeness and Releasing.

The characteristic of Passionate Spirituality remains our minimum factor along with, Holistic Small Groups, and Need-Oriented Evangelism.

Future Direction

To continue growing as a healthy parish, NCD encourages us to focus on our minimum factors from the perspective of Prayer, Everyday faith and God-consciousness.

The NCD Committee for 2012 -2013 – Gregory Ludlow, Margaret Drummond, Alan & Frances Flint, George & Sheila Goodwin, Ginny Lyon, Ann Nurse, Marina Waddingham and Rev Canon Gregory Symmes