Natural Church Development

Natural Church Development (NCD) is the primary process for congregational assessment and development in the Diocese of Ohio.

We began training for this process in August of 2006, with a pilot group of seven congregations in the Cleveland-Akron-Canton area. As of January, 2008, we have educated 55 coaches for the process, from all areas of the diocese, and 29 congregations are involved. Our hope is that NCD will become part of the "DNA" of most of the congregations in the diocese, over time.

NCD is the product of ongoing research into the qualities and principles that contribute to health and growth in congregations. Christian A. Schwarz, the founder of NCD, began by surveying 1000 congregations of different denominations and worship styles and determined eight quality characteristics of healthy, growing congregations. NCD has now worked with over 50,000 congregations--and the eight measures of quality still hold true. The eight quality characteristics are:

  • Empowering leadership
  • Gift-oriented ministry
  • Effective structures
  • Inspiring worship
  • Passionate spirituality
  • Loving relationships
  • Need-based evangelism
  • Holistic small groups

After these qualities are measured by a survey in the participating congregation, NCD provides coaching help with planning, implementing, and evaluating the work of the congregation in addressing the least-developed quality characteristic. This least-developed characteristic is called the minimum factor.

Coaching help is one of the best features of the NCD process. Every parish using the process is matched with a coach who has had at least 40 hours of education about NCD and how to help congregations use it. Coaches help congregations prepare for the process--by educating clergy and lay leaders, and by selecting a Church Health Team to guide the process in the congregation. Coaches also help congregations process the results of the survey and plan for the congregational work on the minimum factor. During the year that follows, the coach works with the Church Health Team to implement their plan, and to evaluate the results they are seeing. At the end of twelve to eighteen months, the congregation takes another survey, and the process begins anew.

Though congregations may have the same minimum factor, the plans they make to develop are as unique as they are. Each congregation uses its own creativity, its own identity, and its own energy to address its minimum factor in the way that works best for it. The process engages the whole congregation, and adds energy. NCD isn't "another thing to do"--it helps each congregation find a better way to do what God is dreaming for it to do.

NCD Principles

  • NCD focuses on increasing the quality of a church rather than on numerical growth goals. This emphasis on church health has proven to be the key to ongoing growth and multiplication.
  • The center of NCD is the all-by-itself principle that can be observed in healthy churches all around the globe. All NCD principles are answers to the question “How can this God-given growth potential be released?”
  •     On all levels of church life, NCD encourages creativity, authenticity, and diversity. Rather than selling a specific church model, NCD helps Christians and churches to discover and develop their individuality.
  • NCD assists believers in rediscovering central Biblical concepts and relating them to their everyday lives. A spirituality grounded in Scripture is the foundation for health and growth in every congregation.

How do we get started?

Call or e-mail Brad Purdom, Canon for Congregations, at (216) 774-0452 or bpurdom@dohio.org. He will talk over your needs with you, and help you find a coach, or a team of coaches who can come to your church and talk with your clergy and lay leaders about the process.

If your congregation decides to enter the process, you will need to pay your coach a $100 honorarium, for a year's work, and pay mileage. The survey, with data entered and scored by the national NCD partner. The cost is $125 per survey payable to the Diocese of Ohio.  This cost includes a NCD Insights report. To request a NCD survey call or email Antoinette Taylor, 216-774-0476 or ataylor@dohio.org

If members of your congregation want to be trained as coaches, they must agree to work for two years as coaches with another parish--they cannot coach in their own parish. We ask this because the diocese subsidizes coach training very substantially and we want to encourage skills development and collaboration in all our parishes.