What is Natural Church Development?

Natural Church Development is a powerful process for assessing the health strengths and weaknesses of your church, then developing and implementing an action plan for improving church health by removing limiting factors. Natural Church Development (NCD) has the greatest impact when it is approached as a long-term process for continuous improvement.

Does health produce growth?

Natural Church Development grew out of what is probably the largest global study of church growth ever conducted. The initial research project involved over 1000 congregations of many denominations from 32 countries from every continent except Antarctica. The purpose of the research was to determine what quality characteristics of churches had a positive correlation to numerical growth in congregations. The data clearly confirmed that, as a general rule, healthy churches are growing churches. From the data, the researchers identified eight quality characteristics, each of which has a strong positive correlation to church growth.

Today more than 40,000 churches in 70 countries have used the NCD survey. The average growth rate of those churches that have maintained a long-term commitment to the NCD process has increased by 51%.

The all-by-itself principle

The term “all by itself’ growth comes from Jesus’ teaching in Mark 4:26-29: “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain–first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

It is not our job to grow the church; that is God’s job.

Most churches approach church growth by asking, “What can we do to attract more people to our church?” This approach usually results in the creation of more and more programs intended to serve or reach members or potential members. In almost every church we work with, we find leaders who are spread too thin and tired because, among other reasons, the church is overprogrammed.

NCD, in contrast, begins with the premise (confirmed by the research) that it is the nature of a healthy church to grow. Rather than trying to do more to stimulate growth, the NCD process involves identifying barriers to healthy growth and removing them, trusting the life of the Spirit within the healthy church to produce the growth. Not only has the consistent use of this strategy resulted in increased health and growth; it has also resulted in church leaders becoming less busy--doing less–in the process. Among churches that took three NCD surveys over a period of two or more years, there was a 9.3% increase in positive responses from core church members to the survey item: “Despite my church activities, I have sufficient time for my hobbies.” Jesus’ “all by itself” principle really works!

If you would like your church to bear more fruit while you and the other leaders in your church become less busy, we recommend the NCD process to you.