also said, "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."
I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither
he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes
-I Corinthians 3:6,7
Natural Church Development (NCD) is a strategic planning process by which
a church determines its strengths and weaknesses. It further assists a
church in addressing its greatest needs with the goal of the
implementation of a strategic plan to improve in areas of need. Particular
attention is paid to what NCD calls "The Eight Key Quality
Characteristics." These characteristics are evaluated in order to identify
the effectiveness of each in the local church setting. The degree to which
these are present and in operation directly correlate to the health (or
lack of it) of the church. The Key Characteristics are:
1. Empowering Leadership
2. Gift-oriented Ministry
3. Passionate Spirituality
4. Functional Structures
5. Inspiring Worship Service
6. Holistic Small Groups
7. Need-oriented Evangelism
8. Loving Relationships
NCD has been used in 60 countries on six continents. It has involved
thousands of churches and millions of survey respondents. The creator of
NCD is Christian Schwarz from Germany. He identifies the following as
being pivotal points in the NCD process:
1. All churches are different and therefore must take basic principles and
apply them to each local setting. It is not particularly effective to try
to imitate another church…rather, it is better to identify the principle
behind what is taking place and contextualize it for each specific place.
2. Churches are organic in nature, not simply organizations. Therefore,
leaders must learn to "tend" to the church. This involves evaluation and
caring interplay between the various parts, knowing that each part affects
3. We have a part to play in the health and growth of our church… God has
a part to play. We seek to remove obstacles to health and growth. We also
plant and water…but God causes the growth!
4. The key concern of NCD is the quality of a church, rather than simply
its numerical growth. Christian Schwarz does believe however that
qualitative growth does tend to promote quantitative growth in time.
5. The crucial aspect of the Eight Key Characteristics listed above is the
adjectives (i.e. Empowering, Passionate, Inspiring, etc.).
6. No Quality Characteristic can be missing. If a church is strong in all
of the areas but one, the one area of weakness (known as the "Minimum
Factor") will be the point of vulnerability and decline. Picture a barrel
with each of the Quality Characteristics being a vertical stave. What
happens if all of the staves are the same length, but one is significantly
shorter? If you pour water into the barrel, the water will run out at the
point of the shortest stave. This is the idea behind the need of a church
to identify and address its Minimum Factor.
7. NCD is a process that involves hard work. It also takes time. It is not
a magic formula meant to bring instant health and happiness to churches
that are in deep trouble. It is most effective in churches that have the
capacity to adapt and implement for the sake of future ministry. It does
not solve all of life's problems…rather it seeks to provide a common
language and structure to better facilitate new direction and purpose.
If you would like to find out more about Natural Church Development,
please contact Mark Stromberg by email at
email@example.com or call the
For NCD's Web
site, go here.