Empower Your Church’s Growth Journey with NCD

Natural Church Development (NCD) is rooted in both natural and Biblical principles of growth, reflecting the ways in which God nurtures and develops His creation and His church. NCD provides a structured approach to ministry that aligns with the Great Commission and enables churches to thrive in their unique callings and giftings.

While churches can embark on this journey independently, the guidance of a trained NCD coach is an absolute asset. One such coach available in the NOW District is Marjaana Kuivalainen. She holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Turku, Finland, and has a rich background in community-focused work. Her passion for empowering churches stems from her own transformative experiences, including personal coaching with NCD founder Christian A. Schwarz. She started as an NCD coach last April; currently she is coaching five churches for a full NCD cycle

“The most joyful thing I’ve experienced so far even in the early stages of NCD cycle is seeing how the Holy Spirit works in the church through the NCD discussions,” Kuivalainen said. “It is amazing to see that the leadership and church members see the same problems and goals when the framework is Biblical and focuses on what is important. In contrast, sometimes the churches focus on things that are not that essential, e.g. traditional vs. contemporary music in a given service, or whose duty it is to water the altar flowers. Details like this may become too large and divide people. But when practical questions like this are seen as a part of a bigger picture, like inspiring worship service or gift-based ministry, the passion behind these questions becomes a resource rather than hindrance.”

About NCD
Natural Church Development is a deeply Biblical approach that helps churches focus on what is important. It’s based on God’s growth principles that have been discovered not only in the Bible, but also through extensive empirical research in churches in different cultures and denominations all around the world.

The NCD discussion revolves around the eight quality characteristics that can be found in any healthy and growing church: empowering leadership, gift-based ministry, passionate spirituality, effective structures, inspiring worship service, holistic small groups, need-oriented evangelism, and loving relationships. These characteristics are measured in the NCD church survey. The survey is a valid and objective method for measuring the health of a church, based on the scientific method of social sciences.

“I love Natural Church Development because it offers the deep theological mindset for being the church and practical tools to live out God’s mission for every individual and community,” Kuivalainen said.

How It Works
The process of one NCD cycle (taking the church survey and following through an action plan) usually lasts around a year. However, the time needed depends a lot on the church’s unique situation and may be shorter or longer. Embarking on this journey is a process of transforming church culture for the better. That sort of change, done naturally and organically in little intentional steps, will take time. Usually after the third cycle, the church starts to see some lasting change in their culture.

The NCD cycle starts with the church recruiting approximately seven members into the Church Health Team (CHT) who will be responsible for executing NCD. The pastor is always a member of the team but never the leader. First the CHT administers the survey to the 30 most active congregants. After receiving the results, the CHT carries out focus group discussions with all the members, listening and making notes about the discussion revolving around the Minimum Factor area (i.e. the lowest scoring quality characteristic). Based on these discussions, CHT identifies the key issues that need to be addressed in order to experience healthy growth.

The Importance of a Coach
The coach’s role in all this is to facilitate the learning of NCD principles, understand the survey results, and support the CHT in action planning and implementation. The coach walks with the CHT throughout the process and helps resolve any issues that might come up. Presentations and workshops are something that the coach offers for the whole church if that is what the CHT decides would be beneficial.

“I came across NCD as our church decided the take the survey and I was administering it. When I read the result guides, I realized that this approach brings together everything that is near and dear to me about church life,” Kuivalainen said. “Since I came to Christ, I’ve had the calling to work inside my own church to build up disciples so that people will know us by the love that we have for each other. NCD provides a research based and Biblically solid approach for intentionally doing that work. I’m a social worker by training, and in my internships in therapeutic communities I witnessed how a community can have an immense healing impact in individual’s life. This is something I wanted to see in churches as well – after all, we have the Holy Spirit working in and through us to bring about healing!”

Go here for more info on NCD and Marjaana Kuivalainen.

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