A different way of thinking about church growth… by first thinking about church health
Growth should be about quality (health) and not just quantity (numbers). Orthodox NCD (ONCD) offers parishes a new way of looking at parish revitalization and church growth by prioritizing quality should take priority over quantity in church growth thinking. Scripture depicts the church as a living organism, not just as an organization (albeit a spiritual one). Looking at the church “organically” gives us a different perspective on what “growth” means. The growth of organisms focuses on their health, their capacity to reproduce, and how the individual ‘body’ parts interact. They are nurtured, not assembled. And they grow, “all by themselves.”
Jesus speaks of ‘all by itself’ growth in Mark 4. This is not growth brought about by new “programs”, rather it comes from understanding the dynamics of the church as a living, growing organism and continually working hard to identify and remove the barriers to its life and growth. This is what the farmer does in raising a successful crop (as in Jesus’ parable in Mark 4). Orthodox NCD says that if church growth is about growing an organism, the health (quality) of the organism will have a direct impact on its size (quantity). If a church becomes increasingly healthy over time, it is more likely and better able to reproduce disciples, ministries and eventually itself.
A long term strategic process
ONCD is also a long term strategic process for progressively improving a church’s health. It is a process of continual improvement, not a program which guarantees “a healthy church” if implemented to the letter. Growing a church, like growing a plant, requires a long term commitment which is intentional and consistently addressing the most critical issues facing the church at each stage of growth.
At the heart of the ONCD process is a sophisticated diagnostic tool, the ONCD Survey. It is based on over 20 years of comprehensive international research ever done into what causes churches to grow or decline. The ONCD Survey complies with the highest international statistical standards for validity and reliability.
Surveys are done cyclically (about every 18 – 24 months), offering an accurate up-to-date “snapshot” of your church’s health. Each Survey enables the church leadership to see the current state of health, how the church’s health has changed over the previous year, and what areas need greatest attention over the coming year. Put several “snapshots” together and you have a motion picture of the life of your church. This reveals longer term trends, enabling you to identify and address the most significant issues impacting long term health and growth. As one leader so eloquently put it, “It gives every church leader the clear view of their church from 40,000 feet that they need when so much time is spent in the day-to-day.”
“So, What Can We Do Next?”
To get started in ONCD, you can begin with the following:
Priests can order 6 free copies of the informative booklet The ABCs of NCD by emailing a request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested clergy and church members can also download a PDF detailing the ONCD process from http://oncd.us. You will find it and more helpful information available there.
Parish Church Health Teams can receive training (usually on a Saturday) from trained and certified ONCD coaches. Training lasts about 5 hours and takes the team (about 5-6 people, including the parish priest) through the entire process of finding survey takers, analyzing the survey results and planning and implementing a strategic plan developed from the survey results.
Parishes can receive support and coaching from ONCD coaches throughout part or all of the ONCD revitalization cycle.