Carl Shank Consulting

NCD Powerpoint Introductory Presentation

Does NCD Really Work?

Common Church Health Questions


In working with many churches in their journey toward church health, certain key questions keep surfacing. These questions come up no matter how large, or how small, or what denominational affiliation the church has. Does this natural church development “health stuff” really work?


This question has often been raised, not merely by the pragmatic or skeptic, but by sincere and well-meaning Christian pastors and church leaders who are weary wasting time with programs and formulas that don’t really help their churches grow in a healthy way. The key premise to natural church development and its diagnostic process is that God has implanted in the very heart and life of every true local church of Jesus Christ the wisdom, power and grace for health and growth. He has given your church body the necessary unity (Eph. 4:3; 1 Cor. 12:13; John 17:11, 21), Spirit-led power and guidance (Rom. 8:9ff; Eph. 1:19, 20; 3:20, 21), and the creative and directive Word of God (Psalm 19:7-11; Heb. 4:12) for vital and long-lasting health and growth.


We are the ones whose faulty structures, man-centered formulas and worldly apathy have obscured God’s mighty work and power. We have been content with much less than what God wants for us individually and corporately. We have been seduced by Satan, the great Liar, into thinking and doing things that keep us from seeing His vision and experiencing His heart in our services and meetings. The entire goal of natural church development (NCD) is to clear the clutter out of the path that God has laid out for your church’s health and growth. The eight health factors are already present in your church. They need released and put into action for vital health to result.


These fundamental truths have been demonstrated over and over again in the churches with whom I have worked. Comparison charts, with explanation, amply demonstrate the premise that proper attention paid to a church’s minimum factor improves their overall health and ministry viability. We shall look at four (4) charts of different sizes of churches, with differing minimum factors, to see the positive health changes that have taken place in these congregations.


Small Church/Drastic Health Jump

Profile #1 chart gives a health snapshot of a smaller (100-150) suburban congregation and four years later..


What is very obvious is the drastic jump in the health quality characteristics between the end of the first year and the beginning of the fourth year. The most blatant change is in the “empowering leadership” score. The church moved from an unhealthy 3 to a very healthy 62. What happened?


The church had gone through several years of struggle, as shown by their scores in passionate spirituality, inspiring worship and functional structures. The people were discouraged and disenchanted with church leadership, especially the pastor. All of their health scores were below the minimum health line of 35, evidencing a very unhealthy situation. As I spoke with the elder board of this church, they admitted the people had lost confidence in their leadership and in the pastor’s ministry there. After some investigation, the bottom line was that the pastor’s gifts and dreams and vision did not at all match the congregation. People had left this church, and the remaining faithful were complaining about his leadership. The Board admitted, as well as the pastor, that this was indeed the root of the health problem.


That pastor moved on, and a new pastor came in. Both the jump and “evenness” of the health bars four years later show the drastic health change the church had undergone. The overall balance of the eight health qualities demonstrates that, indeed, replacing the pastor was at the root of the congregation’s previous dysfunction. It is important to remind ourselves here that the “empowering leadership” score measures not merely pastoral leadership in a church, but leadership as a whole in a congregation. Loving relationships proved to be their new minimum factor four years later, but now with a healthy score of 53, and their high small groups score indicated that they were positioned to improve their relationship health factor considerably.


I had the privilege of reporting these results to this newly invigorated church and ate a Sunday meal at the parsonage with the pastoral family and some of the other church leaders. They were rejoicing in what God had done for them. The pastor, who had been struggling with the doctrinal positions of another denomination, had truly found a church “home” where his convictions, gifts and vision exactly matched the needs and desires of this congregation.


Larger Church/Continued Growth

Profile #2 spotlights a mid-sized church of around 600 worship attenders at the inception of a new senior pastor. The previous pastor, much loved by the congregation, had left to assume a position in the denominational leadership. He had also left admitting that he had led that congregation probably as far as his gifts and vision had allowed him. The church was positioned for new pastoral leadership, especially as it saw an increased need to reach out more effectively to their community.


This new pastor at once formed a “vision team” with the trusted lay leaders and began working with the congregation to dramatically reach their community for Christ. He and the other church board leaders noted that their very warm, traditional two worship services could be enhanced by moving the church toward a third service that was contemporary in style and seeker sensitive in format. That new service proved to be the right “shot in the arm,” and the church’s attendance and excitement surged forward. Again, note the overall health increase, with the special enhancement in inspiring worship.


As the congregation found new worship freedom, relevant, seeker-oriented messages, and a new growth vision, the congregation’s original minimum factor of need-oriented evangelism grew more healthy. Their new minimum factors of gift-oriented ministry and loving relationships were “expected,” given their new professionally oriented services and the need to assimilate a lot of new people to the church. The church now has moved to five services, with three contemporary and two blended traditional services. Their worship attendance averages around 1150 and continues to grow. More staff has been added along with a revamped assimilation ministry to use the gifts and strengths of these folks.


New Church Plant/Overall Health Balance

Profile #3 demonstrates the need for even a brand-new church to check their health dynamics. This church, barely a few years old, wanted to get an objective estimate of their health. Their initial results showed a church well into the natural church development health range with an average score of 59. As expected in a newer situation, their gift-oriented ministry score was high (81) since almost everyone who attended were busily engaged in ministry of some sort. Their loving relationships score (36), however, showed what the church planting pastor and board had expected–they were reaching out well-enough, but they were not connecting as a people very well. They had been using all of their resources for evangelism and worship in order to reach their community for Christ.


With a new church zeal they tackled their loving relationships minimum factor with enthusiasm and a definite plan and vision. Note that a year later their relationships score had improved from 36 to a better than expected 70. The other interesting note is that their gift-oriented ministry score decreased from 81 to 69. Rather than a cause for concern, I applauded this as a healthy movement toward balance. Notice the “evenness” of mostly all the health bars, with passionate spirituality their new “minimum” factor.


Healthy and Growing Mid-Sized Church

Profile #4 presents NCD profiles separated by only a year . While need-oriented evangelism continues to be this church’s minimum factor, the overall scores are not only healthy but also indicate an intentionally growing church. Their average score initially was 69, close to the average of 71 registered for the succeeding year. Any church that consistently averages 65 or above demonstrates both quantitative and qualitative health and growth. Their consistently high scores for empowering leadership and gift-oriented ministry reveal a church that seeks to empower, develop, train and coach the people of God and organize around their spiritual strengths. Their high scores for loving relationships show a stable and genuinely joyful church which exudes the love of Christ.


Why then the lower evangelism scores? A deeper analysis of this quality characteristic revealed the following factors:


(1) There is a personal plan for evangelism and a number of people are actively witnessing for Christ. Personal faith awareness is strong, and the people are able to articulate their faith in Christ. Personal prayer for unsaved friends takes place regularly. The church identifies people with evangelistic gifts and supports individual Christians in their outreach efforts.


(2) A corporate goal and passion for evangelism is strong in this church, but the strategy to make it happen is still being developed. Specialized ministries for new believers, evangelism awareness among the entire congregation, and imaginative and creative outreach activities have been rated as “average” in the survey.


(3) The two surveys reveal a “blandness” in reaching out to pre-Christians and somewhat of a weakness in building relationships with them. The people also judge the outreach activities of the church as lack-luster and somewhat unattractive to their unchurched friends. The church needs to do a better job at accurately understanding their community’s unchurched culture so they can intelligently and successfully reach them with the gospel of Christ.


(4) New Christians are being actively assimilated into the church body, but ministries specifically geared to them and their needs are lacking in this church. Multiplying evangelism through new believers (the biotic principles of interdependence and multiplication)2 needs to be further developed.


Some church leaders might say this analysis is a bit “harsh,” given the high health scores of the church. This is an opportunity to remind the reader that no church or ministry is judged “good” or “bad” by a church health diagnostic. Also, every church, no matter how healthy and no matter how impressive the growth, always has at least one health characteristic that can be improved and developed. The wonderful news about this church is that they have continued to take the natural church development survey diagnostic on a yearly basis, and the lead pastor has availed himself of NCD training so that he can better understand and implement church health principles in his congregation. That kind of pro-active, intentional behavior, along with their devotion to prayer and seeking God’s will for their ministry, demonstrates why they will continue to demonstrate health and growth. And, finally, notice that their minimum factor (need-oriented evangelism) did in fact show some signs of improvement!



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What is "Natural Church Development?" (NCD)

Natural Church Development (NCD) is the nomenclature used by Christian Schwarz, Executive Director of the Institute for Church Development located in Germany, for the eight identification marks of church health he and his associates discovered using empirical, biological and Scriptural study and research in the mid-1990s. They focused on the question: What really are the proven principles that globally apply to all growing churches? To empirically establish a database large enough to come up with scientifically significant conclusions, Schwarz and his team conducted an initial massive world-wide survey comprising 1,000 churches, over 200 denominations, 32 countries, 18 languages and 4.2 million individual responses. Since then, over 65,000 churches surveyed worldwide have confirmed their results. What they found, and continue to find, validated his study of creation and Scripture — that God has placed in the essential make-up of every true church of Jesus Christ growth “automatisms,” which, if developed properly, results in healthy church growth and life. In other words, instead of a model or a formula or a method of church health and growth, NCD posits eight quality characteristics that, if applied in any local church of any size anywhere, will result in God’s growth potential for that church.

Just another church growth model?

Schwarz’s “principle-based” approach to discovering the health essentials of growing churches worldwide diametrically opposes what he calls a typical “technocratic” church growth based approach. So, instead of a quantitative approach (How do we get more people to attend church?) or a model-based approach (What church out there can we look to as a model of church growth?), NCD looks at the quality of church life as the key to church development.



Is NCD biblical? Does it agree with Scripture?

NCD depends upon rigorous Scriptural study as well as empirical research. In his book, Paradigm Shift in the Church, Schwarz, a committed evangelical, methodologically and carefully frames the NCD approach using insights from observing nature and Scripture. One of the central Scriptures used to show God’s inherent “growth automatisms” in nature is Mark 4:26–29: “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed on the ground; and goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts up and grows—how, he himself does not know. The earth produces crops by itself [automatic–Gk.]; first the blade, then the head, and then the mature grain in the head.” Jesus, Schwarz believes, is talking not only about the created, natural order, or only using parabolic language of the day, but He is actually telling how God grows His creation, including the Church as his new creation.

What are the eight character qualities of health?

The eight quality characteristics of healthy, growing churches that Schwarz and his team uncovered by the research were empowering leadership, gift-oriented ministry, passionate spirituality, effective structures, inspiring worship, holistic groups, need-oriented evangelism, and loving relationships. All of these together, without exception, are necessary and needed for church health and growth. The characteristic that is the lowest ranking in any church is that church’s “minimum factor.”

     Empowering leadership means that church leaders multiply, guide, empower and equip disciples to realize their full potential in Christ and work together to accomplish God’s vision.

Gift-oriented ministry deals with each believer in the body discovering, developing and exercising his or her spiritual gift in appropriate ministries so that the Body of Christ “grows and builds itself up in love.”

     The quality characteristic of passionate spirituality means that ministry in the church flows out of a personal and corporate love and passion for God. Godly vision can only be accomplished through an optimistic faith that views obstacles as opportunities and turns defeats into victories.

     Effective structures in a healthy body means that the organization systems in the church work together to accomplish the church’s vision and mission and that they are evaluated regularly to determine if it is still the best way to accomplish God’s purpose in that place.

     Inspiring worship refers to that health quality of personal and corporate worship being infused with the manifest presence of God. Inspiring worship is not driven by a particular style or ministry focus group, but rather the shared experience of God’s awesome presence.

     Holistic groups means that the church is composed of disciple making communities where personal, relevant and felt needs of people are discussed and developed. Like healthy body cells, holistic small groups are designed to grow and multiply.

     Need-oriented evangelism intentionally focuses on cultivating relationships with pre-Christians so that they can become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

     The final characteristic of loving relationships is at the heart of a growing, healthy church. Jesus said people will know we are his disciples by our love. Practical demonstration of love builds authentic Christian community and brings others into God’s kingdom.

Are there other health characteristics?

Other books and studies that have focused on church health and development have generally agreed with Schwarz’s eight essential principles. Some, like Bob Logan’s book, Beyond Church Growth (Revell, 1987) have also mentioned churches that reproduce, which Schwarz maintains is an action step of healthy growth. Stephen Macchia’s, Becoming A Healthy Church: Ten Characteristics (Baker, 1999), adds stewardship and networking with the larger Body of Christ, which can be also seen as natural developments of the eight essentials.

Have the diagnostics really helped?

To date, over 130 diagnostics have been conducted by our Church Health consultant, Carl Shank. He has surveyed numerous churches, including Brethren in Christ, Church of God, Independent, Bible Fellowship, Evangelical Free, Church of the Brethren and Assembly of God. Most every church has benefited by having the NCD process help them focus their energies on the essential issues of health and growth in developing their local goals and vision. Some have made wholesale changes in how they operate (effective structures), how they worship (inspiring worship) or how they lead (empowering leadership). A few have made radical, church-wide changes that have resulted in new life and growth, with a renewed sense of vision and vitality. The responsibility for instituting health changes rests with each local leadership group.

What does it cost?

The diagnostic offerings are set up in three phases. Phase 1 deals with introductory issues, ordering the NCD surveys, a written analysis of the church’s health factors and an on site report to church leadership. At the current time, this Phase is the least expensive and would cost the church $450 plus travel expenses (2019 costs). Further reporting to congregational leadership and the church as a whole is Phase 2. Phase 3 involves specialized, more extensive reporting and optional diagnostic options. Note our Contact & Costs page for more information.

Who does the diagnostic?

Carl Shank, M.Div., Th.M., recently retired Pastor, has advanced NCD training and is rated by ChurchSmart, Inc., the North American NCD distributor, as one of the leading consultants in the northeast. His depth of expertise and wealth of experience can help your church or ministry grow in a healthy direction.

     Other consultants that have worked with Carl Shank can be called in to assist in building and facility issues and more particularized studies.

Where do I start?

To set up an NCD diagnostic with your church, call 717-385-6468, or send an email noted in the contact page.

     The first step will be to schedule a one-hour meeting with you and your church leadership in which the essentials of NCD and the NCD diagnostic are explained. The next step is to order the surveys through the consultant’s offices. Your leadership team then chooses thirty (30) people in the center of the life and ministry of the church to complete the surveys. The surveys are returned to the consultant’s offices for scoring.

     The pastor will then be sent a packet consisting of the NCD graphical results, a printout about the minimal factor, and some key recommendations for the church. At that time, a follow up meeting with your leadership will be held. This completes Phase 1.

     Any further consultant work and/or meetings can then be arranged as needed or wanted. The whole process, through the initial follow-up meeting, takes only a few weeks. The surveys can be taken anytime during the year. NCD is not church calendar dependent.

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Carl Shank Consulting

374 Alexandria Ct | Marietta, PA 17547