April 03, 2008

A Perspective from Smiths Grove

"What is NCD?" you may ask.  NCD is a process properly called Natural Church Development that has been successfully implemented by thousands of churches worldwide.  It involves a self-analysis technique that results in church growth both spiritually and numerically when properly applied.  Smiths Grove United Methodist (SGUMC) (Bowling Green District) would like to share our story and experiences that we have encountered during our year of implementation of the NCD process.

Our membership has been concerned for several years about attendance in our Sunday school program and our youth ministry.  A need also existed for more membership involvement in the total ministry of the church.  Leaders of the church were unable to develop a satisfactory action plan to address these concerns.  At our 2006 Charge Conference, Dr. Michael Powers (Bowling Green District Superintendent) introduced us to the NCD process, and we instantly knew that this was the opportunity that had been God-sent.  We immediately began making plans to be a participating church in the Natural Church Development.  Although it has been challenging, it also has been a rewarding decision.

After securing the needed resources, a seven-member oversight committee was selected to provide leadership for this endeavor.  This committee became known as the Church Health Team.  Dr. Powers has served as a resource person to this committee as well as the congregation.

Thirty members participated in an NCD survey to identify the strengths and weaknesses of our church.  The eight areas measured were empowering leadership, gift-oriented ministry, passionate spirituality, functional structures, inspiring worship service, holistic small groups, need-oriented evangelism, and loving relationships.  The survey was then scored by Church Smart Resources with a score of 50 being the norm or average for each of the eight areas.  Our scores ranged from 31 to 66 with functional structures being the lowest and empowering leadership being the highest.

Following the guidelines of NCD, we addressed our lowest norm – functional structures.  You may ask why only the lowest norm was addressed.  Research indicates that when the lowest norm increases all the other areas increase as well (a rising tide lifts all boats).  Functional structures encompasses organizational structures and systems; leadership oversight; vision, goals, and planning; creativity; and managing change.  The best description of deficient functional structures is that many times the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing.

After receiving the results of the survey, four subcommittees consisting of ten to twelve members each met to address a specific area related to functional structures.  These subcommittees' reports were presented to the Church Health Team to finalize a plan of action for the coming year.  The Health Team made the following recommendations which were approved by the administrative board:
1. Approval of a new mission statement (Loving Believers Presenting Christ and Equipping Disciples)
2. Approval of three goals relating to functional structures
a. Use a variety of techniques to educate the congregation on the value of change
b. Equip a minimum of 20 individuals for leadership positions over the next conference year
c. Organize at least 3 effective communications structures for the congregation and community

Each of these goals was given a timeline and became the focal point of our work for the remainder of the conference year.  The church has seen the following take place as we addressed these goals:
1. A church directory published and distributed to each family of the church.
2. A church newsletter published and distributed quarterly.
3. Monthly administrative board meeting with minutes printed in the church bulletin.
4. Organized prayer chain and telephone tree.
5. Employment of a youth director.
6. Leadership training provided for 24 church leaders.
7. Organization of a children's church.
8. Willingness to accept change has been stressed to the congregation.
9. The church has become the chartered organization for the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Adventure Crew.
10. Ladies Prayer Breakfast group formed with weekly meetings.
11. Organization of the United Methodist Men is in the infancy stage.

It is obvious that our church has been busy doing the Lord's work with the rewards being most satisfying.  We have found that more members are willing to accept leadership roles and be participants in the total ministry of the church.  The SGUMC is proud of the strides that have been made over the past year, but we realize there is work yet to be done.  NCD is not a one-year process but rather an ongoing process if we are to reap its fullest rewards.

Our church will again administer the NCD in May of this year.  It is our hope that the same 30 members will participate in this survey so that the feedback will be more reliable.  The results of this survey will enable us to evaluate our past work and assist us in making plans for the coming year.  We are convinced that Natural Church Development is an excellent tool in identifying the weaknesses and strengths of any church.  It is also a means of correcting deficiencies that have been identified.  There is not a better time to begin the process than now.  May God bless you and the SBUMC as we strive to do His will. 

Submitted by members of Smiths Grove UMC

Related web sites
Natural Church Development International
Kentucky NCCD