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Natural Church Development Report for the Adventist Church
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When the Natural Church Development survey was first introduced in 1998, I became one of the first five pastors to utilize the tool in my local congregation in North Dallas.  Since that time, hundreds of Adventist churches have taken the survey!  Those churches that have followed up with implementation, based on the results, have experienced growth in: tithe, offerings, membership, and baptisms (verified by research conducted for DMin dissertation by Rodney Mills).  There have been a number of compelling reasons as to why I have heartily embraced Natural Church Development as an evaluation tool for the local church:

1.       The principles are solidly grounded in the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy.

2.       It gives the church an objective view of where they are currently at.  Reality can be faced.

3.       It gives the church hope.  There is something practical they can do to improve their church.

4.       It is not a one time program.  Used properly, it becomes part of the life of the church.

5.       Healthy churches find success in retaining new members who join through soul-winning efforts.

6.       The natural end result is a church that more effectively reaches the harvest AND multiplies daughter churches.

Since February of 2007, 427 Adventist churches in the United States have taken the NCD survey.  Recently, Ian Campbell (NCD consultant and advisory board member from Australia), visited NADEI and shared with us the cumulative results. The good news is that we have seen a dramatic increase in our average church health from the first set of surveys (prior to 2007).  Our current average now stands at 50.5, up from around 43.  This is certainly cause for celebration, but most people don’t jump up and down about getting a “C” in school.  A score of 50 is average, so there is still much room for improvement.

By category, our scores as follows (from highest to lowest):

Need-oriented Evangelism 55.3
Passionate Spirituality 54.3
Gift-based Ministry 53.0
Empowering Leadership 50.2
Effective Structures 49.6
Loving Relationships 47.9
Inspiring Worship Service 46.8
Holistic Small Groups 46.5

A study of this scale can begin to inform us of trends within the Adventist church.  Some of the findings are not surprising.  The high and low positions of these characteristics have remained the same since 1998.  As Adventists, we have a strong emphasis on Evangelism.  Our challenge continues to be the development of Holistic Small Groups.  Gift-based ministry has jumped from 2nd to last to 3rd.  This improvement is encouraging.  A troubling result is the low score of “Inspiring Worship Service.”  Of the 11 questions related to “Inspiring Worship Service” on the survey, three are in the lowest 10 questions (of the total of 86 questions on the survey).  One is particularly surprising, “I can easily explain why I come to the worship service,” with a score of 44 on this question.  It would cause one to wonder how motivated members would be to invite others to a worship service if they can’t clearly explain why they attend themselves!

Valuable cultural insights can be gained by reflecting on the top 10 questions on the survey.  Two questions related to “Need-oriented Evangelism” ranked #1 and #3 out of the 86 survey questions: “I try to deepen my relationship with people who do not yet know Jesus” (score of 67), and “I pray for my friends, colleagues, and relatives who do not yet know Jesus Christ, that they will come to faith” (score of 62).  Two questions in the category of “Passionate Spirituality” ranked #2 and #5: “I enjoy reading the Bible on my own” (score of 66), and “The Bible is a powerful guide for me in the decisions of everyday life” (score of 62).  These results are certainly encouraging!  It is interesting that these four questions also score in the top ten for the Adventist church in Australia.  Adventist culture is strong and transcends oceans.

We can also gain valuable insights by reflecting on the lowest 10 scores.  The lowest two questions come from the category of “Loving Relationships”: “I can rely on my friends at church” (score of 40) and, “In our church it is possible to talk with other people about personal problems” (score of 40).  These results give us pause to wonder how much relational vitality is taking place in most of our churches.  Are we simply skimming the surface and wearing masks of “all is well” on Sabbath morning? 

Finally, there is one question on the survey that has the greatest correlation on whether an Adventist church is growing or not.  The score on this question rises and falls consistently based on the growth or decline of the church.  It is question number 74, “Our leaders are spiritual examples to me.”  This question scored the lowest for us in the category of “Passionate Spirituality” with a 44.  Of all the results, this finding is perhaps the most challenging.  Overall, the 11,837 Adventists in the United States who were surveyed find their leaders as being below average in Spirituality.  If we want to see our churches grow, this is the most significant area that needs attention!  The call to revival and reformation is timely!

Many thanks to Ian Campbell for providing this research and the beneficial insights!  If you would like to know more about NCD or to order a survey, contact Andrea at 269-471-8303.

Tom Evans, Associate Director, Church Planting, NCD & Coaching

Reprinted with permission of NADEI News

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