NATURAL CHURCH DEVELOPMENT:
Eight Characteristics of a Healthy Church
As described in the book, Color Your World with Natural Church Development, by Christian Schwarz, through scientific research in Christian churches of various denominations in over 100 countries, it has been discovered that every healthy, growing church has eight characteristics in common. These characteristics are:
- Effective Structures
- Empowering Leadership
- Gift-Oriented Ministry
- Holistic Small Groups
- Inspiring Worship
- Loving Relationships
- Need-Oriented Evangelism
- Passionate Spirituality
Some or all of these characteristics can be found in all churches; however, the KEY words are the adjectives preceding the characteristic (i.e., Empowering Leadership, Loving relationships, etc.).
A Natural Church Development survey has been created to enable individual churches to be measured in each of these eight areas. Questionnaires are filled out by 29 active, involved lay persons and by the pastor. The data from these questionnaires is compared to the data previously entered from ALL the Christian churches in the U.S. that have ever taken the survey. The results are then computed and can be printed out so the church can easily see their strengths and weaknesses in each of these eight areas.
Once the church identifies their lowest 10 questions on the survey, they can begin concentrating on improving those areas. Usually, as these areas are improved, other areas improve also. It is recommended that the church re-take the survey every 12 months. If a church continues with this process over a period of years, it will continually improve in each of the eight characteristics, becoming more healthy and more effective in its ministries within the congregation and within the community it serves.
The premise of Natural Church Development is that as obstacles to growth are removed, the church will naturally grow as God has given it the ability to grow. A comparison can be made to a plant. If you plant in poor, rocky soil, provide very little sunlight and no water, the plant will not grow. If you remove the rocks, provide good soil, adequate sunlight and water, the plant will naturally grow, as God has given it the ability to grow.
If you are considering using Natural Church Development in your church we recommend you begin by reading Color Your World with Natural Church Development. It can also be helpful to share the booklet Creating Healthy Adventist Churches Through Natural Church Development with your church board members or elders.