NCD Question for the Month of December
"God appeared to Zechariah, Mary, and the shepherds when they were just doing their jobs, being themselves. How has God spoken to you in the ordinary flow of life?"

How we're doing as a church
A report by our Natural Church Development team

 The year 2014 was the fourth in which St. Peter's participated in a program called Natural Church Development (NCD). It's actually a system used worldwide by over 55,000 congregations of many denominations to assist parishes toward greater health.

 We started with a survey ...

 A questionnaire measures church health like a physician does in an annual physical. It measures eight universal indicators of health in any congregation regardless of denomination, language, size or culture. Each fall we ask 30 people who represent a cross section of the parish to complete the survey. They must meet the following criteria:
- Be committed to the church
- Belong to a church group that meets regularly
- Be at least 14 years old
- The completed questionnaires are directly sent to Toronto and for analysis and returned to the parish

 ... Then a review of the survey results ...

 The parish NCD team looked at how the results changed compared to surveys in previous years to see if the categories with the lowest results last year have changed at all, and to find the two categories in this year's survey that come "least naturally" to our parish. In 2013 these 2 categories were Passionate Spirituality and Need-oriented Evangelism. In 2014 we saw dramatic improvement in both of these qualities, as well as in most of the other categories.

PASSIONATE SPIRITUALITY is still the quality which comes least naturally to us. The good news is we have seen substantial growth in this area.

GIFT-BASED MINISTRY continues to be our strongest quality.

 ... Next came a focus group based on 30 people ...
 At this meeting a summary of the results is presented and questions answered. Last year people divided into small groups to share how they've experienced the presence of God. We also asked them to discuss how we show appreciation to and for others. Finally, we asked them to identity barriers to both of these actions at St. Peters

 What the responses told us
- Hearing someone else's experience of God helps me recognize my own
- Watching and hearing others' stories in an intimate group setting is helpful
- Most of us do not experience God as a "bolt of lightning" event
- Many felt the softest sensation to "take some small action and then wondered "was that God?"
- It felt good to share the sense of mystery, goose bumps, and peace with others
- Fear, lack of opportunity and reluctance were the main barriers identified that prevent this type of interaction from happening

 We know from NCD research and experience in that if we reduce these barriers the parish will be healthier. Improving the health of the parish supports the desire and stated goal of this parish to grow.

 The team studied thoughts and material from the focus groups. The outcome is an action plan to help us be more comfortable and active in areas that come "less naturally to us" - to become more healthy as a parish.

 Action Plan for 2015
- Adopt the name: Living Faith Talk
- Continue the Question of the Month, moving to questions with a more spiritual focus. The question for the month of December, 2015 is "God appeared to Zechariah, Mary, and the shepherds when they were just doing their jobs, being themselves. How has God spoken to you in the ordinary flow of life?"
- Designate a table at coffee hour for people who wish to discuss the sermon
- Give an opportunity at services for people to speak for 60-90 seconds about how they have experienced God
- Formalize a moment of silent reflection just before the service begins
- Support the Stewardship Committee in their plans for acknowledging ministries
- Begin the cycle again: On October 25, 2015, measure how we've grown in activities that come "least naturally to us," and discover where we should put our energy to become even healthier.
Parish NCD team: Alison Keenan (Chair),
Pat Weller,
Judy Herron-Graham

Natural Church Development (NCD) is a like an annual check-up on the health of a church. Just like your doctor checks the main indicators of your health (blood pressure, heart, temperature, blood test) the NCD survey focuses on eight quality characteristics of healthy, growing churches, allowing us to measure and then shape our ministry to improve our overall health.  It has been used in over 70,000 churches on six continents.

What are the characteristics of a healthy, growing church?

1. Empowering Leadership
2. Gift-oriented Ministry
3. Passionate Spirituality
4. Functional Structures
5. Inspiring Worship
6. Holistic Small Groups
7. Need-Oriented Evangelism
8.  Loving Relationships

The Minimum Factor
Imagine the life of the church as a wooden bucket, with each of these characteristics forming one of the vertical staves. As you can see, the height of the shortest stave will determine the total amount of water the bucket can hold.  We are only as strong as our weakest link, only as healthy as our shortest stave.

We call the shortest stave the "minimum factor". By focusing on measuring, and then improving the minimum factor, we will increase the health and capacity for growth.

In the fall we had 30 participants (selection criteria: member of small group(s) at St. Peter's, age, sex and length of time at St. Peter's) complete the NCD survey.  Some of these participants have completed survey(s) previously.  If you met the criteria but weren't selected yet you may just get asked next time!  The results of this latest NCD survey are interesting because they show that we have come back to having the same minimum factor that we had in 2010 when we did the first survey - passionate spirituality.   You'll see that we have dipped below our previous scores as indicated by the small gray line above each bar:

Click image or here to enlarge

The interesting thing is that the first year one of St. Peter's NCD goals was to strengthen our community by opening meetings with prayer, a poem or a reading to focus our minds on God's presence among us thereby building trust, so that we could improve our minimum factor, passionate spirituality.  Through work done in small groups passionate spirituality improved remarkably and was no longer our minimum factor.  Our minimum factor was then need-oriented evangelism.  This year we are back to where we were originally, not surprising considering all the changes at St. Peter's over the last year, particularly the change in incumbent.

So what do we do this time to improve passionate spirituality?  In our focus group and subsequent NCD team meetings we realized that what comes less naturally to St. Peter's is connection, trust and reconciliation.  We believe that getting to know one another will improve trust and reconciliation which will in turn give us the confidence we need to share our spiritual stories with others, which will result in increased passionate spirituality!

What is our action plan?  In order to do this we are going to build on what we did the first year. We continue to encourage meetings to begin with prayer, an inspirational poem or reading. In addition, we are going to have all group leaders begin each group meeting discussing as a group or in pairs a parish question of the month (from a game called 'Table Talk') for a maximum of ten minutes.  The question will be promoted around the church with the hope that parishioners might take up opportunities to discuss it outside of meetings as well.  The questions will be easy to discuss i.e. the question for December, 2015 is "God appeared to Zechariah, Mary, and the shepherds when they were just doing their jobs, being themselves. How has God spoken to you in the ordinary flow of life?" - but of course a "pass" is always acceptable.  Details and training will be provided to group leaders.

We look forward to getting to know you better, to see the parish grow in trust and to see our passionate spirits flourish!

Yours in faith, The NCD Team:

Rev. Canon Judy Herron-Graham     Colin Turnpenney
Ken WillcocksAlison Keenan
Pat Weller Lisa Bailey

Updated November 02, 2015

Details of St. Peter's 2013 NCD Survey results can be found in the following Adobe PDF files:

St. Peter's 2013 NCD Status Guide

St. Peter's 2013 NCD Story Guide

St. Peter's 2013 NCD Summary Guide