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Goal #3: Church Growth
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September, 2013

How can a local church create a healthy ministry environment that will attract and nurture disciples? Del Dunavant, director of NCC church growth and evangelism, has two responses: self-assessment and goals.“In order to go where God wants us to go, we need to know where we are now—our strengths and weaknesses,” said Dunavant. “And then we need to set goals for where He wants us to be.”

According to Dunavant, congregations that are serious about growth need to ask themselves four questions: What is it that God wants for our church? How does God want us to do that? What resources and training do we need? How will we be accountable before God? By 2016, the conference goal is for 90% of NCC churches to answer these four questions every year through a process of self-assessment.

Dunavant’s team includes five NCC church growth associates—pastors in the field who are trained to coach and encourage churches in this process. (See photo at left.) “I have discovered that 75% of congregations with a coach worked on achieving their goals, while only 10% without a coach did anything,” said Dunavant. 

The church growth department plans to offer churches a choice of tools to help in the assessment process. One such tool is Natural Church Development, used in Christian churches throughout the world. As another option, Dunavant is developing a Local Church Assessment Tool, specifically designed for Adventist congregations. The new survey asks church members to evaluate their church in nine areas: intimacy with God, congregational worship, loving relationships, church community, prayer ministry, mission focus, discipleship, empowering leadership, and outreach. The survey will soon be available in print and electronic formats. 

Church members are often surprised by the results of their first-time assessment. “I worked with a couple of churches that were unhappy, but they didn’t know why until they did an assessment,” said church growth associate Jon Cicle, pastor of the Vallejo Central church. After learning more about their congregations, the churches were able to set goals to remedy the problems. 

A single assessment is not enough to make a church well and strong; an annual check up is required. “As anyone knows who has tried to stay in better shape, you can never be too healthy,” said church growth associate Greg Webster, Gracepoint church associate pastor. “You treat the body of Christ the same way you treat your body. You keep the process ongoing and keep it fresh.”

Whatever assessment tool a congregation uses, a willingness to try something new is essential. “Many churches do things the same way every year and wonder why they are not growing,” said Dunavant. “God can do great things in a church that is willing to take an honest look at itself and prayerfully seek to do His will.”
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