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Healthy Church Resources

Christian Schwarz, author of Natural Church Development writes, “Healthy churches are growing churches, making more and better disciples in loving obedience to Christ.”(footnote) It is God’s will that every church be healthy. Healthy can be defined or interpreted in a number of ways, but the fruit being produced is the greatest indicator of health. This web site utilizes the eight characteristics of Natural Church Development to examine the health of the church.

Natural Church Development is a diagnostic tool to help determine the health of your church.

No one single factor leads to growth in churches; it is the interplay of the eight elements as they relate to one another. The growth in a church is not primarily the result of hard work or from our human strength and ingenuity, but rather from recognizing and releasing the potential God has placed in the church. Growth occurs automatically if we remove the obstacles that prevent growth.

In the four years that I have been using Natural Church Development with nearly 100 churches, I have noticed that the majority of the churches have a difficult time implementing significant changes. It is not so much that they don’t recognize that they need to change, or that they necessarily resist the change; they just don’t have the resources to know how to go about the change.

It is not absolutely necessary that a church should take the Natural Church Development survey to become healthy, nor by simply taking the survey will a church become healthy. Churches must work diligently to become healthier and to grow.

Although this website is designed primarily with the characteristics of Natural Church Development in mind, it is my hope that it will be helpful to any church desiring to grow in the characteristics Christian Schwarz has outlined in Natural Church Development. Schwarz has identified these eight characteristics as present in all churches. His premise is that for a church to be healthy they need to be strong in each of the characteristics.

Therefore, this website provides multiple options and ideas for each of the eight essential characteristics. Many of the resources are cross-referenced with other characteristics to strengthen the biotic principles.

Each section of the website follows the NCD Characteristics, and provides resources for your use. A general definition and description of the characteristic is included, with sidebars highlighting a short definition, “What is Measured,” “Symptoms,” and a “Biblical Foundation.” Each characteristic contains subsections on:

  • Discussion Questions – questions to dig deeper in understanding the characteristic
  • Big Ideas – a brainstorming section with ideas to increase the minimum factor
  • Using Your Strength – ideas to utilize the strength characteristics to increase the minimum factor
  • Resources – numerous resources to strengthen the characteristic
  • Next Steps - A reminder of the action steps

This resource is in no way exhaustive. However, I hope it will be a place for resource and idea sharing that will prove to be relevant and useful for churches desiring to grow. You are welcome to e-mail your additional suggestions, resources or stories to be included on the web-site.


Rev. Dirk Elliott

The Rev. Dirk P. Elliott’s is Associate Director of Congregational Development/ Redevelopment and Evangelism for East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church. He resources the Board of Congregational Development including the ministry teams: New Church Development Ministries Team; Redevelopment Team; Urban Team, and the Town and Country Ministries Team.

Dirk has a genuine desire to see the church grow through the power of the Holy Spirit. Openness to God and strong leadership are essential qualities for church growth.

Rev. Elliott, a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary, is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and a member of the West Ohio Conference.

He is a certified Christian Leadership Coach, receiving his certification through Valwood Christian Leadership Coaching. He specializes his coaching in the areas of Church Planting and Church Health.

Dirk comes to the Office of Congregational Development after serving 18 years of pastoral ministry in three appointments. He is a graduate of the West Ohio New Church Start Academy. Much of his continuing education has been in the areas of church growth, evangelism and faith sharing. He has taken part in the General Board of Discipleship Faith Sharing and Offering Christ Today. He has taken Herb Miller’s workshops on Effective Worship, Visionary Leadership, and Evangelism. He is also a trained consultant in Natural Church Development. He has served as Spiritual Director on many Emmaus Walks and has served as Community Spiritual Director for the Central Ohio Emmaus Community. Dirk is on the Board of Directors for the Bishop Rueben Job Leadership Development Center.