Daar is altyd ‘n alternatiewe storie wat die Gees besig is om te skryf

Written by Besoeker on . Posted in Gemeentes

Ek sit die week saam met ‘n leiersgroep van ‘n baie tradisionele gemeente.  Hulle het behoefte aan ‘n proses en vertel een na die ander van probleme wat hulle ondervind met hulle stoere lidmate en hulle onvermoë om die lidmate se koppe en harte oor die kerk te verander. In hulle oë sien ek die vrees wat ek so dikwels gewaar onder gemeenteleiers wat weet hulle moet ‘n ding doen, maar diep in hulle harte onseker is of hulle dit gaan regkry.

Naby die einde van die gesprek, vertel hulle terloops hoedat ‘n sopkombuis vir straatmense in die middedorp waar hulle kerk geleë is, gegroei het na ‘n aand erediens waar tot 60 van die straatmense elke Sondagaand kerk toe kom.  “Hoe het dit gebeur?” vra ek.  “Wel ons weet nie eintlik nie; dit het maar so gegroei van die een ding na die ander; ons het dit nie eintlik beplan nie.”

Oombliklik weet ek, hier is die spore van die Gees se werk, besig om ‘n alternatiewe storie te skryf, so onverwags en uit ” plek” uit dat ons dit byna nie raaksien nie, en, waarskynlik omdat ons dit nie beplan het nie, geneig om dit mis te kyk.

Ek vra so ‘n bietjie meer in hieroor en stadig ontvou ‘n alternatiewe storie wat die Gees besig is om in hulle gemeente te skryf.

Ek het geleer: dít is die eintlik goed waarmee gemeenteleiers hulle moet besig hou, nie hulle eie planne nie, nie hulle eie agendas nie, maar met ‘n nuuskierigheid oor waar en hoe die Gees nou besig is om ‘n alternatiewe storie te skryf.

Ruil ons nie ons agendas daarvoor in nie, het ek van myself geleer. Beland ons nie te dikwels by ‘n te vol program besig om dinge te dryf waarin daar nie energie is nie – selfs al is dit die regte goed?

Ek wonder hoeveel dinamika gee die Gees tans in jou gemeente, maar omdat dit dalk nie op julle Kerkraad se agenda is nie, sien julle dit nie raak nie en kan julle ook daarom nie die gemeente daarmee in lyn bring nie.  Ek weet dit gebeur dikwels met my!

It is the best of times … vir gemeentes in Suidelike Afrika (padlangs)

Written by Besoeker on . Posted in Gemeentes

Ons het hierdie week weer Verantwoordelike Vernuwing gehad – vir my altyd lekker, want dan hoor ek weer ‘n klomp nuwe stories oor gemeentes. Ek moes ook twee werkswinkels aanbied, maar verder het ek my gate uit geniet om na al die stories te luister.  Daar het ‘n paar dinge my opgeval as ek terugdink oor die 8 jaar wat ons die konferensie aanbied. Ek het 6 goed raakgesien wat ek my aan verwonder het:

  1. Die entoesiasme vir vernuwing het nie afgeneem nie maar eerder verskerp. Dit is baie min dat ‘n mens vandag kry dat daar oor ‘n tyd van 8 jaar ‘n groeiende belangstelling is om te bly werk aan vernuwing.  Meestal sal mense na 8 jaar moedeloos wees en of dink hulle het genoeg geleer of dat wat hulle leer nie eintlik help nie.  Dit is eintlik merkwaardig, jaar na jaar stroom daar honderde gemeenteleiers na die konferensie- ons het vanjaar 400 gehad.
  2. Die baklei is weg en leerbaarheid het plek gemaak. Hierdie stelling mag julle verbaas so laat ek dit helderder stel.  Ag jaar gelede het baie van die konferensiegangers nog gekom met die idee ons is eintlik reg en weet hoe dit werk, en-moet-nie-vir-my-kom-sê-dit-is-nie-so-nie, houding. Die houding is weg en in die plek daarvan is ‘n openlike erkenning, ons weet nie maar ons wil leer.  Dit is amper nog meer merkwaardig as die eerste stelling.  Die woord luister is kwistig gebruik deur aanbieders en deelnemers en ook be-oefen.
  3. Mense is baie broser en sagter met mekaar – dit mag nou projeksie wees want ek het natuurlik ook in die 8 jaar ouer geword, maar ek dink darem dit is meer as dit. In die 8 jaar het baie van ons moes leer dat die antwoorde wat ons gehad het, het nie so goed gewerk nie, ons het seer gekry, broser geraak, moeg geword, uit gebrand, maar snaaks ek het nie wanhoop ervaar nie, eerder ‘n sagtheid.  Ek het by baie die idee gekry hulle wou sommer net daar wees om ‘n slag ‘n paar mense wat soos hulle voel en die pad met hulle saamloop in die oë kyk – baie het vir mekaar by groet-tyd gesê – Kyk mooi na jouself. Ek moet sê ek begin na 21 jaar in die bediening onder die klomp tuis voel.
  4. God is meer van ‘n lewende werklikheid as 8 jaar gelede – Coenie het in die laat 90’er jare in Transito voorspel dat daar verdiepte spiritualiteit gaan kom. Ek het dit gesien en in ‘n gesprek met prof Kees van der Kooi is dit bevestig – God is ‘n lewende werklikheid vir meer en meer gemeenteleiers.  Daar is baie meer gebid en getuig as 8 jaar gelede. Ek dink ons hoop is baie meer op God as op ons eie vermoëns.
  5. Daar is ‘n nuwe generasie aan wie ons die plek moet gee om ons te leer. By hierdie konferensie het ek jongmense en studente gesien wat hoop het – Russel het dit so mooi gestel toe hy gesê het dat dit die jong generasie is wat die ouer generasie sal moet leer wat die gameplan is. Hulle was min, te min, maar hulle was daar en hulle het gepraat deel geneem – ek het my voorgeneem – ek moet plek maak sodat hulle die leierskap kan neem. Een van my vriende het dit so gestel – ek wil so ‘n halwe tree agter my kinders wees, hulle moet nou voorloop. Ek sal daar wees om hulle te ondersteun, maar dit is nou hulle beurt op die verhoog.
  6. Die kontak tussenVGK en NG lidmate het verbeter en verinnig. VerantwoordelikeVernuwing was ‘n NG inisiatief, maar vanjaar was daar meer VGK gemeenteleiers as ooit, maar belangriker nog is die spontane saampraat, saam leer en die bou van bande. Dit is ironies dat ek dit skryf in ‘n week wat die formele proses tussen ons tot stilstand geknars het.

As ek so na die lysie kyk, moet ek sê elkeen is ‘n wonderwerk, ‘n gawe van die Gees – ek weet nie of ek dit 8 jaar gelede sou verwag het nie. By die laaste werkswinkel vertel ‘n lidmaatleier van Nederlandse gaste wat haar besoek het en so verstom was oor wat alles in hulle gemeente te beur dat hulle haar gevra het om daaroor ‘n artikel te skryf vir hulle kerk se blad. Met die skryf sê sy, het sy ontdek dat daar veel meer lewenskrag in hulle gemeente is as wat sy raakgesien het.

Wat is jou lysie van onverwagse groei in jou gemeente?

Glo my dit is daar, so waar as wat die Gees ‘n lewende werklikheid in die gemeente is.

It is the best of times…

Is the NCD survey a trustworthy tool for every local congregation? Reflections on a South African case study.

Written by webmeester on . Posted in Gemeentes

Dr Frederick Marais


Consortium Paper


The NCD survey claims to be a “trustworthy tool” for every local congregation because it uses “universal principles” that emerge from studies done in 40,000 churches in 70 countries.[1] Schwartz, the founder of NCD, claims that the problem with the church growth movement was the lack of discernment on proven principles for growing churches.[2]

“Fuller Theological Seminary has learned many good things.  But in the end, I realised that despite 40 years of church growth studies, there had not been a single study that answers the question: What really are the proven principles that globally apply to all growing churches?”[3] Schwartz claims that this is precisely what their research was able to establish:


It has become possible to assess the quality of a church quite precisely. Today when a local church does the NCD Survey, the computer compares the answers of the members of that church with a formula based on all of the 168 million answers that have been collected in our research so far…(T)he objectivity of the instrument has enabled thousands of churches (from the most diverse backgrounds) to base their planning on the results that they got from the survey.[4]

There is no doubt that such universal principles, if they exist, would be of help for local congregations to utilise in their own process of strategy development and discernment. The question in this paper is simply the following: Are the NCD principles as objective and universal as they claim to be?

Since NCD was inspired by the Church Growth Movement and are developed mainly from research done in Independent Churches, the question is clear: can the NCD profile, for example, measure correctly in mainline congregations, or are the theological and ecclesiastical assumptions in different traditions and cultural contexts so different that the questions in the survey would be understood incorrectly? Do, for example, concepts like leadership, worship, and evangelism have the same meaning in an independent charismatic congregation and in a reformed mainline congregation? Since NCD claims to be objective and universal, the answer to these questions is of real importance for the reliability of the NCD profiles. 

In order to start answering the questions posed above, I will compare results from the NCD profile and the Ministry Needs Questionnaire developed by BUVTON[5] done in the same congregation in 2002. The Buvton Questionnaire[6] was developed to help mainline congregations in the reformed tradition to measure what their congregants’ perceptions are of the quality of the ministry in the congregation.

The congregation in question was, like most congregations in post-apartheid South Africa, challenged by the new context they find themselves in at the turn of the century. It draws its members from a suburb in a middle/upper class neighbourhood in South Africa and is a member of the Dutch Reform Church of South Africa.  The official membership of the congregation was slightly more than 3,000 in 2002, the year the NCD profile and Buvton questionnaire were done. The congregation had lost a considerable number of members during the previous 5-10 years, and the leadership wanted some answers about possible reasons for this drop in numbers. In terms of Alice Mann’s grid, they can be classified as a “corporate church”.[7] That means that they were especially interested to receive feedback on leadership and worship issues. Key to the Corporate Congregation’s effectiveness, according to Mann, is visionary leadership, the Sunday service, and teamwork.

They decided to do the NCD-profile on the eight quality characteristics of growing churches, and they received the following profile from NCD:

Empowering leadership          41

Gift-oriented ministry             42

Passionate spirituality             13

Functional structures             22

Inspiring worship                   10

Holistic small groups               31

Need-oriented evangelism      14

Loving relationships               46

It is clear that, loving relationships, gift-oriented ministry, and empowering leadership seem to be their strong quality characteristics. This puzzled the leadership, and they decided to do the Buvton Questionnaire a few months later.

The Buvton report categorised the outcome of their questionnaire in the following four categories:

   1. This is our congregation’s strong points…
   2. We feel satisfied about…
   3. We are concerned about…
   4. We need to take urgent action on…

The congregation received the following report from Buvton:

   1. Our congregation’s strong points…


No score

   2. We feel satisfied about…
         1. Worship
         2. Spiritual formation
         3. communication
   3. We are concerned about…
         1. Community service
         2. Evangelical witness
         3. The fostering of values in our community
   4. We need to take urgent action on…
         1. Gift-oriented ministry
         2. Leadership
         3. Relationships in the congregation

In order to make a fair comparison of the two surveys, we should take note of the fact that the Buvton report obviously does not use the same “characteristics” or statistical methodology as NCD. To compare the results of the two surveys, we should focus on the position of the characteristics in the list that each survey presents.

It is interesting and disturbing that the top three characteristics of the NCD survey are more or less the same as the bottom three on the Buvton list:















NCD(top three)
Buvton(bottom three)
Loving relationships Gift-oriented ministry
Gift-oriented ministry  Leadership
Empowering leadership  Relationships in the congregation

The two results for consideration by the congregation’s leadership were conflicting. How is it possible for two surveys done within months of each other to deliver such conflicting results?

This brings us back to the question of this paper: Is the NCD survey objective and universal?  This case study clearly shows that, at least in this case, the NCD survey is not universal. The case study does not provide us with reasons for these confusing results, nor does it provide an answer to the question of which survey was more correct in its analysis.  We should however take note of the fact the NCD survey claims to be universal while the Buvton Questionnaire does not make this claim.

What the result clearly shows us is that concepts and words do operate within “hermeneutical systems of meaning” and that NCD may not attend to these hermeneutical issues enough, to make the claim to be a universal instrument for congregations. When using the NCD survey, congregations make use of the language, the metaphors, and the symbols developed by NCD.  In doing so, they evaluate themselves within this framework without really understanding what the questions mean. Take leadership, for example. To evaluate the quality of leadership, as the NCD survey ask us to do, one would surely be influenced by the theology in a non-denominational congregation and in a reform congregation. A number of theological and ecclesiastical assumptions will determine the evaluation of leadership in these congregations. If these congregations are in different cultural settings, evaluation becomes even more complex. It might not even be a good idea to ask the leadership question in certain cultural settings.
 
It is a basic rule in the hermeneutical process that one should be very careful not to claim to understand or to be understood, without an attempt to understand the context and (theological) framework of the given text. The same word or concept can have vastly different meanings in two different systems. Concepts like leadership, worship, and spirituality that NCD uses can and will therefore be understood differently by the congregations that make use of the NCD survey.

This may explain why in this case study concepts like  “loving relationships,” “leadership,” and “gift-oriented ministry” were clearly understood differently.  “Loving relationships” receives the highest score in the NCD survey while in the Buvton Questionnaire it came out as the most urgent problem the leadership should attend to.

When congregations consider using the NCC survey, or any other survey that claims to be objective and universal, they should be aware of the above hermeneutical challenges, or they might end up being more confused like the congregation in the case study, and their hope of a better or even growing future could be spent unwisely.

[1] www.ncd-international.org

[2] Schwarz, The ABC of Natural Church Development

[3] Schwarz, The ABC of Natural Church Development

[4] Answer on the question of the scientific reliability of the NCD survey on their website www.ncd-international.org

[5] Buvton is the Bureau for Continuous Theological Training and Research at the Theological Faculty of The University of Stellenbosch, South Africa

[6] The Buvton Questionnaire was develop by the facilitators team of Buvton to help congregations in the  process of re-visioning. The Questionnaire make use the classical reform ecclesiology as develop by Coenie Burger in Gemeentes binne die kragveld van die Gees(Lux Verbi: 1999) as the theological frame and the structure of the questionnaire. After a period of testing it was standardised in 2000 and since then used in more that 150 congregations mainly form the reform family in Southern Africa.

[7] Alice Mann, The In-Between Church: Navigating Size Transitions in Congregations Alban Institute, 1998