Deacon Dean writes, “The previous two administration’s [sic] leadership can be characterized by high end detailed planning, with strong centralized authority. The process leaned toward mandatory policy and procedure with little room for personal initiative. Pastoral leadership was managerial in the extreme with tight control. Emphasis was on keeping things running smoothly with high control over resources and programs…Lay leadership tended to follow the pattern of pastoral leadership of extreme managerial control.”
Next, Deacon Dean describes the staff in terms of being a team. “Initially the group did no strategic planning together beyond setting dates in the calendar. Trust was virtually non-existent. The group made no effort to serve, empower or assimilate with each other. Between some individuals, animosity was extremely high, paralyzing genuine team development. In July of 2010, the parish leadership team developed a metric for measuring itself as a team. As of July 2010, the last person creating the high levels of animosity left the leadership team, leaving a group of people who have much greater potential at developing as a team.” (See note below)
Scoring the Parish
The ‘team metric’ for leadership became as follows: objectives were named, with levels of success being 1, 3, or 5 (5 being the highest degree of success). A current assessment was implemented. Objectives included: To trust God and each other, to empower each other, to assimilate with each other as a body does to its parts, to manage ourselves with excellence, to serve each other and the community.
The strategy to be successful is based on this statement from the thesis: “The ability to grow as a team has more to do with who is on the team than what the team is doing.” [Emphasis added] Deacon Dean further writes, “Not until July 2010 did the parish leadership team finally consist of people who really can and want to become a team.” (Note: The personnel issues that are being mentioned here and above were the cause of a large rupture at All Saints Parish that has not been healed to this day. In particular, the former youth minister and the faith formation director were dynamic and beloved staff members who worked tirelessly on behalf of parishioners. The manner in which their departures were handled created an upheaval that drove numerous families and individuals to leave the parish. It is difficult to have their many years of service described in the way it has been characterized here.)
Next, the parish leadership conducted a Natural Church Development Survey. This way of assessing a church’s health was developed by a German church growth consultant, Christian A. Schwarz. See a short video here. NCD participants seem to be overwhelmingly Protestant (I did find a website that claims 20 Orthodox congregations have taken the survey or implemented NCD strategies). See here for more information on NCD: NCD International and Natural Church Development.
While most of the reviews on NCD are positive, it is couched within a Protestant perspective, which is natural considering that many Protestant brethren are largely divorced from a sacramental worship, and must seek to engage their members. The sanctifying and life-changing “summit and source” of the Catholic faith—the Eucharist in the Mass--is unavailable to them.
I did find a critical review of NCD that brought up some important points. Written from a Southern Baptist viewpoint, Byron Straughn said, “For example, the first part of NCD (eight character qualities) is telling. There are no references to the Bible and about 25 diagrams/graphs highlighting his extensive survey results. To be fair, this part of his book is about what he discovered about churches with regard to the eight quality characteristics. However, we need to think about the reasoning behind selection of those characteristics. In other words, who came up with the criteria to evaluate churches against these characteristics? The standard used to examine the churches, if determined by Scripture, was never explained. Who could argue with some of them? Some seem fine or even biblical, but they are finally Schwarz’s formulation. These assumed characteristics are not understood to be universally agreed upon or revealed through creation itself. We learn nothing from creation about the church.”
He later says, “Doctrinal differences are blurred or overlooked in NCD. Those that will want to emphasize doctrine are dismissed as “technocratic” or at other times as “spiritualistic”. When Schwarz lists the ten steps to take toward implementation, his first point (“Build spiritual momentum”) is empty when it should be filled with the Gospel and the life-creating power of God’s Word. He admits that the church development is done for the sake of worship, but he has no advice for how or why a congregation is motivated to worship.” [Emphases added]
Quality Characteristics—the Disconnect
In our parish the survey was taken by 30 parishioners, individuals whom parish leadership determined were “involved”, and a Quality Characteristic Profile was generated, indicating strengths and weaknesses of the parish. See here for a graph of the results. Scores above 65 show ‘significant strengths’ and those below 35 reveal ‘significant weaknesses’. The average score for All Saints Parish was 44.
The five highest overall scores were: Integrated Gifts into Ministry (70), Significance of Ministry (63), Leadership Fit (59), Group Relevance (59), and Multiplication of Disciples, Leaders, and Groups (56). The five lowest scores were: Visitor Friendly Church (27), Compassionate Church (31), Seeker-Sensitive Church (35), Innovation and Managing Change (36), and Affirmation and Encouragement (36).
Also included in this chapter are the results of parishioners’ self-assessment of their spiritual maturity. Interestingly, parishioners score themselves quite differently than the Quality Characteristic Profile did. Categories included: Conversion—Following Jesus, Fellowship, Praying and Worshipping God, Discipleship, Discernment, Living the Fruit of the Spirit, Loving God and Neighbor, Stewardship, and Evangelization.
On a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being the best), parishioners self-scored in a majority of instances with 4’s, with 3’s being a close second. One of the brightest spots was in the Praying and Worshipping category, in which parishioners scored highly for regular prayer and worship. Another high spot was in the category of Evangelization--large numbers of parishioners said they are learning how to share their faith, do share their faith when asked, and look for opportunities to share their faith. The category of Loving God and Neighbor—Offering Forgiveness also scored very well, according to parishioners. A large majority shared that they are growing in love for God and man, and are consciously seeking ways to forgive, and to live a life reflective of the Church’s teaching.
Clearly there is a disconnect between those who were chosen to take the NCD survey, and the 567 parishioners who responded to the spiritual maturity survey. The NCD profile often scored the parish low in those areas that parishioners scored themselves high, such as being compassionate, encouraging, friendly, and loving.
Another interesting point is that the NCD profile’s highest scores centered on parish leadership and ministry. Parish leaders have a different view of the parish than parishioners, and vice versa.
(Part 3 continues below)