Stewardship Resource

NCD Biotics, Part Two

Article  Article
  • Author: Salt 2004
  • Updated: 11/09/2009
  • Copyright: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Any part of Salt Seasonings can be reproduced with attribution. All Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (NRSV).

This article looks at the health of a congregation and the life principles that the congregation upholds.  This articles causes the reader to reflect upon the congregation and the messages that the congreation focuses upon.

NCD Biotics, Part 2

Many ELCA congregations are using a tool that measures church health called Natural Church Development or NCD.  Based on the work of a German social scientist named Christian Scwartz, NCD explores the quality of health in a congregation by measuring certain quantitative values.

NCR uses "biotic principles." "Biotic" comes from the work of biologist Frederic Vester. It means 'life giving'. So any solution that's a part of a Natural Church Development process incorporates "life giving" principles. Vester identified six separate principles .  As you read, see if you can come up with an example of each from Scripture. We'll look at three of the six  principles.

The first principle is multi-usage.  This principle has two main facets: Resources and activities in a congregation should increase sustainablility--or at least not detract from the overall energy in a congregation--and every effort should positively impact more than one purpose of the congregation.  An example of multi-usage would be how an email database that started for the prayer ministry could also be used to update the entire congregation on the weekly schedule, worship notes or even the pastor's birthday.  A key evaluation question for multi-usage is "How do these actions contribute to our future ministry?"  You might also evaluate whether or not a particular ministry gains its own momentum over time.

Next up comes symbiosis, which says that different ministries can develop cooperative partnerships that allow both ministries to accomplish more than they would individually.  For example, by pooling their resources (including energy), a congregation's men's group and the youth could make more progress on a habitat house than either group could by itself. Both groups would still get their individual opportunities for faith growth and community service, but progress would happen at a much more rapid pace. For an evaluation question, you might try: "How can we work together to increase ministry effectiveness?"

Functionality is the final biotic principle.  Put simply, this principle evaluates whether or not a ministry achieves results according to its intended purpose?  Does it work?  And if so, how well?  NCD coaches report that many congregations are amazed at the simplicity of this principle.  Yet it may be a question that seems so easy that one forgets even to ask: "How are we doing?"  Think of functionality as your biotic report card.

For more information on biotic principles or Natural Church Development, checkout ChurchSmart Resources online at

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Adam CopelandAdam Copeland serves as director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders.

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