The Bridge Church, Winnipeg, MB
I believe the concepts and principles of NCD were not well understood by our church leadership or our denomination. I’m not even sure if NCD International had a good system for assisting churches with this, especially with interpretation of data and implementation of change, and so we stopped conducting annual Surveys after 2007. After three years of seeing the same data and no change, leadership wondered what the value was and chose to focus on other priorities.
In 2010, after some significant change in our church and a new NCD coach from within our denomination, we were encouraged to conduct another Survey. The results were astonishing! Despite coming through a rough season of ministry, our survey indicated that we had experienced a culture change and we were experiencing health! Of course, we were very curious to dig into this data and discover why. Our coach understood the principles of growth and how to teach us to work through the NCD cycle of Test-Understand-Plan-Do-Experience-Perceive. It was also helpful that I had just come on staff out of a Quality Assurance background, and quickly realized that the NCD Cycle was very similar to the audit cycle used by many businesses.
Our coach walked us through each step of the way, with a focus on Passionate Spirituality as that was our lowest Quality Characteristic. We began looking into ways that would help us grow in that area. During an NCD training day, Bill Bickle took us through Christian Schwarz’s book, ‘The 3 Colors of Spirituality.’ It was eye-opening and I immediately wanted to take it back to The Bridge and have everyone take it. To learn how God has wired you specifically to connect with Him, and then, in the context of com-munity, learn how God has wired other individuals in your congregation — how can that not lead to more passion about our spirituality?
Within a few months, we began implementing this training into our discipleship pathway. The immediate feedback was positive. Our congregation began understanding how they were wired individually, but more importantly, they began to understand that not everyone was wired like them. Conversations were happening in the lobby around the colours, and instead of dividing people, it brought them together in conversation. They could talk about their experiences within the context of their colour, and share them with those that either had similar colours or contrasting colours.
After only one semester of implementation, we conducted another Survey and once again, Passionate Spirituality had increased. In 2010 our score was a 51, and for 2011 it was a 53.5. It may not look significant, but we knew that we could tie it back to walking just a few of our people through ‘The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality.’ That was all it took, and we were hooked. We saw the principles at work, and that by creating the right environmental factors, growth occurred all by itself. Not necessarily numerical growth, but spiritual growth in our congregation had definitely happened. It became a staple class that we teach during our semester breaks. The words “green”, “red” and “blue” entered our vocabulary. They started showing up at elders meetings and staff meetings, and then trickled down to ministry leaders. Feedback from those who took it continued to be positive, and when we took another Survey for 2012, Passionate Spirituality had increased once again, this time to 61.
Knowing that these principles work, we began looking into other NCD Discipleship Tools. In 2012, two of us took in Christian Schwarz’s world tour in Edmonton where his next two books were launched. Although our scores with respect to Empowering Leadership and Holistic Small Groups were already quite healthy, we knew we’d be remiss in ignoring the principles and leveraging what we already do well to assist in those areas that don’t come as naturally to us. I had the privilege of being mentored using ‘The 3 Colors of Leadership’ and I looked forward to “paying it forward” by mentoring one of my small group leaders and head usher.
I used ‘The 3 Colors of Community’ as training material for my small group leaders through our 2013 winter semester. We all learned a few things on the way, and I have learned how to possibly tweak the delivery of the class, but the experience has been great. I don’t know if the scores in our next survey will reflect the change, but that doesn’t matter. Because of the Spiritual Change Talk process, I have been able to quantify spiritual change in that small group of leaders. They were pushed out of their comfort zone, as was I, the consensus is that it made them better small group leaders and that they understood how to use their energies more effectively as leaders. Sounds like a win to me!
My dream for NCD is that it grows beyond The Bridge Church. These tools bring about a sense of unity that is far greater than I could have imagined. After our 2011 Survey, we went through a huge time of transition as our lead pastor moved on to his next step. Because we knew we were healthy, we continued to use the tools, relied on the Holy Spirit, and our Survey for 2012 showed no decline in our scores while we were without a lead pastor. We were still a healthy church, which is a great place to be when receiving a new pastor — which, incidentally we just did this past July.
I want to see NCD used in all the Alliance churches in Winnipeg, and then through our district and then throughout the country. I also want to see cross-denominational discussions and interactions through this experience so that our bluer denominations are learning from and teaching our red denominations, who in turn are learning from and teaching our green denominations and so on. It gives a common language that can only breed unity and health. Imagine what a kingdom movement we would be if all Christ’s followers could co-exist and truly believe we were all on the same team.
Jenn Friesen is the Pastor of Organizational Health and Discipleship at The Bridge Church in Winnipeg, MB