Church Health Committee


The Board of Trustees of St. Mary’s Cathedral has formed a Church Health Team to assess opportunities for enhancing parish life. Team members include Rick Wagner, Fr. Stacy Richter, Bernie Gulachek, Cheryl Morse, Lynn Barnes and Dan Tich. Currently, eight other parishes in the Midwest Diocese are evaluating the quality of their church life.

Natural Church Development (NCD)

Just as we have been renovating the Cathedral building and parish center, NCD is a process for renovating the life of the Cathedral community. Although God has already provided everything that we need to help the church thrive, each church uses these tools differently, and not always with equal success. So what do healthy churches do differently? What can we do to see our church make better progress?

NCD provides a way to “scientifically” measure the current health of our church. Armed with an understanding of where we are today, we can create and implement a plan to release all the potential that God has put into every church. Rather than pushing or dragging the church to better health, it is our task to minimize the obstacles that get in the way of better health, and let God do the rest. We till the soil, sow the seed, water and weed (the easy stuff) and God will turn shriveled up seeds into a beautiful field of wheat or corn.

Eight Essential Qualities

Before we can determine what obstacles stand in the way of St. Mary’s Cathedral, we need to know what factors are really important to church health.  The developers of NCD have surveyed more than 1.5 million people in nearly 50,000 Christian churches around the globe, representing more than 60 countries and 50 languages.  Large churches and small, growing and declining, well-known and unknown were surveyed.  NCD researchers were somewhat surprised to learn that church health can be effectively measured utilizing eight universal Quality Characteristics:

Empowering Leadership
Gift-oriented Ministry
Passionate Spirituality
Functional Structures
Inspiring Worship Services
Holistic Small Groups
Need-oriented Evangelism
Loving Relationships

The key to these Quality Characteristics is the adjective contained in each phrase (“empowering”, “passionate”, “functional”).  Every church has some sort of leadership and worship and structure, but not all churches place equal emphasis on the adjective.   It is really the adjective that offers an opportunity to define metrics to measure the quality of each Characteristic.

It is important to understand that none of the eight Quality Characteristics can be missing.  These are universal qualities applicable to all parishes, and no one single factor ensures a healthy church.  In fact, it is impossible to isolate any one factor, as all eight are interconnected.

Surveying St. Mary’s Cathedral

Late last year, a survey was administered to a small group of thirty parishioners in an effort to characterize current church life at St. Mary’s.  A cross section of men and women, young and old, clergy and laity, newcomers and long-time members, leaders and team players have taken the survey.  The resulting profile of our parish’s strengths and weaknesses – relative to the eight Quality Characteristics -- will allow us to define the next steps needed to further strengthen our parish’s commitment to our life in Christ.  While the survey process required only a small number of survey participants and may not have involved you, the entire parish will be given an opportunity to provide input as we move on to the more important phases to come.

Where do we begin

Imagine you are the coach for a team of eight athletes training for a three-mile cross-country race. While it would be nice to see a couple team members place among top finishers, your goal as coach is to bring home a team victory by having the best average time for all eight team members. Tell me, coach – where are you going to spend your time in the coming weeks to get the team ready for the race? While your team has a couple of really good runners who you know will place high, they will probably do well with little additional coaching. To have the biggest impact on improving the team’s average time, you will need to focus on the slowest runner. A complicated problem is simplified – we will start by working to improve the weakest link.

Next Step: Focus Groups and Action Planning

As you have been reading in the past Messengers and Monthly Bulletins, a survey was administered to a small group of 30 parisioners in an effort to characterize current church life at St. Mary's. The results have been analyzed. We are now ready for the entire parish to participate in focus groups where YOU will define the next steps needed to further strengthen our parish's commitment to our life in Christ.

All parishioners are invited to participate in a small (10-12 people) focus group meeting. At that time, survey results will be revealed – from strongest to weakest -- and work will begin in earnest to coach our “slowest runner” to significant improvement.

During each discussion, a facilitator (a trained St. Mary’s parishioner) will collect your thoughts on how to provide better support for our weakest link. By the end of the meeting, it is our goal to consolidate your thoughts into three to five concrete action steps. Key action steps from all focus groups will be collected and meshed together to formulate an action plan.

The scheduled dates for focus groups are listed below. Sign up sheets are located in the dining room. If you cannot make one of these sessions but really want to participate, please speak with Rick Wagner.

We would like to complete the focus group sessions by the end of May, before summer begins. It is important that we have as many parisioners as possible. We need your help now. Please remember to sign up in the dining room.

Focus group dates:
Sunday sessions at noon: April 29, May 6, May 20
Saturday   10:00 AM sessions: May 5, 19
Saturday    1:30 PM sessions: May 19
Weekdays  10:30 AM sessions: May 3, 10
Weekdays   1:30 PM sessions, May 1, 3, 9
Weekdays   7:30 PM sessions: April 26, 30, May 3, 7 10, 15

All schedules sessions will be held at the Parish Center.

Future Activities

If our weakest link does not show signs of improvement, we will investigate further coaching opportunities. If our weakest link improves significantly, we will consider shifting our coaching focus to the next slowest runner. Remember that our long-term goal is to move all eight quality characteristics into the healthy range. If successful, our parish will be visible proof of the biblical principle that a good tree produces good fruit (Matthew 7:17).



©2006 St. Mary's Orthodox Cathedral