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What Works for New Churches

New churches and traditional churches operate somewhat differently than established ones, according to a study conducted by The Ecumenical Partners in Outreach and The Center for Progressive Renewal. The study focused on 262 churches that have started since 2000.

The study had 8 main insights:

  1. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED. The study revealed that pastors with organizational skills and traditional evangelism methods can actually hinder relationships with young adults and the unchurched. For new churches, pastors with skills in outreach are the most beneficial.

skill level

  1. GIVE IT TIME. Church growth is slow. It takes, on average, eight years for attendance to blossom in a new church.


  1. FOCUS ON VISION. Churches need to cast vision for the future. New churches focus on vision, even more than established churches. New churches also spend more time on things like outreach, community and networking. Established churches tend to spend more time on worship and teaching.

time spent

  1. TELL THE STORY. Marketing is essential to getting the word out about churches in general. The Internet was viewed as a helpful way to connect with people. However, telephone calls were seen as detrimental to church growth.
  1. GET OUT. Pastors of new churches tend to focus more time on outreach and promoting vision than pastors of established churches. Outreach that specifically centered on establishing relationships with the unchurched was seen as the most helpful.
  1. GIVE NEW LEADERS A CHANCE. Prior pastoral experience was found to not be related to church growth in new churches, and was even considered to be negatively related to attracting the young or unchurched.
  1. WORSHIP MATTERS. The time church pastors spend on worship was positively correlated to church growth in both new and established churches, but too much attention to worship was seen as negatively impacting one-to-one relationships with young adults.

What does this research indicate about how we should focus our time and energy in churches?

View the full report here.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jed Jurchenko #

    I know this is a broad application, but being a Christ-follower, and a blogger, I found these statics encouraging. I never realized how much effort goes into growing the average church.

    When I look at my own blog growth, I wish things were progressing faster. When I compare this growth, to the development of a local church–which in many ways is comparing apples and oranges, I know :)–my blog growth is pretty good.

    My big takeaway is that growing anything of value is hard-work. A process of slow growth is normal. I find these statics an encouraging reminder to keep pressing forward.

    It’s also an excellent post for knowing how to encourage our pastor. Slow progress can be discouraging. So cheering these leaders on is a must. Thanks Shawn, for this great information!

    October 7, 2015
    • Great thoughts! Sometimes apples and oranges have more in common than we want to admit 🙂 Astute observation about being slow and steady. Yes, please encourage our church leaders. Oftentimes they feel alone and weary. Thanks Jed!

      October 9, 2015

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