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:
- 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.
- GIVE IT TIME. Church growth is slow. It takes, on average, eight years for attendance to blossom in a new church.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Recently I co-taught a session at the Pepperdine Bible Lectures entitled, “Why You Should Not Plant a Church.” The title is a little tongue-in-cheek. We basically said one should not plant a church unless you are willing and able to face certain realities. There is nothing “sexy” about church planting.
Don’t plant a church unless:
- You have spent a lot of time in prayer first.
- God has clearly revealed to you His desire to use you in this way.
- Your faith is mature and you are willing to continue to grow.
- Your family is with you.
- You are prepared to fight spiritual battles.
- You are prepared for hard work.
- You are committed to the vision God has given you.
- You are prepared to manage your time effectively.
- You are ready to experience disappointment, heartache, and pain.
- You can handle freedom.
- You are willing to grow.
- You are prepared to meet people where they are.
- You are passionate about developing relationships with non-Christians.
- You are prepared to face opposition (even lose friends because of your convictions).
- You are willing to face risk.
- You are prepared to experience joy of changed lives.
- You are ready for an adventure.
These are all based on my own personal experiences. Church planting is certainly not for everyone!
Which point speaks to you?
What else have you experienced and grown from?
10 Lessons Learned in Urban Church Planting
How Great Church Planters Think
The church in America is in decline. According to research by Gallup, church attendance in the U.S. has fallen from 62 percent in 1994 to 53 percent in 2012, a 9% loss. One example is the Churches of Christ, which have declined by 9.8% since 1990.
Since 1990, the population in the U.S. has grown from 250 million to 320 million, an increase of 22%. If the U.S. population continues to grow at this rate and church attendance continues to decline at its current rate over the next 25 years, it will take approximately 1.6 million new Christians per year just to keep pace with the population growth.
Research by Olson (2005) indicates that new churches grow faster than old ones. In fact, once the average church reaches 40 years of age, it actually begins decreasing.
According to The Christian Post, 4000 new churches are planted each year. However, if we figure that they have an average attendance of 200 people (perhaps an unrealistic assumption), we are still 4000 churches shy of staying even with current trends.
What does this mean? Either we need better methods of evangelism or we need more churches. Perhaps the old adage, “It is easier to have a baby than raise the dead” is an apt lesson in this case. My post, Boom or Bust? State of the Church in America, discusses additional reasons to plant churches.
We need more churches!
Why Plant Churches?
Boom or Bust? State of the Church in America
Thanks to Wes Gunn for sharing this handy demographic tool with me. Enter your zip code and presto! You can see the median income, age, population density, and a summary (tapestry) for that zip code. Useful for a variety of applications.
Useful Demographics Tool
Five Ways to Learn Culture
Jacob Crawford, Pastor at Life Point Church in Cottonport, Louisiana, has learned a valuable lesson about church planting: God uses children to launch churches. Children are the lifeblood of any church. For new churches, children are vital to healthy life.
Blessing Your Neighborhood
Helping Fatherless Families