Tag Archives: church planting

Church Planting

Today I am posting an article from Ed Stetzer. I was intrigued by it because as a church planter, our church never officially launched with a big hoopla. We started in November and God has been so gracious to us.

Church-Planting Shifts, Part One: The Launch

Consider your people group and the time of year.
Church-Planting Shifts, Part One: The Launch

Church planting is somewhat of an entrepreneurial enterprise that tends to be on the front end of change, both catalyzing change and being catalyzed by change.

This is the crux of what I want to discuss in this four-part series. The series is intended to keep grounding us in the realities of church planting while helping us seek creative ways to engage with our specific contexts.

Let me be honest, church planters tend to think that their individual and local church-planting model is the norm globally. That’s not the case.

Furthermore, our tendency is to cling to whatever conference we attended and mold our plant around a personality, model, or successful movement. That also makes it hard to think about different methodologies being helpful and appropriate.

For example, let’s looks at the church planting launch service.

The methodology of starting a church with a publicly announced beginning has probably influenced all of us. Even if we are doing a missional incarnational approach to church planting, at some point we realize that there is value in inviting people to our community. This may not be at the scale of the traditional approach, but because people are intrigued to check something out the first time, most church planters have a grand opening of some type.

One of the lessons we have learned is that big beginnings are now becoming less common. Although many still have ‘grand openings,’ since the 1980s and the 1990s there has been a decline in the size and audaciousness of large launches when planting new churches.

But large launches are still out there.

Large launches tend to be successful when we consider a few factors. These factors are not things I’m saying are good, but things I am saying help promote a large launch.

First, it helps to have clearly identifiable people groups living in relatively close proximity if you are planning a large launch.

In addition, large launches also benefit from new people moving into a community or sufficient homogeneity that gives the church traction and acceptance within a certain subsection of the community population. Let’s say the community is predominantly Haitian and there are not a lot of Haitian churches. A larger start to the church might see more success because of the need and void present.

Second, it is critical to consider what time of year is best to launch in your context.

Let me give you a helpful example. Many churches aim to launch around Easter. Although this may seem like the ideal time due an openness to the gospel this time of year, the proximity to summer (a down and travel time for many) and inflated numbers may lead to discouragement shortly after the launch. In my experience, fall is the best time to launch a church plant.

You typically have a three to nine-month window to launch the church and get the small groups and other ministries going. If you go longer than that, you will lose people who fear the church will not be sufficient for their needs.

Another rule of thumb when it comes to timing: you also have three to nine months of preparation and meeting before you need to officially launch the church, so plan accordingly.

When it comes to reaching people in our community, we always need to celebrate new beginnings when our core team is ready, but the prevailing trend is to downplay the launch somewhat and build in core strength for the long haul, where real growth occurs.

More on that next time…

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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Leading a Church of Less Than 100

Are You on Track if You Lead a Church of Less Than 100?

Most of the time church planting is a long, hard slog.
Are You on Track if You Lead a Church of Less Than 100?
I came across this article and really thought of this as reality. I lead a church of 80 or so at the beginning stages of year 2. I sometimes feel as if the growth isn’t going fast enough and as numerically as it should be. You too may feel that way too. Read the article below and be encouraged if you are a church planter!

Every church leader or pastor desires ministry to be fruitful and to influence their community. But we need to be reminded that we can no longer depend on the success of the past to be the shelter of our future.

While leadership is important, a church’s size can change frequently, depending upon other factors like changing demographics of the community or cultural shifts. But how do we respond when the previous generation was much more numerically effective than we are? What do we do when people ask, “Why don’t you have the results they had before?”

Older members of any given church typically seem more nostalgic about the past and use that as a measure of success in the future. It is important to remember, however, that culture has changed in such a way that it becomes misleading in many places to expect the numerical success of the past for a new generation.

Reaching for the Unattainable?

Several years ago, at a conference at Saddleback Church, I noticed that all the other speakers were pastoring a church between 5,000 and 25,000. However, what they also had in common was they had planted churches in another era.

At the time, I was pastoring a church whose size was far less than 5,000. When it was time for me to speak, I kept looking at Rick Warren out of the corner of my eye. I was scheduled to preach at Saddleback on Sunday, so I did not want to tick him off!

But I also had something to say.

I told listeners that conferences like this are great, but that they can also be really confusing and disheartening. When you drive onto Saddleback’s property, if I recall correctly, you drive up a four-lane highway called Purpose Drive and then you come to a stop light at Saddleback Way before parking your vehicle and entering one of the many entrances into the main sanctuary.

People came into this conference and heard speaker after speaker tell implausible stories of preaching and teaching only to see thousands of people showing up. I reminded those in the crowd that this conference could help them, or it could hurt them. “If you aren’t careful,” I told them, “this conference can be ministry pornography for you. It will be an unrealistic depiction of an experience you’re never going to have that distracts you from the real and glorious thing.”

Let me be clear: I’m not saying that everyone in the next generation isn’t going to reach as many people as they would like. There will always be outliers. I know of numerous faithful church planters who are attracting relatively large numbers. There are stories of tremendous, immediate success. We praise God for these situations. But we also need to acknowledge the reality that most of the time church planting is a long, hard slog.

And it is a lot harder than it used to be.

When Smaller Is Better

The typical church plant averages around 100 in attendance until after the four-year mark. Most churches in the U.S., in fact, have 80 people or less attending their weekend services.

Pastors and planters should know the statistical realities of the average church instead of assuming they are a disappointment if they don’t match the atypical success stories they see at conferences or read about in books. It is for this reason that I launched the Breaking the 200 Barrier series. It is time we have more chastened expectations; this, in turn, will make us more likely to succeed. A Lifeway Research study found that one of the four correlative factors to church-planting success was coming in with realistic expectations.

So, you are probably not going to have 1000 in a year, and it will be harder than you think, but knowing that will help you reach people as you grow.

Now, I know that does not fill conferences. People don’t rush to attend a conference with the guy who failed at planting a church or the one who took six years to get to 100. But the truth is, speakers who pastor or lead smaller churches are in the ideal situations to give practical help and encouragement to pastors struggling to reach their community. Having a right perspective always helps.

Let me share an illustration from how I watch television with my daughters. To help them realize that what they see is mostly unrealistic, we actually google pictures of the women on the screen without make-up. We do this so my daughters can have a better understanding of beauty and perception.

(If you have young daughters, try it—you may be surprised by their response.)

Similarly, church planters need to know that the expectations they see on conference platforms are unrealistic. Pastors need to remember that ministry in the past should not serve as the only measuring stick for ministry in the present. If we don’t remember this, then planters and pastors may see the tremendous success on the stage or in the past and assume they are failures if they don’t reach those virtually impossible-to-reach levels.

It is past time that churches measure success based on the current realities of their cultural context instead of past glories or present-day anomalies.

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Church Planting 2015: Who Attends and What Attracted Them

Successful new churches share four factors, LifeWay Research finds.

Church Planting 2015: Who Attends and What Attracted ThemNorth American Mission Board
A 2014 church plant worships in a South Dakota school.

Protestants are planting new churches in America faster than their old churches are closing.

More than 4,000 new Protestant churches opened their doors in the United States in 2014, outpacing the 3,700 that shuttered, according to estimates by LifeWay Research based on input from 34 denominational statisticians.

And American church planters say 42 percent of their worshipers were unchurched while 43 percent switched from an existing church, according to LifeWay’s 2015 National Church Planting Study, released today.

For the study, the Nashville-based research organization analyzed 843 churches started since 2008 by 17 denominations and church-planting networks, including: the Assemblies of God, Baptist Missionary Association of America, Center for US Missions (Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod), Christian and Missionary Alliance, Converge Worldwide, Evangelical Free Church of America, Free Methodist Church USA, International Pentecostal Holiness Church, Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod Texas District, New Thing Network, North American Mission Board (Southern Baptist Convention), Presbyterian Church in America, Project Jerusalem, Path1 (United Methodist Church), Southern Baptists of Texas, Vineyard Church, and The Wesleyan Church.

“In winning new converts to Christ, church plants are light years ahead of the average church because of their focus on reaching the unchurched,” said executive director Ed Stetzer.

Successful church launches have several factors in common, the study found:

  • Meeting in a public space: New churches that meet in schools have significantly higher worship attendance, report more first-time commitments to Christ, and are more likely to become financially self-sufficient than other church plants.
  • Focusing on outreach: New churches offering sports leagues, social gatherings, and children’s special events are significantly more likely to attract previously unchurched people than other startups.
  • Supporting their leaders: Adequate compensation and health insurance for the church planter are linked to higher worship attendance and a greater likelihood of financial independence for the new church.
  • Starting more churches: New churches that invest in church planting and launch at least one additional new church in their first five years report higher worship attendance and more new commitments to Christ.

“Healthy new churches have an outward focus from day one, communicating every month that the goal is to be a multiplying church,” Stetzer said.

Though some pastors bristle at new churches coming into their community, they have much to learn—and not much to fear—from the startup down the street, Stetzer said.

One lesson is the value of time-tested methods. While most church plants use the Internet for outreach, 77 percent say word of mouth and personal relationships are the most effective forms of publicity, while only 6 percent say social media is most effective.

In addition, nearly two-thirds of new churches (63%) say Bible study is their primary small-group activity.

“It’s not the most innovative things that matter most. It’s the nuts and bolts,” Stetzer said. “An existing church can take notice and ask, ‘Hey, are we doing those things? Are we making sure people in the community know we exist? Are we inviting people to come and making them feel welcome and all those things a church plant does?’”

Instead of siphoning off members from existing churches, new churches can attract demographic groups that may be largely unreached by existing ones, Stetzer said. Sixty percent of church plants aim to reach a cross-cultural or multiethnic group of people.

“It takes multiple methods to reach a diverse population,” Stetzer said. “The United States from its founding has been a very diverse population. A one-size-fits-all church has never been part of the American equation. As much as ever, we need different approaches to reach different types of people.”

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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