MULTIPLICATION & 5 Ways Too Much Money Can Rot Your Church Plant

Commentary by Professor B: As I research/write a new course on “church multiplication and growth,” I am encouraging students to think of creative new ways to fund church planting. Having planted a church myself, as well as having written/coached many church plants, I believe the usual funding model is inadequate and forces church plants to be less contextualized. In the past 25+ years, I have seen that reliance upon external funding and external contexts often rob a church plant of its contextual intelligence.

Here’s an article published by Missio Alliance about this problem. I will be using this article in my new course to encourage students to design innovative ways to address it.

“The Big Problem with Barna’s Study on Church Startups and Money”

by Jared Siebert, Missio Alliance, 5/9/16.

… 5 Ways Too Much Money Can Rot Your Church Plant

Planters and denominational folk, please pay attention.

1) Excessive external funding can kill a church’s feel for context.

… Church plant structures and expectations need to be tied to context. Intimately. The best kind of church planting is committing long term to a specific location among a specific people group. We’re at our best when we tie our fate to people and place. It worked for Jesus and it will work for His church. Your life, your practices, and even your finances all need to be shaped by context. This is fundamental to incarnating the gospel.

Too much external funding interferes with this process. Tuning your communal lives to your context takes feel. It takes tension. To do it right your church will need to live somewhere between what the people want and what the people can afford.

2) Excessive external funding robs us of creativity.

You’ve heard that necessity is the mother of invention? Excessive external funding robs us of necessity. Without the tension created by necessity you won’t be as likely to actively seek out novel contextual solutions. Forcing your church, as much as possible – to be here in this place with these people – creates irreplaceable fuel for your church’s imagination.

This lack of invention doesn’t just affect the local church either. It spreads to the broader church too. One of the great gifts that planting gives the broader church is inventiveness. Less local innovation means less denominational innovation. Calling us to double down on the same old models should be a sure sign that we have a growing imagination deficit. More money won’t fix that.

3) Excessive external funding robs your church of its survival instincts.

The will to survive properly resides within the plant itself. Denominational coffers should never house your church’s survival instincts. Instead, the will to survive should come from a deep collective sense of God’s calling, love for each other, and your deep burden for the needs of your context. Your survival instincts have to be built together piece by piece over time. Too much outside financial support messes with this process. It can also make people outside your church the owners of your church. Not good.

4) Excessive external funding can mess with your sense of calling.

Planters would also do well to check their own motivations for church planting. The kind of planting work we have ahead of us will not be for the faint of heart. Reaching the hard to reach peoples in North American culture is going to take time. The harder to reach the more fruitless years you may have ahead of you. Are you ready to put in 15+ years with next to nothing to show for it? That’s not an uncommon missionary reality. Google it. It may soon be our reality too.

Read more at …

And for even more about this problem (and some solutions with examples), check out the Abingdon Press book, Growth by accident, Death by planning: How not to kill a growing congregation. Three of the above five missteps with external funding mentioned by Siebert are addressed with solutions in my book.

PLANTING & New Churches Outpace Dying Ones #LifeWayResearch

by LifeWay Research, 4/15/16.

America is launching new Protestant churches faster than it loses old ones, attracting many people who previously didn’t attend church anywhere, new LifeWay Research studies show.


More than 4,000 new churches opened their doors in 2014, outpacing the 3,700 that

closed, according to estimates from 34 denominational statisticians.

On average, 42 percent of those worshiping at churches launched since 2008 previously never attended church or hadn’t attended in many years, LifeWay Research finds in an analysis of 843 such churches from 17 denominations and church planting networks.

Read more at …


CHURCH PLANTING & How Conflict Avoidance Often Leads to Church Planting

by Bob Whitesel, 3/10/15.

The following are notes gleaned from my consultative work, where I have found avoidance of conflict to be one of the main struggles among pastors of churches that are stalled in growth in the medium and large size ranges.  Interviewing staff, key volunteers and board members I have noticed the following five (5) results often emerge when leaders avoid conflict.

Outcomes when senior leadership avoids conflict:

1.)  Conflict avoidance often leads to burnout in the leader. This is because the repression of stress creates internal turmoil in the leader which does not get resolved. It usually simmers under the surface until an alarm event (Whitesel, 2002, p. 94ff) pushes it to the front. The leader has repressed it so long the leader will often overact and congregants/staff will wonder why the leader is so upset. The level of irritation is often so great that sides will be formed (Whitesel, 2002, p. 109ff).

2.)  Conflict avoidance often leads to a great deal of external church planting (you will see shortly that because conflict avoidance is the rationale, these plants aren’t often given a healthy start). The senior leader avoids conflict for so long, that staff who are in conflict with him/her wind up leaving the church to plant another church. The planting of the church is actually a conflict avoidance behavior by the senior leader and planter, for in the name of multiplication this tactic distances discordant and innovative ideas from the mother church. The result is that churches become mono-cultural congregations, while at the same time feeling self-satisfied that they are planting churches (Whitesel, 2011, p. 61ff).  But, often the plant becomes mono-cultural too because the avoidance of conflict is a behavior the planted pastor has seen modeled for her/him and often adopts as a coping mechanism as well (Whitesel, 2007).

3)  Conflict avoidance often creates an uncomfortable staff relationship with the senior shepherd, because they don’t know how or when to address conflict. Often the senior leader will cancel or postpone meetings with staff, if the leader perceives it might involve conflict. Inside the leader may be thinking, “If I cancel this meeting the conflict will get resolved after the person has had time to think about it.” As a result, the staff will feel at the best disregarded and as the worst detached. The result is turnover among staff who are innovators and entrepreneurs.

4)  Conflict avoidance results in the staff who remain in the conflict avoidance environment are often those who are accommodators, usually with a high degree of tactical or operational leadership style. The strategic leaders, who are usually those that help churches grow and help the church diversify by reaching out to varying cultures, will go elsewhere. The result is that churches have only a few strategic thinkers, are more mono-cultural and are not able to diversify by reaching multiple cultures at the same time.

5)  Finally conflict avoidance often leads to a less innovative and cohesive personality for the organization.  Outsiders get the impression that change proponents leave that church and entrepreneurs are stifled there.

But, in most of the circumstances above the senior leader is well liked. In my case study research, the more a leader is liked, the more apt that leader is to be a conflict-avoider.  Subsequently, they may be popular among other leaders and asked to share their insights into church growth.  Most of that insight will have to do with planting churches.  But, if you talk to the pastors of many of those plants, as I have, you will find that they feel leaving the mother church was the best way to avoid an awkward situation where conflict was avoided.


>  His/her avoidance of conflict creates an “uncomfortable” and “awkward” feeling among the staff when they are in conflict with the leader’s ideas.

> So, because the senior shepherd is well liked, the creative person will usually try to graciously distance themselves by going elsewhere.

> And, a new plant is launched – but with a wrong motivation and the wrong coping-mechanisms for handing conflict.

Thus, we can see from such case studies, that conflict avoidance can lead to a proliferation of small/weak daughter churches, less diverse mother churches and less satisfied work environments.


Whitesel, B. (2002). Staying power: Why people leave the church over change and what you can do about it. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

__________ (2007). Preparing for change reaction: How to introduce change in your church. Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House.

__________ (2011). ORGANIX: Signs of leadership in a changing church. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

MULTICULTURAL & 5 Models of Multicultural/Multiethnic Churches: A New Paradigm Evaluated & Differentiated

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min. Ph.D.

Published by The Great Commission Research Journal (La Mirada, Calif: Talbot School of Theology, Biola University), vol. 6, issue 1, 2014, pp. 22-35.


This article puts forth a comprehensive and reconciliation-based paradigm through which to view multicultural congregations as one of five models or types. It updates the historical categories of Sanchez, adds contemporary models and then evaluates each through a 10-point grid of: nomenclature, mode of growth, relationships, pluses, minuses, degree of difficulty, creator complex, redistribution, relocation and reconciliation. The five models are: 1) the asset sharing Multicultural Alliance, 2) the collaborative Multicultural Partnership, 3) the asymmetrical Mother-Daughter model, 4) the popular Blended approach and 5) the Cultural Assimilation model. The result is a comprehensive five-model paradigm that includes an assessment of each model’s potential for spiritual and intercultural reconciliation.


This article assesses the strengths and weaknesses of different multicultural[1] church models. Daniel Sanchez offered some of the earliest depictions of such models,[2] but 35 years later they beg to be updated. And despite the proliferation of books on the topic, no significant updating or additions to Sanchez’s categories have been offered other than the Sider et. al. partnership model.[3]

In addition, there is a vibrant discussion today regarding how John Perkins’ intercultural goals of redistribution, relocation and reconciliation are being addressed by churches.[4] Therefore, it can be helpful to assess how well different models of multicultural congregations are addressing each of Perkins’ intercultural reconciliation goals.

The following five models of multicultural congregations suggest a new and contemporized paradigm. I will analyze each through a 10-point grid of: nomenclature, mode of growth, relationships, pluses, minuses, degree of difficulty, creator complex, redistribution, relocation and reconciliation…

Download the full article here: ARTICLE ©Whitesel – GCRJ-Published Multicultural MODELS

[1] Though the term multiethnic church is often used today, I will use the broader term multicultural, since culture is a more accurate way to describe people who share similar behaviors, ideas, fashion, literature, music, etc. [c.f. Paul Hiebert, Cultural Anthropology, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1976), p. 25]. Ethnicity is a type of culture often based on biological connections to a geographic area of origin, such as Sri Lankans (from the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka), Yemenis (from the Republic of Yemen) or Chinese (from the People’s Republic of China). But the term ethnicity is very imprecise, because there may be dozens of different ethnic groups that hail from the same area of origin. Since ethnicity is so imprecise, culture will be utilized in this article.

[2] Daniel Sanchez, “Viable Models for Churches in Communities Experiencing Ethnic Transition.” (paper, Pasadena, CA: Fuller Theological Seminary, 1976).

[3] Ronald J. Sider, John M. Perkins, Wayne L. Gordon, and F. Albert Tizon, Linking Arms, Linking Lives: How Urban-Suburban Partnerships Can Transform Communities, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2008).

[4] John M. Perkins, A Quiet Revolution: The Christian Response to Human Need, a Strategy for Today (Pasadena, CA: Urban Family Publications, 1976), p. 220.

This article is excerpted and reedited from The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2013).

VENUES & Nursing Homes Should Be The Next Church Venue According to #WesleySem Student & Nursing Home Director

by Wesley Seminary student Christopher Herman, MMLO41 Building a Multi-Generational Ministry Course, 2/3/2015.

Dr. Whitesel, I have seen that a sub-congregation in seed form already resides in nearly every U.S. nursing home – all 16,100 of them (CDC, 2013).  Yes! Yes! Yes!  Most churches should use nursing homes as a venue.

Nursing homes are prime locations for planting sub-congregations, especially low-income skilled nursing facilities financed primarily through Medicaid.  These are going to be the most common type, to be certain, because of the anticipated tripling of the U.S. elderly population, and quadrupling of the population over age 90 we can expect over the next 25 years (He & Muenchrath, 2011).  They are good places for “good deeds” but “good deeds” through occasional, intermittent entry into the facility are simply not enough to build relationships.  One of the charges the Bishop made when I was ordained was to the priesthood was to gather the scattered sheep of Christ Jesus in the midst of this sinful world.  I have been compelled by the Holy Spirit to search for them at a nursing home.  We found out over the years that the deliberate presence of people in the lives of people living in nursing homes is of paramount importance (after prayer).

I can say with confidence that I am an expert in this particular type of ministry – and I have seen many churches come and go, flashes in the pan, providing worship services for a time, but eventually leaving.  I think the reason could be that the leaders do not fully understand that the most important aspect of nursing home ministry is faithful presence through the whole process of arrival, orientation to the new culture, learning there is hope for the future and that life has not ended, and being invited to be part of the lives of fellow residents and the local expression of the Body of Christ in the place.  A sacramental approach to life, including Holy Communion, is helpful.  Clergy who rely upon oration alone are often frustrated because about half of the residents have dementia and are therefore unable to comprehend phrases longer than five words, let alone a whole sermon.  I have seen pastors try to minister but leave because nobody complimented their sermons.  Nursing homes need a different ministry emphasis, but any church can do this (Shamy, 2003).

A culture has to be established – the local Christians must unite, cross denominational lines, and impact the lives of others through loving God, one another, and their neighbors in the small world in which they live.  This sort of ministry cannot be done well with merely having an occasional worship service.  Those are not bad, but they are not what is really needed.  It takes years to gain the trust of the management, the staff, and the residents.  Most American churches are not willing to sacrifice for several years because it is not in our instant access cultural mindset to be faithful for long periods of time to build relationships in the community.  The payoff is huge, though, if we are faithful for longer periods of time.  I can go into the facility and go anywhere I desire, any time I want without any sort of escort, and anybody I endorse in that place is immediately given the same privileges because the management knows I have gone through the effort of checking peoples’ backgrounds, and I have vetted them carefully before endorsing their presence.  This is because there is trust.  Trust is like the oxygen in a relationship.  Once a church has trust in a venue, that church is very effective.  I know that more than half of the people who come into the facility we serve will either rededicate his or her life to Christ after as many as 70 years of estrangement, or seek to be baptized.  I have seen it happen hundreds of times, even in a facility with an average total population of only 81.

The answer to your question is YES!!  (I apologize for yelling, but I cannot stress this enough).  Yes sub-congregations can be developed.  I have seen it.  We have done it…Well, God did it and let us help.  Every church should adopt at least one nursing home, making it a venue.  I would give anything, anything to help large churches adopt several!  A nursing home is a prime venue for the Church of the 21st century if we can but see reality.  I am not exaggerating – before the end of this Century there will be more than 400 Million people who live in nursing homes (Vincent & Velkoff, 2010).  The Church is largely absent today.  Nursing homes want the support of churches and they will welcome us if we will but be faithful.

Yes, Dr. Whitesel, nursing homes should be a venue for most churches.

If anyone wants help doing this, we will give it.  We will support such endeavors with everything we have!  In all truth, my ministry exists to help the Church do this!

Thank you for your question, Dr. Whitesel.


Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  (2013).  State of aging and health in America.  Retrieved from

He, W., & Muenchrath, M. N. (November 2011).  90+ in the United States:  2006-2008 American community survey reports.  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Shamy, E. (2003).  A guide to the spiritual dimension of care for people with Alzheimer ’s disease and related dementia: More than body, brain and breath.  Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Vincent, G., & Velkoff, V.  (May, 2010).  The next four decades: The older population in the United States: 2010 to 2050.  U.S. Census Bureau, Administration on Aging.  Retrieved from

CHURCH PLANTERS & What Do We Give Up When We Become Freedom-Seeking Entrepreneurs & Church Planters? A Lot, Actually.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “David Blanchflower and Andrew Oswald in their classic research paper titled ‘What Makes an Entrepreneur?,’ discovered that: ‘The probability of self-employment depends positively upon whether the individual ever received an inheritance or gift.’ This research needs to be applied to church planters, but seems to forecast that successful church planters may have a member of the family that is gainfully employed and able to support the family so the church planter does not have to. For more details see the link to Blanchflower and Oswald’s paper as well as this overview in the New York Times.”

Read more at …

CHURH PLANTING & Church Starting, So What’s the Difference? Good explanation from #EdStetzer

Church Planting or Church Starting?

by Ed Stetzer, 6/20/13

When we talk about church planting it can be a little different than church starting. What’s the difference? Well, I think church starting happens a lot of ways. The most popular church starting strategy involves a group of people getting mad, leaving their home church, and starting another church. In most cases I wouldn’t advise this strategy.

Church planting, on the other hand, involves an individual, mother church, and/or a group of people going out to start a church for the purpose of engaging a community through gospel proclamation and demonstration.

Church planting, unlike church starting, should/must be mission driven.

Church planting grows in the soil of lostness (hence “planting”) where men and women far from God are challenged with the claims of the gospel of Jesus Christ by a group of intentional believers…

Read more at …