3700 U.S. churches closed in the most recent year studied (2017), and over 4000 were started. More churches started than closed… all the while the culture grew more secular. We live in interesting (and challenging) times.
by Thom Rainer, LifeWay, 3/6/19.
…In addition to the categorization of churches as
- declining/subtracting (Level 1),
- plateauing (Level 2), and
- growing/adding (Level 3),
- A Level 4 (reproducing) church places a high value and priority on starting new churches.
- A level 5 (multiplying) church takes church planting to multiple generations of congregations.
by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 2/19/17.
A student once asked, “I am picturing a situation where a large church wants to plant an (independent) daughter church because they have a growing sub-congregation in the church that is mostly Hispanic, or Gen Y. Is that a better way to help them, by launching them as an independent church plant? Or can we help them better by offering to share the church with them as a venue or sub-congregation in the mother church?”
I replied …
What we often do when we launch a typical church “plant” is to create an “external” sub-congregation. And, this is okay. But, I think it is usually not the best way to proceed. Rather, the “internal planting” of a sub-congregation (fostering the growth of a sub-congregation that remains part of the church) is a better strategy.
This is because external plants have the following PLUSES (strengths) and NEGATIVES (weaknesses):
Pluses: External plants (in my consulting practice) grow quicker than Internal Plants (developing a sub-congregation and a venue), because they are homogeneous (i.e. largely attracting one culture).
Negatives: External plants (in my consulting practice) die quicker. They are smaller and often don’t reach critical mass for long-term sustainability.
Pluses: External plants have experienced leadership, because the leader has been trained in the mother church.
Negatives: External plants often lack good accountability and thus succumb to leadership/ethical weaknesses.
Pluses: External plants attract people who do not have a church home and/or who are dissatisfied with the church they attend.
Negatives: External plants often attract disgruntled people:
- Who don’t like the church they attend
- And/ or who do not want to rub shoulders with another culture (generational, ethnic, affinity, etc.). Thus, reconciliation does not take place.
Pluses: External plants create more churches, though they may be smaller and not healthy for many years.
Negatives: External plants often kill existing churches, when the people who are attracted to the external plant leave the mother church, and other churches, weakening the churches they left. This is the main reason pastors of established churches don’t like external plants, it cannibalizes the people they need to survive.
Pluses: External plants cater to a specific cultural market. This creates a like-minded community that grows because of the things it holds in common.
Negatives: External plants don’t promote inter-cultural understanding. This would be like the second-generation Koreans wanting their own church. The first-generation Koreans would feel abandoned and disconnected. And the externally planted 2nd-gen congregation might develop distain (due to distance) for the 1st-gen culture.
This illustration highlights the differences between first and second generational cultures. But it happens in even a more damaging fashion between ethnic cultures.
The result of a good work, like church planting, can be that the cultures are distance organizationally and physically from one another by the planting of a separate congregation.
But it often makes the mother church feel good, because it can say, “We planted another church.” But in reality they often push them away because of their differences. This creates distance between them and us. In my consulting work, no matter how much churches protest they … “Will stay connected to our daughter church,” they never stay as close as they would if they were sharing the church as fellow sub-congregations.
Thus, if a church is really committed to reconciliation and multi-culturalism (as I am) then Internal Planting is the better choice. Thus, with Internal Planting the church becomes in a community the main avenue for building multi-cultural understanding and tolerance, e.g. unity building and changing biases.
A name for this type of church is The Multicultural Alliance Model.
by Michael Fries, LifeWay, 4/16/18.
… We’re partnering with a local church to plant an autonomous congregation in our city, and we’re also planting additional campuses of our own church. In doing so, we’ve had to develop ways to pinpoint where to plant in our city.
1. KNOW THE SOCIAL MAKEUP OF YOUR COMMUNITY.
Learning about your community is simple. While it’s possible to spend a fair amount of money for detailed demographic reports, you can also learn valuable information while spending next to nothing.
Begin with the U.S. Census Bureau website. Use its free tools to identify what is happening in the immediate areas around your church and in the larger area that makes up your community.
2. KNOW THE RELIGIOUS MAKEUP OF YOUR COMMUNITY.
… TheARDA.com is a useful tool that allows you to research the religious affiliation of your area based on city name, zip code and other search parameters.
3. MAP THE MEMBERS OF YOUR CHURCH.
Missiologist Keelan Cook has made mapping a fairly simple process. His mapping tool uses Google Maps to let you quickly identify the geographic makeup of your congregation. You can access his tool at bit.ly/keelancook.
Once you have uploaded your membership database into the tool, it will produce a digital map that will allow you to identify your members’ areas of concentration.
4. MAP THE CHURCHES IN YOUR COMMUNITY.
It may require a bit more time to accomplish this task, as you will need to enter the addresses of every local church into a database. Then you can upload them into the tool mentioned above and produce a digital map pinpointing every church in your community.
Too often churches overlook this step. They simply look to identify pockets of need without carefully considering who else might already be working in those areas.
5. IDENTIFY GROWTH AREAS.
The final step is setting priorities based on growth projections.
Population movement is significant in evaluating the need for a church plant. Expanding areas need more churches, and congregations in those areas have greater potential to grow.
If migration patterns and growth areas are not easy to identify, this information can often be found by contacting your city manager or chamber of commerce.
These steps will help you develop a database of target areas and a methodology of church planting. But the value of studying your community goes beyond knowing where you should plant a church and what kind of church to plant.
“A key to respecting indigenous art forms is to connect the Good News via the most appropriate communication modality for the people we are reaching…
Biblically speaking, it thus seems best to see a worship gathering as a time of indigenous artistic expressions that draw people from an indigenous background into connection with God. This would suggest the more worship services we can offer, the more opportunities we can offer for people to connect with God.
by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 2/8/18.
I found that all church organizations, regardless of size, grow the quickest by multiplying their sub-congregations. So in other words, they see themselves not as one homogeneous unit but rather as a heterogeneous organization with many indigenous cultural channels to communicate the Good News and through which to celebrate it.
For example, a multiple sub-congregational model blooms when even a small church adds a youth program. The youth program has its own leader, it’s own style, its own music and its own outreach. It is a sub-congregation, of a different culture. Then, as the church grows over 100 attendees it can often begin to reach out to a different culture by offering a different service with a slightly modified culturally aesthetic.
Of course working against this is the concept that people want to be united. And when they say that, they usually mean they want to be united in the worship gathering. However the Hebrew word for worship means to come close to God as if to kiss His feet. It doesn’t mean fellowship.
So biblically speaking, it seems best to see a worship gathering as a time of indigenous artistic expressions that draw people from an indigenous background into connection with God. This would suggest the more worship services we can offer, the more opportunities we can offer for people to connect with God.
If we want to call them “fellowship services” instead of worship services, then we could see unity as an objective. But it’s hard to create unity in a sanctuary.
One young lady I interviewed for a book said it was hard to create fellowship in the sanctuary because, “The seats all face the wrong direction.”
So therefore, I see “sub-congregation multiplication” as a key to respecting indigenous art forms and to connecting the Good News via the most appropriate communication modality for the people we are reaching.
I’ve expanded upon some of the research in this area in an interview by LifeWay. Here is the link to that article: https://factsandtrends.net/2016/03/29/when-big-goes-small-how-large-churches-are-learning-from-those-with-less/#.VxDLWcj3aJJ hey sweetie how you doing
by Leadership & Faith Editorial Board, Duke University, 1/31/18.
…Mraz went to Taco Church, where a small group of men gathered for breakfast, Bible study, jokes and prayer. The group, started by an Episcopal priest and a few guys from his gym, shared vulnerability in a way that Mraz had rarely seen. Sometimes he had to step outside the fast-food restaurant to cry.
The priest, the Rev. Sean Steele, told Mraz that Taco Church was part of the newly launched St. Isidore Episcopal, a “church without walls” focused on small group discipleship and community service. The church didn’t have a building, and it didn’t want one, Steele said. Instead, it had a cellphone app, linking members to the church’s many parts.
As Steele explained, St. Isidore was one church embodied in many different ways. It wasn’t just Taco Church. It would eventually become three house churches, a pub theology group, a free laundry ministry, a food truck and more. It was all quite unorthodox, except the liturgy and theology, which were decidedly Episcopalian.
… This Easter, a little over a year after his first Taco Church, Mraz and his 6-year-old son were baptized in a service he helped organize as a member of the St. Isidore leadership team.
Finding new possibilities
As many mainline Protestant churches shrink and shutter across the United States, St. Isidore is finding new possibilities by marrying a denomination’s traditions with a decentralized structure drawn from the emergent-church playbook. It’s a mission church and “research and development” effort launched by Trinity Episcopal Church, a 1,500-member parish in The Woodlands, a suburb north of Houston.
“I am not trying to do something old in a new way; I am trying to do something brand-new in the old way,” said Steele, the entrepreneurial 38-year-old priest behind the experiment. “Many [church planters] feel they need to jettison the tradition. I actually think we need to be more church, not less.”
Steele holds tightly to Episcopal liturgy even as he brings it into novel settings such as breweries and laundromats. St. Isidore is aimed not just at unorthodox places, he said, but also at unorthodox people, like the formerly Daoist chicken farmer who now runs the pub theology group.
“I’m trying to think about the people who aren’t going to a church on a Sunday morning,” Steele said. “I’m not interested in getting Christians that are already Christian.”
St. Isidore (link is external) is a church with many entry points, many thresholds that even seekers and skeptics can easily cross, Steele said. St. Isidore is the patron saint of the internet (link is external) — part of the glue that holds Steele’s church together — and, as Steele likes to joke, the saint’s name conveys what the church is about: “It … is a door.”
What are the thresholds to your church? How can they be made easier to cross?
The Rev. Gerry Sevick, the rector at Trinity (link is external), hired Steele straight out of seminary in 2012 with the understanding that he would eventually plant a new church or start a missional community.
“There’s a population out there hungry for spirituality and hungry for a community of faith,” Sevick said. “While they’re skeptical about a traditional church, they are willing to explore an alternative way of being church.”
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