MULTIPLICATION & 5 Reasons Churches Should Balance Their Internal & External Church Planting

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 2/19/17.

I want leaders to consider “external” and “internal” planting a bit more as they strategize the future of their ministry.  External planting is a somewhat typical semi-autonomous church plant by a mother church.  Internal planting is supporting sub-congregations of different cultural behaviors, ideas and styles within the mother church.

And, we need both. But usually when you hear “church planting’” you think of the former, the autonomous or semi-autonomous church plant: organizationally and locationally removed from the mother church.

But I want leaders to grasp the strategic idea of balancing external plants with internal plants.  We should have both and perhaps even balance them: 50% internal plants and 50% external plants.  To explain why, let me share some questions a student once asked about this.

The student said, “In the Missional Church course we learned that planting a church was one way to rejuvenate a local church’s lifecycle, and promote growth. Your response makes me think you disagree with that. I see how growing an internal sub-congregation will grow the main church, but isn’t the process of loosing members to the daughter church, and the daughter church having to learn to make its own way, what stimulates innovation, change, and growth in both churches? Perhaps I am just being too optimistic. I do not know the actual statistics for church plant survival, but I’ve read that it is anywhere from 50%-80%. People seem to get more excited about planting a church than adding a new service (even though adding the new service may cause more growth?). It may also be the denomination’s mindset. I get the impression that the number of churches (especially new churches) a denomination has is sometimes trumpeted more than the number of members. Which sounds better, ‘We have 100 churches with average attendance of 100 people at each’ or ‘We have 10 churches with an average attendance of 1000 people each.’ 100 churches could mean more communities being reached, while 10 huge churches could mean more work actually being done. When I read the core values and core scores of my denominational department of evangelism it seems more directed at planting new churches than growing existing ones.”

These are important questions. And here are my responses.

1. Yes, I disagree (as does Eddie Gibbs in I Believe in Church Growth, 1981, pp. 282-284) with solely external planting.  As a consultant I see the damage it does on a local level when we create an external plant without regard to fostering an internal plant in a nearby congregation (external plant cannibalizes local churches, while birthing competitive and weak plants).  I think you can see that internal planting is much better for the rationale I outlined.

2. Plus, an internal plant can have the same amount of innovation, change, and growth as does an external plan (look at how innovative youth ministries can be).  The internal plants also create an “economy of scale” as a church grows into a larger church with multiple sub-congregations (creating multi-cultural acceptance too).

3. And, I think you are right that external planting is more popular from a denominational perspective where the number of churches trumps health.  The Church of the Nazarene emphasizes internal planting more than Wesleyans and their churches are on average much larger than ours (creating sustainability and an economy of scale = they can do more).

4. You asked, “Which sounds better.  ‘We have 100 churches with average attendance of 100 people at each’ or ‘We have 10 churches with an average attendance of 1000 people each.’ 100 churches could mean more communities being reached, while 10 huge churches could mean more work actually being done.”  Because in my consultative experience I’ve found that you need on average 175 attendees for a church to have the range of ministries people have come to expect, those 100 churches of 100 people are likely struggling and not healthy. Thus, they are usually not reaching people anyway.

5. It seems to me that in 50% of these situations it might be better for the larger church to have a sub-congregational “venues” in these neighborhoods.  The venue could be a culturally distinct sub-congregation, but would have all of the financial and staff backing of the larger church.  The business world understands the importance of an economy of scale, but the church misses it and creates networks of struggling congregations.

A name for this type of church is The Multicultural Alliance Model.

See all five models here: MULTICULTURAL CHURCHES & 5 Models: A New Paradigm Evaluated and Differentiated #AICR #AcademyForInterculturalChurchResearch

MULTIPLICATION & Instead of planting an independent new church, what about planting a new venue instead? Pros & cons considered.

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):

Short/long-term growth?

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.

Leadership?

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.

Attraction?

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:

  1. Who don’t like the church they attend
  2. And/ or who do not want to rub shoulders with another culture (generational, ethnic, affinity, etc.). Thus, reconciliation does not take place.

More churches?

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.

Diversity?

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.

See all five models here: MULTICULTURAL CHURCHES & 5 Models: A New Paradigm Evaluated and Differentiated #AICR #AcademyForInterculturalChurchResearch

MULTIPLICATION & The Next Iteration of the Black Church

by Ed Stetzer, The Exchange, 11/22/16.

…In recent interviews with several African-American church planters, three core themes arose that can give us some insight into the characteristics of what successful Black pastoral leadership will look like in our racially awakening America:

The ability to be “culturally bilingual.” Now more than ever Black pastors have to be able to speak both the language of the surrounding (urban) community and the language of their often suburban members. A high cultural IQ is critical. Successful Black pastors must be able to walk and talk in both worlds, often simultaneously.

Unusually thick skin. Because of the deeply stressed state of race relations in America, Black pastors need to be able to bring a sense of calm when necessary and be prepared to field some very, very inappropriate (and even hurtful) questions. People of all races have been wrestling silently with how they feel about race for years—even decades. Many are now experiencing a renewed sense of freedom and courage to ask previously “stuffed” questions. Black pastors need to be a safe place for curious people to ask these questions without being penalized.

A systematic theology of race and justice. In essence, the Black pastor needs to be able to differentiate between social justice (defined by society, ever changing) and biblical justice (defined by God’s word, thus unchanging). America needs pastors that can articulate a clear case for mobilizing their local churches to be God’s change agents in the area of racial justice. Unfortunately, we may once again need more feet in the streets and in places of power, and those feet have to be connected to a theological rationale for why they are there…

Read more at … http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2016/november/next-iteration-of-black-church.html

CHRUCH PLANTING & When the Mother/Daughter Church Becomes Cultural Apartheid?

by Bob  Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 10/3/16.

The following is excerpted from my upcoming keynote at The Great Commission Research Network Conference (Southern Baptist Theo. Sem., Ft. Worth, TX) and my article for The Great Commission Research Journal (Biola University, La Mirada, CA).

The Multicultural Mother/Daughter Church: Cultural Apartheid?

A multicultural mother daughter church often arises when a subculture becomes polarized from the dominant culture of the church. The dominant church often decides it’s best for the subculture to “start their own church.” And, in the name of “planting” a church, cultural apartheid occurs. While this does offer a community more church options, as mentioned above they are often too small to survive. And, this model does little to reconcile cultural differences, because the subculture is often seen as second class and as a result has little influence upon the mother church.

MULTISITE & How Trinity Anglican Mission in Atlanta Describes It Differently: “parish”

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  Kris McDaniel is the pastor of an Atlanta megachurch affiliated with Anglican Church of North America says that “parish” is a better way to describe the venues of a multisite church.  Parish historically indicates local shepherding and spiritual mentoring.  I agree, for I have always felt the term multi-“site” emphasizes the location/facility in lieu of neighborhood pastoring.

Personal conversation with students at Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University DMin, Atlanta, GA on 6/20/16.

DMin ATL Kris McDaniel 2.jpg

Read more about Trinity Anglican Mission at … http://atltrinity.org/beliefs-and-practices/#

LEVEL 5 & An Overview of @EdStetzer ‘s Steps to a Level 5 Church #Exponential

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 4/26/16.

The following in an overview of my colleague Ed Stetzer’s keynote at Exponential 16.  He sees the need for churches to visualize moving beyond reproducing to multiplying congregations.  Parallel to Jim Collins’ insights on Level 5 Leadership (which is more collaborative and visionary, see Helen Lee’s interview with Collins), Stetzer sees Level 5 churches as developing out of six practices:

  1. Remind people we evangelize because we were evangelized.
  2. Teach people how normal evangelism should be.
  3. Utilize different approaches.
  4. Celebrate and share the stories of members who have met Christ.
  5. Make sure the leaders are cheerleaders for evangelism.
  6. Teach the gospel well and consistently.

These are churches that attain 50% conversion growth.  More more details see Ed Stetzer and Daniel Im’s book Multiplication Today, Movements Tomorrow: Practices, Barriers, and an Ecosystem (Nashville: LifeWay, 2016).

I came to the same conclusion in “Cure for the Common Church” seeing the “4th cure” as “N.E.W.” or a “Focus on Conversion” (you can download the chapter here).  In healthy churches the average congregant knows how to share their faith and steps to salvation with their friends and acquaintances.  I suggest healthy churches yearly have a 5-week sermon series on the “Four Spiritual Laws” with a fifth Sunday for a call to commitment.

Below is how I explained this in an article for Church Revitalizer Magazine, Oct. – Nov. 2015, pp. 44-45.  Read the entire article here.

Focus 4: NEW. By this I mean cultivating an environment in your church where people’s lives are changed into new lives. There’s an excitement in a church when people expect to be changed there. Today when people need to a changed from an abusive life, addiction, depraved habits and/or self-centeredness they usually go to a psychologist, self-help group or read a self-help book. All of these are helpful tools. But I believe the most helpful and God-ordained tool is the Church. The Church is the place in a community where people should know that you go if you need to be changed. This is because there is supernatural power to change people whenever two or three are gathered in His name (Matt. 18:20).

Tool 4 to focus on NEW: Everyone learns a GOSPEL presentation. Every attendee should be equipped with a tool to share the Good News. The Four Spiritual Laws, The Four Steps to Peace with God, The Romans Road or another plan of salvation are the most important tool with which you can equip each congregant. Attendees should be trained in their youth, in their Sunday schools and during a yearly preaching series. Then they will be “ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, (1 Peter 3:15). A good tool to encourage this is a five-week sermon series every year, where each week focuses on one of The Four Spiritual Laws or The Four Steps to Peace with God. Then on the fifth week extend a call to meet Christ. If a yearly part of your preaching calendar, this sermon series can equip, reinforce and remind congregants how to share the wonderful opportunity and blessing of a new life in Christ.

MULTIPLICATION & Thoughts from #TheWesleyanChurch “Ignite” Pre-conference #Exponential

by Bob Whitesel D.Min. Ph.D., 4/25/16.

In partnership with the Exponential East conference, The Wesleyan Church holds an “Ignite” pre-conference sponsored by their Department of Church Multiplication and Discipleship.

Matt LeRoy (teaching pastor at Love Chapel Hill in Chapel Hill):

“Adding daily to their number daily (Acts 2:48) was not their vision. They wanted to stay small. The great persecution of Acts 8 scattered them” and made them a missionary people.

“The call (come follow me), the cost (lay down your life, take up your cross) and commission (go and make disciples).”