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.