MULTIPLICATION & The 5 Levels of Churches Explained & the Percentage of Churches in Each Level. #NewResearch #Exponential

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),
  • the study looked at two other supplemental categories.
    • 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.

    … Here are some of the fascinating findings:

    1. 70% of churches are
    2. subtracting/declining or plateauing. Only 30% are adding/growing based on Exponential’s categorization of churches which is defined above. This data is largely consistent with other research we have done. The period covered is three years.
    3. There are relatively few reproducing churches. The research categorized only 7% of the churches as reproducing (Level 4). The numbers of churches considered multiplying (Level 5: multiple generations of church plants) was 0% in the sample, indicating a negligible number in the total U. S. church population.
    4. The majority of Protestant churches had less than 10 people commit to Jesus Christ as Savior in the past 12 months. That’s fewer than one person per month. That’s not good. That’s not good at all.
    5. Smaller churches are at severe risk.Among those churches with an average worship attendance under 50, only 20% are growing. That is the lowest of any of the categories of churches and is an indicator that these churches are at the greatest risk of dying.
    6. Larger churches have a much lower risk of dying. Among the churches with an average worship attendance of 250 and more, 42% are growing. That is, by far, the largest number of growing churches in any category.

    Read more at…

    SOCIAL MEDIA & #NathanClark the leader of one of the nation’s first online communities tells the best thing a small church can do to connect & minister online.

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    Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Nathan Clark is the online minister of Northland Church in Orlando, which was one of the nation’s first churches in the nation that embraced online community.  Here is what I learned from Nathan’s presentation at the Great Commission Research Network annual meeting Oct. 19, 2018 at Asbury Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL.

    How does a large church do online ministry?

    Large Church (300+).

    In a large church, you can stream your Sunday service.  Northland Church does, and its megachurch stature means it can offer a level of followthrough and excellence that makes the streaming of worship work.

    • Use a live chat with church counselors to interact with the watchers during your live services.
    • Make your goal to get people into a face-to-face experience.
      • There are churches in the neighborhoods of almost all online watchers.
      • Create a system to connect online watchers to connect with Christians in their local community (which Nathan calls an “offline church.”
      • To connect people to a local “offline” congregation, Nathan suggests three steps:
        1. “We tell people to look around for people that exemplify the fruit of the Holy Spirit, ‘the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23).
        2. Go to them and hang around with them.
    • Ask where they go to church and go with them.

    How does a small church do online ministry?

    Small Church (300 or less)

    • A small church should not try to stream their Sunday service.
      • According to Nathan it is too expensive.
      • The support and followthrough needs to be trained and extensive.
      • And the overly large territory you will reach (potentially hundreds of watchers) is beyond the person-power and financial ability of a small church.
    • Instead a small church pastor/leader should …
      • Check Facebook 30 minutes every day.
      • Call people on the phone if you see they have a need.
        • Don’t just like their post or tweet, that means very little – only that you noticed.
        • Instead, talk to them on the phone and pray for them.

    SMALL CHURCHES & How to increase community impact by making your facility available to emerging cultures in your community. #EdStetzer #TheExchange #CT

    by Ed Stetzer, The Exchange, 2/27/18.

    … Typically, small churches use their facilities no more than six hours per week. The other 162 hours of the week buildings sit empty and woefully underused. Open your property to a church plant in need of a place to worship. Invite the local addiction recovery chapter to meet in your building for as long as they want. Offer to provide coffee and cookies baked by a different member each week.

    Neighborhood association meetings are often looking for a place to hold gatherings. These take place no more than once a month (usually much less frequently) and are a wonderful way to get people to come to your building. Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops are always looking for places to hold weekly meetings. Let your building(s) be a blessing to your community. Value relationships with your neighbors more than you value the cleanliness of the carpet in your sanctuary.

    Serving people is more important than a pristine fellowship hall. Your community will soon take note of which churches care about them and which churches care only about themselves. Be the former, not the latter.

    One of the most successful ways of serving your community is to offer a free night of babysitting so parents can have a date night. Sometimes this is structured around Christmas so parents can shop together without having to bring their kids and hide purchases.

    Often it is simply a random Friday or Saturday evening where parents can spend an evening strengthening their marriage without shelling out $20–$40 on a babysitter. The kids are served a meal, presented a Bible lesson, and allowed to play together.

    At pickup, church members tell parents about one unique thing their child(ren) did that night, showing that each child was valued. It is also a time where families can be invited to attend worship the following Sunday. Something as simple as taking down their name, address, or email for the promise of inviting them to future ‘Date Night’ babysitting events produces a ready-made list of prospects for future contact and evangelism.

    In any way that you use your building(s) to serve your community, make sure you have members at each meeting to unlock the facilities and to welcome all who enter. They are there to assist, not to eavesdrop on the meetings.

    A warm welcome goes a long way towards showing them you really care about them, not simply that you’re begrudgingly providing a community service. And it should go without saying, but just so no one misunderstands, all of these opportunities should be rent-free for the users. Don’t try to make a buck off of your community. Don’t even justify it as covering your costs.

    Excerpted from “Getting Small Churches on Mission (Part 3).” Read more at …

    SMALL CHURCHES & 2 Reasons Growing Churches May Stall (e.g. lack of tactical leaders)

    Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: There are more factors than just these two keeping churches under 200 attendees. A primary factor not mentioned in this article is the Dunbar number. But this article does point out something that I have said in my previous books: that pastors often go into the ministry because they want to be a “shepherd,” not an “administrator/manager.” And to grow above 200 you have to be an administrator/manager. See this article regarding how one small, but growing church pastor identified this.  Then check out this questionnaire to see you personal mixture of strategic, tactical and operational leadership skills.

    Reasons Growing Churches May Stall

    by Karl Vaters, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 5/12/16.

    Our church grew and grew and we hit about 150 to 160, while we were in a tiny little building. So we moved into a local school, and within about a year we grew to almost 400. Then we started dropping like a rock…

    What happened here? I made a couple of strategic errors.

    1. Workers can’t be welcomers.

    We were setting up and tearing down everything every week, and the regulars who were hauling chairs would normally have been the social glue to greet the new people. So we weren’t able to retain our visitors.

    2. Being a pastor is different than being an administrator.

    But the primary thing was this: I made the switch from pastor to administrator. I made that switch willingly, but I was miserable.

    The numbers hid the misery from me—how can a pastor be miserable when his church has almost doubled in a year? By spending 95 percent of my ministry doing things I hate.

    Below 200, a church can function under one pastor with a handful of volunteers. Over 200, it cannot be done by a single pastor anymore, and the lead pastor has to take on an entirely different role.

    I think most pastors are like me. Very few go into ministry thinking, I want to spend my time working with city hall, fundraising, sorting out finances and dealing with staff conflicts.

    They enter ministry because they want to feed the sheep. But you’ve got to pastor with a different set of skills above 200…

    Read more at …


    SUB-CONGREGATIONS & How Megachurches Are Going Small … and Why

    by Aaron Earls, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 3/29/16.

    Why Megachurches Go Small

    Larger churches often recognize what small churches might miss—there are advantages to being little. Through small groups, multisite campuses, and now microsites, those megachurches are attempting to continue their growth while retaining small-church benefits.

    “Churches are taking advantage of Dunbar’s number,” says Bob Whitesel, a professor at Indiana Wesleyan University and church growth expert. Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist, found humans can comfortably maintain only around 150 stable relationships. Beyond that, says Whitesel, “relationships don’t seem to have much depth.”

    This is why he believes many churches stall around this plateau. “Once it gets bigger than that, people stop inviting others because they no longer know everyone else at church,” he says.

    It’s incumbent on large church leaders to capitalize on smaller groups that organically emerge in the church. Whitesel calls these “sub-congregations,” and they mirror other numbers Dunbar found in his research. Groups of 50 can unite around a task, such as the music ministry or preschool volunteers. Small group gatherings of 15 have the feel of an extended family, and groups of five are intimate connections.

    These numbers have been seen not only in sociological research but also in church history, Whitesel says. “In the Wesleyan revivals, every leader had to be involved in what they called ‘Band Meetings’ of five individuals. Larger groups of 15 were called ‘Class Meetings.’”

    With this sociological and historical support, church consulting experts identify at least four areas that can be more easily developed in smaller churches…

    Read more at …

    SMALL GROUPS & Grow A Small Church by Multiplying Its Small Groups

    by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 7/6/15.

    We all want to know how to grow a small church.  And, after coaching hundreds of small churches, the key to their growth is usually organically growing their small groups.  Let me explain.

    A student once remarked, “The people in my church rarely give feedback. I gave them a questionnaire and only received five back out of 50. We only have two major groups, Worship Service and Bible Study. More people show up for Bible Study. I don’t know if it is because they get to eat afterward or not. Small group intimacy does not play a role in our church, maybe because of the size.”

    Yes, he was right.  Small group intimacy may not be needed in his church because his congregation was basically one extended family or small group now.

    To grow a church in this situation, you usually have to get the people to start another small group.  This could be accomplished by adding another Bible Study or Sunday School class, or any other type of small group.  And, if often helps if a few people form the existing small group help launch this new group by being in attendance.

    Let me give an example.

    One of my client churches (a Presbyterian church in rural Illinois) had 35 people on Sunday, and a Sunday School for adults that regularly reached 25.  As I interviewed the leaders, they mentioned that they liked the Sunday School because they could share their opinions freely and discuss the Bible.  They said they had invited people, but that guests would usually come once or twice, and then stop.

    I explained to them some behaviors of the unchurched that helped bring the organizational forces involved to light.  First, I explained that most people come to church because of a crisis or need.  One of my colleagues (Flavil Yeakley, cited below) found that what motivates people to come to church is:  death in the family, followed by illness, followed by interpersonal problems (such as marital problems, etc.).  Thus, you can see that when people come to our churches they are looking for a more intimate environment than 25-35 people to share their needs.

    A small group (12-15 people) is the perfect environment for people to share such needs.  In fact, this is the size of group Jesus used for discipleship.  When the Presbyterian Sunday School understood this, they understood they needed to launch another Sunday School.

    Two members of the existing Sunday School volunteer to start this new group, and the new smaller group grew with new members.

    Whitesel B. (2012) Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health. Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House.  Here is the footnote and citation from that book: “The Holmes and Rahe Readjustment Scale is a comparison of the degree to which different crises affect stress in people’s lives.”  Flavil Yeakley’s Ph.D. research at the University of Illinois uncovered that many times such crises drive people to religion (and to visit churches) in search of answers, help and solace (Flavil R. Yeakley, Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of the School of Communication [Champaign, IL: University of Illinois, 1976].)  Yeakley’s research has been summarized by Elmer Towns in  A Practical Encyclopedia of Evangelism and Church Growth (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1995), pp. 209-210.  One implication of Yeakley’s research is that churches should focus more on offering ministry that helps people deal with crises in their life.”