Archive for the ‘Church Planting’ Category
(The following is some notes from a talk I recently gave about church planting.)
Biblical Rationale for Church Planting
- Matthew 16:18 – “Upon this rock, I will build my church.” The church has a vital role in the redemptive plan of God.
- Matthew 28:18-20 – “The Great Commission.” We are to be a “sent people.” Historically, new churches have been the most successful at “making disciples of all nations.”
- Acts 2:41-47 – New converts are quickly assembled into “congregations” that continually multiply.
Why Plant a Church?
- The fields are ready for harvest
- Only 17.5% of people in the U.S. attend church on any given weekend in 2005 (American Church in Crisis (ACC) by David Olson).
- About 4,000 churches close every year. Approximately the same amount of new churches start each year. However, to keep up with population growth, an additional 3,200 churches need to start every year (ACC).
- The number of unchurched Americans is increasing by a rate of 1 million per year (Church Leader’s Intelligence Report, 4-1-09).
- To reach young people
- 70% of Protestant church-going high-schoolers have stopped attending church by age 23 (Lifeway Research).
- And it’s getting worse… at the current rate, only 4% of American teenagers will end up as Bible believers. (Washington Times)
- 19% of 18 – 22 year olds identify themselves as atheist or agnostic (Barna Group).
- New churches are more effective
- It has been proven over the years and is universally accepted across all denominations that the most-effective way to reach unbelievers is through the planting of new churches.
- Evangelical churches under 10 years old grow at an annual rate of 16.5% compared to 0.6% for churches 10 – 40 years old and -1.1% for churches over 40 years (ACC).
- New churches have 4 times the conversion rate per attendee than established churches (ACC).
Why Support Church Planting?
- The average start-up cost of a new church is $172,000.(Leadership Network)
- The average church plant takes 32 months to become financially independent.
- All church planting in the BGC is church-led and church-supported. Meaning the only way new churches get started is if existing churches support them.
- Established churches that are involved in church planting typically experience spiritual revitalization as a result.
- A study of 160 SBC sponsor churches from 1992 – 2002:
- overall 49% increase in worship attendance
- overall 28% increase in baptisms
Some other stats I included in talking about my specific context:
- Based on location (urban, suburban, large town, small town, rural), small towns have experienced the biggest decline in church attendance -1.3% (ACC).
- 78% of unchurched people think that Christianity is more about organized religion than it is about loving God and people (Lifeway).
I can’t sleep tonight. I am deeply burdened. One of the reasons I decided to plant in Thief River Falls, MN was because of the huge potential to start a movement in NW Minnesota – in communities like Detriot Lakes, Moorhead, Crookston, and East Grand Forks.
East Grand Forks has been on my mind a lot lately. It is only 50 miles from TRF on the MN/ND border across from the larger Grand Forks. Today we did some shopping in Grand Forks so I decided to take some time driving around East Grand Forks. Wow! Does this place need a vibrant new work of God!
East Grand Forks (EGF)is a small town of 8,000 people (roughly the same size as TRF), but it plays much larger, being right across the river from Grand Forks, a large town of 50,000+ and home to the 10,000 student University of North Dakota. EGF has a very nice new riverwalk with a thriving business community. There is a new 12 screen movie theater for which many Dakotans cross the river, along with a Cabelas and several large nice restaurants and bars (Applebee’s, Blue Moose, Whitey’s). On a weekend night, the area is teeming with people – many of them college students. On a Saturday night it easily feels like a town 3 times it’s size.
And what is there to offer all these people spiritually? Just 9 churches (plus a Kingdom Hall)! And only one of them is “evangelical” and it is very small from what I can tell. I’m sure your better at math than I am, but that’s just a little better than one church per 1,000 people! Ninety-one percent of residents claiming a religion identify themselves as either Lutheran or Catholic. There is a fairly large Hispanic population (about 8% of the pop.) and a larger than average population below the poverty line (12.4% in 2007; probably higher now).
My heart aches. What a ripe mission field!
I am praying to the Lord of the harvest.
35 Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”
- 80% of fast-growing church plants allot a full 10% of their budget to outreach and evangelism.
- 70% of slow-growing church plants typically started small, with less than 25 people.
- 90% of struggling church plants started with only a single paid staff person.
- 88% of fast-growing church plants have teams.
- Attendance rates are much higher in church plants where the planter underwent assessment.
- The more frequently the church planter meets with a mentor/coach, the higher the average weekly attendance of the church plant.
The research is broken up into topic-specific areas and is available at: leadnet.org/churchplantingresources.
- Church Planting Overview
- Funding New Churches
- Who Starts New Churches
- Improving the Health and Survivability of New Churches
- Researcher’s Commentary on State of Church Planting USA (podcast)
Getting ready for the Minnesota Baptist Conference Annual Meeting, as well as some opportunities in January to share the story of our church planting movement, I put together a couple of video’s.
This video speaks to our value of churches planting churches.
Here’s a snapshot of what happened in some of our church plants in 2007 and some thoughts from a couple of our planters.
Shawn Lovejoy is one of the sharpest guys in the church planting world. As a guy who is dedicated to planting churches in Minnesota, it was fun reading this on his blog tonight:
A friend of mine sent me this picture from a recent business trip he had taken. On his trip, he passed through Mountain Lake, Minnesota! When I saw this picture, I couldn’t help but dream about the day when Mountain Lake has planted churches in every state that changes the way people think about church! I dream of a day when all of North Georgia has campuses of Mountain Lake Church that’s changing the way people think about church
Though I’ve only been on the ground with my new church plant. Epiphany Station, in Thief River Falls, MN for a scant 3 1/2 months, it has been long enough to gather some initial observations of church planting in smaller communities. Since my previous plant was in a large city, many of my observations are a comparison/contrast to planting in urban centers.
- The Harvest is Ripe. People are hungry here – and I think in small communities around the country – for something exciting, genuine and new. Most people grew up going to church but many have checked out because they found it to be boring, irrelevant, hypocritical or insignificant. Many are seeking, but not finding. The fields are ready for new fresh works of God to reap a bountiful harvest of God-seekers.
- The Culture is Very Religious. The first local ministerial meeting I went to was attended by all of the local school administrators who spent the bulk of the time apologizing for the one time last year they had to schedule an event on a Sunday night. As a rule, the school district does NOT schedule any events or activities on Wednesdays or Sundays. Coming from a city where Sunday morning activities were common place, I was just blown away. The community as a whole is very religious – respecting the role of God, church and family.
- The Culture is Very Religious (Part 2). Because it is very religious, of course, there are a lot of expectations about what church is and isn’t; what it can and can’t do. There are also a lot of people who are dissatisfied with the religious status quo (see #1). It is a delicate balance trying to maintain harmony within a religious community – not needlessly offending – while at the same time trying to reach the disenfranchised and blow some of the religious misconceptions of Jesus, Christians and church out of the water.
- Space is NOT an Issue. One of the reasons there is such huge potential in these small towns is because there is no shortage of space. In addition to schools, theaters and community centers, there are handfuls of abandoned churches, retail and warehouse buildings. We purchased a gas station and warehouse right downtown on the main drag for $92,000 (+ about $20K in renovations). Where else can you get 3,500 sq ft for $110K? Of course there are always potential zoning issues, but in a religious community that desires vitality, those can always be overcome.
- It’s the 80′s all Over Again. In the 1980′s it seemed all you had to do was start anything new with contemporary music and casual clothes in growing communities and crowds of people would show up. Although that’s not exactly the case here and now (perhaps strictly because of the population difference), it’s pretty close. In many of these communities, there are really only two choices: Traditional (predominantly Lutheran in these parts) or Charismatic. If you offer something between those two extremes – or completely different – people are going to show up.
- Core is Key. Pioneering work is tough anywhere. I think it is especially difficult in small towns to go in as an outsider and try and build something from scratch. In these small, tight-knit communities, you will always be an outsider, no longer how long you live there. And coming in people will be highly suspicious and untrusting of you. I came into a situation here where a core group had already been on the ground for nearly 2 years. They, of course, are all locals, many of whom were born and raised in this community. They know the culture, have the connections and see the vision. I came in and provided the leadership. Their connections combined with my leadership have given us credibility and trust in the community. Of all the external factors, I believe this to be the most critical to the brief success we’ve enjoyed.
- We are Not Alone. Already I see huge potential for new church plants in surrounding communities like Detriot Lakes, Moorhead, East Grand Forks and Crookston. In fact, I think they may even be riper than Thief River Falls. Small towns are an overlooked and untapped mission field for church planting.
Obviously, my observations are just initial impressions, but they are not just informed by my experience, but by the experiences and research of others, as well. My observations focus mainly on gathering a crowd because that is the stage we are in. Long-term evangelism and discipleship results will be determined over time.
I’d love to hear from others who are planting in small towns and rural communities.
Paul Johnson, Senior Vice-President of the Converge Worldwide/BGC, Tom Nebel, the Director of Global Church Planting and Leadership Development and Gary Rohrmayer, the National Director of ConvergeUSA. Listen in as they have an informative conversation on the history of TeAmerica and the future of ConvergeUSA. Click Here to Listen
We (that’s the Minnesota Baptist Conference) just wrapped up our annual church planters retreat in Lanesboro, MN. Over 30 planters and spouses from across MN (and one from IA!) were there. As usual, it was a great time!
I was talking to a first-time attender who was a little new to our group and as I was sharing, I realized why this retreat is so important to our movement….the brief time that we’re together among the bluffs of the Root River Valley embodies many of the values that are a part of our church planting movement.
We value the church planter and their spouse. In an effort to make it easy for our planters to come (or impossible for them not to come!) we make it very affordable and we center the retreat around them. To be honest, the retreat is no cheap date. But we are committed to making it so affordable that the issue of finances are not even a consideration. Also, we have a schedule with different activities but we also make it very clear that if we never see you through the two days, that’s fine. Do what you need to do. Spend time with your spouse. Sleep. Canoe down the river. Stay up ’til 1:00 am playing hearts. We do this because we value the church planter and their spouse. This is a time for them to reconnect, re-energize, and renew at their pace, in their way.
We value being together. If you’ve never sat in a room with a bunch of church planters, then you’re missing something amazing. Stories are told. Notes are shared. Hearts are opened. Prayers are given. Laughter abounds. When you gather a bunch of people together who love each other, have nothing to hide, and truly enjoying hanging out with each other, ministry happens. We purposely don’t program a lot of elements into the retreat because we value being together and the result is ministry happens.
We value teamwork. Nobody should plant a church alone. Every planter has their core group of their leadership team. At our retreat, the value of teamwork is evident. Ideas are shared and encouragement is given….not because it’s the “encouragement session” but because we’re all on the same team.
We value the spiritual task before us. Church planters are often on the front line. It’s not often pretty. It’s a battle. We understand it’s a spiritual battle and a part of our time together is spiritual preparation for the battles that are yet to be fought…and won. We know the statistics of new churches and conversion growth. We live the impact new churches can have upon families and communities. That empowers us to the spiritual task before us.
We value fun. You know those times when someone you just met asks you what you do? You’re a tad reluctant to tell them you’re a pastor because you fear that they are going to pigeon-hole you into some drab, lifeless, conservative, boring box? I wish those people could come and hang out with my church-planting-pastor-comrades in a wonderful little resort at the end of little road in small one-horse town in SE MN. It’s a hint of Heaven…though in Heaven I hope to win a game or two of Hearts.
Looking forward to next year….