The State of Church Planting in the United States

In the Fall of 2007 the Leadership Network published a paper on The State of Church Planting in the United States.  I just learned of this document and have found it to be very interesting.  You can download it for free from the site.  In addition, there is a 25-minute podcast interview of Dave Travis and Ed Stetzer that can also be downloaded for free from their podcast.  You will need to register to access these resources.  It is a must read due to the breadth of their research and the usefulness of the data. 

Here are a few of their findings . . .

On the lead church-planter:

Hunter concluded that the primary indicators for church-plant failure rested with the disposition of the lead church-planter. Hunter’s research indicates that a passive approach to ministry is prone to failure; however, church planters with an aggressive strategy for penetrating the community and gathering those who would be leaders for the kingdom more frequently results in successful church-plants.

On the characteristics of a successful church-planter:

1. Spousal support is a must …

2. The importance of casting vision cannot be overemphasized…

3. Material resources are less important than one might believe…

4. Coaching plays a significant role in the life of the planter…

5. Have a plan for both developing leaders and involving them as soon as possible…

6. Church planters need to be sure of their calling.

On the location of the church plant:

He also noted that proper site location for both the city and facility is necessary for success.


On church-plant leadership:

The research shows that church-plant leadership impacts the survivability of the new church. It also reveals that a strong commitment to evangelism creates an expectation of new life and growth and generates enthusiastic commitment to the church.

On the differences between fast-growing and struggling church-plants:

Gray’s study discovered common characteristics in fast-growing churches. For this study, Gray compared 60 fast-growing church-plants and 52 struggling church-plants and found important differences. In successful church-plants: 88% had church planting teams; 63.3% had a core group of 26 to 75 people; 75% used a contemporary style of worship; 80% put ten percent or more of their budgets toward outreach and evangelism; 16.8% had a higher rate of full-time pastors than struggling church-plants; 63% of fast growing plants, compared to 23% of those that were struggling, raised additional funding.

 The average amount of funding for a new church plant for all networks was $172,200.

On the size of a church and church planting:
In the realm of church planting, churches that were 200 or less in attendance were four times more likely to plant a church than churches of 1000 or more in attendance while churches between 200–500 in attendance were twice as likely to plant a church than their larger counterparts. 

On their conclusion:

Church-planting churches are a determined group. They are independent thinkers and aggressive by nature.

Many church planters are finding fulfillment as their God-given dreams come to fruition. Yet many more struggle with the personal and professional demands of planting a church and nurturing it to mature, healthy, reproducing viability. Through multiple studies and extensive research, it requires tenacity and teamwork, perseverance and passion, commitment and common-sense to plant churches. The most successful church planters are aggressive and outwardly-focused. They lead by example and engage their culture in relevant, life-changing ministry.


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