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.
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.
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.