Plant the Church—Better
Where is the church experiencing the most growth in new church planting efforts?
Brent Storms: Surprisingly, new churches here [in the Boston to Washington, D.C. region] have flourished. Our 27 most recently planted churches are reaching 14,000 people combined. At least one new church started by Orchard Group in [each of] the metro areas of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington is reaching over 1,000 people.
Greg Hubbard: New churches we have planted in cities have effectively reached new people groups and new residents in their neighborhoods. The neighborhoods have changed demographically, and often the existing churches have a challenging time bridging the gap, while new churches are able to do so rather naturally. New churches have consistently reached younger generations of people in our experience, as well. Our new churches are frequently full of young families and individuals, often in their 20s and 30s.
Ed Stetzer: Statistically you [also] have to see that the leading edge of church planting is among non-Anglo communities. In many denominations, their fastest-growing church plants are Latino, Asian and other ethnic groups.
What makes an ideal leader in church planting?
Dave Ferguson: I'm concerned that we relegate church planting to a certain model or leader-type. I think we need all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people. I also think we need to not think “young white male” when we think about church planters—that will not get the mission of Jesus accomplished. I think we need to encourage more women to get into the church planting game. It is stupid that we are trying to accomplish the Jesus mission using only half of our available leaders. This is changing, but it concerns me how slowly it is changing.
Matt Chandler: As I look at it, my biggest concern is if the guys planting churches are actually prepared to plant those churches. Have they been trained and coached, and are they actually ready to plant the churches?
Greg Surratt: There's a need for young church planters to be fathered spiritually. For whatever reason, this seems to be a missing piece. Perhaps if more existing pastors see their role as fathers, we can close the gap. In a healthy family, fathers don't compete with their sons. They mentor, encourage, correct—but they don't see them as the competition.
Are some folks just not right for church planting?
Kyle Costello: In my experience, I have sat with quite a few planters who aren't sent by a church, have been turned down by assessors, and have no one following them, but they still must plant a church. Not knowing these folks intimately, it would be unfair to say they absolutely shouldn't plant. But if the church leadership where they are coming from doesn't see them as planters, assessment centers don't see them as planters, church planting organizations don't see them as planters, and they have no one joining them in their task, it seems like there is something significant and biblical that is missing.
Geoff Surratt: Church planting has taken on a little bit of a cool factor. It is important that a church planter is motivated by a clear call from God and not because they are tired of being on a church staff and can't think of anything else to do.
Dave Ferguson: The greatest need is more and more leaders. If we find the right leaders who are trusting God, the rest will take care of itself.
What are the compelling reasons to put more time, effort and resources into new church plants rather than growing existing churches?
Ed Stetzer: The vast majority of church revitalization attempts do not work. Now, that doesn’t mean that we should abandon church revitalization efforts, but it does mean that when we look at a strategic use of resources that we have a higher probability of success in church planting, and so therefore, it tends to be good stewardship.
Dave Ferguson: We know that church planting is tremendously effective. Church plants will grow 23 times faster than the average church that is 10 years old or older. Church plants will also reach five times as many people who are far from God as the average church.
Geoff Surratt: It is only logical to put a great deal of resources into new church plants for the same reason we put a lot of resources into elementary schools. We could easily say, "Why put so much effort into educating children when we have so many adults who can't read and write?"
Ed Stetzer: Also, it’s easier to birth a baby than it is to raise the dead. And so the reality is that many churches that need revitalization are in the downside of their life cycle. It is not inherently evil that churches die.
Greg Surratt: Some churches need to experience death in order to be resurrected again as something new. Some just need encouragement and somebody to come alongside with some tools that will help them grow.
Matt Chandler: The reality is every church is a church plant—it got there because another church spent money, time and resources, and energy. We could go all the way back to Acts 2 [to prove that]. You build and mature the church you’re in, and through church planting, you increase the kingdom growth of people who believe in and love Jesus.
Ed Stetzer: We need both an effective church planting strategy and an effective church revitalization strategy, and both of those are necessary for effective ministry to take place.