According to research, after four years of labor, the average size of a church plant in North America is 100 people (that’s total attendance). Yet most Church Planters I have assessed, trained, and/or coached never start a church with the intention of being a church of 100 people or less. Very few churches are launched with the view that in five short years they will plateau or stagnate in their growth, becoming inwardly focused on maintaining their existing structures.
My observation of church plants (since 1985) is that the majority of new churches that grow quickly and pass through the ordinary size barriers have done so by one of 2 ways:
1) they launched as a Hive Off from an existing mother church (usually launching with over 100 people)
2) they “benefited” from another local church’s painful conflict and resulting split. In that scenario, the new church is a small mission one Sunday and then the next Sunday there is a large influx of previously churched people and momentum up flows from there.
Rarely do I find new churches that are growing by an intentional, focused mission on reaching the spiritually lost unchurched. But healthy, living things grow and reproduce.
So, let's explore the dynamics of planting a church that will reproduce itself. If we are going to ever have a church planting movement, we will need to plant churches that intend to reproduce themselves regularly. But before we get down to the nuts and bolts, let’s consider these Two Non-negotiable Assumptions:
1. You, as the Church Planter, must want to plant a church that reproduces. You must see this as God’s will for you and His Church.
2. You must be ruthless with setting and keeping the DNA for reproduction. Every decision, from who will serve as your first leaders, staffing decisions, your first budget decisions, the location and facility decisions will all be tested. Will you grow one large church that does missions or will you reproduce the church?
3 Essential Perspectives for Planting a Reproducing Church
The 3 essential perspectives for planting a reproducing church are: 1) Normative or Prescriptive Biblical Standards (2) Personal or Existential Standards and (3) Situational or Contextual Standards
The 3 perspectives are interdependent with one another. In other words, you cannot focus on one perspective in planting a reproducing church. Many consultants and/or books on church growth focus primarily on the situational (or as some call them the technocratic issues—parking spaces, seating capacity, nursery, etc.) and others focus on the situational/contextual along with the personal. We are suggesting that there is no priority of dependence. Each perspective differs from the others in focus and emphasis, but the 3 perspectives must work together.
1. Normative or Prescriptive Biblical Standards
Being a healthy kingdom-centered, Gospel-saturated, missionally-engaged church. These would involve (1) Corporate renewal signs; (2) Individual members spiritual renewal; (3) Community or cultural transformation/renewal (crime rates, illegitimate birth rates, unemployment, health, literacy, etc).
Missional values. Core missional values are more than words on a page or wall sign. They are the motivations for doing what we do. Missional values inform our behaviors.
2. Personal or Existential Standards
One of the most critical areas in church planting is leadership. A Church Planter must grow, change, and develop his leadership style in order to reproduce or take a church to the next level. He must have “Learning Agility.”
Being totally honest with self, before the Lord and the input and counsel of others you respect and trust, do you know what level of leader you can aspire to be?
Your character is primary. Your life is consistent with biblical values, no matter the consequences or pressure to conform. You are seen as direct and truthful. You practice what you preach. You want Christ to get the credit. Your primary ambition is Christ and His Church. You must have a “Humble-boldness.” Never aspire to be great or to make the cover of “Church Planter Quarterly.”
Visionary leaders lead. They continue to learn how to apply the Gospel to their sinful over-desires, living the Gospel dance of repentance, faith and following.
Perseverance is essential. You know how to overcome the obstacles with the Gospel. You must be resolved to do whatever it takes to make Christ’s Church great! Have a long-term view, not short-term. Typically, a reproducing pastor can see the future before anyone else, and prepares himself and others for that future. Can you keep your “hand to the plow” when others bail and drop out? Can you deal with the discouragement of ministry by the power of Gospel?
3. Situational or Contextual
Understand the sociological dynamics. Size dynamics: there are real growth stages in every organization. For example:
12-50 people: Core group or House Church Size. This is a Single Cell.
100 people: Typical plateau stage for the average church plant after four years.
200-400 people: A big break through for most church plants.
450-800 people: The multiple congregation church.
If you would like to read more about how churches of different sizes grow and thrive, “Cultural Diversity”, creating a clear ministry design, how to understand facilities and budgets, and the C.R.O.S.S. method of Gospel Coaching, you can download the full chapter “Planting a Reproducing Church” for $5 at today!
You can also read the entire chapter in the book Church Planter Field Manual: Fishing. Order the book on Amazon today!
Remember, you don’t have to plant a church alone. At CMM, we believe every pastor, church planter, ministry leader, and missionary is created to thrive in ministry. We suggest getting a C.R.O.S.S. Coach to help walk with you through the challenges you’ve never faced before. A C.R.O.S.S. Coach will help encourage and equip you every step along the way. Learn more about C.R.O.S.S. Coaching today!
Dr. Tom Wood
I've been in the Church Planting business my entire career. I want you to know, you don't have to plant a church alone!