Growing up in Vancouver, there were a lot of 7-Elevens around. In fact, one of my favorite things to do as a child was to buy a Slurpee, nachos with cheese, and some chewy coke bottle candies. Ah, the memories. So when my Sunday school teacher offered to buy my friends and I nachos and cheese, in exchange for not making his life miserable, you could’ve probably guessed my response. I was like a child with a halo around his head. Who knew bribing a child could be so effective!
The funny thing about 7-Elevens, and other convenient stores like them, is that they have a strategy for multiplication. They don’t just haphazardly place stores wherever there’s cheap rent, nor do they wait for entrepreneurial leaders to show up at their door step. They are intentional. Incredibly intentional. They do their research on the best location for future stores. They develop leaders because they know that the success of their stores rises and falls on leadership. Intentionality is everything.
The same is true for church planting.
Intentionality Matters in Church Planting
When we conducted the largest and most thorough research project ever done on church planting, we discovered that intentionality was everything. You can download the U.S. version of the report at www.newchurches.com (The Canadian and Australian versions of this report are forthcoming).
We discovered that:
- Church plants who were intentional with evangelism had more unchurched people in their congregation
- Church plants who were intentional at having a highly public presence had a larger worship attendance
- Church plants who were intentional at starting at least one daughter church within their first 3 and 5 years saw a consistent increase in attendance
- Church plants who prioritized leadership development saw more people make a decision for Christ
And the list goes on and on. The fact is, intentionality matters.
Leadership Development Leads to Multiplication
While no one will deny that leadership matters, the standard curriculum that shapes the leaders and pastors of our churches doesn’t often do enough to prepare them for the leadership challenges ahead. However, when we looked at the research, one of the common underlying factors for churches that both grew and saw more unchurched people make a decision for Christ, was a focus on leadership development.
- Church planters who would mentor leaders of other new churches had a higher average worship attendance
- Church planters who would participate in, at least, a month-long leadership training course on church planting also experienced a higher average worship attendance
- Church plants who had a leadership development plan for their membership saw a higher number of decisions for Christ made
- Church plants who had a leadership development plan for their membership also became financially self-sufficient at a quicker rate
These things are not surprising since maturity generally leads to more sacrificial hearts, and sacrificial hearts leads to greater patterns of financial giving. However, the data is clear — leadership development matters in church planting. So don’t wait until you get larger or more complex to focus on developing leaders. Make this a part of your DNA and culture from day one.
Intentionality Leads to Multiplication
In our research, we discovered that over 4000 churches were launched and 3700 were closed in 2014. So that means, every week, 77 were being launched and 71 were being closed. This means that in 2014, the United States had a net gain of 300 churches.
When I was on missions in China, we had Chinese classes every day. Now, I have to admit, I wasn’t the best student, since I was slightly preoccupied with flirting with my wife-to-be, Christina. However, when the teacher called on me to read from the board, I did it with gusto and confidence. After reading the last word, the teacher exclaimed, “Good!!!” and man, did that ever feel amazing, especially in front of Christina — whom I was trying to impress. The problem was what came out of the teacher’s mouth afterwards. “That’s good Daniel….not very good."
That’s how I feel about these statistics. They’re good, but not very good.
What we are experiencing is church planting by addition, not multiplication. After all, if we want to keep up with the population growth in the United States and around the world, we not only need individual new churches, but movements of new churches. Multiplication movements of new churches.
Looking across the data of churches surveyed, we noticed a number of things that are present in multiplying churches started between 2008 and 2012.
- They are very visible, both publicly and digitally
- They are intentional in their programs and activities that are focused on outreach
- They are devoted to membership assimilation and leadership development
- They have an intentional stewardship plan to move their church to financial self-sufficiency
- They are contributing financially to other church plants
- They are regularly communicating a commitment to multiplication to their church body
- The pastors of these new churches are well trained and prepared
- The pastors of these new churches also have adequate provision to take care of them
- They are intentional about multiplication and create specific pathways to make it happen
In other words, churches that are engaged in multiplication are relentlessly intentional about it. They prepare, plan, and execute their strategy to not only see a new church begin, but to multiply into other new churches; effectively working toward movement multiplication.
Get this. If every church plant decided to be involved in planting another church within the first 3-5 years of their church, and then they did it again, and again, and again, while, at the same time, those churches that they planted also planted again, and again, and again, we would see a movement of multiplication in our generation.
When I was on missions in Thailand, I remember talking with the pastor of the orphanage we were serving in. He asked me if I had noticed how many 7-Elevens there were in Thailand. Initially, I thought this was an odd question, but after thinking about it for a while, I realized that every community we drove through had a 7-Eleven in it, or close to it. He then shared with me, “That’s my church planting vision for Thailand. Everywhere there’s a 7-Eleven, I want there to be a church."
May we see a movement of multiplication in our generation.