5 Lessons from the Church Planting Trends Study

5 Lessons from the Church Planting Trends Study

Church Growth, the Right Way I'm Scott Ball, a strategy and leadership consultant for churches like yours. I work with The Malphurs Group to equip churches to break through barriers,and maximize your impact for Christ. Download my free guide and learn 10 simple secrets that will help keep guestsfrom leaving through the back door (and even help attract higher numbers of first-timers). Yes! Send It Now   The older I get, the less I understand haircuts. Now, I live in East Tennessee—so however cool people are cutting their hair in New York and LA will be how cool people in my neck of the woods will cut their hair in ten years. So I’ve got plenty of time to adjust to the hipster haircuts I see on television and the Internet. But I have to be honest. Sometimes, I just don’t get it. Why does a man have a bun? Why is a mullet considered shady but buzzing your hair on the back but letting it grow long on the top (the reverse mullet?) totally fine? Are mohawks back in style now? Also, hats? If I ever put on one of these hip cowboy/sombrero/orthodox Jewish hats, my wife may slap me. I’m certain that the hats are cool. I’m just also certain that I am not. And here’s a confession: I’m not that old. So I can only imagine the groans that must escape the mouths of long-established pastors and leaders when they see an article titled like mine or read this article on Christianity Today—one of their most popular posts in 2015. Hearing about church planting trends or seeing something that implies that “established”...
Before Green Beer: The Real Saint Patrick

Before Green Beer: The Real Saint Patrick

“Patrick’s mission was unprecedented and widely assumed to be impossible.” This is the real Saint Patrick you’ve never heard of. Before green beer, leprechauns, parades, and four-leaf clovers, there was a faithful Christian leader who ushered in a second-era of church planting that wouldn’t be seen again for centuries. The reality is that apart from Patrick’s confession, there is very little historical record of what the real Saint Patrick accomplished in his day. However, scholars have dug and discovered a story that is nothing short of inspiring. The storyline of the real Saint Patrick, in summary, goes like this: Patrick was born into a wealthy family in northern England. His ancestors were celts, but his family had long-been Romanized. His grandfather had been a Roman Catholic priest, his father was a deacon. At the age of sixteen, Patrick was captured by Celtic pirates and taken to Ireland where he would work as a slave for six years. Patrick’s nominal Christianity inherited from his family became very real to him during his enslavement. His life was transformed by prayer and faithfulness to the gospel message he had learned as a boy. Patrick received a vision at the age of twenty-two calling him to barter his way onto a ship and escape his bondage for freedom. The story here is unclear, but it is likely that he trained for ministry in both France and England, and perhaps even Rome. Eventually, Patrick made his way back to England and became a faithful parish priest for many years. Then, at the age of forty-eight (well past the life expectancy of the day), Patrick receives another vision. In...
How to Build a Launch Team

How to Build a Launch Team

Anticipation is a powerful tool in the church planter’s toolbox. Anticipation about what God is going to do. Anticipation about how the church is going to grow. Anticipation about what that first service will be like when the launch preparations finally come into fruition. Anticipation about the lives that will be impacted by the gospel and the love of the people in this new church. Anticipation is powerful. But churches that don’t build a proper launch team never get to experience the benefits of anticipation. Here are two common mistakes church planters make: Launch with a handful of people in a living room. If that worked for Bill Hybels and Rick Warren, it’ll work for me.Truth: Nope. It most likely won’t. Hybels and Warren are outliers from a past generation. Decades of evidence and research consistently shows that churches with a launch team of under fifty people will struggle to ever gain viability, sustainability, and momentum. Could your church be successful launching with a couple of families? Absolutely. But why risk it when the benefits of building a launch team extend beyond viability, sustainability, and momentum? Build a decent launch team but rely on advertising to bring in launch day guests.Truth: Far too many dollars have been wasted on direct mailers and billboards by new church plants. I won’t waste your time trying to discourage you from using these means. If you believe they work, I can’t stop you. What I can tell you is that they’re extremely expensive, and when it comes to church planting, every dollar counts. A person who visits based on a direct mailer is less likely...
Top 10 Qualities of Successful Church Planters

Top 10 Qualities of Successful Church Planters

If you want to be successful at church planting, start by counting the cost. Four thousand new churches are planted every year, finally stemming the tide of church closures each year (3,500/year). Church planting has seen a resurgence in the last decade, and a vast number of new churches that are planted are becoming viable and self-sustaining within five years. However, church planting isn’t a sure deal. Passion, heart, and desire are admirable qualities, but not necessarily the only ones that are necessary to be a successful church planter. The numbers don’t lie. More than three out of ten church plants will fail within five years, and even more will never break through that critical 100 attenders barrier—meaning that funds will always be an issue, the church will be chronically understaffed, and the gospel impact you once envisioned is endangered. NOTE: If you’re a church planter already and you’re reading these statistics becoming discouraged, don’t be. This website and my work is dedicated exclusively to helping leaders and churches like you to achieve the breakthrough you long to have. It is never too late, and you’re never too far gone. Breakthrough is just around the corner. If this is you, stop reading this article and contact me straight away so we can start praying through and strategically planning your breakthrough. For those of you reading this article right now who are aspiring or potential church planters, I want you to come face-to-face with the statistics so you can count the cost now. It’s far easier to become a breakthrough church intentionally from the beginning than to have to re-visit...
Dear Church, Stop Stealing

Dear Church, Stop Stealing

Dear Church, Stop stealing. I know that pulling off excellence in church every single week is difficult and expensive.  Churches, especially church plants and smaller churches, don’t have enough time, budget, staff, or expertise to produce high-end stuff in-house each week. So I get it, it’s easier to take a short-cut. But sometimes our attempts to save time or money inadvertently lead us to an ethically treacherous place.  Most often, this happens within the realm of intellectual property, and so we don’t think of it as stealing.  We think of it as sharing. I’ve been where you are, walked in your shoes, and rationalized the same way. Even in creating this website–a place designed to help church leaders train up, heal up, and pump up so they can have their maximum impact–there’s a temptation to want to use great stuff on the web. But just because it can be downloaded for free doesn’t mean it’s yours to use for free. Having walked this journey, too, I think that most of us in church want to do the right thing but get confused by what’s legal and figure since it’s “all for Jesus” it doesn’t really matter. Here’s why it matters: using intellectual property without permission is literally picking the pocket of content creators. While major studios or production companies might not miss the small royalty, the photographer, videographer, musician, or artist who is hustling each week to make ends meet certainly does. If everyone in your church decided not to tithe simply because your sermons were offered for free, every church in this country would be in trouble. Likewise,...
Two Truths About Small Group Ministry

Two Truths About Small Group Ministry

For nearly a year, I’ve been coordinating the small group ministry at our church. When you plant a church, there are dreams and visions for what every aspect of your new congregation could and should be. Inevitably, some things go better than you could ever dream and other things take longer to get off the ground. For us, we had a big dream of having 60% of our average adult attendance in small groups within 3 years. Our highest participation rate in our first three years was between 25-30%. It is not anyone’s “fault” that we had yet to hit our goal. However there are two truths about small group ministry I wish someone had told us before we started. I’ll tell you now so you’re ahead of the curve: 1) Small Group Ministry is way harder than anyone will admit. Recruiting leaders, training leaders, coaching leaders, choosing or writing curriculum, advertising groups, helping groups launch, helping groups multiply, helping people find groups, helping people switch groups, deciding what to do about summer… It’s a lot. When there’s a breakdown in any area, your whole small group ministry will feel it. I’d love to tell you the secret formula, but I’m beginning to believe it doesn’t exist. There’s no shortcut for hard work. If you’re convinced that there’s no better context for discipleship to happen at your church than small groups, then don’t lose heart. Find ways to be efficient when possible, over-communicate with your team of leaders, pray a whole lot, and work insanely hard. Hear it from me, your church can’t do small group ministry as a...