We still have a lot to learn

Insight #6 –What we’ve Learned from Online Assessment

By Craig Whitney

(Note this is the sixth and final post in a series. See Insight #1 for background on the research project.)

When ELI began our recent research into church planting outcomes our primary goal was to see how the results of the Church Planter Profiles online assessment matched the actual experience of individual church planters. I’ve been sharing the lessons we learned in this series of posts. In the process of looking at individual church planters, we inevitably ended up with data that gave us insight into the effectiveness of church planting as a whole. The results were consistent with the most research of this type conducted by Ed Stetzer in 2007.

It was encouraging to discover that 17% of churches in our research had grown to over 200 people in attendance. Half of these grew past this commonly recognized barrier in 12 months or less. On a strictly numerical basis, these churches represented the fastest growing and largest in our survey. It was discouraging, however, to discover they do not represent the typical church plant. Half of the churches in our study had started with 30 or less people and, at the time of our survey, had 60 or less people attending. The sentiment of our interviews further confirmed that small and struggling is a more typical church planting experience than growing and thriving.
Beyond the number of people attending a new church, we really wanted to know how many people involved in the new church were formerly un-churched. This ratio gives us at least some insight into how effective the new church is at making new disciples. Regardless of the size the church, the average was 20%. On a personal level, I’m grateful for every person who finds new life in Jesus. As a church planting leader I can only conclude we still have a lot to learn. We need to continue to improve our ability to:

  • Discover leaders with the ability, gifts and desire to start new churches.
  • Develop both the character and competence of church planters.
  • Direct vital resources to church planting.

The most critical improvement needed, in order to reach the hundreds of million people in the US alone who do not know Jesus, is our ability to start new churches that are even more effective at making new disciples.

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