By Lisa Cannon Green
America is launching new Protestant churches faster than it loses old ones, attracting many people who previously didn’t attend anywhere, new Lifeway Research studies show.
More than 4,000 new churches opened their doors in 2014, outpacing the 3,700 that closed, according to estimates from the Nashville-based research organization based on input from 34 denominational statisticians.
And on average 42 percent of those worshiping at churches launched since 2008 previously never attended church or hadn’t attended in many years, Lifeway Research finds in an analysis of 843 such churches from 17 denominations and church planting networks.
The church planting study indicates newly planted churches are more effective than existing ones at drawing people who aren’t connected with a church, said Ed Stetzer, Lifeway Research executive director.
“In winning new converts to Christ, church plants are light-years ahead of the average church because of their focus on reaching the unchurched,” Stetzer said.
Characteristics of success
Successful church launches have several factors in common, the 2015 National Church Planting Study shows:
- Meeting in a public space. New churches meeting in schools have significantly higher worship attendance than other new churches, report more new first-time commitments to Christ, and are more likely to become financially self-sufficient.
- Focusing on outreach. New churches offering sports leagues, social gatherings and children’s special events are significantly more likely than other startups to be congregations with a majority of people who previously did not attend church.
- Supporting their leaders. Adequate compensation and health insurance for the church planter are linked to higher worship attendance and a greater likelihood of financial independence for the new church.
- Starting more churches. New churches that invest in church planting and launch at least one additional new church in the first five years report higher worship attendance and more new commitments to Christ.
“Healthy new churches have an outward focus from day one, communicating every month that the goal is to be a multiplying church,” Stetzer said.
LISA GREEN (@lisaccgreen) is the senior writer for Facts & Trends.