Church plants and multisite campuses start in a variety of ways under many circumstances. But God is faithful to advance His kingdom.
By Marissa Postell
There is no formula for successful church planting or church multisiting. But God is faithful to make the gospel go forth in every season and under a variety of circumstances.
Pastors who want to plant a church or launch another campus need to be equipped for the task. So, what tools does one need in their toolbox to be successful? Do you need to be young, have rich friends, or fill a building with people who look like you? Should you wait until you’ve gained years of experience and wisdom, start with an unpaid pastor, or pursue a multiracial congregation?
According to a new study from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), how you start matters, but it doesn’t have the final say. That belongs to God. And God uses people of all ages, backgrounds, and capacities to plant gospel seeds and advance His kingdom.
Church planters are getting older
As the average pastor gets older, so does the average church planter. Today, the median age of a church planter at launch is 42, up from 36 in 2007. The median age of a multisite pastor at launch is 41.Today, the median age of a church planter at launch is 42, up from 36 in 2007, according to an @ECFA study. Click To Tweet
This increase in median age indicates an opportunity for churches to invest in young leaders in the church, preparing and equipping them to be sent out. And if half of church planters are younger than 42 at launch and half are older, we can be encouraged that God calls people of all ages and stages to plant churches.
Funding a church plant or multisite campus is complex
Where does the money to launch a new church come from? The answer is: from many sources. And that’s a good thing. For church plants, the largest portion of funding typically comes from the core group or launch team (26%). The primary leader also typically makes a significant personal investment from earnings or savings (15%), and the leader’s relatives contribute as well (6%). Beyond this, 19% of a new church’s funding comes from other local churches, and 19% comes from denominations, networks, or ministries. Additional funding comes from auxiliary (3%), government grants (less than 1%), or other sources (12%).
Multisite campus pre-launch funding, however, comes almost entirely from the sending church, in a variety of ways—operating budget (25%), church savings or land sales (20%), capital campaign (18%), pre-launch offering (11%), or pay-it-forward fund (9%).New churches are more likely to experience growth when they pay their pastor full-time at launch, according to an @ECFA study. Click To Tweet
In general, the higher the launch funding, the larger the church attendance today. And for church plants, those with multiple income sources tend to have more funding than those largely self-funded by the pastor. New churches are also more likely to experience growth when they pay their pastor full-time at launch. With the majority of funding coming from the sending church, multisite campuses tend to launch larger and cost more than church plants.
Planting multiracial churches is possible
America’s racial profile is rapidly changing with the percentage of white Americans steadily decreasing. More and more church planters are thinking about this changing dynamic as they launch their churches, working toward establishing a multiracial congregation. Although larger churches are more likely to be multiracial, churches of any size can be multiracial—especially with prayer and intentionality. Not only that, but churches in any location can be multiracial. Multiracial churches are not always in especially multiracial neighborhoods.
Multiracial churches are led by pastors of all races, with Black pastors leading the most. Although some may be tempted to believe planting a multiracial church is a drastically different experience than planting a predominately white church, for example, the study found multiracial churches launch in many of the same ways as other churches. And a multiracial church’s growth rate is comparable to other types of churches.
Having a vision is necessary
Church planters who have a vision for growth are more likely to see growth take place in their churches. More than 1 in 3 (34%) church planters said they didn’t expect their church to multiply at all in the next five years. These same pastors have seen some growth (0.3%) since the launch of their church.
Meanwhile, more than 1 in 2 (51%) church planters say they expect their church to multiply 10 or more times in the next five years. And these pastors have seen more significant growth (10%) since they planted the church.Church planters who said they didn’t expect their church to multiply saw some growth (0.3%) since their launch. Those who expected to multiply 10 or more times, however, saw significantly more growth (10%), according to @ECFA. Click To Tweet
Pastors who have a compelling vision of growth are more likely to witness that growth in their congregations than those who do not have this vision. And previous growth inspires a vision for future growth. Still, the Lord is faithful to bring growth even in the least expected places.
Six thoughts for church planters
If you’re planning on becoming a church planter or preparing to send out a church planter from your congregation, this research indicates six things to keep in mind.
- Two in 3 church planters place a high emphasis on creating a culture where disciples of Jesus make other disciples of Jesus. Church planters are not merely concerned with numbers. They desire faithful discipleship. What is the heartbeat behind your church plant?
- Nearly 2 in 3 church planters are personally developing a named apprentice leader. This is one of the hallmark predictors of whether a church is going to move into growth, replication, and multiplication. What leaders are you raising up in the church?
- Nearly 2 in 3 church planters have a vision to plant other churches. Church plants are looking beyond themselves for opportunities to multiply their impact for the kingdom by planting more churches. Do you have a plan for multiplication?
- More than half of church planters are intentionally being coached by someone outside their church. Church planters recognize they can lean on the wisdom and experience of others who have gone before them in church planting. Who are you asking to invest in you?
- More than 1 in 3 church planters participated in a ministry residency or internship prior to launch. Church planters are seeking out opportunities for hands-on ministry experience before they are sent out (on their own or with a team) to plant a church.
- More than 1 in 10 church planters have directly launched another church within the first 10 years of their church plant. Many church planters are quick to see their vision to plant other churches come to fruition. What can you do to prepare to plant more churches?
Five thoughts for multisite campus pastors
If you’re planning on launching a church campus, this research indicates five things to keep in mind.
- Evangelism is the primary motive. 96% of multisite campus pastors say their primary motive in launching was “to reach new people with Jesus’s gospel.” Launching a multisite campus is not about making a name for yourself or creating a space that makes you most comfortable.
- “Campus” is the preferred term. 64% of multisite pastors say they would rather people refer to their church as a “campus” than a “location” or “site.”
- Replication is the goal. 64% of multisite pastors say the church they are a campus of has launched another campus in the past three years. Multisiting doesn’t often stop at one site.
- Multiplication is the vision. 1 in 3 (34%) describe their vision as being a part of a network of multiplying churches. Multisite pastors don’t want simple addition. They want growth that multiplies and creates far-reaching opportunities.
- Resilience is evident. 1 in 5 (21%) multisite churches launched a new campus since the pandemic started. Despite the challenges of the past few years, churches are committed to their vision of starting new campuses to reach people with the gospel.
Becoming a healthy, growing, reproducing church
According to the study, there are three strong commonalities among new churches that have either reproduced themselves at least once or that stated a strong desire to replicate and multiply.
- They are personally developing a named apprentice leader. Are you actively and intentionally reproducing yourself through another leader or potential leader?
- They are participating in meetings that focus primarily on church multiplication. Are you receiving the encouragement and training you need to equip your church to be a multiplying church?
- They are working with local church leaders to reach their city for Christ. Are you in a local peer group that meets at least quarterly to plan how to engage in effective ministry in your community?
What next steps do you need to take to better position your church to launch a new campus or plant a new church? The Lord is already faithfully at work in church plants and campuses in many locations under a variety of circumstances. Where can you and your church join Him in His mission?
Learn more about the research at ECFA.org/surveys.
Marissa Postell Sullivan
Marissa is the managing editor for LifewayResearch.com.