My friend, Dr. Ed Stetzer — director of LifeWay Research — says: “It’s a good day to start a church.”
I believe Ed is right. And not only is he right, but at the top of 2016 resolutions for Christian Evangelicals, pastors, churches, staff members and volunteers should be “plant a church.”
It’s really time we in the Church start thinking differently about church planting. Perhaps you’ve heard the often-told adage that 80 percent of all new church plants fail. That’s just a lie that Satan would want us to believe; easily available research indicates just the opposite.
While there’s no comprehensive research on the total number of new churches started annually, the most recent research on literally thousands of new church starts show that 99 percent of all new churches survive the first year, and 68 percent survive to year four. Moreover, of the churches that survive, more than 70 percent are self-sufficient financially by the fifth year.
As a former pastor and executive team leader at two of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing mega churches, it’s hard for me to admit, but studies show that newer, smaller churches do a much better job in fulfilling the Great Commission. This is particularly true if we define making disciples as the combination of making a commitment to Christ, attending church, and being baptized.
According to Christian A. Schwarz, founder and head of the Institute for Natural Church Development (NCD), the statistics actually reveal that smaller is actually better, and that 10 smaller churches of 100 people will accomplish much more than one bigger church of 1,000.
The growth rate of churches decreased with increasing size. This fact in and of itself came as no great surprise, because in large churches the percentages represent many more people. But when we converted the percentages into raw numbers, we were dumbfounded. Churches in the smallest size category (under 100 in attendance) had won an average of 32 new people over the past five years; churches with 100-200 in worship also won 32; churches between 200-300 average 39 new individuals; churches between 300-400 won 25. So a ‘small’ church wins just as many people for Christ as a ‘large’ one, and what’s more, two churches with 200 in worship on Sunday will win twice as many new people as one church with 400 in attendance.
New Year’s resolutions are too often broken. The commitment to plant a new church should not be the result of a sudden impulse. However, we have been given the Great Commission for nearly 2,000 years, and we know that it’s a calling given to all of His disciples.
Perhaps it’s time we consider the resolution to plant a new church.
Ken Behr is the executive director of Faith Dialogue, a faith-based nonprofit in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.