The (NCLS) facts on church planting

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Let's lay to rest the myth that somehow church planting “isn't working” as an effective strategy.

Here are the hard facts from a National Church Life Survey (NCLS) study conducted on the Effectiveness of Church Planting.

1. Church plants are healthier than other churches

Church plants tend to have above average levels of vitality, including higher percentages of attenders valuing the outreach emphasis of the church, higher percentages of attenders inviting others to church, and higher levels of belonging and commitment to the vision and directions of the church.

NCLS Research has developed a series of 12 sets of indicators of church vitality beyond measuring church growth. Across these 12 indicators, church plants tend to have above average levels of vitality.

When compared with other new churches, church plants also have higher percentages of attenders valuing the outreach emphasis of the church, higher percentages of attenders inviting others to church and higher percentages of attenders seeing the minister as an inspiring leader.

2. Church plants are more effective in reaching newcomers

There are higher percentages of newcomers to church life found among church plants. Some 16% of attenders at church plants are newcomers to church life compared with 10% of attenders at churches generally.

3. Church plants are more effective than other forms of outreach

Church plants also compare favourably with churches conducting other forms of evangelistic activity, outreach and social service provision.

For instance, church plants have higher percentages of newcomers than churches engaged in street evangelism, churches conducting services for the unchurched (eg ‘seeker services’), churches conducting mission activities at schools or churches offering social services such as training or support programs.

4. Church plants reach younger people

A key characteristic of church plants is that their attenders tend to be younger than churches generally, with more than two-thirds (69%) of adult attenders being aged 15-49 years, compared with only 48% at churches generally.

5. Church plants are more likely to reach non-Anglo migrants

People born in non-English speaking countries are over-represented in the church plant category, though the vast majority of attenders at church plants were born in Australia.

6. Church planting is good for the “parent”.

Churches that said they were involved in the planting of other congregations in the past 5 years also had relatively high proportions of newcomers (11.2%) compared to churches generally. See: Warning, having children could be good for you!

The report concludes:

  • church plants have greater average levels of vitality than other churches
  • church plants have greater average levels of newcomers to church life than other churches
  • church plants have greater average levels of newcomers than churches undertaking other mission strategies

So why is it that church planting continues to attract either criticism or passive indifference? Have we lost our gospel nerve? Have we let the dream die? Where are the men and women of passion, courage and endurance?

Download the full report here.