Church planting effectiveness

Patrick has been serving in Asia among Muslims for more than twenty years, first as a missionary and later as a tentmaker. He has established two churches and several profitable businesses and currently oversees teams in nine countries. Patrick spent six years surveying, interviewing and compiling data from 450 workers from many organizations and denominations serving throughout the 10/40 Window.

His focus was the effectiveness of tentmakers as missionaries. Effectiveness is defined in terms of evangelism, discipleship and church planting.

You can read his article in the EMQ: Tentmaking Unveiled (subscription required) or a longer version here.

Here are a few insights and surprises for missionaries and church planters wherever you are.

On preparing to go. . .

The most effective way workers can prepare to serve overseas is to invest one or more years ministering with international students.

Before moving abroad, effective workers regularly did personal outreach, campus evangelism, house-to-house visitation, led one or more evangelistic Bible studies with non-Christians and described their involvement with the majority of new believers they helped to bring to Christ as a “close friendship.”

Workers who attended Bible college or seminary are no more effective than those who did not.

On devotional life. . . Workers who have a daily devotional life and workers who are personally discipled by someone more mature in the Lord are also more effective.

The strongest spiritual factor is that those who practice fasting as an important spiritual discipline scored high in effectiveness.

On tentmaking. . .

Workers/tentmakers whose primary focus is their work (their entry strategy job) are less effective. Such workers are so committed to their jobs that they are all work and no ministry.

Workers who say that most of their co-workers are from the people group they are reaching are highly effective.

Having a real job in a real workplace that allows flexible working hours seems to be the ideal tentmaking entry strategy.

On building relationships. . . Workers who said that most of their closest friends are nationals, have nationals in their home (not counting house-help) three times a week or more and have taken a vacation with national friends are more effective. Laborers who spend their free time with their family or alone are less effective.

On contextualization. . .

A large number of workers (sixty-five percent) eat local food the way the locals do, abstain from foods locals abstain from and dress the way locals dress. However, these factors did not make a difference in their success in winning people to Jesus.

Whether the worker's home is contextualized like a local's home, styled after their home culture or a mixture of both has no effect on effectiveness.

Workers who are fluent in the local language consistently scored among the highest in the research.

On going to church. . . On the highest level of effectiveness are workers who are regularly involved with a national congregation or house church that uses the local language. Being in active fellowship with other tentmakers or missionaries in the area has no bearing on effectiveness.

On evangelism. . .

Workers are not effective who find it hard to initiate conversations about their faith and who share their faith only when obvious situations arise. Also, laborers who prefer not to verbally share their faith (rather, they let their lives be witnesses) and workers who try to build relationships with people before sharing their faith are unfruitful.

On accountability. . .

Workers who have a clear strategy for planting a church are very effective, while workers who do not have a clear church-planting strategy are normally ineffective. Laborers who have someone holding them accountable in ministry at least once a month have a better probability of being effective

On marriage and family. . .

Workers whose marriages are not good (spiritually, emotionally and sexually) before moving overseas are likely to be ineffective. Workers who have emotionally-needy families are also likely to be less effective.

On team size. . .

The data indicates the ideal team size is eleven or twelve members. A team becomes more effective as its size increases from three to twelve members; it then plateaus until fifteen members, after which the effectiveness of the team decreases. Workers whose team meets weekly or bi-weekly score better than teams which meet less frequently.

Finally. . .

Men and women are equally effective. Age is not an issue either. The organization the missionary/tentmaker is associated with has no impact on effectiveness.