URBAN CHURCH PLANTING STUDY Stephen Gray & LifeWay Research

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1 URBAN CHURCH PLANTING STUDY

2 STUDY PARTICULARS 15 church planting groups participated in this study Church plants were started between 2003 and 2006 Urban was defined according to the church s zip code Plants were categorized either, healthy/ growing or struggling.

3 DEFINITION Healthy, Growing Urban Church Plant - Defined by four markers: (All four must be present.) Average adult attendance of 100 within four years of public launch Financial self-support within fours years 15% non-transfer growth rate within four years 20% active volunteer rate among adult attendees.

4 TOP 10 FINDINGS

5 1. GROWTH RATE Average Attendance Within Four Years Rapid growth in urban areas is tough Only 35% were able to reach 100 within four years 28% 14% 21% Only 14% hit the 200 mark within four years 37%

6 THREE-YEAR GROWTH AVERAGES Only 12% hit 200 mark and 28% reached at least 100 in attendance. The mean was 98 by year 3. Gray s study of fast-growing church plants in 2007 revealed only 7% of new churches planted in more rural and suburban settings were reaching 200 by year three Stetzer s study in 2003, among 600 Southern Baptist church plants, revealed an average attendance of 78 after the third year Average Attendance Within Three Years 32% 40% 12% %

7 On average, 42% of new people who begin attending urban church plants over the first 4 years were unchurched A February 2009 survey of Protestant pastors by LifeWay Research showed that the average Protestant church has obtained 32% of their new attendees from among the unchurched over the last 5 years.

8 2. PREPARATION 63% of urban church plants found they reached people who were different in at least one demographic way than they had planned/ expected Finding reveals that many planters did not know what they were getting into contextually or who they would reach. Age Ethnicity Wealth Education Different 0% 25% 50% 75% 100% 38% 32% 40% 36% 62% 68% 60% 64% Similar

9 3. AGE 57 percent of planters indicated they reached more young adults than the general population. Age Groups Reached 0%25%50%75%100% Same As Pop. 19% In highest-density populations 85 percent reached a higher percentage of younger adults than the general population. Younger Adults Median Age 24% Older Adults 6% 57%

10 The age factor also proved to be a significant finding Significantly more healthy growing plants were reaching more young adults (73%) than unhealthy plants (52%) Same As Pop. Age Groups Reached 0% 25% 50% 75% 100% 23% 7% The finding seems to indicate that the younger population has a greater openness to a new church than do those of median or old age. Younger Adults Median Age Older Adults 25% 20% 6% 3% 52% 73% Unhealthy Healthy

11 LOST AND FOUND

12 LOST AND FOUND

13 4. Ethnicity/Socio-economical/ Education Status Highest percentage of those reached by these new plants were white Ethnicity Of Groups 0% 15% 30% 45% 60% Other 3% Planters in these settings were 72% Mixed Asian 6% 22% white, 12% Hispanic, 7% Asian, and 4% African American African Amer. White Hispanic 6% 8% 56%

14 Largest group being reached (46%) indicate that they have enough money but little extra Economic Status 16% 3% Vast Majority of planters 81% are reaching what we might typify as middle income 46% 35% Only 3% are reaching the underprivileged Does this reflect the economic make-up of the urban centers? Not Meeting Needs Struggling Little Extra Some Wealth

15 According to a Sept 2009 report by the Food and Action Center on poverty in the American Urban Centers: Among the 24 big cities all but three had poverty rates equal to or higher than the national percentage. In a majority of the cities, at least one child in three lived below the poverty line percent of households in principal cities experienced food insecurity, as compared with 11.1 percent of households in the entire U.S. population.

16 The vast majority of those being reached in the urban centers (60%) have college or grad degrees Educational Status Those who are planting these churches (86%) have college degrees or higher. 5% 10% Does this reflect the educational make-up of the urban centers? Sam Dillon wrote an article in the Aug 22, 2009 New York Times indicating that the average high school graduation rate in the nation s 50 largest cities was 53%, compared with 71% in the suburbs. 55% Less Than H. S. College 30% H. S. Grad Grad Degree

17 Ethnicity/Socio-economical/ Education Status The data reveals that only 3% of urban church plants were primarily reaching the poor 20% were primarily reaching the African American, Hispanic and Asian communities 10% were primarily reaching the uneducated population. With such a diverse culture within these urban centers it seems that these urban plants don t reflect the diversity. ***LIMITATION- the study was focused on English speaking planters and therefore may not reflect some of the ethnic planting situations within the urban centers.****

18 5. TRAINING Several indicators suggest improvement is needed in the area of church planter training Almost one-third (31%) indicated that they had received NO formal church planting Received Training 69% 31% 100% 75% 50% 25% training Yes 0% No

19 Less than half of those trained planters in the urban centers have received training specific to the urban setting Received Specific Training 55% 45% 75% 50% 25% Yes No 0%

20 Most planters received training (69%) Among all planters, both healthy and unhealthy, only 45% of them found the training very useful. Less than half (45%) indicated that the training addressed specific issues related to planting in an urban setting. Findings indicate that planters are being sent out without helpful, specific, and adequate training necessary to do ministry in a diverse urban setting.

21 6. PLACEMENT 40% indicated they had never lived in the city prior to planting Only 18% lived in the city 20 years + prior to launch (We anticipated this to be much higher) The median years in the city prior to launch was 2 years The transient nature of the city allows for parachute drops to flourish in a way that may not happen in small to rural settings Years Lived In City 7% 15% 40% 20% 18% or less Never

22 7. FINANCIAL SELF SUPPORT Among all urban plants, 70% indicated that they were currently financially selfsupporting Self Supporting 67% of healthy urban plants were able to become financially self-supporting within the first two years, 93% by year three 30% 70% In contrast only 62 percent of unhealthy churches reached self-support Yes No

23 8. AGE OF PLANTER The median age of church planters in the urban center among both healthy and unhealthy plants was 37 The highest percentage of planters Age Of Planter 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 4% 22% 32% 41%

24 The majority of healthy urban plants (70%) were led by planters between the ages of No planter, leading healthy urban plants, was above the age of 44 In contrast, only 33% of those leading unhealthy urban plants were between the ages of Comparison Ages % 28% 33% 30% Among unhealthy plants, 34 percent were above the age of Unhealthy Healthy 33% 70%

25 9. WORK STATUS The data revealed that among participating urban church planters, 59 percent were fulltime church planters. Among healthy plants 70% were full-time. In contrast to 56% of those leading unhealthy plants Work Status 40% This data matches the earlier research on planting fast-growing churches done by Gray in Gray s research on Fast-growing church plants had a significantly higher percentage of full-time church planters than did struggling church plants 1% Stetzer s research in 2003 also indicated that the growth of a new church was effected by the work status of the planter. Growth was significantly and positively effected, by year four, with a full-time planter 59% Full-time Part-time Bi-vo

26 10. NETWORKING 55% of planters networked through training, 67% through mentors, 53% networked with planters in their city and 46 networked with planters in other urban churches The most significant difference was discovered between healthy and unhealthy plants as it concerned networking within their own city. Unhealthy Healthy Networking Within The City 0% 25% 50% 75% 100% 47% 77%

27 WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? Five implications and actions 1.Rapid growth in urban areas is difficult. It may be necessary to lower your metrics when planting in densely populated areas. Set growth expectations at 100 within four years, but don t use growth as your only metric for success. 2.While limitations existed with this research, it seemed apparent that the vast majority of planters in the urban centers were white; which didn t reflect the diversity of the city. Greater care must be taken to recruit and train a more ethnically diverse group of planters.

28 3.Training for planters, going into urban areas, may need to be addressed. Specific training on how to engage various socio-economic, educational and ethnically diverse cultures needs to be an intentional part of the process. ***NOTE: With the expansion of an ethnically diverse group of planters, a need to develop training for these groups becomes necessary. Most training is built around one culture. (Mainly white)*** 4.Every city has specific cultural issues. While it may be helpful to network planters from various areas, it is statistically more beneficial to help them network within their own city. This finding should compel us to discover ways of connecting planters, regardless of the group or theological heritage, in order to help them fellowship, and sharpen each other for the benefit of the kingdom work. 5.Planting is difficult and needs focus. While many planters are highly successful starting as bi-vocational pastors, fulltime planters will have a greater likelihood of leading a growing, healthy new church.

29 For more info, contact Stephen Gray at Or

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