Wikipedia says that “A physical law or scientific law ‘is a theoretical statement inferred from particular facts, applicable to a defined group or class of phenomena, and expressible by the statement that a particular phenomenon always occurs if certain conditions are present.’”
Not only are there physical laws, but spiritual laws as well. After many years of walking with Jesus and studying the Bible, I see that God has created natural and spiritual laws that govern the universe and our lives. When we know these laws and follow them, we are in harmony with God and the world He has created. These laws are affecting what we do and the results that we have regardless of whether we know them or are thinking of them or not.
Consistent with the order that we see God has structured in our world, I have observed a series of laws affecting the results of our church planting efforts whether we are thinking of them or not. Here is what I have observed:
Law 1 – You must solve the funding equation. A 2016 Barna Research study done in partnership with Thrivent Financial Group, shows that only51% of church startups have “just sufficient” income to meet their needs, 11% have “more than sufficient.” So that means that 38% have inadequate funding to meet the needs of the church startup. At the same time, 74% found that raising money is extremely important for church survival.
Of those churches that had sufficient funding, there were some interesting differences, in where their funding came from. For example, only 46% of their funding came from tithes and offerings as compared with 83% from under-funded church startups. 54% of their funding came from churches other than a mother church as compared with 33% from under-funded startups.
There are a number of conclusions we can draw from this research, but one is the importance of developing funding in addition to tithes and offerings of the church plant itself. In any case, sufficient financial resources are a key ingredient that leads to the success of a church startup.
Law 2 – Premature Church births have lower survival rates & struggle to thrive. One of the more common things that happen in church startups is that church planters feel pressure to start public services before they have had the time to lay an adequate foundation that would allow the church to thrive. In some cases, it is not the result of pressure, but intentional strategy, but in either case, the results can be the same, a low likelihood of long-term survival.
This is very common in church planting, and I think there are several reasons. Probably the number one reason is inadequate finances. When the church planter has not raised adequate funding, they feel pressure to start public services before they are ready so they can begin taking an offering.
Another common reason is, the church planter’s strategy is to rely on a robust marketing strategy to attract Christians from other churches in the community to attend the new church plant. Unfortunately, without having taken the time to build the church infrastructure, many of those new looky loo’s won’t stick, because they won’t find the services they are looking for to meet their families needs.
GLI recommends a 12-month preparation time before launching public services. This time is used to build the leaders and ministry structures to sustain both public services and other activities necessary in an effective church community.
Law 3 – Public Service is a Task Master. There is no time in the church planting process that the intensity of the “taskmaster” is felt more, than when public services are begun. Public services take center stage and all of the planter’s energy and focus moves to writing sermons and preparing the worship services. They no longer have as much time to recruit and develop leaders or develop new relationships with people far from God. If the church planter has not built a complete leadership structure before launching public services, many tasks fall back on the planter & a small group of people, and over time the church begins to flounder. Soon people are dissatisfied with the way things are going and they move on. Attendance begins to drop, momentum is lost and the death slide begins.
Law 4 – The first 100 people in your core set the DNA of your new church. If your goal is to build a church that is reaching people far from God, that DNA must be developed from the very beginning. If you don’t create a strategy and a culture where people who are exploring faith feel comfortable being a part of your church from day 1, no matter how large you grow, they likely will never be a part of your church. Why? Because culture, once it is established, is very difficult to change. Not impossible, but very difficult. This makes sense when you think about it. A culture where people with messy lives feel welcomed wanted and a part of the family is not easy to create. It starts with a vision, then training Christians to welcome and journey with messy people. We Christians often have to sacrifice what we might enjoy most in Church in order to create an environment where those far from God feel welcome.
Law 5 – Not everyone is going to be effective as a lead Church Planter. No one person has all the spiritual & leadership gifts necessary to pull off a successful church plant. At the same time, there are very important qualities in a lead church planter. This is where we see the importance of the Assessment process. Many people with ministry backgrounds have deep and rich experience, but experience alone is not enough to be effective as a lead church planter. There is a seat around the table for a person with almost any set of gifts, but it is critical to identify a qualified lead planter. Those who are successful church planters are primarily leaders who have the ability to communicate the vision and secondarily teachers & preachers.
Law 6 – Church Plants that plant a church within the first 2 years grow more quickly. This one is a bit counter-intuitive, but a 2015 study shows that a church plant that plants another church within the first two years from launch grows numerically more quickly and to financial stability more quickly than a church that does not plant within the first 2 years.
How can that be? There are a number of reasons, but here is a couple. 1) In order to plant a Church, it requires vision and people follow the Weathervision, Churches with vision tend to grow larger. 2) People are motivated to be a part of something that cares for more than itself. People want to be a part of something that is greater than themselves. They are attracted to churches that they see as high impact communities. Church Planting is a vision people can get behind.
Law 7 – There is a direct correlation between leadership development and church multiplication. In order to be a church that plants churches, you have to develop a leadership pipeline that can provide the necessary leaders to supply leaders to teams to plant churches on a regular Whether your goal is to plant every 2 years, or every 3 years, you will need a regular flow of your leaders that you are developing. Where will these leaders come from? Church planting Churches have learned the secret to developing a church planting movement is Leadership. They have designed systems & processes to develop leaders at every point on the spectrum from team leader to Church Planter. Leadership is the key to planting Churches.
In the world that God has created, there are both physical and spiritual laws, which we are bound by. Church start-ups have their own set of rules as well. As you consider these things, I pray some of these would ring true to your own experience and guide you in your Church Planting endeavors.
Pastor Rick Dunn
Executive Director GLI