The Rev. Michael Gilton, church planter and priest at St. Paul’s, Prosper, Texas (Diocese of Dallas), recently made some comments about church planting on my Facebook page. Since he doesn’t have a blog (and since, gentle reader, you know that I am interested in church planting), I asked him to expand on his comments for a post on my blog. So here is a guest post from Michael Gilton, offered with my thanks!
Frank Logue recently posted an excellent article sharing his take on myths and truths about church planting. Ken Howard helpfully added on to these with more myths and facts (here and here). As I was reading through Ken’s list I found myself cheering him on: Preach it brother!
Being who I am, I also shared with my computer screen, “Data, we need more data to establish the fact of these assertions!”
(full disclosure: I’m a numbers geek, and I do talk like that. For those concerned, no, my computer screen never answers back).
So, using the church plant I lead (St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Prosper, Texas), I offer the following in support of Fr. Howard’s facts:
Fact 1: Church plants tend to show more vitality than other churches – ASA has settled in reliably at 67% of membership. I believe the national average is around 30%.
Fact 2: Church plants tend to be more effective at outreach – 80% of our first time visitors return for a second visit. 50% of our membership is “de-churched” people.
Fact 3 : Church plants tend to be more effective in reaching newcomers to church life– 85% of our adults are “active” in one or more ministries.
Fact 4: Church plants tend to more effective reach younger people – our average age is 30, younger than the surrounding mission field. This is mainly because we have a lot of children.
Fact 5: Church plants are more likely to reach more non-Whites and non-Anglos – While we look like our mission field, we’re “very white.” We’ve done a poor job of reaching African Americans. We’re decent with reaching Latinos.
Fact 6: Church plants are more likely to grow – Our ASA is steadily 1% of the population of our mission field. As our Town has grown, so have we. Based on a simple survey of eight other parishes in our Diocese, the average attendance of established parishes is 0.35% of their mission field.
Fact 7: Church plants may be the only strategy with the growth capacity to reverse the decline in TEC membership – I disagree with this fact (you knew I’d argue with at least one). I’m a “both/and” kinda guy, with strong optimism of TEC’s future, so I resist the word “only.”
Fact 8: Church plants are good for their dioceses – I don’t have much evidence in this area. Our diocese has a good mix of planters and missionally minded leaders of established parishes. For what it’s worth, our four clergy deputies to General Convention are all church planters.
Fact 9: Church plants are good for the established churches around them – The seven churches in our geographic area are all growing at a rate greater than the area’s population growth. Of the seven churches, three are plants.
Fact 10: Church plants are good for the established churches that plant them – Would that there were more established churches willing to plant churches! Our plant was support by the diocese and two other church plants. I’m not sure we could have done what we did without the support of the other two plants, both of which gave money, missional and theological support, administrative support, and people; and both of which are growing.
Fact 11: Church plants tend to be more nimble and adaptable to change – Change or die! The list of what we’ve tried and failed and tried again is long. Four example, we’re on our fifth version of our process of bringing visitors into membership. We can’t find the perfect process, but each of our iterations is better than the pervious version.
Fact 12: Church plants tend to be more vision guided, mission focused, and purpose driven –Without strong vision and a crystal clear focus on the mission field, churches are unlikely to grow. Church plants start with vision and know only mission; they grow because vision are mission are not after thoughts, vision and mission are essentials.
Fact 13: Church plants tend to be more context sensitive and context responsive – Any missional church is both. The church plants in our area are leaders in outreach to local schools and in direct ministry to “the least of these.”
Fact 14: Church plants are more risky but also more rewarding – In our mission field, seven other churches (Baptist, non-denomination, Pentecostal, Disciples of Christ) were planted after ours. Of the eight, four remain. To God be the glory; hallelujah!
Holler if you want to chat about any of these or about the stunning things the Lord is doing through church planting in the Diocese of Dallas.