There is no one-size-fits-all guide to parenting a new church. You need to tailor your approach to the people you want to reach and the resources your church can devote to reaching them. That’s why we’ve put together a list of 16 different approaches to church planting for parent churches. We’d suggest blending a few of these strategies together to come up with a long-term plan that works for your church.


The parachute

Send a full-time planter into a new community to start from scratch.


  • Can plant anywhere
  • Your ministry reaches new areas


  • Costs up to $100,000 yearly in urban contexts
  • Twenty-five to fifty percent success rate
  • Need a motivated and gifted leader (4.2 or higher on Ridley scale)


Team migration

A group of Christian leaders and members move to a new community together to plant a church. Group size averages between 5 and 30 people.


  • Capable leaders in place
  • Strong emotional and financial support
  • Starting with a larger base improves the success rate


  • Difficult to find group with freedom and willingness to migrate
  • Few pre-existing ties to the community around the plant


Hive off

A large congregation (300 or more members) hires a planter for about nine months. The planter gathers a group from within the congregation with which to plant a new church, usually in the same area. Groups range from 30 to more than 200 people.


  • Sizable starter congregation
  • Ninety-seven percent success rate
  • Plant becomes independent quickly—often in 18 months or less
  • Strong ties between parent and plant


  • Parent church loses members to plant



A parent church starts a congregation at a new location in the same region. It remains under the leadership of the parent church long-term.


  • Low cost
  • Eighty-five percent success rate
  • Effective way to target groups you aren’t reaching at your main location
  • The plant doesn’t need its own leadership and administration team


  • Need a strong communicator to coordinate between sites
  • Risk of parent trying to make the new location too much like main location


Satellite venue to spinoff

An existing church opens new locations. Sites split off from the parent church when they have the capacity to be independent.


  • Allows for a more gradual, tested planting timeline
  • Fosters consistent branding in planting process


  • Staying close to the parent holds plant back from splitting off



A parent church and its classis “adopt” an independent plant that wants to join the RCA.


  • Low cost
  • Plant is already set up and ready to grow
  • Opportunity to improve the RCA’s diversity
  • Good option for smaller congregations that want to parent a plant


  • New church has its own history and leadership, so it may resist change
  • Church leaders might not have ministry degrees


Simple church network

Smaller cells (groups) multiply into a network of organic churches. These groups are usually made up of 5 to 20 people.


  • Low cost
  • High member participation
  • Mobility
  • Often has a deeper discipleship impact than the congregational model


  • Groups remain small and isolated without strong leadership
  • Not everyone is ready to let go of conventional ideas and expectations about church
  • Harder to work with typical denominational structures


Missional communities

Groups of 15 to 40 people form faith communities with an emphasis on discipleship and mission. Two to five of these groups may combine for worship.


  • Serving Christ by serving others spurs personal and communal spiritual growth
  • Groups are big enough to have diverse gifts and strong leadership, but small enough that nobody gets overlooked


  • Needs a larger space than a typical home for gatherings


Sponsoring church/host campus

A parent church invites a new church to start on its campus. The start-up is often made up of people from a different language group or economic class.


  • Access to low-cost facilities can save a plant thousands of dollars
  • Parent church doesn’t have to give up members for the plant to be successful
  • Maximizes facility use for the sponsoring church


  • Tensions can arise due to cultural gaps if there is a weaker relationship between the churches


Church split

Disagreements lead a group from within a congregation to split off and form their own church. This is not ideal, but it happens.


  • People will work hard to make their church plant survive if they have a shared vision


  • Painful for those who stay and those who split
  • Hurts the witness of both churches
  • New congregation might struggle to let go of its painful past so others don’t want to join


Cell-celebration model

This approach combines aspects of a cell church with a congregational model. A planter starts a church through multiplying neighborhood cell groups. These groups move from monthly private worship in one to four cells, to weekly private worship in five to eight cells. Ultimately, they progress to weekly public worship in nine or more cells. The cells continue to carry 50 to 75 percent of the worship, fellowship, and ministry of the church.


  • Bridges the gap between the congregational model and the early church’s model (an expanding network of house churches)
  • More effective approach for reaching unchurched people than conventional models


  • Hard work to develop groups that multiply effectively
  • Doesn’t lend itself to children’s ministry


Fresh start

A new congregation moves into a church’s building after it closes.


  • Often quicker and easier than revitalizing a congregation
  • Gives declining church a chance to leave behind a legacy of ministry


  • One church has to close for another to open
  • Hard on the members of the former church



A struggling church revamps its ministry with a new leader and a new mission. It often changes its name and location.


  • Committed core of people that want to re-launch the church
  • Opportunity to address core problems with ministry approach without changing legal structure


  • Needs courageous new leadership and good coaching to succeed
  • Problems with a church from before the re-launch can recur
  • Fifty percent success rate


Turnaround church

New leaders revitalize a dying church so dramatically that it attracts a new congregation. The new congregation is often multicultural.


  • Good option for communities with changing demographics
  • Can reverse a sharp decline


  • Difficult model to put in place unless the dying church and new leaders share a clear sense of urgency


Catalytic missionary planter

A planter forms a church and grows its congregation to around 120 members. Then the planter leaves to plant a new church and is replaced with a permanent pastor. This is similar to Paul’s approach in Acts.


  • Apostolic leaders become experts at establishing new congregations
  • Can plant up to one church a year


  • Costs $100,000 yearly
  • Usually requires classis support
  • Difficult transitions from planter to first pastor are common. The shift is smoother when the second leader plays an active role in the church prior to becoming its pastor


Apostolic regional missionary (ARM) from the body

A single leader oversees a regional multiplication movement. The leader recruits and coaches planters through process.


  • Fastest training and harvesting strategy
  • Can plant up to five churches a year


  • Costs more than $100,000 annually
  • Hard to do without classis support