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.
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)
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
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.
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.
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.
High member participation
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
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
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
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
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
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.