Church Planting in the USA
Guest Blog: Mike McDaniel, Ministry Assistant
Everybody wants to talk church-planting
these days. It’s THE buzzword in Christian ministry circles, right up there in popularity
with the blazer-and-jeans combo and the soul patch/goatee. When I was in
seminary, it seemed like everyone I knew couldn’t wait to plant a church. I had
a buddy who loved to talk about the mega-church he was going to plant (we had
to regularly remind him that you don’t plant mega-churches).
Now, I can’t claim to be innocent here, but, like many of
you, I was always a little skeptical about church-planting in the US. What
about all the dying churches out there? Shouldn’t we be pouring resources into
those churches? And what about the millions of people overseas who have no
I’ve since been convinced that church-planting is crucial to
the future of the American church. Let me share with you some of the reasons
why. I’m going to throw a lot of numbers at you, so bear with me…In 1990, about
52 million people attended worship each week in America. In 2006, that number was
the same. On the surface that sounds okay – at least we’re holding our ground –
but when you take into account that the population of America grew by 52
million during that time, a different picture emerges – the percentage of
Christians who attend church is declining.
Many popular polls indicate that about 40% of Americans
attend church. But recent research which is based on real head counts indicates
the actual rate of attendance is less than half of that – about 17.3%. That number is expected to shrink to 14.7% by 2020.
So why is church-planting the solution?
Without getting into the reasons, statistics show the growth
rate of churches shrinks dramatically the older they get. Churches experience most
of their growth in the first 10 years. It’s hard to revitalize old churches.
Don’t get me wrong – I think we should be trying to revitalize churches. I’m
proud to be a part of a church that is one of the exceptions. But statistics
show it’s at least 5 times easier to plant a new church than to revitalize an
Secondly, CP (that’s right, it has its own acronym) is
necessary to keep pace with population growth. Here’s where the numbers get
shocking. There needs to be a yearly net gain of 3205 churches to keep up with population
growth. The current net gain is 303 churches. That means we need to plant an additional 2900 churches per year just
to break even.
That’s why at the Summit we’re committed to raising up and
sending out domestic church-planting teams. By the way, it’s also part of the
reason we’re committed to a multi-site strategy (planting is most effective
when done by a parent church within 5 to 10 miles of its own facility). That
doesn’t mean we’re taking anything away from international missions. We just
recognize that God has also called us to Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria as
well as to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
Statistics taken from The American Church in Crisis by David Olsen.