Creating a Capacity to Plant Churches

Believing that planting new churches is imperative in order to fulfill the Great Commission and help the church grow in this time of transition, we propose creating a churchwide network for church planting, in order to reach new people and new populations with the good news of the gospel. We propose that this network should consist of a number of interrelated parts:

  • Funding three new seminary faculty positions in order to teach church planting methods to future lay and ordained leaders;
  • Developing a churchwide church planting training program;
  • Recruiting and training 40 to 50 new church planters this triennium, including providing internships for some planters in current church plants;
  • Developing a bi-lingual and bicultural training program for lay and ordained leaders of Latino/Hispanic ministries;
  • Providing $1.5 million of grants in each year of the triennium to support diocesan church plants;
  • Creating a task force of persons experienced in church planting to support and encourage this work; and
  • Providing staff positions, including support staff, to coordinate the program.

D005: Creating a Capacity to Plant Churches

Resolved, the House of ________ concurring, that the 78th General Convention create a church- wide network for church planting that will include: establishing seminary faculty focusing on church planting, recruitment of up to 50 potential church planters this triennium; training of potential church planters including sending some planters to training conferences and providing church planting internships for some planters; providing grants to support up to fifty new church plants this triennium; and creating the capacity to continue to recruit and train fifty new church planters each triennium while supporting up to 50 new church plants each triennium, and be it further

Resolved, that the budget for creating this church-planting network will be $8,433,800 to be allocated as follows:

$ 900,000 for the creation of three seminary faculty positions ($300,000 per year);
$ 100,000 for the development of a church planting training program;
$ 90,000 for the recruitment of church planters ($30,000 per year);
$1,093,800 for training of potential of potential church planters;
$1,000,000 for the development and implementation of a program to train bilingual/bi-cultural lay and ordained leaders for Latino/Hispanic ministries;
$ 750,000 for staff to support this program;
$4,500,000 for grants to support up to fifty new church plants, with the size of grant depending on the context and needs of the church plant;

and be it further

Resolved, that the Episcopal Church Development Office is directed to prioritize raising funds for church planting, with the expectation that $2 million will be raised this triennium to support church planting and a network of donors interested in church planting will be developed to raise up to $5 million each year in future trienniums; and be it further

Resolved, that Dioceses receiving new church plants under this program will contribute a minimum of 20% of the costs of any new plants in their Diocese; and be it further

Resolved, the Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies appoint a task force of not more than twelve people, consisting of those with experience in church planting, diocesan oversight of church planting, and academics working with evangelism and mission, to carry out the provisions of this resolution, including developing criteria for receiving grants, providing a reporting process, making recommendations to Executive Council about grants to be awarded, helping to select potential church planters, and developing a network of coaches and internship sites, and that this task force shall include a number of people experienced in the ministry of planting churches; and be it further

Resolved, that the Communications Office be directed to make a priority of reporting on the stories of church plants on an ongoing basis, through news stories, video, and other means, and through developing a website that provides detailed information about the various church plant initiatives happening throughout the church; and be it further

Resolved, that the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance consider a budget allocation of $6,433,800 for the implementation of this resolution.

6 Comments

  1. Brian S. Reid

    I do hope that in the second resolved clause you will strike out the word “million” following the $8,433,800. It looks like you are proposing we spend eight million million. While it would be nice if we had those resources, we don’t.

    Reply
  2. Episcopal Resurrection (Post author)

    Thanks for noticing Brian and letting us know. One tries to go over text with a fine tooth comb, and yet…

    -Frank
    The Rev. Frank Logue
    Chair, Diocese of Georgia Deputation GC78

    Reply
  3. Neal Michell

    Frank, I would be happy to endorse this proposal wholeheartedly. Neal Michell

    Reply
  4. Episcopal Resurrection (Post author)

    Adam Trambley explains the resolution, making the case for its resolves with the vision behind the text in a post at his blog: Creating a Capacity to Plant Churches.

    Susan Brown Snook shares the 7 Best Reasons to Start New Churches based on extensive research and personal experience: Treasure to Share: Why Plant New Churches?

    Frank Logue dispels 5 Church Planting Myths and offers in their place 5 Church Planting Truths: Church Planting Myths Dispelled.

    Reply
  5. Ken Howard

    The nine resolutions proposed by Episcopal Resurrection are called enabling resolutions because each one of them call upon The Episcopal Church to get serious putting flesh on a piece of the vision outlined in the Memorial to the Church.

    The first resolution calls on The Episcopal Church to plant churches. In convention-speak, this is Resolution D005: Creating a Capacity to Plant Churches, the full text of which can be found here. It proposes to the creation and funding of a church-wide network for church planting sufficient to the task of recruiting and training up to 50 new church planters and to establish 50 new church plants in the next triennium (and every triennium thereafter), at a net cost of $6,433,800 over the next three years.

    Before I begin my commentary, let me say up front, in the spirit of full disclosure, that I am biased on this one. I’m a church planter. I’m in my second church plant. Personally, I prefer the terms “church entrepreneur” and church plants a “church start-ups.” But whatever you call it, birthing new churches and new ways of being church is something near and dear to my heart.

    So… $6,433,800. That’s a lot of money. Is it worth it?

    I believe it is. But I understand the power of “sticker shock.” And I also understand the power of myths. Not Myths with a capital “M,” the kind of Myths that contain deep and universal truths; but rather small “m” myths, the kind that grow out of stereotypes and prejudices, and are really excuses for avoiding God’s call. And there are a lot of small “m” myths floating around about church plants. What I’d like to do is list them, and bust them, and replace them with facts, and then let you make up your own mind.

    Note: While I made an editorial decision not to clutter up the narrative with data and sources, please rest assured that all of the statements of fact in this series based on solid research from a variety of sources. I will provide the sources on request.

    Seven Church Planting Myths

    MYTH 1 – Church Plants are too expensive. I’m not going to tell you that church plants are cheap. There are significant up-front costs, especially if your context makes it necessary to buy property and build a building. However, depending on the specific context, property and building may not be necessary, or may not need to be done from scratch. And even if they are necessary, there are ways to minimize the costs and share the financial burden, including multi-faith campuses, mixed-use development, community bond financing, and other strategies. Church plants are not expenditures, they are investments.

    MYTH 2 – Church Plants drain diocesan budgets of resources needed to help struggling parishes. Church Planters, when appearing at councils to for ask investment in land or a building, often hear a question that goes something like this, “How can we possibly spend what little capital funds we have left on new churches, when existing parishes are struggling to _______ [fix their roofs, pay their rectors, insert excuse here, etc.].” Not to be heartless, but the reality is usually the other way around. Struggling parishes are usually struggling because they aren’t paying attention to their changing contexts or are unable or unwilling to adapt to those changing conditions. Statistically speaking, diocesan resources spent on propping up struggling parishes are generally a case of good money after bad, enabling the struggling parish not to come to terms with its underlying problems. Statistically speaking, if you want to generate resources to aid struggling parishes, the best way to do it is to plant new churches, since if properly financed and built with room to grow, most start-up churches will start returning funds to the diocese within 5 to 7 years, in continually increasing amounts. Church Plants are not just investments, they are good investments.

    MYTH 3 – Church Plants are too risky: most Church Plants fail. Actually, about 60% of church startups succeed, which is a better ratio than business startups. This number gets better when you factor out Church Plants that were underfunded, under-trained, or otherwise under-supported by the their dioceses. And if diocese are careful to buy multi-use property right, and construct buildings that can be repurposed, even if the Church Plant itself doesn’t succeed, the diocese will likely be able to sell them at a profit. It’s definitely a risk for the church planter and the congregation (both emotional and potentially financial), but not a significant financial risk for the diocese.

    MYTH 4 – Church Plants harm the existing churches around them. Actually, the reverse is true. And I don’t mean that existing churches harm church plants (though they have been known to try occasionally). No. What actually happens when you plant a new church is that it helps the existing churches grow. Here’s how it works: The new church draws people’s attention, people check out new church, many of them like it and stay, and others find it isn’t quite right for them. Maybe they want a higher church, a lower church, a larger church (one they can get lost in). Or maybe they don’t want to set up chairs every week. Whatever the reason, they keep looking, and we often send them to another Episcopal church in the area. In the end, the result for the existing churches is net positive: they gain more than they lose – and the more they are collaborating with the Church Plant, the more they tend to gain.

    MYTH 5 – Too many half-empty church buildings already – Church Plants will only exacerbate the problem. It’s hard to know where to begin with this myth. It would make more sense if the reason so many churches were half-empty was because the ratio of churches to people was too high. But with few exceptions, that is not the case. A church glut has never been our problem. All too often, the problem of church membership decline is a lack of attention to a changing neighborhood context or a lack of willingness to adapt to what they learn. Church plants are simply not a contributor to this problem.

    MYTH 6 – Church Planting isn’t really an Episcopal “thing.” Wrong. In most dioceses, you don’t have to look that many generations back to find a time when church planting was in high gear, with mother churches planting daughter churches all around them. Church Planting definitely a part of our DNA – we just haven’t expressed very much it for a generation or so. Many congregations in my diocese have birthed as much as four daughter congregations (or are one of those daughter congregations), many as late as the 1950s and 60s, and even a few in the early 70s. My own congregation, a diocesan plant, is the first successful church plant in the diocese in 4 decades.

    MYTH 6 – Church Plants are not truly Episcopal – they leave at the first theological disagreement. There is a bit of truth to this. Some Church plants have left TEC over theological agreements. Most of those that left were founded during the time when TEC, jealous of the success of Church plants in conservative, evangelical denominations, tried to replicate them hook, line, and sinker, without doing the hard work of conceptualizing them out of our own polity and theology. Truth is, when dioceses take the time to discern what church planting and evangelism might look like in an Anglican/Episcopal context, they tend to be very schism resistant and authentically Anglican.

    MYTH 7 – Church Plants tend to be suburban, big, rich, and white. There is more than a little reverse prejudice in this myth. A large number of church plants do tend to be suburban, but that’s because the most population growth, the least number of churches, and the most unchurched people are. My own congregation faced this prejudice frequently in our diocese, especially when we requested any financial investment. When our diocesan council was considering our building plans, the leader of an inner city traditional African-American congregation, voted against our proposal, literally saying, “We don’t nFeed more new churches out in the suburbs: they’ll only end up being big, rich, and white.” Our congregation was not huge, not rich, and more diverse than many of the parishes surrounding us. And this is typical of must Episcopal Church Plants.

    Yesterday… Episcopal Resurrection – a series of posts on a new movement

    Tomorrow… 14 Church Planting Facts

    I am indebted to the these friends and colleagues for the following blog posts (including research) on this subject:

    Adam Trambley, in his blog, The Black Giraffe, explains the Church Planting Resolution and shares the vision behind the resolves.

    Susan Brown Snook, whose post Treasure to Share: Why Plant New Churches on her blog, A Good and Joyful Thing, makes an strong case for the work of church planting based on the research for her book.

    Frank Logue, in his blog, The Loose Canon, busts five common myth many Episcopalians hold about church planting and offers five truths he has found in 18 years of working with Episcopal church starts: Church Planting Myths Dispelled

    Reply
  6. Ken Howard

    In yesterday’s post, I wrote the first of two posts on the Church Planting resolution (D005) put forward by Episcopal Resurrection in order help readers decide for themselves whether the price tag for enabling the planting of 50 new churches and the training of 50 new church planters over the next three years – $6,433,800 – was worth it.

    My first step was to identify common misperceptions about church plants and church planting that needed to be corrected. I identified seven common myths about church plants and church planting and did a little myth busting.

    Today I’m going to go the other direction. I want to share with you 14 Facts about church planting. Once that’s done, it’s between you and God.

    Note: While I made an editorial decision not to clutter up the narrative with data and sources, please rest assured that all of the statements of fact in this series based on solid research from a variety of sources. I will provide the sources on request.

    14 Facts About Church Plants

    FACT #1 – Church plants tend to show more vitality than other churches. Church plants tend to have above average levels of vitality: higher percentages of attenders valuing the outreach emphasis of the church, higher percentages of attenders inviting others to church, and higher levels of belonging and commitment to the vision and directions of the church.

    FACT #2 – Church plants tend to be more effective at outreach. Church plants have a greater percentage of newcomers than churches engaged in street evangelism, churches conducting “seeker” services for the unchurched, churches conducting mission activities at schools, and churches offering social services such as training or support programs.

    FACT #3 – Church plants tend to be more effective in reaching newcomers to church life. Church plants reach a significantly higher percentage of newcomers to church life (i.e., the unchurched) than churches generally.

    FACT #4 – Church plants tend to more effective reach younger people. Attendees at church plants tend to be significantly younger than churches generally.

    FACT #5 – Church plants are more likely to reach more non-Whites and non-Anglos. Church plants have a higher percentage of non-white and non-English speakers than most established churches. (Obviously, historically black churches, multi-cultural churches, and language-specific churches are exceptions.)

    FACT #6 – Church plants are more likely to grow. Churches grow faster in their first five years than any other time in their lifecycle. Over time the difference tends to decrease, as the church plant grows more established, though it can be maintained to some degree if the aging church plant intentionally works to maintain the qualities it had in its youth. Of course, this means that established churches can work to maintain those same qualities.

    FACT #7 –Church plants may be the only strategy with the growth capacity to reverse the decline in TEC membership. It almost goes without saying that The Episcopal Church has declined drastically since WWII: a nearly 40% drop in membership, which resulted in the closure of more than 400 established churches. Meanwhile, of the 99 new churches planted in the same period, 69 survive (a 70% success ratio – better than business startups.), with an average Sunday attendance (ASA) of 95. Even more impressive, the ASA of top 10% of the churches planted in that period is 359. TEC’s most recent study of church growth show that more than 50% of church plants were growing vs. less than 20% of those established for more than 100 years.

    FACT #8 – Church plants are good for their dioceses. Church plants tend to serve as their dioceses’ R&D departments. They are much more willing to experiment than established churches. They tend to do what the business startup entrepreneurs call Rapid Prototyping (or RP). Think Big – Start Small – Learn Fast (Repeat PRN). Sure much of what we try doesn’t work and what does may have to be tweaked a lot before it works really well. Most importantly, we are less resistant than established church to let things that don’t work die. In fact, my congregation calls it Rapid Iteration Prototyping (or RIP) to remind ourselves that it’s a good idea to let bad ideas die. It’s not that established couldn’t do this kind of experimental thinking – I wish that more of them did – perhaps they just feel they have too much too lose.

    FACT #9 – Church plants are good for the established churches around them. It works like this: new church attracts attention. People check it out because it’s new. No church is “one size fits all,” so not everybody finds the new church to be the best fit for them. They may want high church, low church, broad church, want a large church in which they can disappear into the pews. Or the may just not have the energy needed to set up church in a school auditorium every Sunday. Whatever the reason, if there is a good relationship between the church plant and the established churches around it, one of them will benefit. There is almost always a net positive flow (as much as 2:1) from church plants to the established churches surrounding them.

    FACT #10 – Church plants are good for the established churches that plant them. Established churches currently involved in the planting of other congregations experience a significantly higher growth rate (more than 10%) than churches generally. Apparently, having children is good for you.

    FACT #11 – Church plants tend to be more nimble and adaptable to change. Why? They have to be. They are running lean. They don’t have the luxury of continuing to do something that is no longer working.

    Fact #12 – Church plants tend to be more vision guided, mission focused, and purpose driven. Leaders of church startups can not afford to be complacent. The must constantly as themselves why are we here, what are we trying to achieve, and what are the best ways to get there?

    Fact #13 – Church plants tend to be more context sensitive and context responsive. As above, they have to be aware of and responsive to their contexts simply to survive. And the same thing that enables them survive also enables them thrive.

    Fact #14 – Church plants are more risky but also more rewarding. It’s true. Church plants are inherently more risky than established churches, but only in the short-term. About 30% fail in their first 10 years. But the ones that survive their first 10 years are healthier than established churches in almost every respect. Meanwhile, the long-term rate at which we are closing established churches is much higher. Church planting is an investment in the future of our church. And as any investor will tell you, you can’t eliminate risk without also eliminating reward.

    Conclusions

    There were actually more than 14 facts about church plants that I could have shared with you. But I’ve got to get back to my day job (leading a mature church startup).

    Clearly, church planting is not only a good for the plant itself, but also the established congregations who support it, the dioceses that engage in it, and TEC . I leave it to you to do the cost benefit analysis to decide whether the amount of funding resolution D005 proposes is worth it.

    Some of you may think I am a one-trick-pony: that I’m a “church planting or bust” kind of guy. But I’m not against established churches at all. I care about established churches as much as anyone. Many of them are vital and healthy. Many of them grow. But many of them aren’t and many of them don’t. I’m not saying that established churches are bad or
    can’t be healthy or can’t grow. I’m only saying that if more of them acted like church plants, they’d be a lot healthier and we’d have a lot more growth in our church.

    And a Parting Question

    I end with this question: If church planting is as effective as it seems, why is it that church planting continues to attract either criticism or passive indifference from our denomination (and others)? Have we lost our passion for the Gospel? Have we lost our dream of the kingdom of God? Have we lost our courage to follow God’s dream?

    Note: This article is based on research gathered by a number of people: Kirk Hadaway, Frank Logue, Susan Snook, myself, and others.

    Yesterday: Episcopal Resurrection: Rez 1, Part 1 (Plant Churches)

    Tomorrow: Episcopal Resurrection: Rez 2 (Revitalize Congregations)

    Reply

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