Whatever the churches in your neighborhood look like, stop for a moment, and consider the church that isn’t there. At least, that isn’t there yet.
What will it look like? Who will attend? What will its relationship be with the people who live, work, and play in your zip code? How will it be built to reflect the values of those pastoring and attending the community?
As pastors and ministry leaders continue to live out their callings, there will continue to be innovations, course corrections, trials and errors in living out the gospel mandate to make disciples. But one thing is certain—options exist in our day for dynamic, strategic growth that continues the disciple-making mandate for our generation and those to follow.
Aspen Group partnered with Barna Group to produce the new More Than Multisite research project, a national study of the methods and models that today’s churches are using to expand and reach more people with the gospel.
Growing opportunities for the church
The models and strategies of church reproduction are broad and distinct, representing the true diversity of the Body of Christ. Every church or campus has its own story, and the models and strategies they employ represent their unique circumstances and mission.
Though it’s difficult to define all of the different ways that churches organize to grow, the clearest distinctions emerge between churches when we separate them by the number of locations, and whether they consider themselves to be multisite campuses (that are part of a single church) or church plants (separate churches intended to operate independently at some point).
Looking at the data, Barna was able to identify five general categories for church expansion: multisite beginner, multisite strategist, church planting beginner, church planter strategist, and location partner.
5 Categories for Church Expansion
What motivates pastors to reproduce?
Geographical outreach, mission, and calling are the three primary reasons cited by most churches as motivation to pursue various expansion strategies. Facility constraints or accommodating growth barely register as primary reasons (just 4% among Planting Beginners).
Expansion Creates New Growth
Thirty percent say opening a new church or campus created new or increased growth, and 20 percent say it accelerated their pace of growth. About two in five church leaders believe launching a new church or campus attracted more unchurched people than they might have seen at their sending church (39%).
This is an important dynamic that many church leaders cite as a key reason for adding a location, rather than just growing an existing one: Many believe a church that is new and local is far more likely to attract new unchurched visitors than one that has been around for years.
Beyond numerical growth, researchers also looked at the spiritual growth of existing members. Many churches using various growth strategies confirm that launching a new location fostered increased discipleship.
Positioned to grow
How is your church poised to expand? Are you willing and ready to implement your own calling to new areas of ministry? Are you ready to grow in your own leadership and help the leaders around you grow in releasing their own skills and gifts?
While there are many ways to expand and grow your community, one thing is certain—the mission that undergirds any true church expansion is the same that has motivated our brothers and sisters in ministry for the past two thousand years—ensuring that new hearts are poised to welcome the name of Christ, and finding new horizons for the gospel in our sphere of influence, as we work together to be sure that the mission of Jesus stay much more than multisite.