Trend Analysis Reports
Why Denominations are Not Interested in Church Planting
No researcher of American religion has been around longer than Lyle Schaller. He recently wrote a journal article summing up evangelism in the 20th century and compared the current situation to the 1906 Census of Religious Bodies. "Planting a new Protestant congregation in the U.S. in the early years of the twenty-first century is at least five times more difficult than it was in 1953. Compared to 1883, it may be a hundred times more expensive today and fifty times more difficult."
A look at Adventist history indicates that there was much greater emphasis on church planting in the 1880s than there is today. In fact, during the 1990s new congregations started by the Adventist Church in North America dropped the lowest level on record.
Schaller does not soften the facts: "Fewer than one-half of new churches average more than 150 at worship a decade after their first public worship service is held. ... One-third of all American Protestant congregations ... average fewer than 55 at weekend worship. The reason they are small is they are unable to reach, attract, and serve younger generations or recent immigrants. What should they do? Merge? Close? Share a pastor with one or two other churches?" The Adventist Church imposes the last suggestion on these small churches, but still has a large number of small congregations that are not growing.
Schaller’s recommendation for small, non-growing churches: "Identify a large congregation that has mastered the skills required to fulfill the Great Commission [and] petition to be annexed to become the north (or west or college or inner city or youth ministry or rural) campus of that Great Commission church. The initiative must come from the leaders of that small church." How many of those large, growing Great Commission churches do we have in the Adventist Church in North America?
Trend Analysis Report (2003) - Source: "Giving Christ Away Today" in Net Results, January 2003, pages 16-17.