Some Thoughts on Church Planting
As I read various papers and articles on the subject of church planting, I often run across one that seems to rise to the top. I believe this one really lays out irrefutably why we should be busy planting churches. This short article is mostly compiled statistics over almost two centuries of church life in America.
Church Planting and Church Attendance
In 1820, there was a church for every 875 Americans. But from 1860-1906, Protestants planted a new church for every population increase of 350. By 1900, we had 1 church for every 430. In 1906, one-third of all congregations in the country were less than 25 years old. As a result, the percentage of the U.S. population involved in the life of the church rose steadily. For example, in 1776, seventeen percent of the U.S. population [was] “religious adherents,” but that rose to 53% by 1916.
However, after WWI, church planting plummeted. Once the continental U.S. was covered by towns with church buildings in each town, there was resistance from older churches to any new churches in “our neighborhood.” But the vast majority of congregations reach their peak in size during the first 25 years and then remain on a plateau or slowly shrink. Why? In general, older churches cannot reach new residents, new generations, new social groups, and un-churched people very well. And as those groups increase in a community (which they will inevitably!) the original churches reach a smaller and smaller segment of their town, and the percentage of un-churched increases. Nevertheless, older churches fear completion from new churches and oppose them. Mainline churches, with centralized government, have been most effective at opposing new churches; as a result they have shrunk the most.
CONCLUSION: Church attendance and adherence overall in the United States is decreasing. This cannot be reversed in any other way than the way it originally had been so remarkably increasing. It is unlikely that we can ever plant a church for every 500 residents again, which resulted in over 50% of the population becoming churched Christians.
I present these statistics to remind us all of the importance of consistent church planting. If we could plant churches in our surrounding communities, think what change would begin to take place. Our prayer at Grace Reformed Fellowship is that we would become a self-supporting church that would be in the business of planting other churches. Please pray for us. Good things are happening some easy and some hard but all from God. Thank you for your support in this effort. You are truly a vital part.
May God’s Kingdom expand through your loving support,