How To Decide Where To Plant Churches

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While this post may be useful for individual church planters, it is really intended for either churches that are considering planting new churches or for people who are responsible for making decisions about starting multiple churches in a region. It is written from a North American perspective, and therefore does not include particular nuances of many international situations.

My own situation is the San Francisco Bay Area. When my family moved here in 1996, I had several options about where my next church planting assignment might be. That God directed me to the Bay Area seemed to be a culmination of several factors.

First, I left my heart in San Francisco before I had actually ever seen it. As a product of the 1960s, many of my friends wanted to move here. I was personally wired for this place.

Second, part of my God-given gifting is to love anything that is unselfconsciously multi-ethnic, and my husband is similarly gifted.

Next, I am called to what is difficult, complex, or undeveloped. Of all my church planting options in those days, the San Francisco Bay Area fit best.

Finally, of the places that were open to me, the Bay Area seemed the most needy, and the least evangelical. As we prayed, all of these things seemed to indicate that God was leading us here.

But when there are so many choices about where to concentrate church planting efforts, where do we begin? The thoughts below are sometimes conflicting, and really not in a particular order, but I believe will help you reach a decision.

  1. Where God is clearly moving. This could mean where he has raised up leadership, wonderfully answered prayer, acted in a miraculous way, or brought together a group of people who know they need Him.  A people or place not even on your radar can unexpectedly emerge.
  2. Size of group, and whether that group is growing or declining locally, matters, but so can the size of their global population. Some groups may be identified by country or state of origin, others by religion, language, caste, or some affinity. Examples are cowboys, surfers, or among  the 10,000 employees of Google’s Mountain View, California campus
  3. The degree to which the group is known to be unreached globally. The common indicator is 2% or less evangelical for what is called an unreached people group. Also consider how the group ranks locally in relationship to other places they live in North America. Reaching the least reached is a kingdom mandate.
  4. Presence of a missionary, volunteer, indigenous leader or person of peace. Think leadership: Is God providing a clear leader for this group?
  5. A new neighborhood or community where there is no church nearby. In this kind of community there are probably already some Christians who wish they didn’t need to drive 10 miles to attend church.
  6. Where there is community transition and the local churches no longer fit the language or culture of the newcomers, and where the existing churches don’t know how or are unwilling to change in order to embrace them.
  7. Where there are not enough churches to reach the population. In some places it may because population growth is outpacing the capacity of existing churches to incorporate new people.

Ok, now your turn.

Where, or among whom would you plant a church, and what would you prioritize? Leave a comment with your ideas.