by christianity today
At our recent CPLF meeting, we released the findings of a detailed study of African-American church planting. This was the first study of its kind and the private sponsors were gracious enough to share it publicly. Thanks to Mission to North America (PCA), Assemblies of God (AG), Path 1 (United Methodist Church), International Pentecostal Holiness Church (IPHC), Southern Baptists of Texas, the Foursquare Church, and North American Mission Board (SBC) for their commitment to research into African-American church planting.
LifeWay Research has conducted large national studies on church planting in the past. But it would be wrong to assume that national factors are the same for every particular culture or contexts of church planters and plants. Furthermore, it’s a bad idea to even generalize from research and say, “All African-American church plants are like this.” This study had a particular focus culturally and a set of participants denominationally.
This research has begun productive conversations among church planting leaders across the U.S. about how best to train and equip new church plants led by African-American planters and in African-American contexts. As denominations become more and more diverse, it’s important that we not the differences in the contexts in which we are planting. As it is with many ministry methods, one size does not fit all.
LifeWay Research surveyed 290 African-American church planters who started churches prior to 2012. Almost half (43 percent) were started since 2007. Church planters from more than 20 denominations participated plus several from non-denominational churches. Ninety-four percent of the church plants studied are still in existence today. Among the churches that closed, lack of financial support was the most common contributing factor.
The study found a steady increase in attendance to be the overall trend among African-American church starts. Average worship attendance for the first year was 37, and by year four, the average attendance doubled.
The survey identified three characteristics that had the most positive impact on worship attendance. Those characteristics were present in more than two-thirds of the churches: delegation of leadership roles to volunteers, leadership training for new church members, and a plan of personal spiritual formation for the church planter.
The study found worship style impacts attendance. The most common worship style used by African-American church plants was blended, cited by 45 percent, followed by contemporary gospel, contemporary and urban contemporary, ranging from 12-14 percent. However, church plants with a more distinctive style, urban contemporary for instance, had higher attendance than churches using a blended style.
Six characteristics were shown to impact both worship attendance and new commitments to Jesus Christ:
• Church planter compensated for their work (52 percent of the new churches)
• Week-long Boot Camp or Basic Training provided for the church planter (42 percent)
• Church planter worked 60 hours a week or more on the church plant during the first two years of the church plant (39 percent)
• Sponsor or mother church permitted the church plant to meet in the sponsoring church building (32 percent)
• Church building of their own during the first five years (20 percent)
• Contemporary worship style (13 percent)