While megachurches and multi-site churches continue to grab the spotlight, another type of church is being evaluated and recognized — the multiplying church. Multiplying churches, or churches that plant other churches on an ongoing basis, believe that the mandate of Acts 1:8 requires them to focus their resources and energies not just on themselves, but on birthing new churches.
An article appearing in Outreach magazine analyzes America's top 25 multiplying churches. Based in part on a church planting study conducted by Leadership Network, the article attempts to explain the characteristics of churches that see church planting as a priority, and have also had success in actually birthing new churches. For example, the top three churches on the list — Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, Mars Hill Church in Seattle and NorthWood Church in Keller, Texas — have each planted 100 churches since their founding.
While many of the churches on the list are megachurches, there are also those that have an average weekly attendance of under 500. First Southwest Baptist Church in Alief, Texas (No. 23 on the list) has a weekly attendance of 120, but has planted 68 churches since 1978. Columbia Crossroads Church in Columbia S.C. (No. 19) — attendance 450 — has planted 17 churches in the last seven years.
Ed Stetzer, who wrote the article for Outreach, and is the director of LifeWay Research, points out that successful multiplying churches have a number of values in common:
- The belief that God has called them to reach the unchurched in their communities, their states and the world.
- The importance of establishing long-term strategies and goals that will involve both staff and church members in the planting process.
- A focus, not on becoming a larger church, but on the growth of the Kingdom around the world.
- The importance of maintaining fellowship with daughter churches as they become more independent.
- The understanding that staff, salaries and other valuable resources will need to be freely given in order for new churches to more effectively impact their communities. (The churches on the list designated between two percent and 30 percent of their overall budget for church planting.)
- The belief that lack of size or staff, or poor timing are not acceptable excuses for delay.
The list of the 25 churches can be found at http://outreachmagazine.com/docs/25innov_JA07.pdf. Outreach magazine has also published lists of the fastest growing and the most innovative churches in America.