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Primary New Church Development Strategies

While there are a number of strategies for planting new churches, we are listing the primary strategies we hope to pursue in the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area. Below, you will see an explanation of each so that you can determine which best fits your plan (which may also represent a combination of strategies). If your strategy/model is not listed, it does not mean that it would not be considered.

Path1 provides 14 models/strategies for church planting in our denominations. However, we have selected from that list and modified a couple of the strategies that best fit our ministry context.

1. Multisite/Expansion/Cohort strategy:

A new faith community meeting at a new site remains part of a sponsoring church or cohort, even as it may develop a distinct staff and ministry team system. Multisites vary in pastoral and staffing strategies. They typically have a site pastor, who may or may not be the lead preacher/teacher/communicator at the site.

2. Intentional Multiethnic strategy:

This strategy results in an intentionally multiethnic church plant that worships as one integrated body to create a unique cultural expression and reflects all groups involved. This is what the kingdom of God is supposed to look like, so why not intentionally plant churches that are integrated and inclusive? This strategy reflects the work of the Holy Spirit to bring together as one in Christ a multitude of cultural, racial, and ethnic groups.

3. Partner Church/Multiple “Parent” strategy:

An existing United Methodist congregation (or, perhaps, several churches) serves as an anchoring, sponsoring, or partnering force in launching a new church. This could be a cluster of partnering churches or a combination of partner churches and another entity (e.g., a United Methodist campus ministry, retirement home, or church agency).

4. Church within a Church strategy:

In a world of very expensive real estate, many new churches will share space with other churches (both partner churches and other collegial congregations). Existing congregations choosing to share property may find that new churches may better serve their immediate neighborhoods, especially when the new church specializes in a certain racial-ethnic culture or a certain generation or social group.

5. Refocusing/Repurposing/Closing strategy:

Currently, as our church experiences decline, there are often more churches being closed (or on the verge of having to close) than there are new churches being planted. What if we intentionally chose to explore these settings as opportunities to refocus/repurpose a church/congregation as a part of something new? In this strategy, the new church begins to address the needs and culture of a community and population that may have changed significantly (or when the church has declined because of the lack of community engagement).

6. Vital Merger strategy:

Most of the time, mergers do not truly create new churches. Two declining churches typically agree to share one facility and decline together rather than alone. However, a strategy exists that can require both of the merging churches to sell their buildings, pool the funds, move to a temporary location, find a new name, receive a trained planter, cultivate a new compelling vision, and proceed as a new church. In this strategy, leadership of the planter is critical.

landscape-nature-man-person-small7. House Church strategy:

This may well be the oldest strategy for church planting, certainly reaching back to Asia Minor in the first century, and also to frontier America when the population was very sparse. House churches are typically small, limited to the number that can fit in a home or a small meeting place. They are often lay-led, with clergy visiting to bring the Sacraments. House churches may organize into networks, akin to circuits of very small congregations.

8. Classic Missionary strategy:

This was the primary strategy of our church several years ago, often referred to as a “parachute drop.” However, as results indicate, it produces the least success and fruitfulness of all church planting strategies. And while we have all but “dropped” it from our list of options, there are occasions — based on circumstances, experience of the planter/launch team, or geographic locations — in which this strategy may be an appropriate option.