Council of Bishops’ Report on the State of Church Planting, 2019
By Bryan Tener
Beginning in June 2020, Path 1 will begin collecting data through a survey of new church plants, new faith communities, and fresh expressions that were started in 2019. Data collected will focus on strategies used and demographics. The information will give annual conference developers an opportunity to see what impact COVID-19 might have on the number of future new church plants within a particular annual conference. This data will help us gain insight that can help guide the Path 1 team in collaborating, creating resources, and working toward effectively equipping the church to make disciples and reach new people in new places. The data collection will come to you in the form of a survey, which is different from years’ past. This data will be a part of the Council of Bishops’ Report on the State of Church Planting for 2019. This is an important piece in thinking about how Path 1 lives out its mission to equip church planters and local churches to make disciples and transform the world.
In 2018, the data reported the same number of new church plants in 2018 as in 2017, while the number of new fresh expressions was 365. West Ohio, Florida, Missouri, Western North Carolina, and Kentucky all reported starting a large number of fresh expressions and new faith communities. Of the strategies used, multi-siting saw an increase, while parachute drops were significantly lower. Fresh expressions have become a strategic focus in some conferences. This strategy made up 66 percent of all new planting strategies. Of the data collected, only 52 of the faith communities were identified concerning racial—ethnic makeup; twelve identified as Hispanic/Latino, fourteen as multi-ethnic, and four as African American. Eighteen were identified as white congregations. Data can help us with the questions we are asking: “Why fresh expressions? Who are people to connect with that wouldn’t feel comfortable going to church? Are there people in the local church who feel called to start something new? If so, how can we equip and empower them? What does it look like to intentionally seek to grow in diversity? What are the issues at stake if we seek to remain homogeneous? How do we equip ourselves to reach out in humility, listen, and build relationships in a diverse world with an intentionality toward growing in diversity?”
As we move forward, even in this time of uncertainty, we move forward with hope that out of data collected and trends identified, we will continue to recognize those who are missing from our table. We can collaborate, create, and equip the local church, so that we can more effectively live into God’s mission for us to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.