Excerpts from Easum: Thoughts from Innovation Forum 2011 Keynote, part 4

by New Church Starts

(Editor’s Note: Over the last month, we've shared excerpts from Bill Easum’s keynote address to the 2011 Innovation Forum, October 20, in Nashville, Tennessee. Part 4 concludes the series today, as Bill lays out eight reasons church plants cease to grow.)

There are eight glaring Reasons Church Plants Plateau and Don’t Continue Growing

It’s not uncommon for a church plant to grow past two hundred and then plateau and decline. Here’s why:

I. The pastor loses focus on getting people in the seats.


  1. Usually this is because of shifting focus to administration and the needs of the members. Acts 6 is a good example of how to handle this. (This isn’t my job)

  2. Often this is encouraged by our tribe insisting on the plant chartering too soon.

  3. In a church plant under 400 I suggest the pastor spend 70-80% of his/her time bringing people to Christ and/or the church.


II. The pastor refuses to hand-off ministry as soon as possible. Too many of our pastors have a need to be needed.

  1. A young pastor told me “If I did anything you say I wouldn’t have any reason to be in ministry.” I asked why? He said, “Because I wouldn’t be needed anymore. I entered ministry because it is good to be needed.


III. The church is able to pay the bills.

  1. Often when a church reaches viability it loses its outward focus and begins to complain when the pastor doesn’t spend enough time with them.


IV. A Failure to take the opposition serious is another reasons church plants don’t do well. I’ve found three ways new churches experience opposition.

  1. Institutional – meet with the pastors in the area and let them know you aren’t after their sheep.

  2. Cultural – difficulty getting permits, etc.

  3. Spiritual – you are walking into occupied territory. Supervisors who fail to understand that church planting is a struggle and a battle, will be easily misled and they will fail to support the church planter. So I recommend a planter gather a group of intercessory prayers to pray on his or her behalf.


V. Wanting to build their dream rather than fitting the plant to the surrounding community.

  1. Don’t let your fantasy church blind you to the realities of your mission field.

  2. Instead, let the mission field determine the type of church. I remember Adam Hamilton telling me in an interview years ago if he had started Church of the Resurrection on the other side of town it would probably have had a country flavor.


VI. Launching too soon. There are a variety of reasons why this is done

  1. The launch team is eager to make something happen.

  2. Some people tell you they are waiting to join until the church officially starts.

  3. The person in charge of finances gets nervous.

  4. The “powers that be” push for the plant to open.

  5. Remember, the goal of the launch is not “to get started” but to launch the church into orbit.

  6. Planting teams need a time of gestation to do two things. Identify the contributions and limitations of the launch team members and reach a critical mass of people significant enough to populate the ministry teams and/or small groups.

  7. Three stages of a successful launch are preview time, exhibition, and launch time.


Preview time includes the following milestones

  • Multiple “Taste and See” events must be hosted

  • A “word of mouth” presence must be created in the mission field

  • You must add at least twenty-five percent new people at each preview event.

  • The launch team has gained financial ownership of the project.

  • Up front presenters have been recruited and trained.

  • Follow up systems have been developed for assimilating and handing off people.

  • Critical mass is achieved based on the make-up of the mission field. Critical mass will vary based on the population.

  • Multiple cells or small groups are developed.


Exhibition season – begin weekly services

  • The launch team adjusts to the new schedule

  • The assimilation process is increased and is fully developed to handle an influx of people.

  • At least one Baptism service has occurred (you have new converts).

  • The critical mass has been expanded.

  • The infrastructure is fully developed in that you have people in charge of the essential ministries, team members chosen, cell groups established, follow up strategies in place, and the necessary systems and administration help functioning (this does not include By-laws, constitutions, or chartering).


Launch Time

  • Wayne Cordeiro – make of list of all the people you will need to make the launch the best in town. Launch when you get that list.

  • In other words prepare for success. I had a young planter come up to me and said, “I have been asking God to double our church.”


VII. The seventh reason church plants fail is the Fear of talking about money before it is too late. Too many planters underestimate the cost of growing the church to viability and they avoid asking people for money.

  1. Growth has to be fed, but here is the kicker, the more successful, the more money is needed. So, write down the amount anticipated to operate the church financially for the first three years. Multiply that number times four. Experience has shown that the second number will more closely reflect the actual amount needed. 

  2. That means the planter must be the champion of fund raising. The way to do this is to:  



  • Start talking about money at the beginning with the launch team.

  • Raise venture capital from your networks outside the church. Raise one-half of your salary.

  • Take an offering every time you meet.

  • Know what everyone gives.

  • And Do a pledge drive.


XIII. The last glaring reason church plants fail is formalizing leadership too soon.

  1. You need workers more than leaders. You need people who will do what you need them to do.

  2. Leaders must prove themselves in your plant.

  3. You don’t need a board to run the ministries.

  4. So, delay organizing until you are beyond 300 in worship.


The last thing I’ll share with you is this, we need to be like Wesley and learn from the Moravians. There are many groups who are doing very well planting churches. We need to learn from them and stop thinking we are different because we are United Methodidst. Finally, never forget, new planters usually listen to what you say to them, so be “wise as a serpent and harmless as doves.”

Do you agree with Easum's assessment? What do you think cause churches to plateau and what should a planter's priorities be as their plant continues to develop?

Email Bill Easum at easum@aol.com

Web: http://effectivechurch.com/about-us/bill-easum/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/easum