Church Planting 2015: Who Attends and What Attracted Them (Newsletter 2-6 Article)

Lisa Cannon Green


Protestants are planting new churches in America faster than their old churches are closing.

More than 4,000 new Protestant churches opened their doors in the United States in 2014, outpacing the 3,700 that shuttered, according to estimates by LifeWay Research based on input from 34 denominational statisticians. And American church planters say 42 percent of their worshipers were unchurched while 43 percent switched from an existing church, according to LifeWay’s 2015 National Church Planting Study, released today.

For the study, the Nashville-based research organization analyzed 843 churches started since 2008 by 17 denominations and church-planting networks, including: the Assemblies of God, Baptist Missionary Association of America, Center for US Missions (Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod), Christian and Missionary Alliance, Converge Worldwide, Evangelical Free Church of America, Free Methodist Church USA, International Pentecostal Holiness Church, Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod Texas District, New Thing Network, North American Mission Board (Southern Baptist Convention), Presbyterian Church in America, Project Jerusalem, Path1 (United Methodist Church), Southern Baptists of Texas, Vineyard Church, and The Wesleyan Church.

Among American Church Planters:

Of the people who currently attend our church, what is their background?

Previously part of other existing churches 43%

Unchurched for many years 24%

Previously completely unchurched 18%

Children born to people who attend your church 9%

Other church background 6%


What form of publicity is the most successful at attracting new members?

Word of mouth, personal relationships 77%

Social media 6%

Internet communication 4%

Mailers 3%

Billboards and/or road signs 3%

Newspaper and/or print ads 1%

Door hangers and/or flyers 1%


“In winning new converts to Christ, church plants are light years ahead of the average church because of their focus on reaching the unchurched,” said executive director Ed Stetzer.

Successful church launches have several factors in common, the study found:


  • Meeting in a public space: New churches that meet in schools have significantly higher worship attendance, report more first-time commitments to Christ, and are more likely to become financially self-sufficient than other church plants.
  • Focusing on outreach: New churches offering sports leagues, social gatherings, and children’s special events are significantly more likely to attract previously unchurched people than other startups.
  • Supporting their leaders: Adequate compensation and health insurance for the church planter are linked to higher worship attendance and a greater likelihood of financial independence for the new church.
  • Starting more churches: New churches that invest in church planting and launch at least one additional new church in their first five years report higher worship attendance and more new commitments to Christ.

“Healthy new churches have an outward focus from day one, communicating every month that the goal is to be a multiplying church,” Stetzer said.

Though some pastors bristle at new churches coming into their community, they have much to learn—and not much to fear—from the startup down the street, Stetzer said.

One lesson is the value of time-tested methods. While most church plants use the Internet for outreach, 77 percent say word of mouth and personal relationships are the most effective forms of publicity, while only 6 percent say social media is most effective.


The above article, “Church Planting 2015: Who Attends and What Attracted Them” was written by Lisa Cannon Green. The article was excerpted from

The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”