8 Reasons Why Church Plants Fail 

Reason 2. Lack of an Established Network

The most common form of church planting, at least until the 1990's was the "parachute drop" church plant.  Much like the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan, the church planter would be dropped into a hot zone with little hope of survival.  Typically the planter and their family would move to a target area, and begin trying to establish some sort of a beachhead, usually with little outside support, and with no preexisting relationships established in the community.  As you can imagine the survival rates were not good.

The same thing is still largely true today.  Many well meaning planters move their families hundreds of miles, into communities where they have no established network, and expect to be able to develop a great church from nothing.

One common factor that I've seen in successful church plants is that they have a preexisting network, a platform if you will, within the community they are planting.  We've definitely seen this to be true in planting BridgeWay.  While Steph and I had no established network when we moved to Illinois, we lived and worked in the area for 3 years prior to the launch of the church.  During that time we were able to develop relationships within the parent church (another critical factor I'll address in another post), within the community, and with other Christians who were interested in planting a new church.

Recently, Harvest Bible Chapel out of Chicagoland launched a church in the Peoria area.  They had a strong network of interested Christians, and a great platform in James MacDonald's "Walk in the Word" radio broadcast.  The results have been a strong new church.

So what can a church planter do to establish a network prior to launching a new church?

1. Prayerfully consider planting somewhere you have an existing relational network.  If you've already got people asking you to start a church somewhere you might want to seriously consider it.
2. Create an initial tribe. Simply begin building a network with people who are interested...some call this a launch team.  Read Seth Godin's book "Tribes" for more on this.
3. Harness social media. Develop a Facebook group/fanpage.  Utilize Twitter.  Use a service like Mail Chimp to communicate with your tribe.
4. Develop relationships with people with a similar passion.  Golf, Run, Fish, Hunt, etc...spend time meeting new people who you already have an affinity connection with.
5. Develop a permission based network.  Create an e-mail based weekly newsletter or other communication piece that people can subscribe to if they are interested in what you are doing.  Please don't be a dirty rotten spammer...I learned this lesson the hard way.
6. Get involved in the community. Coach baseball, basketball, soccer, etc...even if you don't have kids playing yourself...if you do...all the better.
7. Work a secular job.  I broke this rule, at BridgeWay, but prior to launching BridgeWay I spent several years working in banking.  It was great for connecting with people who were interested in a new church plant.
8. Create content.  Create content that is worth listening to...create a blog and start sharing what God's doing in your life. Give people something they can share with others who might be interested.
9. Meet a real need in the community.  The old axiom "find a need and fill it" still applies.
10. Invite others to move with you to help plant the church.  This is a great way to seed your network and increase its influence from the start.  Rather than just you and your family building a network, imagine having 3-4 other families doing the same thing.

So what experiences have you had in seeing the power of a network at work?  What are other ways that a potential planter could develop new relationships?

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