Reason #4: No Spiritual Vacuum.
In the business world they call it lack of a market.  Church planters often assume that all you have to do to grow a church is get a band, secure a location, design a slick logo and marketing campaign, and then people will just pour into your new church.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The church planting landscape is covered with the bodies of people who attempted to plant a church where there was little demand or spiritual vacuum for the church that they were starting.

What is a spiritual vacuum?
Simply put a spiritual vacuum is a need within an area for a church like the one that you are trying to start.  You might feel led to start a hip new church experience with cool lights, casual dress, and a coffee bar...but if 4 churches just like the one you're starting have been launched in the past couple years it's likely you're a little late to the party.  If you're sold out on planting a traditional church in a community that already is full of traditional churches, then your chances at making an impact will be limited.  One key to planting an effective church is to make sure that the church you are planting is not simply a reproduction of what several other churches in your area are already doing.  Be unique.

So how do I know if a spiritual vacuum exists?

1. Review the demographics.  Take the time to study the demographics of your community and county.  The Church of the Nazarene offers a great tool for church planters to do just that.  Check it out here.  Is the community/county largely churched or unchurched?  Is there a pocket of people like you?  Most people will attend churches where they are similar to the leaders of the congregation. 

2. Review the church landscape. What churches are in your area?  Look less at denominational affiliation and more at stylistic differences.  People no longer choose a church based on denominational affiliation.  Just because there's no Wesleyan church in a community does not mean you should plant one there if it is going to be stylistically the same as 4 or 5 other churches in town.

3. Build an initial launch team.  Begin to see what kind of interest there is from others in the community to helping you start a new church.  If you can rally an initial group of 30-40 interested adults it's likely that you will be able to find others who will be interested in seeing a new church like yours birthed.

So what about you?  Have you seen the effects of a strong spiritual vacuum in a community?  Have you seen the effects of the lack of connecting with a spiritual vacuum?
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2 Response to '8 Reasons Why Church Plants Fail (part 4 of 8) - No Spiritual Vacuum'

  1. Anonymous'> 16:59

    Hi Dale. With regard to demographics, what percentage of a community would have to be churched for it to be considered an 'unchurched' community?

    Unless the stats have gotten better, the percentage of 'claimed' households in a given census tract relies heavily on church reporting and is thus very fuzzy. Just ask any pastor what percentage of the people on their membership/prospect lists have darkened their doors in the past 24 months. ;)

    The Nazarenes seem to have responded to this ambiguity by simply planting in high-growth areas *before* the religious market can become saturated. What do you think?

    -Billy Cox


  2. Dale'> 22:07

    I really don't pay too much attention to the percentage of unchurched in a community. I'm much more concerned with the number of unchurched people in a community. For example...our county has a 54% unclaimed population, but the number of unclaimed alone is 72,000 people.

    What I'm encouraging planters to do is make sure they are not simply reproducing something that is already present in their community...not so much an unchurched vs. churched issue...more a niche issue.

    For example, our church is defined more by it's come as you are culture and emphasis on connecting with unchurched people (81% were not attending any church regularly in the 6 months prior to attending BridgeWay) than anything else. Something that was totally absent from the church landscape in our county.

    As to your last question...Yes, I'd say that the strategy has been to move into a "market" before it becomes saturated. I've heard several of our church planting leaders say, "the first person to shake the tree gets the nuts." (a terrible quote by the way)



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