At our recent CPLF meeting, we released the findings of a detailed study of African-American church planting. This was the first study of its kind, and the private sponsors were gracious enough to share it publicly. Thanks to Mission to North America (PCA), Assemblies of God (AG), Path 1 (United Methodist Church), International Pentecostal Holiness Church (IPHC), Southern Baptists of Texas, the Foursquare Church and North American Mission Board (SBC) for their commitment to research into African-American church planting.
LifeWay Research has conducted large national studies on church planting in the past. But it would be wrong to assume that national factors are the same for every particular culture or context of church planters and plants. Furthermore, it’s a bad idea to even generalize from research and say, “All African-American church plants are like this.” This study had a particular focus culturally and a set of participants denominationally, but we were also able to compare to a larger sample including all ethnic and racial groups.
This research has begun productive conversations among church planting leaders across the U.S. about how best to train and equip new church plants led by African-American planters and in African-American contexts. As denominations become more and more diverse, it’s important that we note the differences in the contexts in which we are planting. As it is with many ministry methods, one size does not fit all.
We were very pleased to do this research under the oversite of people like Carl Ellis and in partnership with key African American leaders who shaped the survey and sifted the results. I learned much from all of the participants, and am thankful for their wisdom and leadership.
LifeWay Research surveyed 290 African-American church planters who started churches prior to 2012. Almost half (43 percent) were started since 2007. Church planters from more than 20 denominations participated, plus several from nondenominational churches. Ninety-four percent of the church plants studied are still in existence today. Among the churches that closed, lack of financial support was the most common contributing factor.
The study found a steady increase in attendance to be the overall trend among African-American church starts. Average worship attendance for the first year was 37, and by year four, the average attendance doubled.