Why Church Planting Should Not Be Funded

In a rather “accidental series,” I’ve written an evaluation of the church planting movement, followed by my thoughts on why your church won’t be able to find a pastor, and then gave some instructions on how to start a home church. Each of these articles had the common thread of the dismay over the condition of the church in our day. Now I’d like to complete these thoughts with a further word about church planting. I am convinced that the church planting movement, with all its failures, has been responsible for much of the sickness of the church today, and those who care about the health of the church should avoid the funding of church planting efforts, especially through networks and denominational agencies.

How Did We Get Here?

I think we have seminaries to blame. Somewhere, a generation ago, the seminaries and their professors grew an animosity for the local church, and thus for the “establishment pastor.” Perhaps this animosity grew because it was the pastors who sat on the Board of Trustees, and it was the board members who refused to allow the seminaries to go as leftist as the professors would have liked. Or perhaps it was because the churches themselves were “back woods” and not “academically sophisticated,” so the professors grew to dislike the local church. Their dislike could be seen in their lack of involvement (seminary professors and their students often make some of the worst churchmen) and it could also be heard in their comments in the classroom, comments which betrayed the cloaked animosity.

Over the years, more and more of the graduates captured the spirit of their professors and went a step farther, deciding before they ever got out of seminary that they would never pastor an established church. Rather, they would leave that old barge-of-a-church behind and start a sexy-speedboat-of-a-church and quickly change the world.

And, truthfully, that’s exactly what happened.

The Way It Was

Prior to the 1980s, there was no church planting movement. This movement was birthed in the 1980s, and Willow Creek and Saddleback are the now-aging grandparents of it all. These two churches wowed every young preacher. They went from zero to thousands of attendees, all within a decade. Seminarians jumped ship from the old barge and began to go out by the hundreds, then thousands, to plant new churches across America. I would venture to say that the largest churches in America today did not even exist 30 years ago.

But up until that time, as I’ve mentioned in my previous article, churches were planted by churches, and the DNA of the “daughter church” was the same as that of the “mother church.” And, even more striking, there were no church-planting networks or agencies. In that day, the mission boards for American denominations that had been tasked with missions in the United States did very little in church planting. For example, the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention (an agency dissolved in 1997) was an agency that jointly funded literally thousands of missionaries who were serving life-long careers working with Native Americans, rural populations, urban neighborhood centers, campus ministries, and much more. The Home Mission Board had missionaries with long-term strategies for reaching the unreached language groups of America and strengthening struggling churches. Today, the North American Mission Board (successor to the HMB) doesn’t have long-term missionaries (almost 100% of the “missionaries” are actually church planters, jointly funded for two to three years), doesn’t have a Native American outreach, doesn’t provide long-term missionaries to language groups, and does very little in rural America. The emphasis of NAMB is large-city church planting, and over $78 million of its $127 million budget goes to this effort.

Churches Can Be Started Without Funding

I am convinced that church planting can be more effectively done without large-scale funding. Here’s why-

First, if churches are planted in homes and with a sponsor church, there is very little funding needed. The ministry will start as a home Bible study, which can literally be done for free. The best churches will be churches started by laymen and women, not by a carpet-bagger church-planter. What little expenses do come up can be covered by those in the home Bible study.

Second, when the home group gets large enough, it can call and pay for its own pastor. The sponsor church can, if needed, provide some short-term assistance. The pastor can also work some extra hours in a side job, or he can raise support from friends, family, and associates. (Incidentally, don’t be fooled into thinking that agencies like the North American Mission Board fully funds church planters: they raise their own support, and NAMB gives them an additional stipend).

Third, outside money is going to give a false sense of security and strength to the new church. Why do so many church plants fail after two or three years? Because that is when the funding stops! Rather than proving the need for more funding, this actually proves the need for less funding. The funding that is being given is an artificial mechanism that is moving the new churches ahead of where they can sustain themselves and then the rug is pulled out. The funding gives artificial strength, and so the church planter signs leases, buys equipment, and hires staff–then is unable to fulfill the obligations when the funding stops. If the funding never happened, the church would be much more wise in its commitments.

But what about those places where a home Bible study will never happen without a church planter being moved from another location? Honestly, I’m skeptical that these places exist in America. As someone who was raised in a Bible-belt environment, I used to hear about all those northern states that had almost no Christian witness. Now that I’m more well traveled and am out of the SBC bubble, I realize that what they meant was that those northern states don’t have very many Southern Baptist churches. They do, however, have very strong evangelical and fundamentalist churches whose ministries rival anything that can be found in the Bible belt. As I’ve now traveled outside of the SBC, I’ve found that there are some fabulous pockets of believers in every region of the United States.

What Goes Wrong When You Fund Church Planting

In short, here’s what goes wrong: we perpetuate a system that isn’t working. It isn’t working because so many churches fail (after huge financial investment) and the churches that do succeed are very often (possibly most often) aberrant to the values and ideals of the founding church.

Furthermore, when you fund a church plant, especially when you have little to no design of the church DNA, you are funding the spiritual/biblical demise of the broader church. If the church fails, it was probably because it was artificially propped up by outside money and was never sustainable in the first place. If the church succeeds, it will either be a “welfare church” that continually seeks another financial partner in order to keep afloat or a pragmatist church that continually seeks another new fad to keep new bodies (and their bucks) coming in the door. Neither is something you want to be part of.

What about the places that can never support a pastor but need one? There are two solutions. First, pastors can be either bi-vocational or can pastor several churches at once (a proven strategy of a bygone era). Second, the denominational entities that are spending over $78 million in church planting can shift their strategy and place career missionaries in these areas. Sadly, however, the career missionary in the United States is virtually non-existent, largely because all the funding has gone to church planting, and most of that funding will have nothing to show for it in just a few years.

Consider This Example

I live in Northern New Mexico, a place that has had 500 years of catholic missionary activity (which could arguably be considered some of the most successful missionary activity in history). Yet, in these 500 years, it has never had a strong non-catholic presence. Northern New Mexico is filled with small mountain villages that have no non-catholic churches whatsoever. Even in many of the larger towns (i.e., more than 1,000 residents), it would be very difficult for a fundamental or evangelical Bible-teaching pastor to ever survive in a church planting setting. If someone invests in church-planting here, using any kind of modern planting strategy, it will almost certainly fail.

Thirty years ago, there were long-term missionaries who lived here and worked with Native Americans or Spanish speaking populations. These missionaries translated scripture to the Tewa language or hosted home-based Bible studied in a dozen or more towns. All of these works have completely stopped, and agencies like the North American Mission Board have absolutly no strategy nor design for sending missionaries to areas like mine. The only model that will work in my area is a career missionary model, and nobody is doing career missions funding. The career missionary to hard-to-reach areas has been replaced by church planters being sent to America’s biggest cities (cities that are also home to America’s biggest churches).

What You Can Do

Here is my suggestion. With your missionary dollars (whether given individually or through your church), make sure you are supporting long-term career missionaries, not short-term church planters. The short-term planter can (and does) raise his own support, when needed, or can be funded through the church plant itself or by the sponsor church.

By forcing this missiological shift, you will strengthen missionary work in missionary areas like mine, and you will stop the flow of money into the endless cycle of church-planting-failure or success at the cost of doctrinal embarrassment.

Randy White bio

Randy White Ministries began in 2011 as an online and radio Bible teaching ministry. Today, the ministry is focused on producing verse-by-verse Bible teaching resources for individuals. White has 25 years of pastoral experience—including 12 years at First Baptist Church of Katy, Texas, where he ministered to a large congregation and preached numerous times each week.

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There are 27 Comments

Bert Perry's picture

Now I wasn't a fundamentalist back in those days--heathen kid I was--but I remember a conversation I had with a guy who must have graduated from Bible college in the 1970s, and he noted that the charge he got (along with a lot of others) was to go out and start a church somewhere where there wasn't a good fundamental work.  So I don't know that Randy has fully encapsulated the church planting motives here; certainly it's changed since the 1970s, but a big part of it was to reach towns that simply didn't have an evangelical or fundamental work.

That said, I appreciate the point that support can be detrimental to establishing churches, and I would agree fully that the results of short-term church planting will necessarily be less stable than those of long-term missionaries. 

Larry Nelson's picture

 

Excerpt from the OP article:

"I think we have seminaries to blame. Somewhere, a generation ago, the seminaries and their professors grew an animosity for the local church, and thus for the “establishment pastor.” Perhaps this animosity grew because it was the pastors who sat on the Board of Trustees, and it was the board members who refused to allow the seminaries to go as leftist as the professors would have liked. Or perhaps it was because the churches themselves were “back woods” and not “academically sophisticated,” so the professors grew to dislike the local church. Their dislike could be seen in their lack of involvement (seminary professors and their students often make some of the worst churchmen) and it could also be heard in their comments in the classroom, comments which betrayed the cloaked animosity.

Over the years, more and more of the graduates captured the spirit of their professors and went a step farther, deciding before they ever got out of seminary that they would never pastor an established church. Rather, they would leave that old barge-of-a-church behind and start a sexy-speedboat-of-a-church and quickly change the world.

And, truthfully, that’s exactly what happened."

------------------------------------------------------------

Reasons given by BJU to plant churches:

"1. Church planting is God's way of spreading the Gospel and establishing a community-based discipling agency. The driving issue in church planting is fulfilling the Great Commission.
2. Church planting is an "open door opportunity," especially for the entry-level pastor.  [Emphasis mine.]
3. Church planting expands the personnel and financial base for foreign missions.
4. Church planting is needed during this time of doctrinal defection, ecclesiastical compromise, sinking standards, and spiritual lethargy.
5. Church planting provides an opportunity to establish a Christ-centered, Bible-based ministry independent of mainline denominational entanglements.
6. Church planting is the Lord's will for some men.
7. Church planting is desperately needed in many American communities."

http://www.bju.edu/ministries/church-planting/

In the above reasons, and elsewhere within this link (e.g. "Young men studying for the ministry should open their hearts to the call of church planting."), BJU certainly doesn't discourage its graduates from going straight into planting a church, rather than pastoring at an established church.

Don Johnson's picture

the most valid point is the one about money - church plants struggle coming off the dole (i.e. Church planting support). This is why I support financing the church planter, not the church plant. There is still a struggle, however, and the planted church needs to learn its responsibility to support their pastor. It needs to learn this soon, really from the get-go. The local budget needs to be constructed to support the pastor (partially) and any other activities of the church fully from local offerings, not from outside support.

i disagree vehemently that church planting is the reason for the weak state of the church in North America. That problem lies at the feet of other issues. It is not due to a lack of need. Even in most communities where reasonably good churches exist, there is still room for more.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Steve Davis's picture

I'm with Don on this (for once :-). The article seems to come from the author's own (bad?) experiences. There is no one best, only way to plant churches. If I wanted to I could point to many long-term missionaries who have the luxury of steady support and don't accomplish much, where without outside support the work would collapse. That doesn't mean it's true of all long-termers. Many pastors aren't gifted to be church planters. Many church planters aren't gifted to be long-term pastors. To each his own gifts and calling. I've been bi-vocational church planting by choice for 7 years. Working in an inner city economically challenging context makes it difficult to support pastors full-time. And good luck meeting in a city rowhouse. In my case pastoring full-time with full benefits was better financially in my former life. Plus I enjoyed the flexibility of planning my own schedule. Maybe I'm reading article wrong but it sounds a little like sour grapes. Yes, some church plants fail. Some established churches close. What the author presents is no solution for any problem although the house church model has merits in some contexts.

Bert Perry's picture

....in what he says in that we could argue that sending church planters to places already served by "fundagelical" churches hurts the church in multiple ways.  For starters, the support base of established churches is reduced, and to continue, the intergenerational "friction" that can "rub off" our cultural (and not Biblical) edges is reduced.  Hence you will get churches that are not stable financially or in membership, and that furthermore tend to be of a single generation.  

Sometimes that may need to happen, though, as many churches have a "fundagelical" pedigree, but have been so ossified that it's hard to reform them from within.  But that said, I think I'm saying something different from what Randy is saying, so I'm probably not supporting his statement here that much.  

:^)

Larry Nelson's picture

 

Steve Davis wrote:

The article seems to come from the author's own (bad?) experiences. 

Maybe I'm reading article wrong but it sounds a little like sour grapes.

 

I'm glad I'm not the only one who got those impressions.

Mark_Smith's picture

I am finishing a MDiv this year. As a result I have been keeping my nose to the ground about church openings in my area. Almost all are asking for the moon from their next pastor. I am not talking about large churches here. I mean small to middle churches. They want a MDiv in leadership or pastoral ministry. Several have specifically said they don't want a person with a specialty in Bible or Theology. They want "leadership".  They want 5 years of experience. Several said they only want GARBC qualifications. They want full-time only (no job on the side), who will be at every meeting, and be at the emergency room in 15 minutes if Johnny falls out of a tree  so you can comfort them. Oh... and the salary is $27500. You are welcome!

Don Johnson's picture

If you have a small town (five or six thousand or less) and have two or three fundamentalist / evangelical churches, it's not a good candidate, or perhaps not the best candidate, for another church. But even then, depending on the Lord's leading, it is possible that a new church could be started. The church planter should target lost people, in any case, not poach people off other churches, and find a way to survive the long struggle of growing a church from the ground up.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Bert Perry's picture

....on nearing completion of your MDIV.  Didn't know you were doing that, and good luck on the pastoral search.

(and I wish, wish, wish I could argue with you on many churches having unreasonable expectations, but I can't, and so I won't...blessings)

TylerR's picture

Notice none of those "requirements" are actually Scriptural . . . Some churches don't want a Pastor. They want a slave. They don't realize it, but they're actually looking for a slave.  

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Bert Perry's picture

I used to tease my pastor that his proper title was not episcopos, pastoros, or presbuteros, but rather doulos, noting the obvious "promotion" from diakonos.  I apologize for any similarity of my smart aleck quip to reality too many good men meet up with.

Jim's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

I am finishing a MDiv this year. [and] Oh... and the salary is $27500. You are welcome!

The tension the man of God (aspiring pastor) has:

  • One wants to serve vocationally (a healthy, godly aspiration as is taught in 1 Timothy 3:1, "This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work." )
  • God's people (organized as churches) need pastors
  • Some churches cannot pay a man his worth. Some can but are unwilling to
  • On $27500, ]]>baristas with tips could do better]]>
  • As for the man of God, this rule also applies: "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel [Greek ἄπιστος meaning "without faith"]." 1 Timothy 5:8 

Here in Minnesota, the MBA has about 4 churches needing pastors and are so small that they probably can't scratch together $ 20K

The irony is that there are retired men with MDivs who could go and serve with little or no pay (I'm one of them who has 2 pensions, social security and income from investments);  but it's a young man's game and churches won't even look at an older guy.

But as long as there are young starry eyed new seminary grads willing to work for peanuts, this situation will continue

Steve Davis's picture

Larry Nelson wrote:

Steve Davis wrote:

The article seems to come from the author's own (bad?) experiences. 

Maybe I'm reading article wrong but it sounds a little like sour grapes.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who got those impressions.

I went to what I think is author's website with Donate button. I'm going to write an article on "Why Parachurch Ministries with Someone's Name Attached Should Not Be Funded."  :-)

I think I'd rather support church planting. 

Rob Fall's picture

MBBC\MBU's founder Dr. Cedarholm stated MBBC's purpose was to support and serve the local church.
 

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Joeb's picture

i don't know what to say.  Mark's Point is a really good one.  My brother who was a Pastor pointed out to me a lot of the churches today don't put any requirements on any church members to serve with the pastor.  Oh you don't like that do what ever you want.  So the church members just go to church and be sponges and the Pastors does everything and pay him nothing to boot. 

My other question is are Pastors coming out of Schools like BJU and becoming "Convergents" and rejecting rule based Fundamentalism.  In 20 years are the rule based Fundamentalist Churches going to be almost empty and slightly filled with the last few diehards being gray haired old people. Of course still having their tape measures handy to measure any visiting young ladies skirts  

Is this person against church planting really against anything that takes away from the rule based Christianity. Maybe the rule based Christianity Churches need to die.  What if it is our Lord's will is to leave these churches in the review mirror.  Especially if their is a wake of destruction in the back wash of these churches.  

Larry Nelson's picture

Excerpt (speaking of church plants):

"In short, here’s what goes wrong: we perpetuate a system that isn’t working. It isn’t working because so many churches fail (after huge financial investment) and the churches that do succeed are very often (possibly most often) aberrant to the values and ideals of the founding church."

--------------------------------------------------------------------

The church I belong to has planted seven (independent) churches, in 1971, 1979, 1986, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008.

Well, one of those churches (2004) was on shaky ground as far as finances goes when the recession of 2008 hit.........and it very nearly folded.  (Being an independent plant, they were no longer supported by us.)

Another plant (1979) has gone down some paths that aren't a reflection of my church.  For example, they have adopted a seeker-sensitive model/style of church services that we don't condone, and they are now egalitarian in some of their pastoral positions.

So, as the OP article stated, we've seen some downsides to planting independent churches.  Which are among the reasons we chose to instead launch a second site (a second campus) last year, and become a multi-site church.

As an already large church, we launched our second site on solid financial-footing.  We calculated that it would require roughly $500,000 in funding (rent, salaries, equipment...) for the first two years of its operation, and our leadership presented this figure to the congregation to be raised.  Within only about 4 or 5 weeks, something like $687,000 was raised specifically earmarked for this site----so it was launched with over two years of its costs already raised.

Also, being a second-site, under the same elder board & pastoral leadership, there's no risk that it's going to wander off on any doctrinal tangents contrary to its founding church.

Joel Shaffer's picture

According to the former Baptist General Conference  (now called Converge), their success rate of church planting is around 90% becoming self-supporting. This goes against the grain of Randy White's main point, in that church planting is a failing endeavor.   However, it must be noted that the majority of Converge's church plants have taken place in growing suburban communities and urban hipster communities where there is economic stability and mobility.   I wonder if these denominations with their church planting movements will ever get the vision to plant churches in impoverished urban and rural communities or even aging suburban communities (where many of the urban poor are fleeing to due to urban gentrification)?     

Joeb's picture

I remember as a young child my church blessing a  mixed race couple an African American Husband and White wife who were going on the mission field together.  This was in Iowa around 1964 when other Baptists were racist haters. Interesting maybe Converge's success is due to love thy neighbor versus hate thy neighbor if his skin is not white or for some other boloney reason.  

Now Joel's point is good about the neighborhoods being targeted for church planting.  Easier to score a buck in forests  with an over abundance of healthy bucks with big rakes and plenty to eat versus a desert with  little or no life.  

Joel I have met a couple who were wealthy with their kids out of the house and choose to give everything to a ministry in North Philadelphia and known in my Lawman days as Beirut  

I met this gentleman when he bought a Camry from me   He was an Attorney by profession and they sold their house in the rich suburbs and were moving into a row house in North Philadelphia ie drug  market central  

He told me the church plant was being done by a Baptist Pastor and it was a mixed race church   What this guy shared with me is he took  care of his 5 kids educating them and giving them a start in life   Once that was done him and his wife felt they were called into this ministry  He did pro bono legal work for the poor but his main job was evangelize   From what he told me except for a basic income he gave everything he had to the ministry   I would guess millions   What a testimony  So the Lord does not need churches to plant he will get his own soldiers if need be  

Now from time to time I go into the hood delivering car parts to local businesses owned by African American Men Asian Men and White men Even though their is great poverty you find niches where the neighborhoods are outright vibrant   Usually these niches seem to have solid churches in them   It's absolutely amazing  

You have to remember Philly is city of 1.5 million people but posts the same number of murders as NY,NY  a city of 7.5 mil  The streets in North Philly are like the OK Coral at night and the customers of the drug dealers these days are predominantly white Kids from the suburbs  Totally changed since my days working the hood but people are taking their city back and from what I see it's usually has a solid Christian Church behind this movement  

In fact the ministry called Teen Haven working in Philadelphia is lead by a guy who went to my church in Princeton He was a Princeton Graduate and a Graduate of  Grace Seminary  He was also a Protégée of Dr Donald Fullerton  When I was a Teenager we thought this guy would get eaten up in the hood because he was such a straight laced white guy from a rich family  Guess what we were wrong this guy is still working in Philly after forty years   What a testimony  This guy went there single because he felt God was calling him 

 

Larry Nelson's picture

 

Randy White, the author of the OP article, identifies this as being one problem with church planting: 

"the churches that do succeed are very often (possibly most often) aberrant to the values and ideals of the founding church."

-------------------------------------

As I mentioned in my last post above, my church has seen this occur in one or more of our seven independent church plants (dating from 1971 - 2008). 

I also mentioned that our most recent effort (2016) at church planting became not an independent church plant but a second site/campus of our church, meaning that we became a multi-site church (i.e. one church that has more than one location).

How does this prevent the problem that White mentions above?  it does so because be not making the new church site independent, it is not free to sooner or later go off on any tangents contrary to its founding church.  Being under the same Statement of Faith, Constitution, Covenant, governance/leadership, and pastoral oversight as its founding church, direct accountability is maintained.

Is that always a guarantee of doctrinal soundness?  Of course not.  Another site will only be as orthodox as its predecessor site(s), but at least it will not be different.

Larry Nelson's picture

 

Joel Shaffer wrote:

According to the former Baptist General Conference  (now called Converge), their success rate of church planting is around 90% becoming self-supporting. This goes against the grain of Randy White's main point, in that church planting is a failing endeavor.   However, it must be noted that the majority of Converge's church plants have taken place in growing suburban communities and urban hipster communities where there is economic stability and mobility.   I wonder if these denominations with their church planting movements will ever get the vision to plant churches in impoverished urban and rural communities or even aging suburban communities (where many of the urban poor are fleeing to due to urban gentrification)?     

.....that touches on a lot of Joel's highlighted point above:

"Why Large Churches Should Target Urban Settings"

Excerpt:

"[O]ne of the hardest places to plant is in the heart of a big city’s urban core.

Obviously, there are a lot of reasons for this: Traditionally, it’s been more expensive to plant in the city. The people you tend to reach are either poor, (or simply less likely to give or be interested in church). Lastly, permanent land is harder to get the deeper you go into the city. Zoning discrimination is rampant in urban cores. Thus, if a church doesn’t have a lot of money and legal firepower, it can be hard for churches to acquire property.

Thus, for much of the last 40 years, churches have been abandoning the urban cores of most cities. For example, in Minneapolis/St. Paul (where I live), over 78 notable churches moved out of the city to the suburbs! I don’t believe that most of them did it for ethnic reasons as much as financial ones. But trends like this aren’t limited to the Twin Cities. Indeed, most U.S. cities have their fastest growing churches on the outer rims."

http://www.peterhaas.org/?p=1985

NOTE: I'm not agreeing with every point the author makes in his article; these are his perspectives.  It's interesting that after he voices several arguments AGAINST planting in urban cores, the article concludes with several arguments FOR planting in urban cores---and an announcement that the church he pastors is (at the time of the article) doing exactly that.

Bert Perry's picture

It's worth noting that most towns and cities have a number of church buildings which are no longer being used as churches, and since church architecture really doesn't usually work well for other uses--ceilings are too high and all--that just might be a great way to get affordable buildings without the city screaming about lost tax revenue.  They simply aren't getting much from those sites to begin with.  

Now parking....that's a harder nut to crack!  But re-using a dying church's building worked well for Family Baptist and All Nations Baptist in Minneapolis, no?

Joel Shaffer's picture

Larry Nelson wrote:

 

 

Joel Shaffer wrote:

 

According to the former Baptist General Conference  (now called Converge), their success rate of church planting is around 90% becoming self-supporting. This goes against the grain of Randy White's main point, in that church planting is a failing endeavor.   However, it must be noted that the majority of Converge's church plants have taken place in growing suburban communities and urban hipster communities where there is economic stability and mobility.   I wonder if these denominations with their church planting movements will ever get the vision to plant churches in impoverished urban and rural communities or even aging suburban communities (where many of the urban poor are fleeing to due to urban gentrification)?     

 

 

.....that touches on a lot of Joel's highlighted point above:

"Why Large Churches Should Target Urban Settings"

Excerpt:

"[O]ne of the hardest places to plant is in the heart of a big city’s urban core.

Obviously, there are a lot of reasons for this: Traditionally, it’s been more expensive to plant in the city. The people you tend to reach are either poor, (or simply less likely to give or be interested in church). Lastly, permanent land is harder to get the deeper you go into the city. Zoning discrimination is rampant in urban cores. Thus, if a church doesn’t have a lot of money and legal firepower, it can be hard for churches to acquire property.

Thus, for much of the last 40 years, churches have been abandoning the urban cores of most cities. For example, in Minneapolis/St. Paul (where I live), over 78 notable churches moved out of the city to the suburbs! I don’t believe that most of them did it for ethnic reasons as much as financial ones. But trends like this aren’t limited to the Twin Cities. Indeed, most U.S. cities have their fastest growing churches on the outer rims."

http://www.peterhaas.org/?p=1985

NOTE: I'm not agreeing with every point the author makes in his article; these are his perspectives.  It's interesting that after he voices several arguments AGAINST planting in urban cores, the article concludes with several arguments FOR planting in urban cores---and an announcement that the church he pastors is (at the time of the article) doing exactly that.

I think the author makes some good points, but I also think the author is a little naive and even ignorant of all the social factors that went on with "White Flight." In Grand Rapids MI, where I reside, there were 6 GARBC churches that moved (1 church moved 2x) out of the urban core-following their people out of the city due to white flight in the 60's through the 80's. There were alot of different factors taking place that led to white flight.  Neighborhoods and schools were being forcefully desegregated, for example.  In Grand Rapids, banks and real estate companies practiced redlining until the early 1970's (which kept blacks in the ghetto and out of white neighborhoods) When blacks were finally able to move out of the ghetto and into white neighborhoods, many people fled the city because they were afraid their property values would go down.  It became a self-fulfilling prophesy because so many people put up their houses for sale due to fear, that the housing value in GR plummeted greatly.  Of course the newly formed housing developments in the suburbs weren't plummeting because they didn't have to deal with all of this social upheaval.  Also, there were laws that bussed minorities from across the city into city schools which were primarily white and many whites either left the city or left those schools to start Christian schools.    So of course churches and church plants in the suburbs exploded in numbers because there were so many people that migrated out of the city.  Over the past 50 years or so, the evangelical church really hasn't grown.  Rather its only exchanged real estate.   

To plant self-supporting, self-propagating, and self-governing churches in impoverished urban neighborhoods, they need to include business and economic training as part of their disciple-making strategy.  In the latter 20th century, Fundamental churches and even some conservative evangelical churches  shied away from urban church-planting among the poor because wholistic ministry that was needed seemed too much like the social gospel.    I am glad, however, that many conservative evangelicals and even some fundamentalists are showing a greater amount of interest in church planting in urban/impoverished communities.  For example, Dr. Ken Davis at Clark Summit University is doing a great job teaching seminary students how to do urban/multi-ethnic church planting in urban, impoverished neighborhoods.  But even now, urban neighborhoods are changing.  Many of the poor cannot afford to live in the urban core anymore and are flocking to aging suburbs and that is going to affect these suburban churches as they do ministry.       

 

Joeb's picture

Joel your desire to serve the Urban areas is very refreshing.  The whites did flee the city.  When I was in College at Drexel (1975-1980) 10 th Presbyterian Church was one of the few churches that did not flee Philadelphia with other white churches. They stood fast preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ when it was not fashionable to live in the city.

Now of course Philadelphia like NY,NY is becoming gentrified. Not as fast as NYNY but it is happening.  Now all of a sudden it's fashionable to plant a hipster church in area with a lot of milenials but not so in the tougher poorer neighborhoods as Joel pointed out   

 

Larry Nelson's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

It's worth noting that most towns and cities have a number of church buildings which are no longer being used as churches, and since church architecture really doesn't usually work well for other uses--ceilings are too high and all--that just might be a great way to get affordable buildings without the city screaming about lost tax revenue.  They simply aren't getting much from those sites to begin with.  

Now parking....that's a harder nut to crack!  But re-using a dying church's building worked well for Family Baptist and All Nations Baptist in Minneapolis, no?

Parking for churches is certainly an issue in dense urban locations.  Bethelehem Baptist in downtown Minneapolis provides an example:

"Parking at the Downtown Campus:

We have more than adequate off-site parking, but on-site parking is very limited and therefore is restricted to first-time visitors, the elderly, and handicapped.

See our Downtown street map that highlights available parking for worship services and Wednesday evenings.

Summary of Available Parking

Lots North of Bethlehem: The North Lot between 6th Street & 7th Street (free during weekend & Wednesday services; tell attendant you're going to Bethlehem)
Lot West of Bethlehem: Bethlehem Warehouse, ½ block West on 7th Street
Lot South of Bethlehem: Professional
Litho Lot, ½ block S 13th Ave (only during Sunday worship services & for other special events)"

https://www.hopeingod.org/about-us/intro-bethlehem/faqs#parking downtown 

Bethlehem has on-site parking for just a fraction of their attendance---the majority of attendees have to park up to a few blocks away.

Their compact property also resulted in something unusual for a church: besides their sanctuary, they have a 5-story building (1 below ground, and 4 above ground).  They needed to build UP to preserve even the limited amount of on-site parking spaces they do have:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/edkohler/4103646259/

G. N. Barkman's picture

Several years ago, my wife and I attended Tenth Presbyterian, Philadelphia, where her sister and husband were members.  I don't recall any parking lot.  All parking was on the surrounding streets.  When we returned to our car, I had a parking ticket.  Apparently one must leave a 10th bulletin on the dash to avoid a parking violation, and Marti's sister forgot to inform us.  We returned to North Carolina, and it was months before we were able to get the parking ticket resolved.

G. N. Barkman

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