Autopsies on 22 failed church plants. Some powerful lessons.


Todd hunter performed what autopsies on 22 failed vineyard churches. His research revealed very powerful lessons to learn. The 10 most common reasons he found for a new church plant failure, are listed below. 

While this was research by Todd was quite some time ago now (1986), I have discovered it is extremely relevant for today. In fact every one of these failures I have seen or experienced in some way. There is a way around making sure a church plant limits the factors of failure listed below. But first, here are the 10 main results of an autopsy. 

1. The planter couldn't identify, recruit, train, deploy, nurture or monitor leaders.

 To be able to plant a church you need to be able to raise up and lead leaders. Developing leaders is your second main priority after hearing from God and obeying.

2. The planter had no clear plan.

A 2 to 5 year strategic plan written out on a couple of pages is critical. It helps with focused, being intentional and keeping the vision alive

3. The planter had ineffective or no evangelistic or gathering methods.

It is amazing how many planters just hope people would turn up to their church. Jesus says GO often we say COME. It's actually both/and. But how has the church planter tried to met the needs of the community? What has been his track record of gathering and going? Has he found some keys for his community?

4. The planter did not have a proven track record of working under supervision.

Where has the planter proved his pastoral ability and leadership experience. Who have they been accountable to? Is there a proven track record here? 

5. The planter was more of a nurturer, enabler, facilitator, then an assertive leader and equipper. 

"An equipper is a leader who actively sets goals for a congregation according to the will of God, obtains goal ownership from people, and sees that each church member is properly motivated and equipped to do his or her part in accomplishing the goals." C. Peter Wagner. Again, where has this been proven, before a person begins a new church.

6. The planter had no indigenous relational support mechanism.

With no support mechanism, or no lifeline to a sponsoring church, or no relationship to the sending church or pastor, it is to easy to drift, become defocused and discouraged. We all need people who call us back on track. We all need people who hold us accountable. 

A definition of accountability is; who do you relate to and respect, who will disagree with you and you seriously, over a period of time (sometimes days), consider what they have said... no matter how difficult or hard it is to hear what they have to say. 

Have you allowed people into your life who can address the hard stuff?  Every car, even those worth hundreds of thousands of dollars ALL have their blind spots. WE ALL have our BLIND spots. 

I find leaders say to me often, 'oh yes I'm accountable'. But a deeper look with a few questions and I've found they are deceiving themselves. WHO are you really accountable to? 

7. The planter had not done any serious research on the target community.

Demographics are important. You need to know who is in your community and what are the trends. It's important to know what is the history of an area, as it effects the spiritual and psychological climate. Also it's important to know what other churches are in your community, what have been their struggles and/or the keys for break through. 

8. The church attracted to many Hurting sick people.

The emphasis here is on "too many". Jesus came to heal hurt and sick people, but too many sick people is simply overwhelming and is an manageable. It's also unsustainable for leaders if not managed well. An answer is to put a strategy in place of known councillors in the area, where people could be sent for help. Or other healthy churches where they have sustainable systems in place that would better meet their need. 

9. The planter was not a good leader.

The planter has to have a high level of pioneer leadership ability. Again what has been the track record of this persons leadership? 

10. The church planter did not take responsibility for the church to grow.

Waiting for the church to mystically grow as a sure recipe for failure. The question remains, 'How and where are these issues addressed?'

In my opinion, the best way to address these issues is in the SEED stage of the new church plant. See my booklet on "How to start a church... Free download on my  website. 

The SEED is where the dream begins, plans are drawn up, prayer takes place, the team is beginning to be formed. It's at the SEED stage when all the 10 concerns should be addressed in someway. In fact the seed stage in any church plant is one of the most important phases. If this is hurried all missed it's a sure recipe for disaster. The tree is already in the seed. Make sure the SEED is uncluttered and has the right climate to grow naturally, supernaturally. 

Last modified onSunday, 20 September 2015 22:14
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