6 Predictions for the Future of Church Planting

Over the past two years I have had fun traveling around the U.S. meeting with pastors, planters and potential church planters. There is no doubt the landscape continues to change and culture is shifting. Some of those things are easy to see, and some we see in the rearview mirror.  

Predicting future trends is both an art and a science. There are many authors and bloggers out there better than me at predicting the next wave. However, I want to share some of the insights that I’ve noticed through numerous conversations and trainings with the hope it encourages and inspires you. Think of these things as written in pencil. My hope is as we talk about these trends it brings greater clarity for future kingdom impact.

Here are my six predictions about the future of church planting:

1. Local churches will become the engine that drives church planting.

Church multiplication over the last century has been primarily driven by denominations. A ton of great things have happened and started from these efforts. The problem that still presents itself is the pace of planting has been too slow to keep up with recent population trends. Furthermore, denominations have been handcuffed by finances, meaning they can only plant what they can afford.

What would happen if every church-focused its effort on raising up the next generation of church planters from within? How would the landscape change if every church committed to sending two or even five planters in a five-year period? I see the role of networks and denominations slowly moving to resourcing and serving the local church to reap a fantastic harvest.

2.  More stickers on the NASCAR car.

Kingdom collaboration is a growing trend. The idea that we feel we are better together is moving away from a Christian cliche to becoming a reality. I see churches and planters across America operating with the notion that we can accomplish more together than we could alone.

Part of the change is that the newest generation of planters are more missiologically driven than being drawn to church growth books and conferences. More and more planters are seeing themselves as missionaries called to a given region, community or city. As a result, the younger generation of pastors will be focused less on denominational loyalties and more focused on reaching their communities. Coming together as local teams of leaders with a common focus will become the primary way churches impact their communities.

3. Churches will become more diverse.

Every time I walk into my local Starbucks or grocery store, it is evident the racial and ethnic landscape of North America is changing. The influx of immigrants and their migration to cities all across North America will continue, and it is spurring the need for church planting efforts to fully embrace and achieve diversity within the local church. Early stages of this are more pressing in urban contexts.

The more I talk to younger planters across differing ethnicities, diversity is a growing desire. And in many of these contexts it’s becoming reality.

4. Bi-vocational planting will become more accepted.

Resources have been a challenge, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. To plant more churches, the need for a planter to be bi-vocational or a tent maker will also increase. If a church cannot become self-sufficient within a five-year period, I would say the bi-vocational approach is the best.

If this comes to be true, we need to rethink our approach to training, coaching and even educating pastors. I would love to see more colleges and seminaries have educational tracks that continue to equip potential church planters with a strong theological and missiological foundation. But what would happen if we also help them have a vocational platform to support themselves in the early years? We cannot do bi-vocational planting and expect the pastors to act and maintain a schedule as full-time pastors. I suggest that more of our trainings, conferences and networking need to have a growing online presence.

5. Modular church becomes a go-to tool.

Just as there are many different styles for preaching and music in the church, there are many methods for planting and multiplying the church. In many urban contexts the ability to purchase land and build a building may never become a reality. If we want to reach the people in our communities, we will have to become more creative in how and where we do church. Some of my all-time creative locations I have heard of are: movie theaters, an Italian restaurant, an abandoned gas station, night clubs, etc.

If God is calling you plant a church, be creative and take a risk.

6. Spiritual dynamics drive the movement of church planting.

Thirty years ago there is no doubt that the movement of church planting was something driven by the Holy Spirit. Now hear me out: I am not saying this is no longer the case. However, I think we live in a time when there are more books written, conferences to attend and networks to join than ever before. They are great resources for those who want to plant. The danger is that some can become so strategic that the strategy, not the movement of God, drives church planting. We have to remember it is great to have a lot of “how to’s” out there, but we can never over-strategize what is spiritual.

I have a great hope for the church as the future unfolds. I hope you do, too. The mission is too important to lose hope.