Monday, April 23, 2007

Planting New Churches – The PCUSA Road to Survival

It has been said that it takes more time, money and effort to redevelop an existing congregation than it does to start a new church. Year after year our Presbyteries try to renew our struggling, smaller congregations—it is a noble effort. Faithful sisters and brothers in Christ started those churches and have funded those ministries through out the life of those churches. We must not abandon our existing churches. However, if the Presbyterian Church is ever going to stop our membership freefall and lower our average age then we must look at new ways of doing ministry.

Let’s take a closer look at why church planting (new church development, in Presbyterian lingo) MUST be a strategy for the PCUSA’s future.

A new church generates excitement! Let’s be honest—it is difficult for a new person to “break into” an existing church. The people of the church have friendships and a way of doing things. The new person that is outgoing may be able to make some traction in the church. An introvert may never feel apart of the church. Things are different with a new church—EVERYONE IS NEW! No one is going to say, “We’ve never done it that way before.” Everyone feels needed. People are excited about their new church and its future. Excitement is in the air.

A new church can target particular populations. Our Presbytery is starting a new ministry to Cambodians in East Tacoma. This is a “targeted” ministry. Anyone can attend the ministry but the target population is Cambodian. There are thousands of people moving into the South Hill area of Puyallup (new subdivision are being built on top of new subdivision.), Orting (new houses and subdivisions are being built everywhere), Lacey (the expansion out toward the Yelm Highway is unbelievable), Spanaway and Bonney Lake (a 20,000 person planned community is starting to be built in addition to all of the other new subdivisions going in). Our current churches will have a difficult time in reaching these new folks. There is no Presbyterian Church in Orting, Bonney Lake or Spanaway! To my knowledge, our Presbytery is not planning to start churches in these areas. The traffic on the north end of South Hill makes it highly unlikely that the people in the new subdivisions will drive to the two existing churches in Puyallup. Most of the newer subdivisions are being filled with young families. We need to plant new churches that target these families!

A new church can quickly adapt to changing ministry conditions. It is difficult for a church to discontinue one of its ministries. Every ministry takes time and effort. The people involved in the particular ministry love the ministry and are committed to it. Yet, is the ministry the BEST use of those resources. Evergreen has a Men’s Breakfast that meets every Tuesday morning at 6:30 am at a local restaurant. The ministry was started by the founding pastor of the church. Most Tuesdays there are three people there (and I am one of them). Both of the other people (Tony who reads this blog is one of them) are VERY active in other ministries of the church. The format has remained the same since the group began—gather at the restaurant, say grace, talk, eat and leave. Two other people periodically join us for breakfast. Should the group “change” or, heaven forbid, disband? This just goes to show how difficult it is for existing ministries to adapt to changing conditions. New churches can quickly adapt.

Check back tomorrow for some additional thoughts on this topic.


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