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Study: Black Church Plants Grow

BY STAFF                                                                                         ©2013 Baptist Press 

A steady increase in attendance has been the overall trend among African American churches planted prior to 2012, LifeWay Research learned from "the first research project of its size and scope," as researchers described it, "to measure characteristics distinctive to the African American context."

The average first-year Sunday attendance of 37 doubled by the fourth year among the 290 African American church plants in the multidenominational survey aimed at identifying characteristics of healthy new congregations.

Worship attendance, new commitments to Christ, community demographics, church culture, facility usage, promotion and outreach, and church sponsorship and funding were studied in the project.

"This research has described in detail African American church planting today," said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. "More importantly, this research has begun productive conversations among church planting leaders across the U.S. about how best to train and equip new African American church plants."

Stetzer added that large national studies on church planting have been conducted in the past, "but it would be wrong to assume that national factors are the same for every sub-population of church plants."

The survey identified three characteristics that had the most positive impact on worship attendance, which were present in more than two-thirds of the churches: delegation of leadership roles to volunteers; leadership training for new church members; and a plan of personal spiritual formation for the church planter.

The study found worship style impacts attendance. The most common worship style used by African American church plants was blended, cited by 45 percent of those surveyed, followed by contemporary gospel, contemporary and urban contemporary, ranging from 12-14 percent. However, church plants with a more distinctive style, urban contemporary for instance, had higher attendance than churches using a blended style. 

The average number of new commitments to Christ for the first year of a church plant was 16, LifeWay Research found. The average number of new commitments peaked in year three at 20 and then remained at 12 or higher for the remainder of the years measured.

The study identified two characteristics that stood out as having a positive impact on new commitments to Christ and were present among more than two-thirds of the churches: door-to-door evangelism (75 percent) and the establishment of a new member class (68 percent).

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