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ga, Tennessee, to be the most churched city in America. But when I recently dug into the religious data about my community, I discovered 70 percent of my county’s population has no religious affiliation (Christian or otherwise). That’s a surprising and important data point to keep in mind when considering whether to plant a church. TheARDA.com is a useful tool that allows you to research the religious affiliation of your area based on city name, zip code and other search parameters. Knowing the religious makeup of your community and the characteristics of those who live there is vital in determining not only the need for new churches but also the type of church you ought to plant. 3. Map the members of your church. Where do your members live? With a database of your members’ addresses, you can match pockets of your members with underserved areas of your community. These pockets of members can potentially serve as the core group for the launch of a new church. Missiologist Keelan Cook has made mapping a fairly simple process. His mapping tool uses Google Maps to let you quickly identify the geographic makeup of your congregation. You can access his tool at bit.ly/keelancook. Once you have uploaded your membership database into the tool, it will produce a digital map that will allow you to identify your members’ areas of concentration. 4. Map the churches in your community. It may require a bit more time to accomplish this task, as you will need to enter the addresses of every local church into a database. Then you can upload them into the tool mentioned above and produce a digital map pinpointing every church in your community. Too often churches overlook this step. They simply look to identify pockets of need without carefully considering

who else might already be working in those areas. We need to recognize we are partners, not competitors, with other like-minded congregations and plant churches accordingly. 5. Identify growth areas. The final step is setting priorities based on growth projections. Population movement is significant in evaluating the need for a church plant. Expanding areas need more churches, and congregations in those areas have greater potential to grow. If migration patterns and growth areas are not easy to identify, this information can often be found by contacting your city manager or chamber of commerce. These steps will help you develop a database of target areas and a methodology of church planting. But the value of studying your community goes beyond knowing where you should plant a church and what kind of church to plant. As you go through these steps, your own congregation will likely gain a renewed approach to missional living. You’re leading your church well by helping your congregation to think intentionally, strategically, and missionally about the community. As you train them to think about a church plant, you’re also training them to think like missionaries about their own neighborhoods. Church planting is hard. Leading a congregation to plant other churches is hard. However, the commitment to plant another church matters—not just for the growth of God’s kingdom but also for the growth of the congregation you lead. It’s worth the risk. MICAH FRIES (@MicahFries) is senior pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and cohost of the EST.church podcast.

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DIG DEEPER • Church in the Making: What Makes or Breaks a New Church Before it Starts by Ben Arment Available at LifeWay Christian Stores Facts & Trends • 45

Facts & Trends -Spring 2018 - SOAR  

Facts & Trends is designed to help pastors and other Christian leaders navigate the issues and trends impacting the church by providing info...

Facts & Trends -Spring 2018 - SOAR  

Facts & Trends is designed to help pastors and other Christian leaders navigate the issues and trends impacting the church by providing info...