The Key To A Guaranteed Church Planting Fail


Do it Alone.

Tommy Gray shared in an interview last year that 70 percent of historic church plants in the United Methodist tradition in his region have either failed or never reached membership of over 125 people.  They were not accomplishing what they set out to do.

As they reflected on what wasn’t working Gray shared those things that have made them more successful recently.  Among those characteristics I found one unifying theme that seemed to spell doom to new plants; that was the attempt by the planter and expectation of others that he or she could do it alone.

There is little that correlates with failure more than isolation of the planter.  Note these ways it is possible to try to plant without healthy connection:

    • Without GodJim Griffith shares that this is most often seen in pastors neglecting the Great Commandment in pursuit of the Great Commission.
    • Without a Confirmed Calling or Gifting: Modern church planter assessments help potential planters see their likelyhood of success and can provide encouragement and confirmation of call.
    • Without Connection to the Church Past and PresentGriffith again shares that he can train any called person to plant churches as long as they all share one characteristic: robust, trinitarian faith.
    • Without a Sending Church: In Romans 10 Paul asks how they can go unless they are sent and sending churches provide a vital lifeline for encouragement and prayer.
    • Without Mentoring, Coaching or Apprenticeship: “I’m convinced that those that have been there… have done well and have a heart is going to be the key for developing the new leaders.” – Tommy Gray
    • Without Your Family: Guard your time with your family.  They need you and you need them.  Actually scheduling time with your family, in your agenda, is recommended.
    • Without A Team: Understand that all the gifts of ministry will not reside in the sole planter.  A planter should either start with a team or work to quickly build one to represent the five-fold gifts as they begin.
    • Without Broad Financial Support: Planting with partners and broad support provides greater support and accountability than one funding source.

What is needed: “A fundamental belief that people need a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; they need to be transformed and so there’s this core element of Christology that sits at the center that people need Christ, they need the transforming work of Christ in their lives,” said Tommy Gray. “Beyond that there’s also an understanding of the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives to empower and to do more than any of us could ever think about doing on our own.


John Wesley Leek serves the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church as a Commissioned Elder. He is appointed as associate pastor to Natchez, Misssissippi's Jefferson Street United Methodist Church. Jesus wrecked his life and he likes it. He probably likes you.