Category Archives: Church Planting Models

Church Planting By Adoption

A denomination or congregation connects with an existing group for a restart. There are a number of ways this may happen.

An existing group invites a larger congregation to help restart by injecting vision, resources and leadership, and perhaps people and finances.

A congregation may enter into a symbiotic relationship with another group who have the capacity to reach a particular people group. For example, a traditional Sunday morning congregation could invite a Pentecostal team to plant an evening youth-focused congregation.

A congregation or denomination could invite an existing group to ‘sign up’. In some cases this group may be growing well but needs a resourcing partner and/or network.


An existing group may have existing access to a network of relationships and entry points into local community.

The effective combination of resources and local knowledge

Fresh input from a wider leadership team can help a local group get over earlier problems.


A local group may have struggled to grow because of dysfunctional attitudes in the leadership and membership. These need to be explored as they’re uncovered.
The local group and new sponsor/partner need to ensure that vision and values are compatible – not necessarily identical.

Church Planting by Colonization

A sending church commissions one or two couples to go and live in a new area some distance away. This could involve moving home and perhaps starting in new employment. This model is most likely to work effectively in new housing areas.

The team would need to have a lifestyle that allows plenty of time for connecting with local people. Team members would need to have the capacity for self-starting leadership in which sustainable patterns of discipleship are expressed.

This model makes it possible to start in an area where there are no  local church able to plant. A sending church with an excess of local leadership can use and develop leadership skills. A sending church can become actively involved in missionary situation in the same country.

This model requires particular gifts and high commitment. There’s a high risk of burnout, particularly if quick results are expected. Starting with a small team means planning for a long term venture in which rapid results are rare.  If the small team are to be freed to put time into the venture there’s a high cost of financial support. Supervision and support may be difficult at a distance.

Strawberry Runners

Strawberry RunnerThe ‘Strawberry Runner’ is a common model for church planting in Australia. Also known as the satellite model, or multi-campus model, this approach keeps a new congregation strongly connected with the base. Staff allocated to the new campus or setting remain on the team for the sending church.

The strawberry runner model makes it possible to start a congregation in non-traditional settings in which a conventional church may not connect.

Advantages for this model include the capacity to adapt to local needs while retaining the resources of a larger church. The small congregation can focus on providing an intimate setting for discipleship and provide an opportunity for members to attend the large celebration offered by the sending church. Small congregations renting property for worship can benefit from the security and credibility of offices and facilities offered by the home base’s permanent building.

One disadvantage is that some ‘strawberry runners’ will wish to become separate congregations, maybe before the sending base leadership is prepared for that. The sending church may be depending on the giving income from the new congregation.

Another challenge is the energy required to sustain a multiplicity of congregations in different settings.

Daughter Churches

Church Planting The ManualI’m starting a series on models of church planting, using material from Church Planting: The Training Manual, by Martin Robinson and David Spriggs. The book, published in 1995, is out of print.

First post is on three ways of starting ‘daughter churches’, the most widely used model.

The concept of ‘daughter church’ usually implies a relationship of early dependence that may lead to independence or inter-dependence. Daughters usually grow up and leave home. They may share some of the genetic code of their parents but they always take on their own personalities and capacity to make decisions based on their own distinct set of values.

Planting in a surrounding neighbourhood
This model is usually used when a congregation recognises that there’s a critical mass of members who are travelling from a neighbouring area. This would be the most common model of church planting used by the Uniting Church, and the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational denominations before union in 1977.


  • Easier to evangelise neighbours
  • Allows church to identify more closely with needs of area
  • Area may have strong sense of identity
  • Shared values and assumptions easier to develop with group who already know each other


  • Living in area does not necessarily mean call to join plant
  • Attraction factors for larger church may not be replicated in plant
  • Group may find it difficult to see new area with fresh eyes

New style of worship in same building or nearby
How to Start A New Service I would say that this is the most common model we’re working with today. With an increased awareness of subcultures, we’re getting used to the idea that there is no one ‘Uniting Church style’ for worship. My concern is that we’re still limited to models of worship that don’t mean a lot to the wider community. A useful resource is Charles Arn’s book, How To Start A New Service.


  • Reach a new group of people
  • Avoid unhelpful tensions in mother church
  • Pursue excellence in variety of styles


  • People artificially divided
  • Unresolved tensions transferred to mother-daughter relationship
  • Freezing of development within one church
  • Potential to overlook new people and focus only on style

Reaching Other Socio-Economic Groups
This model has the benefit of helping a congregation look beyond the ‘parish’ or ‘postcode’ mentality. In any given area there will be people who are open to exploring a connection with faith who may not have any affinity with the cultural setting of existing congregations in their area. Donald McGavran, missiologist, is well known for pointing out that people are most likely to explore faith with people in their own cultural setting. The crucial factor here is setting. Gym members and pub punters may never feel comfortable in a ‘church building’, unless it doubles as a gym and a pub.


  • Flexibility in language, music, worship style to reach across cultural barriers
  • People don’t have to leave their cultural group to become Christians


  • Danger of reinforcing barriers
  • Danger of cultural ghetto
  • Numbers may be too small to support a new church