The following post comes from David King, CBF new church starts associate, and was originally featured in the October/November issue of fellowship! magazine. This post is part of a series on CBF church starting and church starters. Check back throughout the week for posts about individual church starters, starting a church through CBF and how to support church starts. Visit www.thefellowship.info/churchstarts to learn more about CBF’s New Church Starts Initiative.
Starting new churches has always been part of CBF’s mission, and its importance within our Fellowship continues to grow. Some people ask, “Don’t we already have a church on every corner?” Others wonder, “With so many established churches struggling, should we not first reinvest our resources there?” Although there are areas with an overabundance of churches, many places have very few or no options. Starting new churches allows for new partnerships and missional engagement for a brighter future together.
Why start new churches?
Numerous studies agree that new churches are best at reaching unchurched and dechurched (former churchgoers) populations. New churches are also better at reaching younger generations, new residents and new socio-cultural groups. Many express an unwillingness to enter an established church because of past experiences, personal preconceptions or out of fear of unfamiliar language and traditions. But, many find new churches easier to enter and get involved.
New churches are often more response to new contexts. If a community has no active church presence or has changed so that the current congregations cannot reach the entire population, a new church can tailor itself to a target population. A diversity of churches in an area can transform faith communities into one of shared mission rather than existing as competitors of scare resources.
CBF needs to start new churches because it is in our DNA. Numbers are important, but church starts are never simply about counting baptisms or adding names to the membership roll. Church starts are about being on mission and expanding the Kingdom of God. Because we are excited about sharing who we are and whose we are, we should hope that our movement can multiply new churches, through which we will grow and develop more vital connections together as a Fellowship.
What is CBF church starting?
In contrast to some groups, CBF is not tied to a single model of church starting. If each church is indeed contextual and organic, it should emerge out of its particular cultural setting. There is no one type of CBF church start. Some of CBF’s newest churches have brought together Hispanic or African immigrants to meet in homes or spaces offered by established congregations.
New churches come in many varieties and appeal to all ages. CBF has recently started churches in retirement villages as well as among young professionals moving back into the hearts of urban cities. CBF church starts meet in all kinds of spaces. One new church meets in a mobile home park, another rents space from a suburban elementary school, while another has taken over a century-old sanctuary from a church that is closing its doors.
CBF church starts are not committed to any particular worship style. Some have contemporary music. Others value traditional hymns and ancient liturgies. Many are a mix of the above.
CBF church starts strive to reflect their cultural contexts. That often means making the intentional commitment to develop multi-racial and divers socio-economic communities. Like the Kingdom of God, church starts come in all shapes and sizes.
Why is church starting important for CBF?
While being part of a church start is not everyone’s calling, neither should church starting be set aside as a specialized ministry distinct from the work of the congregation. If we are serious about reaching out beyond our walls, we may find a need our church can’t meet or a context where our church can’t connect, where a new congregation can.
Helping to launch new churches opens opportunities for service, leadership and engagement. Church starts make us stronger as a Fellowship by providing new ways to connect. And it might serve to revitalize established churches through continued self-examination, renewal and rebirth.
CBF’s New Church Starts Initiative provides resources for individuals considering planting a church, core groups interested in establishing a CBF presence in their community and established congregations interested in supporting CBF’s church starting efforts throughout the United States. If you or your church is interested in partnering with CBF or considering starting a church, we would love to explore these possibilities with you.