LifeWay survey: New UMCs do well at reaching unchurched

A 2015 survey indicates that United Methodist new church starts have outpaced new church starts by other protestant denominations in three of five key benchmarks: average worship attendance, new decisions for Christ and reaching previously unchurched people.

The survey, conducted by LifeWay Research, spanned 17 U.S. evangelical denominations and church planting networks. LifeWay said the church planting survey was the most thorough in almost a decade. United Methodists represented 11.5 percent of the respondents.

“I believe the survey shows us verifiable proof that the efforts of our annual conferences to improve our church planting process is yielding positive results,” said the Rev. Dr. Bob Crossman, a retired elder in the Arkansas Conference and a new church strategist with Path1, a division of United Methodist Discipleship Ministries, in an April 15 news release.

United Methodist congregations averaged 84 new commitments to Christ during the first five years, while the typical new church in the survey had 78.

United Methodists need to improve two benchmarks included in the survey: 64 percent of churches surveyed were financially self-sustaining by the fifth year, compared to 42 percent for the United Methodists; and 22 percent of new churches started a daughter church within five years, compared to only 13 percent among UMCs.

Every mission field is different, and regions of the country are also different, Crossman said. “But if there is a particular activity that has yielded fruit nationwide—that resulted in an amazing benchmark—then our planters need to be testing that in their mission field.”

Read Path1’s executive summary of the LifeWay survey here. For a copy of the full survey, email Candace Lewis, executive director of Path 1 New Church Starts, at clewis@umcdiscipleship.org.