By Linda Stanley

Recently, Leadership Network sponsored a briefing at Central Christian Church in Henderson, Nevada that included presentations from local churches that have high capacity church multiplication centers. These churches are participants in a five-year pilot project that was designed as a strategic partnership between each of them and Leadership Network. The project began at Leadership Network as a whiteboard exercise exploring new ways to resource local churches who wanted to sustain and accelerate their high capacity church multiplication movements. In 2000, with partners in place, the pilot project got underway.

When we began the project, two qualifications for a local church to be invited to participate were a proven, two-year track record of planting at least four or more new churches each year, and a plan to sustain and/or grow their church planting ministry beyond this level. At the time, we considered this level of activity to be “high capacity church planting.”

I have had the privilege of working with the leadership teams from each of these churches since the project’s inception. Now, entering the fifth and final project year, the results are impressive. Collectively, 15 church multiplication centers (CMCs) have planted 1,093 new churches in the U.S. and 566 churches internationally over the past four years. In 2004 alone, 11 of our project’s CMCs planted 466 new churches in the U.S. and 266 churches internationally

Although measurable outcomes are important and provide one means of judging tangible results, there is a more valuable aspect of this project for the broader church community. It is revealed in the key elements of effectiveness inherent in these high capacity church multiplication movements. Here are some of the keys to success:

The 5 S’s of Effective Church Multiplication Movements:
• Strong Leadership – strong visionary leadership driven from the top.
• Sure Identity – the DNA of the leader, the church, and future generations of plants are inextricably interwoven.
• Systematic Process – some sort of process is in place for getting new planters “drawn, developed, and deployed.”
• Significant Resources – a significant portion of their time, energy, and money relative to their other priorities is committed to church multiplication.
• Strategies for the Long Run – they stick with it.

Let’s unpack these elements and examine a few examples.

Strong Leadership
Without exception, every CMC leadership team began with a passion to reach out, evangelize, and transform lives through the planting and multiplication of new churches. The leaders of each CMC involved declared church multiplication to be their primary mission, top priority, and a direct command from Jesus Christ.

Sure Identity
Each of the CMCs participating in the project emphasizes the importance of inculcating and passing along their unique multiplication DNA to succeeding generations. All of them have some form of covenant agreement that serves to bind together their network members through differing combinations of shared beliefs, by-laws, constitutions, or statements of faith. A quick scan of their websites provides a sense of the unique identity and DNA of a particular church multiplication movement:

“The main goal of our Residency program is to plant churches.”  – Fellowship Associates – Little Rock, Arkansas

“We consider reproduction to be essential to the founding DNA of an Acts 29 church.” —   Acts 29 Network – Seattle, Washington

“A band of Christian leaders committed to the re-evangelization of 300 million people in America by starting, re-starting, and re-purposing churches.” —  Xpansion Ministries – Lexington, South Carolina

Systematic Process
Each CMC has a systematic process for “drawing, developing, and deploying” new planters. (We borrowed this phrase from Northwest Church Planting Center – Vancouver, Washington.) True to their innovative nature, every CMC involved continually strives to improve, streamline, or, in some cases, reinvent their systems and processes for greater effectiveness.

New Hope International’s Global Church Planting Network’s process includes the Emerging Leaders International program. This is a 3-5 year program that includes an undergraduate program from New Hope’s Pacific Rim Bible College or a Master’s degree obtained through Bethel Seminary in Transformational Leadership. In addition to the academic training, leaders are mentored in practical ministry skills through New Hope’s leadership practicums and individual coaching. New Hope International is a ministry of New Hope Christian Fellowship in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Church Multiplication Associates (CMA), based near Long Beach, California, is a voluntary association of several expanding organic church networks. CMA began Life Transformation Groups as the basis for individual spiritual growth and reproduction. Organic Church Planters’ Greenhouse training events bring leaders together for two regional weekend retreats and regular monthly gatherings to learn more about organic church planting. The M2M System consists of tools to assist mentors in establishing ongoing relationships with emerging leaders. TruthQuest is a system for training emerging leaders in systematic theology. Students meet one Saturday a month for a year, learning how to think theologically, and then pass that education on to others in their networks.

Significant Resources
In conversation with a senior pastor who leads one of the CMCs, I inquired about key indicators that I should look for when evaluating whether or not a local church is serious about starting or ramping up an existing church multiplication program. He replied that he always takes a look at whether or not the church has a full-time staff person dedicated to their church multiplication ministry, and what percentage of their annual budget is allocated to church multiplication.

The same key indicators hold true for all of the CMCs in our project. Each one of them has a minimum of one full-time director of church multiplication and at least a part-time administrative assistant. Most of them have added staff capacity to their church multiplication ministries over the past four years, enabling them to expand and accelerate their programs – in some cases, by tenfold.

Significant budget allocation for church multiplication works together with staff capacity. In this CMC group, annual budget allocation for church multiplication ranges from 20% to 100% of their annual budgets – depending on whether the allocation flows from the church budget to the CMC or whether the CMC operates with a discrete budget as a 501c3 organization. Often, actual resource allocation to church multiplication is much higher than reported on paper. In-kind services, paid and unpaid staff, volunteers, and a myriad of invaluable resources are provided free of charge to the multiplication ministry from those who know about it and passionately support it.

Strategies for the Long Run
Every CMC is committed to stick with their plan for the long haul. Many of the pastors began their local church ministries with church multiplication built into the plan from day one.

Bob Roberts, senior pastor of Northwood Church in Keller, Texas, and founder of Northwood Church Planting Center and the GlocalNet Church Multiplication Network, says, “Momentum can only be built when you’re going in the same direction. If you shift directions back and forth, you’ll never get anywhere. You have to have a long term strategy.” Bob would know since he’s been involved in church multiplication since 1992. Northwood CPC and GlocalNet have started more than 140 new churches in the U.S. over the past four years.

5S = K+
This cryptic equation can be translated as “The 5 Ss of Effective Church Multiplication Movements equal Kingdom building for the cause of Christ.” We are greatly encouraged to see increasing numbers of local churches in North America renew their passion for church multiplication. We agree with Tim Keller, senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church and founding leader of Redeemer Church Planting Center in New York City, that church planting is not only a biblical mandate from Christ, but also the best way to reach the unchurched, new residents, new generations, and new people groups for Christ.

If your church is interested in applying for participation in a future Leadership Network   Church Multiplication Leadership Community (CMLC) project, send an email requesting an application. Our new CMLC project is designed for local churches that either have an existing church planting/multiplication program or the church is in the final stage of implementing a new planting program. Churches are not required to plant at the same high capacity level as the ministries cited in this writing. We are considering adding a special track in this CMLC project for denominational organizations that have church multiplication programs. Senior pastors or the senior leader of the denominational organization need to request and submit the application. Send your email message to with “CMLC application” in the subject line.

There is much more to the Leadership Network church multiplication center story that will be told in a subsequent published report later this year. Look for it on our website in the Fall of 2005.