NO PLACE LIKE CHURCH FOR THE HOLIDAYS: SURVEY

By Carol Pipes
LifeWay News Office

151216lifeway-christmas1NASHVILLE — Christmas is a great time to invite someone to church, according to a recent study by Nashville-based LifeWay Research. In a recent poll of 1,000 Americans, LifeWay Research found six out of 10 Americans typically attend church at Christmastime.

But among those who don’t attend church at Christmastime, a majority (57 percent) say they would likely attend if someone they knew invited them.

“Regular churchgoers may assume the rest of America has already made up their mind not to attend church,” said Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research. “In reality, many would welcome going to a Christmas service with someone they know.” [Read more…]

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STUDY: NEW CHURCHES SHOW APPEAL AMONG THE UNREACHED

Baptist Press

151209new-churches1NASHVILLE (BP) — America is launching new Protestant churches faster than it loses old ones, attracting many people who previously didn’t attend anywhere, new LifeWay Research studies show.

More than 4,000 new churches opened their doors in 2014, outpacing the 3,700 that closed, according to estimates from the Nashville-based research organization based on input from 34 denominational statisticians.

And on average 42 percent of those worshipping at churches launched since 2008 previously never attended church or hadn’t attended in many years, LifeWay Research found in an analysis of 843 such churches from 17 denominations and church planting networks.

The church planting study indicates newly planted churches are more effective than existing ones at drawing people who aren’t connected with a church, said Ed Stetzer, LifeWay Research executive director.

“In winning new converts to Christ, church plants are light-years ahead of the average church because of their focus on reaching the unchurched,” Stetzer said.

Characteristics of success

151209new-churches2Successful church launches have several factors in common, the 2015 National Church Planting Study shows:

— Meeting in a public space. New churches meeting in schools have significantly higher worship attendance than other new churches. They report more new first-time commitments to Christ and are more likely to become financially self-sufficient.

— Focusing on outreach. New churches offering sports leagues, social gatherings and children’s special events are significantly more likely than other startups to be congregations with a majority of people who previously did not attend church.

— Supporting their leaders. Adequate compensation and health insurance for the church planter are linked to higher worship attendance and a greater likelihood of financial independence for the new church.

— Starting more churches. New churches that invest in church planting and launch at least one additional new church in the first five years report higher worship attendance and more new commitments to Christ.

“Healthy new churches have an outward focus from day one, communicating every month that the goal is to be a multiplying church,” Stetzer said.

Back to basics

Though some pastors bristle at new churches coming into their community, they have more to learn — and less to fear — from the startup down the street, Stetzer said.

One lesson is the value of time-tested methods. While most church plants use the Internet for outreach, 77 percent say word of mouth and personal relationships are the most effective forms of publicity. Only 6 percent say social media is most effective. Nearly two-thirds of new churches (63 percent) say Bible study is their primary small group activity.

“It’s not the most innovative things that matter most. It’s the nuts and bolts,” Stetzer said.

“An existing church can take notice and ask, ‘Hey, are we doing those things? Are we making sure people in the community know we exist? Are we inviting people to come and making them feel welcome and all those things a church plant does?'”

In addition, Stetzer said, new churches can attract demographic groups that may be largely unreached by existing ones. Sixty percent of church plants aim to reach a cross-cultural or multiethnic group of people from the outset.

“It takes multiple methods to reach a diverse population,” Stetzer said. “The United States from its founding has been a very diverse population. A one-size-fits-all church has never been part of the American equation.

“As much as ever, we need different approaches to reach different types of people.”

Additional reports from the study will be available at NewChurches.com.

Methodology: The 2015 National Church Planting Study report analyzes 843 churches started in 2008 or later that continue to exist today. The study was sponsored by 17 denominations and church planting networks that participate in the Church Planting Leadership Fellowship: Assemblies of God, Baptist Missionary Association of America, Center for U.S. Missions (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod), Christian and Missionary Alliance, Converge Worldwide, Evangelical Free Church of America, Free Methodist Church USA, International Pentecostal Holiness Church, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod Texas District, New Thing Network, North American Mission Board (Southern Baptist Convention), Presbyterian Church in America, Project Jerusalem, Path1 (United Methodist Church), Southern Baptists of Texas, Vineyard Church and The Wesleyan Church. Lists of church plants were provided by the sponsors and the Church of the Nazarene and the Missionary Church. From May-August 2015, planters were individually invited to complete the online survey by email, phone and postcard. Factors associated with church planting success were determined after controlling for church demographics, denomination/church planting network, U.S. state, church planter characteristics and other characteristics.

Estimates of the number of 2014 Protestant church starts and closures are based on unofficial reports LifeWay Research gathered from 34 denominations that represent 55 percent of U.S. Protestant churches. The pattern in this large sample was applied to the non-reporting and non-denominational groups to provide the overall estimate.

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‘EVANGELICAL’ DEFINED AFTER NEW RESEARCH

Baptist Press

151202evangelicalNASHVILLE — The National Association of Evangelicals and LifeWay Research released an evangelical beliefs research definition Nov. 19 for accurate and consistent use among researchers.

NAE initiated development of the research definition more than two years ago. In partnership with LifeWay Research, the definition was crafted, reviewed, and tested for validity.

Numerous surveys seek to capture the opinions and practices of evangelicals in the United States. From tithing behaviors to political inclinations, evangelicals are regularly identified in research and polls. Because researchers use different tools to identify evangelicals, results vary from poll to poll. Even the estimated number of U.S. evangelicals ranges from 23 percent to 35 percent of American adults. [Read more…]

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LIFEWAY COMPLETES SALE OF DOWNTOWN NASHVILLE CAMPUS

By Art Toalston
Baptist Press

151201lifewayNASHVILLE (BP) — LifeWay has completed the sale of its 14.5-acre campus in downtown Nashville.

“Although this momentous event is cause for thanksgiving, it is also bittersweet,” Thom S. Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, wrote in an email to the Southern Baptist entity’s trustees and employees Nov. 24 after the sale was announced around 5 p.m.

“LifeWay has served the bride of Christ from this property for more than 100 years,” Rainer wrote. “Those of us who serve today continue an unbroken line of tens of thousands of employees who have stewarded the responsibility to produce trustworthy Christian resources for the church. And, we will continue to do so into the future, but from a new location.”

The sale was announced in a joint news release from LifeWay and Southwest Value Partners, a private real estate investment firm based in San Diego. [Read more…]

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STUDY: THANKFULNESS STILL PRIORITY AT THANKSGIVING

Baptist Press

151113Thanksgiving-survey1NASHVILLE (BP) — For Americans, Thanksgiving is about faith and family, and not much else, a new study shows.

More than half (56 percent) tell LifeWay Research the most important part of the annual holiday is “being thankful to God for my blessings.” Nearly 4 in 10 (39 percent) say “time with family and friends” tops their Thanksgiving priorities.

Times of prayer and thanking God for the harvest stretch back to the Protestant Reformation in Europe and continued as Pilgrims and Puritans settled in America. While Abraham Lincoln tried to establish a settled day for the holiday, Thanksgiving was not set as the fourth Thursday of November until 1941. [Read more…]

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EVEN NON-RELIGIOUS SEE EVIDENCE OF CREATOR

By Lisa C. Green
Lifeway News Office

151021evidence-creatorNASHVILLE — Life didn’t just happen, most Americans say — and a surprising number of nonreligious people agree.

More than 4 in 10 of the nonreligious believe physics and humanity point to a creator, LifeWay Research finds. A third say human morality indicates a creator who defines right and wrong.

And although the nonreligious are less likely than other Americans to see evidence of a creator, they are more likely to agree (46 percent) than disagree (40 percent) with the statement: “Since the universe has organization, I think there is a creator who designed it.”

Traditional evidences for belief in a creator resonate with most Americans, including many of the nonreligious, said Ed Stetzer, executive director of Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

“People who seek to set out reasons to believe, often called apologetics, have historically framed their argument in similar ways,” Stetzer said. “The large number of nonreligious people agreeing with some of these arguments points us to a surprising openness to classic apologetic arguments. Or, put another way, even nonreligious people are open to the idea there is a creator.”

Not blind chance

Human life and a complex universe are powerful indicators of creation, Americans say. In a survey of 1,000 Americans, LifeWay Research found almost 8 in 10 (79 percent) believe the existence of human life means someone created it, while 72 percent think the organization of the universe shows a creator’s design. [Read more…]

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