Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Church Planting in Southgate

Here's an assignment about Church planting that I did earlier this term (NB I haven't included the appendix which was a copy of the survey I used for research purposes. Hopefully this doesn't make anything confusing). I'd probably change bits of it on reflection, but then that's part of the point I guess. Anyone up for actually doing a plant in Southgate some point next calendar year do get in touch!

Outline a potential Church planting strategy for a congregation to follow in Southgate. In doing this you will construct, conduct and evaluate an area survey with at least 20 responses from non-Christians.

Church planting is one of the most biblical and effective means of promoting the growth of the gospel.[1] This paper aims to outline a potential Church planting strategy by considering the way a Church-centred evangelistic mission to the people of Southgate[2] might take shape. Given the limited nature of the research and reflection conducted for this paper, as well as providing a provisional picture of what a Church planting strategy might look like this paper will also suggest how a congregation could proceed to refine and implement this strategy. The structure of presenting this strategy is largely derivative.[3]


To establish a network[5] of Churches in the north London area of Southgate. This is part of a wider vision for transforming the city of London by[6], in particular, aiming to see 15% of the city in bible-teaching Churches by the year 2020.[7]


To make disciples for the Lord Jesus Christ of the people of Southgate by planting a Church-planting, Reformed, Evangelical, Bible-teaching, Evangelistic Church.


It is essential to have a clear picture of the spiritual climate in Southgate, and as detailed a picture as possible of the target community when devising a strategy.[8] This profile has been constructed from both qualitative (chiefly from a brief survey of people in the area)[9] and quantitative research.[10] However, it must be stressed that this research has been limited in scope, and a greater volume and detail would be required before a plant was finally launched.

1. Overview – Quantitative Research
The 12,103[11] people who live in Southgate are an ethnically diverse mix[12] with high proportions of Asian/Asian British (8.85%[13]), Black/Black British (4.16%[14]) persons, as well as a high proportion (14.10%) of people who define themselves ethnically as ‘white’ but neither British nor Irish. This ethnic diversity is matched by religious diversity; whilst 57.71% of people in Southgate define themselves as Christians,[15] 4.33% of the population are Hindus, 6.99% are Jewish, 6.33% are Muslim.[16] People who live in Southgate are generally very well educated, with over a third of the population having qualifications of level 4 or above.[17]

2. On the Ground – Qualitative Research[18]
The area survey interview covered three main areas. The first set of questions aimed to research attitudes towards Southgate itself within the local community. This purpose is to uncover felt needs which a new Church might be able to address.[19]

People cited the quietness/greenness of the area, its convenience (through public transport), the shops and other facilities as well as the friendly people as the main aspects of the area they enjoy. That most people surveyed were readily able to cite reasons for enjoying Southgate may indicate a general satisfaction with life in the area. This was confirmed by the high proportion of people who had nothing to say in answer to questions 3, 4 and 5.[20] This must be set in context however with the negative comments interviewees did make. Of the concerns and problems listed in Q3-5, the most common were traffic congestion[21] and crime/policing related issues,[22] especially the need for a greater police presence. Other negatives raised about Southgate included the lack of facilities for young people and the expense of living there (in particular the cost of housing). In general those who had lived in the area the longest were more negative, with two people expressing the feeling that the area has deteriorated during their time living there.

Secondly the area survey focused on the personal beliefs of the participants, with a view to compiling a ‘spiritual profile’ of the community.[23] In general people expressed mixed views on both destiny and luck, but most were cynical about horoscopes,[24] reincarnation[25] and Guardian Angels.[26] The majority expressed strong belief in God (13 people gave it 5, only 2 people gave it a 1or 2). However, this does not necessarily reflect well formulated beliefs. Rather, Q7-9 revealed a general vagueness on questions of religion and spirituality. Three people stated they had ‘no religion’, and others defined themselves as ‘spiritual’ rather than religious. One Hindu (of 2 interviewed in total) defined themself as ‘open’ to working out what they believed, as did one person who was raised as a Jew. Several others expressed a similar distaste for dogmatism or fanaticism in religious convictions. Whilst three people called themselves atheists, all three rated their belief in God at 4 or 5; it could be that by answering ‘atheist’ to a question about religious self-definition they meant ‘non-religious’ or ‘not a Christian’. Similarly whilst 5 people described themselves as Christians (to which can be added 1 Orthodox person and 1 Catholic) few were able to give clear definitions of what ‘God’ meant to them in Q8. The most popular answer to Q8 across all participants was that God is a ‘higher power’.[27] Few people expressed overtly negative views about the existence of some sort of god. Slightly more were negative about ‘Jesus’ in Q9.[28] The most popular answer here was ‘Son of God’[29] - giving the impression of familiarity with Christian language even if not doctrine.

Some of these findings were confirmed by the answers given in the third section which focussed on Church-going. Here the aim was to learn of past or present Church experience, the general profile of the gospel in Southgate, and begin to ascertain attitudes towards a new Church initiative in the area.[30] 5 people interviewed were Church-goers, although only 2 mentioned ‘God’ in Q10b. Of the other 16, 7 had Church-going experience in their background (usually during childhood). The reason attendance lapsed usually fell into two categories – either circumstantial (e.g. move of location, busyness due to birth of children) or belief issues.[31] In this section it emerged that existing Southgate Churches have a low public profile, with six people in Q11 and 2 in Q12 raising this in various ways; some people said they didn’t know there were any Churches locally. This might help explain why 10 people felt they were unable to offer any answer to Q11. 3 others said they thought the Churches were doing a good job but only for those already attending. This perhaps relates to the fact that several people were taken aback at Q13 and 14 – the perception being that Churches exist for those who already attend and not for ‘non-religious’ people like themselves. Similarly, some responses to Q12-14 mentioned an increase in Church community involvement and the need to publicise assertively and attractively (suggesting they felt existing Churches didn’t do this). Amongst the other answers given to Q13, people said they thought they would give a Church a try if it put on activities for their age group (whether pensioners or youth or early twenties) and sought to help people with various problems.

3. Conclusions about Southgate
The people of Southgate appear to be well-educated and relatively satisfied with life in Southgate, albeit with concerns over traffic congestion and increasing crime (especially among the young who lack decent entertainment facilities in the area). They are ethnically diverse, although not necessarily well-integrated as a result.[32] This ethnic diversity is matched by great diversity on religious issues. If there is a theme uniting this spiritual diversity it would seem to be vagueness. Many people are open to spirituality of some sort although suspicious and or entirely ambivalent of organised religion (some because of negative experiences in the past). No-one expressed overtly negative feelings at the idea of a new Church in Southgate, with some even suggesting that it would be a good thing and citing reasons they might join. This said, although there are some Church-goers in Southgate for many others ‘Church-going’ is not even ‘on the radar’ because they are ‘not religious people’ – a fact perhaps unwittingly confirmed by the low-profile of existing Churches in Southgate.

This picture of the context of Southgate begs the question - what sort of Church(es) can reach Southgate?[33]


1. Targeting
Although the long term aim will be to reach all the social and ethnic groups within Southgate, in the first few years it is unlikely SCC will have the resources to be able to do this adequately. Instead the aim will be to reach the natural networks of Church members, which, given the nature of the sending Church is likely to be white middle class people. [36] At the same time however, SCC will look to find Church members who are willing and able to cross cultural barriers for the sake of the gospel and pioneer work amongst other ethnic groups. The long term aim will be to have homogeneity at the small/’feeder’ group level but heterogeneity across the Church as a whole.[37]

2. Size
The initial size of SCC will be approximately 50 adult members, currently members of the sending Church who already live or work in the Southgate area. The aim is to be small enough to provide the impetus and flexibility for growth whilst being large enough to resource an outsider-friendly Sunday service and several small groups.[38]

3. Evangelistic strategy[39]
Given the general ambivalence towards ‘organised religion’ (in some cases negative history) any evangelistic strategy must take a long-term and relational approach.[40] This, together with confidence in the power of the gospel, is the basic philosophy around which the following potential strategy has been formed.

3.i. Small groups
The basic unit of Church life in SCC will be a number of small groups (initially five).[41] This is where primary pastoral care, bible application and friendship evangelism can take place. Small groups can give the homogeneity, flexibility, informality and relational structure most helpful for evangelism and discipleship amongst those ambivalent to organised religion.[42] All Church members will be expected to commit to a small group.[43] In effect small groups will be ‘little Church’ whilst Sunday services will be ‘big Church’.[44]

3.ii. Sunday services
Although small groups will be central to SCC, a major part of Church life will be a regular outsider-friendly Sunday service. This is because of the benefits of larger gatherings for worship in both sustaining members[45] and evangelism. The aim would be to build up the membership as well as publicly make a fresh, ‘less religious’ presentation of the gospel to Southgate. Accordingly, a more ‘neutral’ venue (e.g. one of the local schools or a sports/community hall) would be suitable for at least the first phase of the Church’s life until an outsider-friendly reputation is established.[46] Services would last no more than 1.15 hours, but would not insult the relatively well-educated people of Southgate, addressing the bible to the mind and the emotions,[47] with applications for both Christian and outsider. These services should be well-organised but with a degree of informality, i.e. with room for controlled spontaneity and interaction. Although the emphasis will be on the communication of the Word, thought must be given to appropriate use of images for the purpose of teaching a wide-range of learner types. The aim will be to appropriately experiment with format during the initial planting phase and if necessary beyond. Leading up to and during this time many other questions will need to be settled.[48]

3.iii. Children’s/Youth ministry
It is expected that SCC will have a Children’s Ministry from the outset given the number of children in the area[49] and the suggestion by some survey participants that they would welcome Church involvement with their children. These would run concurrently with Sunday services.

3.iv. Involvement in the local community
In the survey, the basic need for facilities and activities for young people appeared to be related to the fears many expressed regarding crime and the need for a greater police presence. SCC must therefore investigate the possibility of running youth-targeted community projects. This may prove difficult initially without property and potentially great expense. Whilst seeking to materially serve Southgate, it may also be that such service will gain an audience for the gospel. Whilst it is not obvious how the Church can serve in relation to other felt needs (such as traffic and busyness) much consideration should be given to these areas before SCC launches and should be viewed as integral to fulfilling the Church’s mission.

3.v. Publicity
Although relationships are key, SCC will not seek to be purist in this sense, choosing rather to use whatever means seem viable for raising the profile of the gospel in Southgate. As an area highlighted by some in Q14 of the area survey, publicity will need to be of a high quality both in terms of design and production. The aim will be to market SCC as a Church for the community of Southgate both in terms of welcome to Sunday gatherings and practical involvement in the community.

4. The Church Planter
The main leader of SCC will fulfil the biblical requirements for Church officers[50]. As well as this he will share the vision for Southgate and London outlined in this paper. He will be able to communicate in a post-Christian environment and will have had some formal theological training. It will be the planter’s job to recruit a Steering Committee[51] and develop a leadership structure in the first two years of the plant.

5. Timetable
December 2006 – Church Planter appointed
January 2007 – Church Planter recruits Steering Committee
January to April 2007 – Steering Committee conducts further research, theological reflection and strategy refinement.
May to June 2007 – Church Planter and Steering Committee recruit the remaining core members from the sending Church.[52]
August to November 2007 – Church plant begins to meet together, train together, assess one another’s giftings,[53] consolidate vision ownership. Evangelistic contacts made during research phase are followed up during this time, as well as whole Church planning on how to increase community contacts.
December 2007 – Official public launch with Christmas programme.

6. Becoming a Network

6.i. Leadership training
Growth requires multiplication of ministries which in turn requires multiplication of leadership at all levels of Church life. From the onset SCC will look to provide ministry apprenticeships with the express aim of training future Church planters for Southgate and London. Similarly small group leader training will take priority over other adult education programmes in Church life. Annual evangelism training will be run for all Church members. Leaders of specific ministries will be expected to train future leaders.[54]

6.ii. Venue/Property needs
Whilst SCC will not be initially ready for purchasing large property,[55] from the outset the possibility of more permanent space within the area will be investigated. Any building(s) should be suitable for the public image of the Church as outsider friendly different from perceived religious norms and consistent with SCCs aim to reach Southgate specifically.[56]

6.iii. Connectedness/ Church Government
In becoming a network of Churches/congregations across Southgate theological and logistical reflection must be given to how future plants/ congregations will relate to one another. This will partly depend on whether the Church Planter wishes to develop his role to become an overseer of several Churches and their leaders. The demands and practicalities of fulfilling the mission and vision of SCC must be allowed to play a significant role in answering these questions.

[1] Timothy J. Keller, “Why Plant Churches?” 6.p. [cited 5 November 2006]. Online http://www.redeemer2.com/resources/papers/why%20plant%202%2011%20TLeaders.pdf.
[2] ‘Southgate’ for the purposes of research was defined as Southgate Ward.
[3] In particular this paper is indebted to the model for a Church planting action plan given in Timothy J. Keller and Allen J Thompson, Church Planter Manual (New York: Redeemer Church Planting Center, 2002), 105-109. It is also based on Tim Davies and Christ Church Working Party, Christ Church Central Launch Presentation, (Unpublished document, Sheffield, 2003).
[4] Assuming the definition of vision in Aubrey Malphurs, Planting Growing Churches for the 21st Century (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1992), 234-238.
[5] Network is used throughout with reference to the concept of a ‘movement’ found in Keller and Thompson, Planting Manual, 105.
[6] Keller and Thompson, Planting Manual, 105.
[7] Cf. Peter Jensen, “How can we reach our 10% goal?” n.p. [cited 5 November 2006]. Online http://your.sydneyanglicans.net/senior_clergy/archbishop_jensen/57a/. Also, 15% was suggested a more noticeable figure by Chris Green during a sermon in 2004.
[8] Malphurs, Growing Churches, 165.
[9] See Appendix. The survey was based on “Oak Hill Community Survey Project – Street Interview,” 2.p. [cited 25 October 2006]. Online
and Keller and Thompson, Planting Manual, 76. and Malphurs, Growing Churches, 167-168.
[10] Keller and Thompson, Planting Manual, 69-73.
[11] “Neighbourhood Statistics Key Figures for 2001 Census (Southgate Ward),” n.p. [cited 3 November 2006]. Online http://neighbourhood.statistics.gov.uk/dissemination/LeadKeyFigures.do;jsessionid=ac1f930dce5b05e380a7bba41ea86c4ddf229a4b56c.e38OaNuRbNuSbi0Lah0PaNyQbxaQe6fznA5Pp7ftolbGmkTy?a=3&b=5942137&c=southgate&d=14&e=16&g=332790&i=1001x1003x1004&m=0&enc=1&bhcp=1
[12] 80.72% white as against 90.92% in the UK as a whole. “National Statistics,” n.p.
[13] Compared with a percentage for all of England of 4.58%. “National Statistics,” n.p.
[14] Compared with a percentage for all of England of 2.30%. “National Statistics,” n.p.
[15] The figure for England is 71.74%. “National Statistics,” n.p.
[16] Compare with figures of the whole of England of 1.11%, 0.52% and 3.10% respectively. “National Statistics,” n.p.
[17] 35.17% as compared with a total for England of 19.90% and 30.99% for London. Level 4/5 covers First Degree, Higher Degree, NVQ levels 4 and 5, HNC, HND, Qualified Teacher Status, Qualified Medical Doctor, Qualified Dentist, Nurse, Midwife or Health Visitor. “National Statistics,” n.p.
[18] Based on the results of Survey in Appendix which was conducted with 21 people outside Southgate Tube Station. All of the participants either lived in the Southgate area or studied/worked there regularly. The statements made in this section will assume that these 21 participants are in some way representative, although more research would be required before this was confirmed.
[19] Malphurs, Growing Churches, 169. Cf. Keller and Thompson, Planting Manual, 77.
[20] 7, 4 and 5 people respectively.
[21] 7 people in total across the three questions.
[22] 6 people raised this sort of issue as a greatest need in Q5.
[23] Keller and Thompson, Planting Manual, 91. Cf. Malphurs, Growing Churches, 259.
[24] 18 people giving this a rating of 1 or 2.
[25] 11 people rating their belief at 1, although 7 rated their belief at 4 or 5.
[26] 14 people rating their belief at 1 or 2, although 6 people rated 4 or 5.
[27] 7 people answered in this way.
[28] 3 people doubted his existence or expressed overt disbelief ‘in Jesus’.
[29] 7 people answered using this phrase.
[30] Cf. Malphurs, Growing Churches, 167-168.
[31] E.g. one person raised a Catholic stated they had left Church attending behind because the religion was misogynistic and they had problems with several articles of belief.
[32] Only one participant highlighted this.
[33] Cf. Malphurs, Growing Churches, 259-260.
[34] Essentially this section is derived from the need to answer the three questions posed in Keller and Thompson, Planting Manual, 84. and questions found in Malphurs, Growing Churches, 259-272.
[35] Suggested name only. ‘SCC’ from here on.
[36] Malphurs, Growing Churches, 170-171.
[37] Keller and Thompson, Planting Manual, 94. It may well be that as the Church grows into a network of congregations by evangelism that greater thought is needed on how these congregations relate to one another so as to pursue gospel-based heterogeneity.
[38] This is based on conversations had with various UK Church planters during early 2003.
[39] Reference has been given here to various questions found in Keller and Thompson, Planting Manual, 93-96.
[40] Stephen Timmis, “Church Planting: Key Principles,” in Multiplying Churches – Reaching Today’s Communities Through Church Planting (ed. Stephen Timmis. Fearn, Ross-shire: Christian Focus, 2000) 122-123.
[41] This is taken from a cell Church model. “What is cell?” n.p. [cited 5 November 2006]. Online http://www.celluk.org.uk/about/whatiscell.php.
[42] Malphurs, Growing Churches, 215-218.
[43] Keller and Thompson, Planting Manual, 98.
[44] See, e.g. Keller and Thompson, Planting Manual, 95.
[45] Keller and Thompson, Planting Manual, 95.
[46] A Church’s identity can be linked to the meeting place. Lyle E. Schaller, 44 Question for Church Planters (Nashville: Abingdon, 1991), 84 & 122.
[47] Malphurs, Growing Churches, 179.
[48] E.g. The when and how of celebrating the Lord’s Supper, the place and logistics of congregational singing.
[49] Over 17% of the population are 0-15 yrs old. “National Statistics,” n.p.
[50] See, e.g. 1 Tim 3: 1-7 and Titus 1: 5-9.
[51] This is essentially the same idea as the ‘leadership team’ in Malphurs, Growing Churches, 248.
[52] Malphurs, Growing Churches, 275.
[53] See, e.g. Keller and Thompson, Planting Manual, 84.
[54] Ideas taken from talks on “Ministry Mulitplication” by Archie Poulos at Oak Hill in 2005.
[55] Perhaps until membership passes the 200 mark. Thinking here has been influenced by Schaller’s distinction between ‘temporary’ and ‘permanent’ meeting places. Schaller, 44 Questions, 60-64.
[56] i.e. SCC must resist the temptation to find cheaper property outside of the area.


Dave said...

Is it allowed as a placement?

Pete said...

Better ask Woody on that one.

More seriously, there really does seem to be very little going on there church-wise and it is right on our doorstep. It's fairly multi-ethnic, fairly apathetic, fairly postmodern/relativist.

btw, what's happened to your blog?

Big Pete said...

I like the dates used, the fact that the last thing to do is to employ the minister, all the other logistics/training done before hand without him. (or it could be that its a typo and you meant to put 2007 for all the dates apart from the first one!)

Pete said...

Yeah that'll be an error then.


Anyway, more seriously, what r we gonna do about the lost of southgate?

Pete said...

Now the dates have been corrected.

Anonymous said...

This is fascinating. I'd love to talk further. I hope to be up at Oak Hill sometime in late Jan/early Feb. Perhaps you'd email me on matthewwmason [at] gmail [dot] com