This is often a question posed to church planters. Do we really need any more churches? Why not work through existing churches instead.
For example, this month, a new church in Hartford will start their weekly meetings. Does Hartford really need this?
I attend a young church in Hartford — and to get there Sunday mornings, I probably drive past a dozen churches. Does this make sense?
I think the answer is a resounding YES.
If you are interested in innovation in terms of reaching people and re-thinking what church can look like, or you are interested in conversion growth — as opposed to just sheep-hopping — the two places to look are new church plants and successful evangelical mega-churches. Those are the places where innovation and growth are happening.
This is the long tail effect of churches.
I believe that the long tail effect is true — and good — when it comes to ministry and what I call “niche churches” or “micro churches”. The idea that one church (or a dozen churches) will meet the needs of an entire community is simply not true — especially in the old paradignm of churches.
For years, most American towns had a lot of churches. A Roman Catholic Church, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Congregational, Baptist, etc.
The Catholic Church existed to reach Catholics while all the others kind of split the “protestant pie”. But a part from some minor theological distinctions, the protestant churches were all pretty similiar: traditional (or from the 1980’s on, blended) Sunday morning worship, Sunday school, men’s ministry, women’s ministry, potlucks, etc.
But some people work Sunday mornings. So who reaches them?
Well most likely it will be the church plant or the mega church.
So yes, there is room for more churches.
In terms of church typology, my current pastor has identified four quadrants that churches fall into. I think it is a pretty good framework in our day. (see diagram above). One of the things you will notice is that, in most communities, there are plenty of churches on quadrant I and II, usually a couple of churches in quadrant III — and few or no quadrant IV churches. (Her model focused primarily on worship style and social policy; I have added in general theological perspective.)
I will write more about this particular dynamic later, but it makes you realize that YES — we can use more churches! Especially niche churches, innovative churches, and quadrant IV churches.