by James Watson
Studying church plants is a bit like the “whack-a-mole” game at the local carnival. While you are getting a good look at the one that has just popped up in front of you, two more have popped up in different places and one has suddenly disappeared.
The “Pray, Equip, Share Jesus: 2015 Canadian Church Planting Survey” report is ground breaking in that it has collected information from 141 leaders involved in planting across Canada between 2005 and 2015.
While there are a number of different factors they examine, of particular interest for those of us who have been reading, listening and contributing to the ongoing drama of planting in Canada are comparisons made with the U.S.
The Canadian analysis parallels a 2015 American study also conducted by LifeWay Research. As a Canadian church planting catalyzer, it is refreshing to read in print that U.S. plants grow more quickly, have more first-time confessions of faith in early development and reach self-sufficiency more quickly. Not necessarily encouraging, but refreshing. It affirms some of the angst I feel when reading stories of American plants that seem suspiciously successful compared to what I experience as I work alongside Canadian planters.
Keep in mind that the research is examining averages and that the LifeWays team does encourage the readers to look for trends rather than particular numbers as the Canadian sample is small.
There are remarkable stories of significant numbers of Canadians experiencing faith in Jesus for the first time and rapid growth of recent plants this side of the border, however they do not seem to be common. The more usual feedback that I am picking up from Canadian planters is acknowledgement of the depth of prayer and personal investment in lives and communities required for reaching the point where there are spiritual conversations.
This research report points to some basic factors that may be helpful contributors to the mission in Canadian soil.
Good research often raises more good questions, and we need many more good questions to be asked. Many thanks to the partners who have contributed to this project, it is a great contribution to the recent research on the church in Canada. You can download a free copy .
James Watson is the Corps Health and Planting Consultant for The Salvation Army Canada and Bermuda, adjunct faculty at Tyndale University College & Seminary and does some social media for Church Planting Canada. He holds a Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, a M.Div. from McMaster Divinity College.