Recently a new Starbucks opened up in Raleigh in an area already populated with many Starbucks, and other coffee shops. Since the opening of this store, I have noticed that the overwhelming majority of the customers are not new coffee drinkers, in fact I would go as far as to say that most are already Starbucks patrons. Then of course there are some patrons of other coffee shops such as Caribou, Dunkin Donuts, and other places that serve coffee beverages like McDonalds who are coming to check out what this new and convenient Starbucks has to offer. So what defines a new Starbucks as successful? Money, of course, but it does not matter where the customers were drinking coffee before as long as they are drinking Starbucks now and particularly from this new location.
This got me thinking about church plants and when a new church gets started in a city, what it is exactly that would define a successful church plant. Many define a successful Starbucks the same way that they would define a successful church plant. It doesn't matter where the people come from, whether they are members at another church or not, but as long as they are now attending our church, drinking our coffee and we are filling the seats then we are successful.
An example of this would be a new church plant comes to Raleigh and almost over night it is full of people, busting at the seams, and in need of a new meeting space. This church may even be featured on the top fastest growing churches in America list. A successful church plant, right?
Well no, because if the criteria for a successful church plant were the same of that of a new Starbucks then you have no success at all and my issue is that some church plants go in with the same or similar criteria. I have no issue with a church having many people early on, or experiencing growth issues, but if a church plant has growth because they are the new church in town and all their people are just from other churches then I have an issue calling that a successful church plant.
Why? Because that is not organic growth and it doesn't represent changed lives, but rather people that were tired of their current church not catering to all of their needs, who wanted to try something new or maybe more convenient. This has and can easily happen with new church plants in the South especially where there is such a religious spirit in the culture.
But that still leaves us with the question then, what defines a successful church plant? Is it the amount of people that are attending from other churches? The amount of services? Or is it something else? I would love to hear some of your thoughts and feedback on defining a successful church plant.