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September 15, 2018

Multiplying Churches Like 7-Elevens

By Daniel Im

When I was a child, one of my favorite things to do was to go to a local 7-Eleven to buy a Slurpee, nachos with cheese, and some chewy soda bottle candies. Since 7-Eleven’s were everywhere in Vancouver, I could multiply the times of doing this— whether it was after school, before softball practice, or with my friends on the weekend. Obviously, I loved that 7-Elevens saturated Vancouver. But, little did I know that their saturated presence and large market share were the result of an intentional strategy.

The funny thing about 7-Eleven’s, and other convenient stores like them, is that they have a strategy for multiplication. They don’t haphazardly place stores wherever there’s cheap rent, nor do they wait for entrepreneurial leaders to show up at their doorstep. They are intentional— incredibly intentional. They do their research on the best location for future stores and they have an intentional leadership development process because they know that the success of their stores rises and falls on leadership. For companies like 7-Eleven, intentionality is the birthplace of multiplication.

The same is true for church planting. Intentionality—the deliberate, purposeful, and strategic thinking about something—is the oxygen of multiplication. Intentionality allows multiplication to breathe. Therefore, without intentionality, multiplication is stifled. Some may push back and wonder where’s the Spirit in all of this? As Ed Stetzer’s mentor John Mark Terry comments, “Certainly we believe that the Holy Spirit does guide Christians today; however we firmly believe that the Holy Spirit can guide our planning [including our intentionality] as well as our work” (Terry 2013, vii).

Intentionality Makes a Difference

When we conducted the largest and most thorough research project ever done on church planting, we discovered that intentionality, with action, plans, and strategy, was central. You can download the U.S. version of the report at NewChurches.com (the Canadian and Australian versions are forthcoming).

For the U.S. version, we partnered with 17 denominations and church planting networks and invited over 12,000 leaders of new church plants, revitalizations, mergers, and sites, of which 1,200 pastors and leaders completed the survey. For this book, our data and insights find their origin in the 843 church plants that started in 2008 or later and are still operating today.

Among the church plants that we surveyed, we discovered:

  • Church plants that were intentional with evangelism had more unchurched people in their congregation.
  • Church plants that were intentional at having a highly public presence had a larger worship attendance.
  • Church plants that were intentional at starting at least one daughter church within their first five years saw a consistent increase in attendance.
  • Church plants that prioritized leadership development saw more people make a decision for Christ.

And the list goes on and on. The fact is intentionality makes a big difference.

*This article is an excerpt from Multiplication Today, Movements Tomorrow that I wrote with Ed Stetzer. Download the e-book for free or purchase hard copies of this book here.


Daniel Im

Daniel Im (@danielsangi) is the Director of Church Multiplication for NewChurches.com at LifeWay Christian Resources. He is a Teaching Pastor at The Fellowship, a multisite church in Nashville. He is the author of No Silver Bullets: Five Small Shifts that will Transform Your Ministry, and co-author of Planting Missional Churches: Your Guide to Starting Churches that Multiply (2nd ed) with Ed Stetzer. He also co-hosts the New Churches Q&A Podcast, the 5 Leadership Questions Podcast, and a brand new podcast with his wife on marriage and parenting called the IMbetween Podcast. He has an M.A. in Global Leadership and has served and pastored in church plants and multisite churches ranging from 100 people to 50,000 people in Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, Korea, Edmonton, and Nashville. Visit Danielim.com to learn more.


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