The data contained in this report originated through a research study conducted by Barna Group of Ventura, California. The study was commissioned by Thrivent Financial of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Qualitative research for this study consisted of individual interviews of 20 church planters across the U.S., conducted by Barna researchers via webcam.
The quantitative survey was administered online to leaders of churches (or of similar ministries) that self-identify as being “in start-up mode.” A total of 769 church planters participated in the survey, which was conducted August to November 2014. To reach church planters, Barna partnered with church planting networks such as Exponential, Converge and Ignite, as well as denominational networks, to send invitations to leaders via their normal communication channels, which consists of emails and e-newsletters. Also invited to participate were members of Barna’s Pastor Panel. The resulting responses were then weighted according to ASARB (Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies) statistics on new Protestant church plants between 2010 and 2015 to be nationally representative of regional distribution and denomination.
The vast majority of church planters in this study come from non-mainline denominations (81%), with the largest proportions being non-denominational (15%), Southern Baptist (14%) and undecided/ unaffiliated (14%). Only 19 percent of the study’s church planters are from mainline denominations (American Baptist, United Church of Christ, Episcopal, Evangelical Lutheran, United Methodist or Presbyterian Church USA).
The sampling error for this study is plus or minus 3.5 percent with a 95-percent confidence interval.
A note for interpretation: Initial qualitative interviews with church planters painted a direr picture than the quantitative research revealed. It could be that interviewees felt more comfortable to discuss the more painful stresses when there was a personal connection with the interviewer, or the differences may have been due to the smaller sample size. Quantitative surveys yielded a more positive overall picture of the state of church planters and church plants.