Let the Children Come to Church

Stadia has a 90% success rate with its new church plants. (Restore Community Church via Flickr)

New church planting remains the single most effective way of reaching people with the Good News of Jesus Christ. And the vast majority of those who accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior do so before age 18.

That's why Stadia plants churches that intentionally care for children. Our vision is to make sure every child on the planet has a church!

When I was 11 years old, at the church across from my house, I walked down the aisle in response to the invitation to give my life to Jesus. Years later, when she was also 11, my daughter, Tabitha, responded to God's call in the local church where I was preaching. This past Easter, my son, Elijah, gave his life to Jesus and was baptized. Numerous friends who are part of our local church and who have influenced Elijah's 11 years of life attended his baptism.

I have often asked, "Where would we be without the local church?" How different our lives would have been without an easily accessed church expressing itself in our local community as we were growing up!

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Today, about 4,000 new churches are planted across the United States every year. Sadly, around 3,700 churches close their doors every year as well. Just to stay abreast with population growth in the U.S., 8,000 new churches must be planted every single year, according to The Great Opportunity.

In 2018, Stadia planted more than 150 new churches. In 2019, we will plant more than 250. In 2020, we expect that number to cross 500. It's good, but not nearly enough.

As a result of these both encouraging and disheartening statistics, we began asking, "How do we break the logjam of 4,000 church plants per year? What disruptive innovation is God calling us to engage in that will ensure every child in the U.S. will have a church?

God's answer was radical generosity. We're giving it all away, no strings attached. All of our systems and processes, coaching and bookkeeping, assessment and project management are now 100% free to qualified new church plants and new church planters.

Stadia has a 90% success rate with its new church plants. Nine out of 10 new churches that partner with us are still actively on mission five years after launching, whereas the national average for all other church planting organizations is 6 out of 10 after only four years. Stadia church plants average nearly 200 people involved two years after launch as compared with the national average of 110. I share this from a humble confidence and sincere desire to serve God's kingdom this way.

Succeeding in Church Planting

Stadia has learned that while correct theology is crucial, it takes much more than good exegesis to plant a church. Biblical governance is necessary, but there is much more involved than structure to construct a thriving body of believers. Emotions will not carry the weight for the arduous task of planting a church.

Stadia has developed 10 success factors for church planters who desire to plant an influential, highly impactful new church. These 10 factors are used to assess those who desire to launch a church. Potential planters who partner with us are given a development plan, training, residencies and extensive informational experiences to offer them the best advantage imaginable for effective new church planting.

Bookkeeping, project management and demographics may not sound particularly appealing when it comes to joining Jesus in changing the world, but they are essential to the launch of a healthy church. The "how to" that we provide allows the new church planter the best possible platform from which to launch their new church regardless of the planting model they choose.

Making Disciples Who Multiply

Fully developed disciples of Jesus make disciples who make disciples. Fully developed church plants plant churches that plant churches. The only way we will fully impact this world with the Good News of Jesus is if we embed multiplication into the DNA of new church planting.

Healthy organisms multiply, and yet only 7% of churches across the United States are involved in planting new churches. The key word is "healthy." Our goal is to plant healthy new churches that are both able and equipped to multiply.

I served as senior pastor of RiverTree Christian Church for 25 years before becoming president of Stadia. RiverTree is a wonderful church impacting thousands of lives throughout Northern Ohio and around the world. I transitioned to the Stadia team simply to leverage church multiplication. If one church can reach 1,000 people, that's good. If 10 churches can reach 10,000, that's even better. But one church that plants 10 churches that plant 10 churches that plant 10 churches can reach 1 million people! And that's best.

Through partners committed to collaborating without regard to who gets the credit, exponential kingdom growth can transpire. Multiplication movements can form that will transform communities, cities and countries. At Stadia, we relentlessly pursue collaboration through partnerships committed to multiplication for the greatest kingdom impact.

Empowering Women to Plant

When Michaell Dupin steps onto the platform to preach, she flat-out brings it. Dimetra Barrios casts vision that inspires others to join her on the journey of planting a new church. Sarah Burnett hosts a podcast that reaches thousands of leaders. Vanessa Pugh walks into the middle school and mentors the most influential (good and bad) students. Janie Mehaffey sits on our executive team and wrestles with the opportunities and challenges of planting 1,000 new churches per year.

Stadia empowers women in church planting. This involves the discovery of gifts, exploration of passion, response to calling and development of skills. We believe a person's calling is based on gifting, not gender. This calling may be played out by a mom who is called to stay in the home and raise her children. It may also be displayed through a female worship leader, bookkeeper or operations manager. Given the opportunity, more and more women are responding to God's call to preach, teach, lead and plant churches.

Bloom is a ministry within Stadia whose sole purpose is to empower women in church planting. Nearly 1,000 women across the country are now active in Bloom. When Bloom began 11 years ago, it was designed to support women in church planting ministry. Today it is committed to the advancement of women through teaching cohorts, mentoring, inspirational gatherings, leadership podcasts and acceleration of gift development.

Investing Heavily in Children

Stadia believes children matter!

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them. For to such belongs the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 19:14b).

Every child is at risk. There are dangers and diseases that stem from poverty and dangers and diseases that stem from prosperity. At times, these dangers and diseases are so oppressive that children cannot begin to even think about Jesus. More than 2 billion on the planet are under age 18, so we must commit to reaching the next generation with the gospel.

We encourage every new church planter to ask, "How will our church intentionally and strategically care for children?" The value a church plant places on children shows itself in the way that church intentionally and strategically cares for children and in the level of resources a new church invests in children inside the church, in the community and around the world.

As a result of combining new church planting with caring for children, we are watching extraordinary impact in kingdom advancement. Loving children and reaching people who are far from God are two things that are very close to the heart of God. When we keep these as the primary focus of the church, we see His blessing poured out in unprecedented ways.

Stadia church plants invest heavily in the children God has entrusted to their local congregation. They pack lunches for children living in poverty in their local communities. They coach sports teams and teach kingdom values to children adrift in a post-Christian culture. They mentor, tutor, play with, laugh with and love those whom the world has labeled "the least of these."

At Stadia, we won't stop until every child has a church!

Greg Nettle is president of Stadia Church Planting. An author, speaker and consultant, Nettle began his ministry as a church planter in Ireland. For 25 years, he led Ohio's RiverTree movement. To learn more about Stadia, go to stadiachurchplanting.org.

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