Six Practices of Multiplying Churches

By Peter Meier   |   June 15, 2016

In a previous post, I focused on Cultivating a Culture of Multiplication where church leaders help their churches to be intentional about starting churches that start new churches in order to reach new people. These multiplying churches (“Level 5” churches) are highly intentional in their efforts to multiply. You can read the entire post here.

Why wouldn’t a church be intentional about reproducing disciples and new churches? If an apple tree doesn’t produce any apples, you know that something’s wrong with that tree. In the same way, if a disciple doesn’t produce any new disciples, or a church doesn’t produce any new churches, wouldn’t you say that something isn’t right? Discipleship is always about reproduction or multiplication, rather than just becoming a better person or accumulating more Bible knowledge for oneself. New church reproduction and multiplication is always about reaching new people by starting new churches.

What are some of the intentional practices or characteristics of “Level 5” multiplying churches, and how might your church work toward becoming a multiplying church?

Six characteristics of a multiplying church have been verified in the recent State of Church Planting in the US 2015 Report, done by LifeWay Research, sponsored in part, by the Center for U.S. Missions. These multiplying churches are ones which started at least one daughter church within five years of existence. Ed Stetzer and Daniel Im identify these characteristics in their recent book, Multiplication Today, Movements Tomorrow (see Resources, below). Take a look and consider the attitudes and action of your church.

1. Kingdom Vision.

Pastors, staff and members have a larger vision than just what’s going on inside their own walls or on their campus. It’s not about the local church growing bigger and attracting more members. It’s about God’s kingdom coming to more people, as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer. It’s about establishing vision, setting strategy, and aligning resources beyond “here” and toward the larger regional and global context. It’s about seeing God’s kingdom expand through the planting of new churches, near and far.

2. Planter Preparation.

This should go without saying. Intentional preparation of the church planter is absolutely necessary. Assessment, training, coaching and mentoring are vital. Planters must be intentional about forming prayer teams, personal spiritual growth and professional growth. District and/or Network support and a healthy mother church are factors in likelihood for multiplication.

3. Intentional Evangelism.

This is the secret sauce for church planting. It begins with a love for the lost, a love which reflects God’s own heart. The strategies and methods themselves are not the main thing; the main thing is intentional love and action to reach the lost. LifeWay’s research shows that mail invitations, door to door evangelism, sports leagues, door hangers, children’s ministries and more are all effective – the main thing is to do something, to be intentional. And a key component of being intentional is to verbally proclaim the Gospel!

4. Discipleship Commitment.

Multiplication begins with making disciples, one at a time. This needs to be the normal and expected activity of the congregation. That’s what Jesus expects His church to be about, Matthew 28:18-20. The goal is not to gather more people in the pews; the goal is to make disciples who make more disciples. Churches who intentionally welcome newcomers and have new member classes are more likely to start a daughter church. In addition, one on one discipleship or mentoring is highly effective and easily reproducible. Also those who are intentional about stewardship development have a higher likelihood of multiplying themselves and starting new churches. Again, the key word is intentionality.

5. Leadership Development.

Churches that multiply take Ephesians 4:11-13 seriously. They receive and make use of the gifts which the ascended Lord Jesus gives to His church. They see every baptized person as one called by God to be engaged in His mission. Multiplying churches are intentional about helping members discover their God-given calling and gifts. They help their members grow in using their skills so that overall, they will grow in Kingdom impact. Spiritual maturity leads to multiplication. But maturity doesn’t happen without a plan. Intentional development and action are key, and will make the difference between addition and multiplication.

6. Clear Strategy to Multiply.

The previous practices are all part of the likelihood of a church being able to multiply within their first five years. All churches may aspire to these, and practice them to some extent. But churches that multiply within their first five years do a few more things at a far higher percentage than those who do not. They are consistently ruthless about communicating their vision to multiply. This is done on a regular, monthly basis. It is done in their preaching, teaching, meetings, and more. They also partner with others to plant churches. Partnering with other churches is part of the kingdom vision, and is more effective than going it alone. Partnering includes investing time, energy, resources and finances into other church plants. Being part of a network, or a consortium of churches offers more churches the opportunity to engage in intentional multiplication strategies.

If you notice one thing about each of these six statistically verifiable characteristics of multiplying churches, notice this word: intentional. Intentional is more than a word, it’s an attitude that finds its way into every action and event planned by a church and its leaders.

Intentionality matters! Intentionality is the key to becoming a multiplying church!


Moment Extras

Questions for Discussion

1. What are your expectations when you plant an apple tree? What would you do if an apple tree does not produce any apples? Do you agree with the statement, “If a disciple doesn’t produce another disciple, or a church doesn’t produce another church, something is not right?” Why or why not? What would you do with a church that doesn’t produce another church?

2. Agree or disagree? It’s not enough to aspire to be a multiplying church; becoming a multiplying church requires intentionality and the actions which follow through on those intentions.

3. How intentional are you (is your church) when it comes to the above six characteristics? Can you describe your intentional strategy for each? Is your intentional strategy clearly communicated to everyone in your church?

4. Which of these six characteristics needs attention immediately? In the next 3-6 months? What will you do?

Resources You Can Use

Churches Planting Churches is the Center for US Missions’ training for congregations, pastors and leaders which helps them to develop a church reproduction plan. Let us help you develop a practical and intentional strategy for your church to become a multiplying church!

Multiplication Today, Movements Tomorrow: Practices, Barriers, and an Ecosystem, Ed Stetzer & Daniel Im. Free download from has a wealth of free resources for understanding and equipping yourself and others as you develop a culture of multiplication. Especially consider downloading, sharing and discussing these three with leaders in your church:

  • Spark: Igniting a Culture of Multiplication, Todd Wilson & Dave Ferguson
  • Becoming a Level 5ive Multiplying Church Field Guide, Todd Wilson & Dave Ferguson
  • Play Thuno: The World-Changing Multiplication Game, Larry Walkemeyer

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