About Movements

Generational Dynamics and Challenges – Part 1

Generational Dynamics and Challenges – Part 1

By Steve Smith and Stan Parks –

Movements are messy, and might not always develop as neatly and sequentially as presented here. However, as we study hundreds of movements around the world, we see that movements typically grow through seven distinct stages. Each stage represents a new breakthrough, but also brings new challenges. A brief overview of these stages and challenges follows. Since Church Planting Movements (CPMs) so often work counter to our traditions, it is difficult to stay on track. CPM efforts need great intentionally at each stage.

First, two clarifications: when we speak of generations (Generation 1, Generation 2, Generation 3…) within a movement, we mean new groups/churches of NEW believers. We do not count the original believers, team, or churches who initially worked to start new groups. We consider the believers/churches initiating the work Generation 0, indicating that they are the baseline generation.

Also, our working definition of a church comes from Acts 2:37-47. A church is born when a number of people in a group commit to Jesus as Lord and are baptized. They then begin to live out together their love for and obedience to Jesus. Many of these churches use Acts 2 as a pattern of the main elements of their life together. These include repentance, baptism, the Holy Spirit, God’s word, fellowship, the Lord’s Supper, prayer, signs and wonders, giving, meeting together, giving thanks, and praise.

Stage 1: Key Dynamics For Starting a CPM Effort

  • A CPM team is present, ideally working together with others.
  • Initial CPM efforts are often started by outside disciples – sometimes called “alongsiders.” These disciples from outside the culture work alongside cultural insiders or near-cultural neighbors.
  • Movements require a shared God-sized vision, so alongsiders focus on hearing God’s vision for this group.
  • Movements require effective processes, so alongsiders focus on laying a foundation for these. 
  • Initial catalysts focus on extraordinary prayer and fasting – personally and with co-laborers.
  • It is also important to mobilize extraordinary prayer and fasting (continues at all stages).
  • One high value activity is casting vision and searching for local or near-culture partners with whom to work together.
  • Developing/testing access strategies is necessary to gain opportunities to engage with lost people.
  • This access must lead to searching, sowing widely and filtering for Households (or networks) of Peace (via People of Peace).
  • At this stage the first Households of Peace are encountered.

Challenges for Initial CPM Efforts

  • Trying to turn friendly people into Persons of Peace. (A real PoP is hungry.)
  • Mistaking an interested individual for a Person of Peace. (A real PoP can open up their family and/or network of friends.) 
  • Rather than training as many believers as possible to join the search, the outsider works alone to find the Persons of Peace/4th Soil people.
  • Not a broad and bold enough outreach
  • Not relying fully on God; relying too much on “the methods” of a certain CP model
  • Not working hard enough (Fully supported people should be working at this full time; people with other jobs must give significant time to prayer and outreach as well.) 
  • Spending time on good (or even mediocre) activities rather than on the most fruitful activities
  • Focusing on “what I can do” versus “what needs to be done”
  • Lack of faith (“This area is too hard.”)
  • Alongsiders not being doers, but rather just “trainers” who do not model what they train

—————The hardest hurdle is from 0 to 1st Generation churches—————

Key Dynamics for 1st Gen Churches 

  • The new church must base their understanding and practice of being disciples and being the church on Scripture – not on the opinions and/or traditions of the outsider.
  • They must be dependent on Scripture and the Holy Spirit, not the outsider.
  • There must be a clear CPM path. Though there are many variations, CPMs have clear paths for all involved. The key elements are: 1) training believers, 2) engaging the lost, 3) discipling, 4) commitment, 5) church formation, 6) leadership formation) 7) starting in new communities.
  • There must be a strong and clear call to commitment.
  • There must be a clear understanding of some crucial truths: Jesus as Lord, repentance and renunciation, baptism, overcoming persecution, etc. 
  • The outsider must not be the leader(s) of the church; they must empower and coach insiders to lead the new church.

Challenges for 1st Gen Churches

  • One common failure is not finding key local co-laborers with vision (not “hired workers” doing ministry mainly for funding).
  • Outsiders can sabotage growth by not having a high tolerance for error. They must avoid the temptation to become the expert. Obedience-based discipleship corrects errors and keeps the Holy Spirit and Bible as the leaders.
  • Leaders must gently move on when unproductive people don’t produce.
  • One mistake is mentoring people who do not mentor others.
  • A related mistake is mentoring just the ministry aspect and not the whole person (personal relationship with God, family, work, etc.). 
  • Inexperienced alongsiders can slow or thwart growth by not knowing how to empower and release insiders to facilitate or even initiate new groups. 
  • Alongsiders sometimes do not realize or are not committed to the intensive coaching needed for new leaders.
  • One oversight is an emphasis only on “profession of faith” and not also on renouncing allegiances that separate new believers from God.

Stage 2: Focused Growth – Initial 2nd Generation Churches

  • Generation 1 (Gen 1) churches are actively growing.
  • Alongsiders intentionally focus on developing Gen 1 leaders.
  • Gen 1 churches are starting Gen 2 groups/churches.
  • Gen 1 disciples have come to faith with movement DNA so it is more natural for them to reproduce the key dynamics and processes than it was for Gen 0 disciples.
  • As the numbers of disciples and churches grow, opposition and persecution may sometimes grow in response.
  • Gen 0 leaders need to prioritize helping Gen 1 leaders and churches reproduce rather than prioritizing starting new groups.


  • The CPM path has been made too complicated; it can only be done by mature Christians, not new disciples. 
  • Different CPM path pieces are missing; it’s easy for believers to miss key elements (of the six items above). 
  • Group process is weak (looking back, looking up, looking forward); accountability is weak.
  • Not finding Persons of Peace/4th soil people at Gen 1
  • Not setting the “follow Jesus and fish for people” DNA (Mark 1:17) within hours/days
  • Not coaching the “Model-Assist-Watch-Leave” process at every stage
  • Not harvesting oikos (family and friends network) at Gen 1

—————The second hardest hurdle is from 2nd to 3rd Generation churches—————

In Part 2 we will address this challenge, along with the dynamics and challenges of stages 3-7.

Steve Smith, Th.D. (1962-2019) was co-facilitator of the 24:14 Coalition and author of multiple books (including T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution). He catalyzed or coached CPMs all over the world for almost two decades.

Stan Parks Ph.D. serves the 24:14 Coalition (Facilitation Team), Beyond (VP Global Strategies), and Ethne (Leadership Team).  He is a trainer and coach for a variety of CPMs globally and has lived and served among the unreached since 1994.

This material was originally published as Appendix D (pages 333-338) in 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from 24:14 or Amazon

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