Generational Dynamics and Challenges – Part 2
– By Steve Smith and Stan Parks –
In Part 1 we addressed the dynamics and challenges of the first two stages of generational church multiplication. Part 2 continues discussing these dynamics in subsequent stages.
Stage 3: An Expanding Network – Initial 3rd Generation Churches
- Gen 1 & 2 churches are solidly established and growing.
- Multiple Gen 3 groups are starting, with some Gen 3 groups becoming churches.
- Key leaders are actively identified and being mentored and discipled.
- Strong focus on ensuring multi-generational group health and leadership development.
- Most movements are using generational trees (showing children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren churches).
- Desire for “grandchildren” churches (Gen 3) is a strong emphasis.
- Clear vision and reproducible group processes are used across the expanding network.
- Inside leaders at all levels are sharing testimonies of breakthroughs.
- Inside leader(s) with big vision has emerged and is the key catalyst(s).
- Leaders still go to outsiders or Gen 0 Christians for answers rather than discovery from Scripture.
- Excitement over 1st and 2nd Generation can blind leaders to working toward 3rd Gen and beyond.
- Some key parts of church meetings are missing. (Vision casting, accountability, and training others make the difference between just talking about the Bible in the group versus really growing in discipleship and reproducing disciples.)
- Weak vision. Vision doesn’t pass down generationally. (Early generations have greater vision than later generations.)
- Vision is not caught and owned by all or most disciples in the movement.
- Fear has set in; trying to avoid persecution.
- Poor leadership development; need to develop Timothies.
- Insufficient movement DNA in leaders/groups can stall growth. For example, groups not reproducing or local leaders not growing in their call and oversight of other generations and leaders.
- The alongsider(s) departs prematurely.
Stage 4: An Emerging CPM – Initial 4th Generation Churches
- Stable Gen 3 churches, with some Gen 4 (or even Gen 5, Gen 6) groups and churches.
- A growing group of indigenous leaders overseeing the movement.
- Local and alongside leaders intentionally seek to replicate movement DNA in all generations.
- Alongsider(s) still play key roles in mentoring key leaders.
- Intentional development of leadership networks (leaders meeting with other leaders for mutual support and learning)
- Perhaps beginning to spark work in new areas
- Internal or external challenges have helped bring maturity, perseverance, faith and growth to the leadership and churches.
- If movements get to Gen 3 churches they usually get to Gen 4 churches.
- Overcoming challenge of sharing leadership – truly raising up other leaders
- Lack of vision for reaching beyond their natural sphere (outside their own language/people group)
- Too much reliance on one key movement leader
- Inconsistent or wrongly-focused mid-level training
- Not shifting the priority from outsiders to inside leaders and reaching new population segments
- Change of key leadership
- Saturation of natural sphere (oikos) and not yet going cross-cultural or cross-regional
- Relying on foreign funding
- Outsiders not connected to the movement offering salaries to inside leaders
- Lack of preparation through biblical learning to resist influence of outside Christian leaders who want to “correct” their theology/ecclesiology
Stage 5: A Church Planting Movement
- Multiple streams of consistently reproducing 4th+ Generation churches (the accepted definition of a CPM)
- This stage is usually reached 3-5 years after the first churches are started.
- Usually 100+ churches
- Most growth is still to come, but the core elements or processes for that sustained growth have been established or started.
- Ideally four or more separate streams
- Ideally a solid leadership team of local believers leading the movement, with the alongsider(s) mostly just working with the leadership team
- While stages 1-4 can be vulnerable to collapse, collapses rarely happen at stage 5 (and beyond).
- Since the greatest growth of movements occurs in stages 6 and 7, it is important to continue training leaders and passing on vision and movement DNA to all levels.
- A CPM may plateau at this stage if leadership development is weak.
- Not having a clear process to track and ensure health in all generation of groups.
- The greater the quantitative and qualitative growth, the more likely outside traditional Christian groups will be motivated to offer funds in exchange for control.
- Not continuing to start new streams
- Alongsider being too involved in decision processes
Stage 6: A Sustained and Expanding CPM
- Visionary, indigenous leadership network leading the movement with little or no need for outsiders, and multiplying leadership at all levels
- Spiritually mature inside leaders
- The movement grows both numerically and spiritually
- Significant penetration and expansion throughout the people group
- Enough streams, leaders, and churches to be able to find and refine best practices to help with the continued growth of the movement
- Stable Gen 5, Gen 6, and Gen 7+ churches in multiple streams actively multiply groups and churches, with movement DNA being replicated in all generations.
- The movement has weathered strong internal and/or external challenges.
- Up to stage 5, movements may still be “off the radar,” but at stage 6, they become more well-known and navigating this can present challenges.
- This visibility can lead to opposition from traditional churches/denominations.
- This visibility can also lead to increased persecution and sometimes targeting of key leaders
- Leadership networks need to continue expanding to keep up with the expanding ministry.
- Need to continue wise use of internal and external funding.
- Stage 6 growth can be significant, but is usually limited to one people group or people cluster. To get to stage 7 often requires special vision and training to get a movement to jump to new people groups and regions.
Stage 7: A Multiplying CPM
- The CPM is usually both organically and intentionally catalyzing CPMs in other people groups and/or regions.
- The CPM has become a movement that multiplies new movements. This should be the end vision for all alongsiders when they start their work at stage 1.
- Movement leaders adopt a bigger vision to complete the Great Commission in their entire region or religious group.
- Movement leaders develop training and equipping resources to help start other movements.
- Typically, 5,000+ churches
- Stage 7 leaders need to learn how to equip and send others to effectively cross cultures.
- It is important to learn how to develop movement leaders who are not dependent on the original CPM leaders.
- Leading a network of multiplying movements is a very rare role. It requires relationship and mutual learning with other Stage 7 leaders from the outside.
- Stage 7 leaders have a lot to offer to the global church, but there must be intentional effort to give them a voice and for the global church to listen to and learn from them.
Key Principles (Some of the most important principles, as agreed upon by a group of 38 CPM catalysts and leaders)
- Importance of “letting go”: not all groups, disciples, leaders, will reproduce; so let some go.
- Invest deeply in those we work with – relationship with God, family, workers, character issues. Be transparent as pilgrims together.
- The mentor not only “gives” but also receives info and is vulnerable to those he/she mentors.
- Multiplying “nurture.” Avoid slowing down reproduction. Mentor new mentors to equip next generations. (Matt 10:8 – a real disciple freely receives and freely gives.)
- Create a counter-traditional Christian culture without bashing the traditional church.
- Tracking progress is important – evaluating and diagnosing for growth.
- We all start out ministries with high levels of intentionality, but we don’t always adjust as it works out into the future. We must keep that level of intentionality and reliance on God. We should not “coast” on a system already established.
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.