Congregational Build or Plant Planner

Paper No. OCCG-047

Benton F. Baugh, Ph.D., P.E., OC Institute, Houston, TX

Philip Bailey, Memorial Church of Christ, Houston, TX

Download the PDF version HERE


A discussion of a Microsoft Excel based program named CONGREGATION BUILD OR PLANT PLANNER to take the input of congregational planning and display it in terms of the need to plan facility construction and/or church plantings.  The program is free to churches of Christ and is accessed at the location indicated at the end of this paper.


Church planting

Community evangelism

Personal Evangelism


Community Evangelism (C.E.) — Your congregation’s conversion rate above service area growth rate, not counting baptizing children (generally offset by deaths) and not counting move-ins  (generally offset by move-outs)

DelCon Information System —  A database system specifically designed for church of Christ scriptural organizations. (Described in Paper No. OCCG-024-01)


A starting point of the DelCon Information System is to ask those in the audience what is the Community Evangelism growth rate (see definition in glossary) they would be happy to tell Jesus on judgment day.

While there are a wide variety of answers, we have never seen a church of Christ group answer less than 10%.  The starting rate taken here is 10% as the actuality of a significantly higher rate would have a congregation dominated by those who haven’t matured in the faith in a few years.

The purpose of this Excel program is to give a reality to what church growth actually means, and what you need to be prepared to do if you are going to do your part in the Great Commission.

Figure 1 (above) starts the program as it is at the top of the opening page of the program.  It allows your data to be input without being influenced by the ultimate results of what it means.

The data starts as a 100 member congregation with the actual split of such a congregation estimated.  The numbers in the four white boxes can be changed to match your actual congregation.

The next section on the program provides an additional four white boxes which represent your expectations of your members.  The first box indicates a 0.333 for ministers which is translated to the right as 3 community conversions per year.  Your question is whether 3 community conversions per year is a reasonable expectation of a full time minister.

The next white box suggests that someone who reaches the age and knowledge expected of a shepherd would be expected to make one community conversion per year.  The third in the starting data indicates that someone responsible to become a deacon would be half as effective as a shepherd (1  per every 2 years).

The last white box in this section suggests that the average member makes one community conversion per ten years.    The starting data indicates that this congregation makes 16.3 community conversions per year.  The last white box showing on this page shows an initial guess of 6.3 community converts falling away each year, with a net of 10 community converts per year or a 10% growth rate.

Scrolling down in the program from the pink section to the green section (see border below), you can see the 10.0% community evangelism growth rate was automatically linked  to the congregational data input as seen in Figure 2 (below).  Service area growth rate comes from DelCon Zip Code Reports in the Congregational Information section or email us at the address at the end of this paper.

On the left side, Figure 2 provides 6 white boxes for putting in your information.  The starting information indicates the present auditorium capacity is 500, they will complete a build or plant when it is at 90% capacity, they would build a 50% expansion, it will take 4 years to build or plant, and if they plant they would plant 33% of their members.  Again, you will put your data in these boxes in the program.

On the right side of Figure 2 there are spaces for putting in the last ten years attendance.  Only the two numbers in red are used in calculations so only they are important.  It indicates the congregation has a 3.51% annual growth rate and a 2.5% service area growth rate, which nets out at 1.11% community evangelism growth rate.

Scrolling down from the green section in the program to the blue section, you seen the results of your data.

In this portion of the program you see what is seen in Figures 3 and 4 below respectively.

Your identical information is displayed with only the decision to look at building or planting as available options.  It is presently on “2”, which indicated you are looking at building for growth rather than planting.

This shows single and double service capacities, 90% of single and double service capacities, a purple spike for the current time, the Sunday A.M. attendance for the past 10 years, and your future attendance growth pattern.

The conclusions for Figure 4 are shown at the bottom of Figure 3:

  1. You need to complete your new building in 8.7 years, and
  2. You will need to complete another new building every 4.0 years thereafter. This makes sense in that if you increased capacity by 50% and grew at 12.5%, it gives 4 years to be full again (10% Community Evangelism plus 2.5% service area growth rate).

Changing the 2 to a 1 (BUILD to PLANT) in the white cell gives what is seen in Figure 5.

On hitting the ENTER key, nothing on Figure 3 changes except the time between planting events is 2.6 years at the bottom of the figure.

The indication of how long to complete the first planting in this congregation is the same time, 8.7 years, as was needed to complete the next building phase.

This is because the present capacity and growth rate are unaffected by whether you are building or planting.

The graphic to the left in the program is changed as seen in Figure 6 (below).

This shows as you are exceeding the functional capacity of your facility and plant, the attendance drops down.  It is not being indicated the next year as 33% lower as might be expected with a 33% planting.  This evangelistic congregation also grew by 12.5% during the year (2.5% service area growth rate & 10% community evangelism growth rate), so the net decline in attendance a year later is only 20.5%.  The 2.6 years makes sense since after reaching capacity you planted 33% of your members but grew at 12.5%.

For programming simplicity, only 2 planting cycles are shown.   Continued planting cycles would look similar to the first 2.

This leads to some interesting observations:

  1. If a congregation with these presumptions is going to grow by building, they must have a facility completion every 4 years.These 4 years are solely for building new auditorium space.  If you need to build new classrooms, that is a separate project.
  2. If a congregation with the presumptions of this congregation is going to grow by planting, they must be prepared to do a 33% plant every 2.6 years.
  3. In both cases the (as most) congregation is not actually filling a single service, so there is a longer time to start the cycles.
  4. A question asked in Figure 1 was how long does it take you to plan, fund, and build a new facility, with the answer given as 4 years. This means that this congregation would never not have a New Building Committee after first coming up to double service capacity.
  5. Similarly, as the cycle time for a plant is 2.6 years and it would take at least 2.6 years to plan and implement a plant, the congregation in that mode would never not have a Planting Committee after coming up to double service capacity.

Another thing this shows is that the typical congregational goal of a 10% growth rate and more common 2% plant concept would require 5 plants a year to not over run your building.  If your congregation is going to fulfill its Great Commission obligations by planting, it needs to be a serious percentage plant.  When you start working with the program and input a 2% plant with a congregation growing at 12.5%.  You can hardly see the plant in the curve as the congregation simply keeps growing as it has only 2 cycles.  If the program cycled forever with 6.25 – 2% plants per year, it would show a flat line.  A 12.5% plant for this congregation would show a flat line for a couple of years.  As it is set up to handle only 2 plants, after 2 years it would appear to be growing again.

The lower right corner of the Figures 3 and 5 show:

  1. Average Past Growth Rate and the Past Community Evangelism Growth Rate (Average Past Growth Rate minus the service area growth rate).
  2. Years between average members net Community Evangelism conversions, Past and Future.  This is “net” because if they go out the back door as fast as they come in the front door, you are not growing.  Community evangelism is not just  getting someone baptized.  It is a process of conversion plus maturing the new members in the faith.

What this ultimately illustrates is that the churches of Christ in the USA are not even close to fulfilling the Great Commission.

While remaining scriptural, we must study together and figure out what we can do to make ourselves more evangelistic again.  We cannot go to judgment day and tell Jesus the church simply declined on our watch.   We will not be considered as justified on Judgment Day because we weren’t any more lukewarm than another congregation.

A first thing which needs to be recognized  is that these numbers are for a reasonably large congregation, which is not the most common situation for churches of Christ.  In a smaller congregation, a new auditorium may well triple the capacity rather than just being a 50% increase.  This would of course change the timing considerably.

Secondly, for practicality the program presumes you are going to either  build or plant.  A more logical scenario for most congregations is a combination of the two methods.  For the sample data, it would mean combinations like:

  1. Plant every 8 years and build every 8
  2. Plant every 6 years and build every 12
  3. The combinations are only limited by
    your imagination.


Either of these combinations would be less intimidating than the base case for the sample congregation.  Using your data and combinations of methods you can determine the best method for your congregation to achieve Great Commission Community Evangelism. The important point here is that the Great Commission is what we are called to do.  The methods are up to us, and we can expect to be held accountable for the results.

If a congregation becomes highly motivated to do community evangelism, it should be aware that it must be equally motivated to do shepherding, training, and involving of the new members in the work so they can become  active workers also.

If this doesn’t concern you, you might want to read Matthew 25: 14-30 and Revelation 3:14-16.  If  you have insights on how to help congregations become more scripturally evangelistic, let us know.  We need help to spread the word.  Send your ideas and suggestions to [email protected].

***The Excel CONGREGATONAL BUILD OR PLANT PLANNER program can be downloaded from  If you prefer, you can send the data you would like input to [email protected] and we will run the program and send the data to you.

Similarly, email us with your zip code(s) and we will send your service area growth rate.

Reviewed by: Larry Wilson, Champions Church of Christ, Houston, TX