For 4 or 5 years now, I have been an advocate for prioritizing population density over population growth in locating a new church or a new campus of a multi-site church. I’m am leading a movement with this idea. A movement of 2: me and my mom.
How many times have you heard something like the following in rationalizing a potential church site:
- “This county, just north of the city, is the fastest growing county in the state.”
- “A new subdivision is coming in that will have over 2,000 housetops.”
Here’s a hypothetical situation. A tale of 2 cities:
Rabbit Town - Population Density of 50 people / sq. mile, Annual Population Growth of 20%
Turtle Town – Population Density of 500 people / sq. mile, Annual Population Growth of 5%
Almost every lay leader and most church planters go for growth. Better to trust the turtle. There are a ton of reasons to go for density. Here are a few:
- Ultimately, Rabbit Town’s density will catch up; however, the densities of these 2 towns are not equal until just over 17 years from now. Everyone knows (or is it no one knows; I can’t remember), Jesus is coming back before then.
- In year one, 15,700 people live within a 10-mile radius of a church in Rabbit Town. In year one, 157,000 people live within a 10-mile radius of a church in Turtle Town. How much of a shot do you have at someone more than 10 miles away? Wouldn’t you prefer a market with 10 times as many people?
If this is so clear, why do church site locators consistently make this mistake?
- It’s a vestige of denominational thinking. Dense, older parts of the city are already churched, specifically with churches of your denomination. Let’s stay away from them so they won’t get mad.
- Or, you tend to think of other churches as competition. Better to locate in an area where there aren’t any. The cruel reality is that most churches are in decline. If they were effective competition, there’d be no need to plant yours. If you aren’t going to be substantially different, why bother?
For extra credit - Microsoft has a program called MapPoint 2009. It’s about $300 and worth every penny. For any potential location, you can draw a 10-mile radius (or, better yet, a 20-minute drive-time polygon) and the program counts the people within the perimeter. It takes the guesswork out of comparing locations.
Anyone out there still a proponent of population growth?