Note: This blog entry is part of a series on church planting. If you would like to see all entries that have been posted so far in this series, you can bring them up by doing a search for “church planting series” on this blog. You can also purchase the full 27 page Church Planter Coaching Guide, with multiple coaching questions for each subpoint, in the Logan Leadership store.  

  • What are the action steps you’ll need to take to better understand your target group?
  • Describe the community or target group you plan to reach.
  • What adaptations do you need to make to reach the people in your target group?

Survey the harvestUnderstand your target group

If you’re going from one culture to another culture, it’s obvious you need to think about bridging cultural hurdles. However, even if it doesn’t seem like you’re entering a different culture, think of it as if you are. Those are the same principles you’ll need to exegete the culture you’re trying to reach. Research the demographics. A comprehensive study of the demographics in a particular community or culture can be a useful tool for targeting groups. Plan to invest 15-20 hours to complete your demographic study. Some areas to research and consider include age distribution, household incomes, educational levels, marital status, and ethnic groupings. All of these will make a difference in some of the ways you approach ministering to them. It’s also important to do your own research by spending time with those you’ll be trying to reach and getting to know them on their own turf. There is no substitute for experiential understanding, even if it may be uncomfortable.

Discover fertile soil

“Fertile soil” is made up of people in your community who are most receptive to the message of Christ. People who are receptive are people who are open to change. Their current approach to life is not satisfying to them. They may be facing challenges relationally, vocationally, emotionally, etc. People who don’t sense any needs are less likely to respond to the message of Christ. Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). Remember that receptive people might not be the first you think of.

Discern cultural dynamics

What’s unique? Every culture has its own system of values. For example, some cultures place a high emphasis on celebrations and community. By understanding their values and priorities, you can better serve the people around you. Culture groups often share similar aspirations, desires, frustrations, dreams, hurts, needs, and wounds. Where are the people that aren’t being reached? Are they from a culture group? A subculture, ethnic groups, an age group, a geographic area? Identify the poor, the marginalized, the disenfranchised. We need to see the harvest through missional eyes, then we can more fully understand the cultural dynamics.

Ask yourself, “What’s good news for this people group?” By discovering what “good news” means to the people around you, you can share the best of news: Jesus Christ. A church planter in Salt Lake City tells people that “through Jesus Christ they can realize their full potential, and they don’t have to fit into anybody else’s mold.” In a predominantly Mormon culture, that’s great news!

Explore your oikos connections

Oikos is the Greek word for household. It is the fundamental unit of society involving families, friends, neighbors and associates. The New Testament describes churches meeting in the oikos, and it teaches that believers belong to the “household” of God. Therefore, it is vital to explore and expand oikos evangelism. The oikos is where people can best witness Christ’s love through relational connections.