Research Methodology

One of the greatest responsibilities of any church planting organization is the evaluation and development of potential church planters. Church planting organizations have taken this responsibility seriously by developing formal assessment processes for these candidates. As candidates are evaluated, certain desirable characteristics such as doctrine are clear because of who the organization or denomination is. However, other church planter characteristics have relied on the growing experience of veteran assessors and qualitative research without the benefit of a statistically validated tool for assessing entrepreneurial church planters.

This LifeWay Research project was initially conducted with heavy participation from eleven participating church planting organizations. The study was designed to provide an assessment tool that identifies characteristics that are both statistically reliable and practically valid. The Church Planter Candidate Assessment tool is specifically focused on church planting characteristics and does not seek to replace other important instruments in the assessment process that address personality, occupational skills, and spiritual gifts (although a separate spiritual gift inventory has been included in the online tool for convenience).

The Church Planter Candidate Assessment (CPCA) was carefully developed using a research-driven process. In-depth qualitative research provided the initial foundation by identifying the experiences and practices of 30 of the best church planting assessment experts. The first draft of questions was reviewed by a second panel of experts before any quantitative surveys took place.

Quantitative testing involved three waves of surveys. In between each wave, the responses were statistically analyzed weeding out ineffective questions. New questions were added, always returning to the expert interviews for direction. In all, over 500 quantitative surveys were completed.

The CPCA evaluates a series of characteristics that serve as an initial indicator of a potential planter's strengths and weaknesses. Each characteristic is determined by a group of 3 or more questions whose underlying structure describes a single factor called a scale.

The third and final wave of surveys confirmed that over 20 reliable scales had been identified. Each scale describes a specific church planter characteristic. Many of these characteristics also prove predictive of church growth and new commitments to Jesus Christ.

The online CPCA provides an easy way for a church planter candidate to complete the CPCA questions and immediately see a summary report of where their scores land on each of the scales developed through this research. The church planting organization that the candidate identifies when purchasing the tool is immediately notified and can access the report to evaluate the candidate's strengths and weaknesses as part of their comprehensive assessment process.

The stated goal of the project was to create an objective online assessment tool which assists church planting agencies in determining the readiness and/or probability of success of prospective church planting candidates.

The tool is designed to serve as a solid "initial indicator" -- reliably testing for measureable characteristics found in the majority of successful church planters.

Initial Sponsor Organizations In cooperation with LifeWay Research, eleven other organizations were heavily involved from the outset of this project. Evangelical Covenant Church Mission to North America The Wesleyan Church Assemblies of God Baptist Missionary Association of America Christian Reformed Church in North America Acts 29 Evangelical Free Church of America Every Nation Ministries International Pentecostal Holiness Church North American Mission Board

Phase 1: Discover Which Characteristics Are Found in Successful Church Planters and Are Worthy to Be Measured. To compile and pare down the list of characteristics, a five-step process was followed.

Literature Review of previously published assessment research. Focus Group Roundtable with expert assessors. Psychological Testing of Sample Group identified as successful church planters.

Interviews with expert assessors including: Aubrey Malphurs, Bob Cargo, Bob Roberts, Brett Fuller, Bruce Finn, Cecil Seagle, Eric Metcalf, Gary McIntosh, Gary Rohrmayer, George Klippenes, Greg Kappas, Hugh Halter, JD Payne, Jim Griffith, Kevin Schutte, Kevin York, Larry Baker, Lewis McMullen, Mark Reynolds, Mark Williams, Neil Cole, Peter Sung, Ron Silva, Russell Begaye, Steve Addison, Steve Pike, Ted Powers, Tom Nebel, Tom Wood, Tyler Powell

Organizing and prioritizing characteristics in order to begin writing survey questions for the assessment.

Phase 2: Development of Questions to Measure Characteristics Determined in Phase 1.

All questions tested for use in the Church Planter Candidate Assessment were written by or for LifeWay Research. Each was designed to help identify a characteristic identified in Phase 1 and depended heavily on details identified during the expert interviews.

The development of brand new questions for a brand new assessment requires much testing. A four-step process was used in the development of the Church Planter Candidate Assessment.

Expert Review of Initial Questions: LifeWay Research did not want to test the initial set of questions without further collaboration with church planting experts to ensure that the transition to Phase 2 accurately reflected characteristics identified in Phase 1. So, fourteen church planting experts reviewed the initial questions providing feedback, indicating the questions they thought were best, and suggesting additional questions.

Experts providing feedback: David Olson, executive minister of the Department of Church Growth and Evangelism, Evangelical Covenant Church Brett Fuller, pastor Grace Covenant Church Chantilly, VA David Hesselgrave, professor emeritus of mission at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School Al Guerra, senior pastor Iglesia Del Pueblo Wheaton Bible Church, IL Tim Keller, senior pastor Redeemer Presbyterian Church, NY Paul Becker, president and founder, Dynamic Church Planting International Bob Cargo, director of church planting Perimeter Church, GA J. D. Payne, director of the Center for North American Missions and Church Planting at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Neil Cole, founder and executive director of Church Multiplication Associates and CMAResources Marlan Mincks, lead pastor Ridge Ministries, IA and co-director Converge USA Assessment Centers Eric Metcalf, director NewThing Network Steve Childers, associate professor of practical theology and director of the Doctor of Ministry Program Aubrey Malphurs, senior professor of pastoral ministries, Dallas Theological Seminary Gary Rohrmayer, associate director of Converge Church Planting

Quantitative Testing Wave 1 - Successful and Unsuccessful Church Planters: In October 2010, LifeWay Research invited church planters from lists provided by the participating organizations to complete the Wave 1 questionnaire.

Quantitative Testing Wave 2 - Protestant Pastors: Changes to the instrument for Wave 2 were driven by findings from Wave 1. Questions that did not show sufficient differentiation were discarded or edited. New questions were written to match patterns that were seen in Wave 1 using additional details from Phase 1 expert interviews. A new list of 6 possible responses was used: strongly disagree, moderately disagree, slightly disagree, slightly agree, moderately agree, or strongly agree. Quantitative Testing Wave 3 - Church Planters and Pastors: The goal of the assessment is to have scales (groups of questions that factor together) that identify each characteristic identified in Phase 1 and that the scales be statistically reliable. Changes to the instrument for Wave 3 were designed to increase the number and reliability of scales by editing and adding questions to match patterns that were seen in Wave 2.

Phase 3: Final Development of Assessment Tool. The final set of questions tested in Wave 3 is the basis for the Church Planter Candidate Assessment (CPCA). Twenty-two scales are used to provide the summary report for a church planter. The questionnaire also includes several additional questions that allow for ongoing testing and development of the tool.

(A copy of the full report on the research process is available to organizations signing up as a full associate organization with the Church Planter Candidate Assessment. For more information on registering as an Associate Organization, please contact

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Church Planter Candidate Assessment