Church Plants vs. Established Churches

Is it better to be part of a church plant, or an established church? I don’t know that one is better than the other. But these are some observations I have had comparing the two. They are definitely generalizations. Most (if not all) of the bloggers here on Cross Connection are more experienced than I am, so I value the coming comments (both elaborative and corrective).

Pros for Church Plants; Cons for Established Churches

  • Church plant members have a pioneering attitude.
  • Established church members have a maintaining attitude.
  • Church plant members are more willing to take risks.
  • Established church members are afraid of risks, preferring what is comfortable or ‘established’.
  • Church plant members are willing to think in a way that is new and different.
  • Established church members prefer traditions and being able to anticipate the future.
  • Church plant members constantly look ahead to what is going to happen.
  • Established church members often look back at what has happened.

Pros for Established Churches; Cons for Church Plants

  • Church plant members are sometimes those who think they can make the church the way they want it.
  • Established church members are already content with the church structure.
  • Church plants often lack resources including qualified workers.
  • Established churches are often well funded and have more qualified workers.
  • Church plant members sometimes think they can showcase their talent because the church is usually small.
  • Established churches can discriminate more on who can fill roles because they are usually bigger.

Mix of Pros and Cons

  • Church plants tend to be more missional focused in outreach (going to where unbelievers are).
  • Established churches tend to be more attractional focused in outreach (bring unbelievers to where they are).
  • Church plants tend to have a stronger emphasis on evangelism.
  • Established churches tend to have a stronger structure for discipleship.
  • Church plant members expect something more grassroots.
  • Established church members expect something more professional.



4 replies
  1. Daniel Fusco
    Daniel Fusco says:

    I would say that it is a false dichotomy.

    Realistically, it’s like the “so-called” debate between frontier missions and domestic ministries. You do frontier mission so you can do domestic ministries! You can’t really have one without the other.

    So you do church planting so that at some point you can have established church discipleship.

    As a church planter who is now part of an established church, none of those things are context specific. Pioneering, evangelism, discipleship, finances, innovation are all part of a church’s culture, no matter the size, age, or season of existence.

    • Miles DeBenedictis
      Miles DeBenedictis says:


      I agree that the culture of a church is, in a big way, the determining factor as to how it operates, but does that really falsify the above dichotomy?

      I’ve not planted a church. My entire ministry has been within established churches. Be that as it may, there are apparent differences. Are those purely anecdotal?

      Furthermore, you infer that there is essentially no difference between frontier and domestic missions? That’s like saying there’s no difference between the Marines and the Army! I know a few Marines and a Shepherds Staff Missions Facilitator who’d beg to differ 😉

      My questions are sincere. You have a very good background from which to speak to this having planted several churches and now Pastoring an established one.

  2. Daniel Fusco
    Daniel Fusco says:

    It’s not that they are not different, of course they are.
    And every church in whatever stage has it’s own things it’s working on.

    But if you look at the pro/con list
    Those are church culture issues, not based on size/age.

    Missional vs attractional
    Evangelistic vs discipleship

    Like simply size
    there are 20 year old established chrurches that have 50 people them
    Some church plants launch with more than 50 people.

    So age/size doesn’t even add up often

    • Matt Kottman
      Matt Kottman says:

      Thanks guys,

      Daniel, I would agree that the list above is in no way definitive. All gospel-centric churches should be essentially working towards the same goal.

      Rather than underlining a dichotomy, I see these more as tendencies to be aware of. As a church planter seeking to establish a church, these are reflections I’ve had on my limited experience and those of some others I know, but it wouldn’t mean that if I went into a church plant, this is how it will look, and the same for an established work. But it seems that, for example, the cons would be areas that each respective ministry may have to work harder to guard against. Obviously this isn’t clear cut, for example, there can be well-established churches with a huge emphasis on evangelism, and not on discipleship, or a massive emphasis on both (or neither for that matter).

      I like your point about frontier vs. domestic and the fact that the purpose of frontier missions is to establish new domestic missions (in that frontier). In both contexts there is a strong parallel/overlap as both are calling people to walk in faith repenting of sin.

      Pastoring a well established church now and having planted churches, are you saying that you haven’t seen these tendencies in your experience?

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