A LifeWay Research study that shaped key steps in the process was sponsored by 11 denominations and church planting networks, including Southern Baptists' North American Mission Board, Assemblies of God, Presbyterian Church in America and the Evangelical Free Church of America.
"There are numerous other instruments available for evangelical church planting organizations to use," said Ed Stetzer, LifeWay's vice president of research and ministry development. "However, a statistically validated assessment instrument has been missing from this field."
As a result, Stetzer and his team at LifeWay Research developed the Church Planter Candidate Assessment (CPCA) to aid churches and other church planting sponsors in evaluating strengths and weaknesses of candidates who desire to establish new churches.
"The Evangelical Free Church partnered on this because we love planters," said George Klippenes, church planting director of the Evangelical Free Church. "This tool helps us to help them discern their call as they consider church planting."
The cooperative spirit was echoed by Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board. "NAMB has gladly partnered with LifeWay Research to help study church planters and develop the CPCA. We believe that a better self-understanding a planter has, the better engaged that planter and church can be with the Great Commission work of the church."
LifeWay Research used a research-driven process to develop the CPCA. Thirty assessment experts were interviewed to identify key characteristics in church planters. Questions were developed and reviewed by additional experts in church planting. Then three rounds of quantitative tests among more than 500 church planters and pastors were used to identify the best questions.
The CPCA contains more than 20 scales, each proven to be statistically reliable at measuring a specific church planter characteristic. The series of scales provides indications of strengths and weaknesses that are helpful to organizations in the church planter assessment process. Some organizations will use these indications to decide whether to move forward with further assessment of a candidate or in guiding the assessment steps that follow.
"The Assemblies of God has looked for an effective tool to help potential planters consider their call early on in their planting journey," said Steve Pike, director of the Assemblies of God Church Multiplication Network. "This tool is what we've been looking for."
The CPCA is not a "stand-alone test" for a candidate's ability to succeed on the field. Stetzer noted, "The intention for the CPCA is to serve as a solid 'initial indicator'-- testing for measurable characteristics found in successful church planters."
Further, LifeWay Research took into account questions such as how success is defined when planting a new church, acknowledging that it can take years for a church plant to establish independence and a self-sustaining level of church membership.
"LifeWay Research and other sponsoring organizations of this project understand that a variety of circumstances ultimately determine the planter's ability to 'succeed' in a variety of given conditions," Stetzer said. "Therefore, the tool is not intended to serve as a stand-alone, comprehensive assessment process."
All questions are answered and scored online and immediately shared with the candidate's organization. This makes the CPCA easily accessible to organizations and church-planting candidates (http://churchplanter.lifeway.com).
"Finally we have an objectively validated tool to help us know the predictive factors found in the most fruitful church planters," said Larry Sherman, director of church planting for the Great Lakes Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church.
Reported by the communications staff of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
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