Choose your barangay
One of the most critical decisions you will make in the process of planting your church is the selection of your target barangay. Some church planters give little attention to this very important decision. Basta't may contact, sige nang sige.
But if your target barangay is hastily chosen, without sufficient basis, the project could drag on for years. Worse yet, it could die. In selecting a target barangay, look for:
1. Is it a barangay without a church?
There are still thousands of barangays in the Philippines without even one church. These are our top priority targets for church plants. The leaders of the local Ministerial Fellowship may have this information. If not, you could survey the area yourself. DAWN research has this information for every barangay in every province. For information on Luzon, contact
P.O. Box 13919 OCPO
1605 Ortigas Center, Pasig City
655-1524, 240-3893, 240-4124
For information on Visayas and Mindanao, contact
P.O. Box 81202
8000 Davao City
2. Is it a barangay with too few churches?
We saw in Chapter 1 that one church is not enough for highly populated barangays. In cities, ideally, we would like to have at least one church for every 1,000 people. In rural areas, ideally, we would like to have at least one church for every 500 people.
In the sample below from our DAWN research we can see that General Santos City has a church in every barangay! We might conclude that no new churches need to be planted in that city. However, look in the right hand column at "people per church." In the barangays where this figure is 2,000 or higher, more churches are still needed. In barangays where this figure is 1,000- 2,000 at least one more church is highly desired. So even though this city has at least one church in every barangay, many of its barangays still need churches.
General Santos City
BarangayPopulation Churches People per Church
Glamang 8,536 1 8,536
Lamlenol 5,674 1 5,674
Batomelong 5,651 1 5,651
Bawing 3,943 1 3,943
Lagabang 3,851 1 3,851
Lagao (1st & 3rd) 53,267 17 3,133
Tambler 11,273 4 2,818
Bula 26,886 10 2,688
Crossing Makar 2,562 1 2,562
Labangal 52,062 26 2,002
Mabuhay 5,805 3 1,935
Siguel 1,841 1 1,841
Conel 7,021 4 1,755
Dadiangas (Pob.) 47,578 28 1,699
Upper Labay 1,669 1 1,669
Katangawan 5,187 4 1,296
Maan San Jose 1,241 1 1,241
New Society 1,146 1 1,146
(Lagao 2nd) 6,808 6 1,134
Apopong 12,128 11 1,102
Labay: Upper 2,987 3 995
Buayan 5,650 7 807
Tinagacan 4,111 6 685
Ligaya 2,424 4 606
Baluan 3,471 6 578
San Jose 2,466 8 308
Sinawal 742 6 123
TOTAL 285,980 163 1,754
If you select a barangay which already has a church, make sure you get to know the leaders of that church and develop a good relationship with them. Work together as a team to reach the whole barangay.
A church in Navotas completely ignored this. They moved their church right next to an existing church—dingding lang ang pagitan! Hindi sila nagpaalam. Nag-away pa! These behaviors completely disregard the exhortation to "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:3).
3. Where do your members live?
Do you have a small cluster of families, or even just one family, who lives 2-3 kilometers from your church? These families and their contacts could become the nucleus of a daughter church.
"Two to three kilometers? Malapit lang 'yan, a," some may say. It's true. This isn't far for your members. Faithful members will travel farther than this to go to church every Sunday, and think nothing of it. However, this distance may be a hindrance to their neighbors with whom they are sharing Christ. A new church, right in their neighborhood, will definitely reach more of these neighbors.
We used to attend a church in Bgy. Bagong Silang, Mandaluyong. The families of Kuya Tony, Ate Ellen and Ate Bing Bing all lived in Bgy. San Jose, about three kilometers away. There were 8,000+ people in Bgy. San Jose, and not one church. These three families opened Outreach Bibles Studies for their neighbors and we planted a daughter church there.
Some books on church planting call this "hiving off" or "branching." Many churches have been planted in the Philippines this way.
The danger with this method is that sometimes new congregations begin composed entirely of those who are already Christians, coming from the mother church. This does start new churches, but it does not bring any growth to the Kingdom of God. A solution to this problem is to set a goal to reach a specific number of unbelievers. Mobilize the church members, who will be part of the new church, to reach their neighbors. The new worship service will begin only when the required number of new believers are ready to become active. Until then, bawal ang worship service. During this time of initial outreach, the members can continue to attend the mother church.
Most churches have members who are good candidates to help plant a church in this way. The problem is, some members love each other so much that they're not willing to start new churches through this method. Love is good. Pero, mga minamahal na nagmamahal, kung minsan sobra na ang inyong pagmamahalan! Too much love (of this kind) can actually hinder the growth of the Kingdom. We will have all of eternity to fellowship. But now is our only season to evangelize. Yes, friends will be missed. It does hurt. I know. But let us do it, alang-alang sa mga hindi pa mananampalataya. New friends will be made. Those who plant churches in this way will have no lack of loving friendships.
4. Where have your members transferred to?
Do you have members who have moved away from your church and can no longer attend because it's too far? These members, along with their contacts in their new area, could be the start of a daughter church.
Mr. and Mrs. Prince Dumaran were members of the Alliance church in Zamboanga. They transferred to Dagupan City, and became instrumental in planting a church there.
Some books on church planting call this "seeding." Thousands of churches have been planted in the Philippines in this way.
5. Do you have other contacts in the barangay?
Where do you or your members have friends, relatives or kumpares who would like to have a Bible study? Contacts like these can be the first fruits of a daughter church. This method is extremely effective, especially through relatives. Many times, when a family member comes to Christ, they will have a burden for their relatives in another province. And so the Gospel is taken to them, and a church is planted. A large percentage of the churches in the Philippines have been planted this way.
This is especially effective with contacts that have many more contacts of their own. With initial contacts like these, it's more likely the new church can get off to a strong start. However, if your contact is a lola, laging nasa bahay, with no friends, it will probably be hard to plant a church through her.
Pastor Rafael Salonga's wife, Filma, had many unsaved relatives in Asingan, Pangasinan. A healthy church was quickly planted through her many contacts.
Although it's better to start off with more contacts, many churches have been started through just a single contact!
• Pastor Joel Indico planted Zion Baptist Church in Dasmariñas, Cavite with just one contact.
• In Bacoor, Cavite, there was a member of Pastor Arman dela Merced's church who owned a pet shop. This owner had a suki who wanted to have a Bible study. This was their only contact. An established church now meets in the compound of this suki.
• In Libtong, Cervantes, Ilocos Sur, the Filipino Assemblies of the First Born had just one contact, a barangay councilor. After one year, 73 of the 75 families in the sitio in which he lives became Christians and active in the newly planted church!
You could possibly select a barangay with no contacts at all. But having some contacts is a big advantage.
A possible danger with this method is beginning a church plant just because there is a contact. The other factors in this chapter should also be considered.
6. Is there a new community?
New communities are generally the easiest places to plant a church. People are usually more receptive to the Gospel when there is change occurring in their lives. This could be any type of change, including change of residence. A great time to reach people is right after they transfer. They probably don't have any friends yet in the new community. They are open to developing new relationships. Let's reach out to them with the Gospel and practical Christian love!
When new residents move in near our mother church, they are great targets for outreach. In a new community, everyone is a new resident! Everyone in the community is a good target!
"These are virgin territories to be conquered," challenges Pastor Joel Indico. "The people are new and are looking for friends."
When Palao Village in Calamba, Laguna was a new subdivision, the members of Love of Christ used the records at the Homeowners Office to locate those who were moving into the subdivision. Tumulong sila sa pagbubuhat. They planted a church in this new community through these contacts.
The danger of planting churches in new communities is the temptation to just gather those who are already Christians that have transferred into that place. But this doesn't produce any growth in the Kingdom! This isn't the type of church planting we have in mind. These Christians can, however, be a big help in reaching unbelievers there. Be sure to reach plenty of unbelievers first, before beginning the first worship service. By insisting on this, we can force ourselves to evangelize to plant the church. Mas maganda 'yon.
7. Are the residents responsive to the Gospel?
We are much more likely to bear more fruit when we target a responsive area. Places usually do not stay responsive forever. We should send the majority of our church planters to these places while the response is good. Sayang kung nakalipas ang tag-ani, at wala tayong nagawa.
Other places may not be responsive now. But things can change. A time of response can come. We can send a smaller percentage of our resources to less responsive areas. They can prepare the soil, plant seeds and observe the response. When the field becomes ripe, more laborers can be called in. Habang hilaw pa, magbabantay lang sila.
Suppose there are two manggahans. One is loaded with heavy yellow mangoes—nalalaglag na. The other has bulaklak pa lang. Where would you send more of your harvesters? Siyempre, sa may mga hinog na. Sending harvesters into responsive areas is also a good strategy in church planting.
The church should not only pursue receptive lost people, it must pursue responsive lost people—those who are interested in spiritual truth. We can call these people "seekers." There are several biblical examples of this principle.
Jesus instructed His twelve disciples to pursue responsive lost people (Mt. 10:11-15; Mk. 6:10-11; 12:34; Lk. 9:4-6). Paul pursued responsive people (Acts 13:43-52; 18:1-7). Some individuals who were "seekers" were Zacchaeus (Lk. 19:1-10), Nicodemus (Jn. 3:1-21), the eunuch from Ethiopia (Acts 8:26-38), and Cornelius (Acts 10). The point is that these people are strongly moving toward or are very close to faith in Christ. They must be pursued with a passion.1
"But how can I know which places are responsive?" you may ask.
The population growth rate can give us an idea about possible responsiveness. If the population growth is rapid it's probably because there are many new residents. These places are more likely to be responsive than places with slow population growth. The population of Metro Manila is spilling over into Cavite, Laguna, Rizal and Bulacan. Many barangays in these provinces are excellent targets for church planting.
You can find information on population growth rates at your local munisipyo or through DAWN.
"All kinds of cults and religions are growing in our barangay— Iglesia, Dating Daan, Almeda and PBMA." This probably shows that people are searching. If they are responsive to cults and other religions, they will probably be responsive to the Gospel also. Huwag sana tayong maunahan.
The Average Annual Growth Rate (AAGR) of churches in the area can also show us which places are responsive. The AAGR is simply a measure of how fast, on the average, churches are multiplying.
An AAGR of 10% or higher shows that the area is very responsive. Many provinces in the Visayas (Northern Samar, Aklan, Antique, and others) have high growth rates like this.
An AAGR of 4% or lower probably indicates a lack of responsiveness.2 Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Basilan, Batangas, Nueva Viscaya, Quirino and Sarangani all have low growth rates. This helpful information is available from DAWN Philippines.
Another thing you can do is just observe. Are there new churches popping up? If so, this probably shows responsiveness.
You can gather these facts without doing much research in the target barangay. But the best way to test responsiveness is to talk to people in the target barangay. We will cover this in Step 4– Confirm the Target Barangay.
8. How near is it to the mother church?
"Kung mas malayo, mas espirituwal." That's what some seem to think when they choose their target barangay. Some prefer far away places, passing up hundreds of churchless barangays on the way. Mahilig sa malayo.
In some cases, there are good reasons for planting a church a long distance away from the mother church. But there are big advantages to targeting a nearby barangay—even just 3-4 barangays away. Here are some of them:
• Better supervision
• Bawas sa pamasahe
• More people involved, who are also able to participate more frequently
• More fruit!
A bigger team in the target barangay should mean more OBSes (Outreach Bible Studies) and more disciples made.
Peacemakers, in Cainta, Rizal, has recently planted two other churches right in Cainta, two more in the next town of Antipolo and one in nearby Angono. They have also planted churches in other provinces.
From 1995 to 1998, Antipolo Christian Community Church, pastored by Rainier Mia, planted nine churches. Five of these were within their own city of Antipolo. They planted two others in the bordering towns of Cainta and Angono.
Pastor Art Pabellon reports that the Southern Baptists have forty churches in Davao City. But they're not satisfied. They have seven more church plants in progress, also within Davao City!
The Foursquare Gospel Church of the Philippines has done this in Romblon. Rather than go to other provinces, they have planted dozens of churches right within Romblon.
We usually do not have to look far to find a barangay that needs a church. Closer to home is much more practical and efficient.
As your church gains experience in planting churches within your own culture, you can consider planting a church in an Unreached People Group. Contact PMA (the Philippine Missions Association), AMNET (Asia Missions Network) or Philippine Challenge for help on reaching out cross-culturally.3
9. Can you concentrate contacts there?
Target a barangay where you think you will be able to make plenty of contacts, all concentrated in one small place. Open all your OBSes there. If you do, it will be much more likely you will be able to bring these OBSes together to form a church.
Many churches make the common mistake of opening OBSes all over the place, kahit nasaan.
"I have 18 OBSes per week, all over Metro Manila," one church planter recently shared with me. "How can I bring them all together to form a church?" he asked.
Most Bible studies scattered all over have a common fate: After a year or two—wala na. Sayang!
The time to start thinking about this is when selecting your target barangay. Choose a barangay where you can make enough contacts, concentrated in one place, to plant a church.
"How about more than one target barangay?" you might ask. The average church in the Philippines has 58 members. Concentrating on one target barangay is enough for most churches.
Large churches can work on planting more than one church at a time. In these cases, it's usually best to have additional teams, each with their own target barangay. In each of these separate targets, look for contacts in a concentrated area.
10. Do the team and the leaders of the mother church agree?
The team can discuss all of the above factors. This is an important decision. It's normally best to include the pastor and possibly other leaders of the mother church in the decision making.
&Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. (Prov. 15:22)
&For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure. (Prov. 11:14)
11. Has God given the go signal?
The Lord normally leads church planters to target barangays where many of the factors we've seen in this chapter are present. We should definitely consider all of these. But God may lead you to a barangay where most of the factors are not present! Let's block off time to listen to Him. Let's be sure we don't repeat the mistake of the Israelites who "did not inquire of the Lord" (Josh. 9:14). His direction overrules all other factors!
&Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes. (Prov. 3:5-7)
&Seek the counsel of the Lord. (1 Kings 22:5)
You have based your tentative selection of your target barangay mostly on things you already know or can easily learn. To make a final confirmation of your target you will need to get into the barangay and start talking to people. We'll cover this in Step 4– "Confirm the Target Barangay."
Once you have selected a tentative target barangay, you can plan the action steps you will take to plant a church there. This is our topic in the next chapter.
Action planning and discussion
1. Do you have any members who live 2-3 kilometers or more away from your church? Are they good candidates to become the core of a daughter church?
2. Do you have any members who have moved far away and are no longer able to attend your church because of the distance? Could they become the nucleus for a daughter church?
3. Where do you have good contacts who could be the start of a daughter church? Do these contacts also have more contacts?
4. Do you know of any new communities where you could plant a church?
5. Province A is extremely responsive to the Gospel. Province B is only slightly responsive. Province C is violently opposed to the Gospel at this time. If you were responsible to assign 100 church planters, how many would you assign to Province A? How many to Provinces B and C?
6. What factors show that your target barangay may be responsive?
7. How close is your target barangay to where your team members live?
8. Who, in your church, should make the decision about your target barangay?
9. Have you taken time to listen to the Lord's voice regarding your target barangay? What did the Lord show you?
The main thing to do now
qSelect your tentative target barangay.
qCheck the factors below which are present in this barangay. It's not necessary that all factors be present. But you do need to have sufficient basis for choosing the barangay.
qGo back to p. 109 and write your goal, including your target barangay, if you haven't done so already.
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