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When Paul walked round Athens in Acts 17 he was getting a feel for the place and working out how he could communicate the Gospel to the people there. That’s now called “ethnographics” . Paul walked round, observing, talking to people and getting distressed by the sheer scale of idolatry. Verse 16 “While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.”, verse 23 “for while I was walked round and looked carefuly at your objects of worship, I even found…”

Church planters need to do their demographic research to get a statistical feel for where they are going to plant. They also need to do some ethnographics – walk around, ask questions and get a feel for the place too.

For instance, when preparing to move to King’s Lynn Idiscovered that 10% of the population were from Eastern Europe by doing mydemographic research. Wandering around, I found 3 “Russian” rather than “Polish”shops. Polish shops are springing up all over the UK as the UK population hasgrown by some 500,000 Poles since 2004. Doing a little historical research, Idiscovered that King’s Lynn has a historical link with Russia from theHanseatic period and that link has continued. Talking to the Russian shopkeepers,people in the shops and listening on the streets, I discovered that the EasternEuropeans were mainly Russian speakers rather than Lithuanian, Latvian orPolish. I then discovered that none of the Protestant Churches were activelyreaching Russian speakers, so we then looked to recruit Russian speakers to thecore team to reach them. In the last 18 months since starting The Gateway Church another Russian shop has opened up!

Get your core team to wander round too and talk to people to get a feel for your new patch.

Avoid questionnaires and surveys, but look to have naturalquestions depending on who you are talking to, that flow from the socialcontext (jobs, schools, housing) to internal stuff, like hopes and fears, to religious life (church and religion) to world-view. The purpose is to listen and learnand you may only find out information from one category.

Your core team will gain a lot of ownership for evangelisingin the plant by being involved in this process. It will be helpful toincorporate brainstorming what you have all learned at the core prayer/visionmeetings.

  1. What brought you here?
  2. What do you like or dislike about living here?
  3. What kind of church does this place need?
  4. What’s the toughest thing for you when you consider faith and spiritual things?
  5. If you ask God one question what would it be?
  6. Are things the way they ought to be?
Tim Keller’s Church Planting Manual is exceellent on these things.


Andy Moyle is a church leader and web developer. His biggest project is the Church Admin WordPress plugin and app. He also runs, mainly so he can eat pizza.