Doubling Bob Roberts / Northwoods Style

There is nothing like the power of an example. For this reason, I try to find for you great examples of churches that have embraced the vision of groups growing and dividing, growing and dividing, growing and dividing.


Bob Roberts at Northwoods Church (North suburbs of Fort Worth, TX) is doubling in spades.

Bob caught the vision of doubling groups from Thom Wolf, former pastor of The Church on Brady. (If you are familiar with the name Erwin Raphael McManus, he followed Thom and changed the name of that church to Mosaic.)

Before talking to Thom and staff member Carol Davis, Bob had always thought addition: how to grow his church. After a conversation with Thom and Carol, Bob began thinking multiplication: how to multiply churches. He came to understand that church planting should be as natural as evangelism or discipleship or children's ministry. Instead of being the biggest church in the area, they began to dream of churching the whole area. They began to think multiplication instead of mere addition.

Northwoods planted a church, three miles to the East, and another four miles to the West. Today, eight daughter churches encircle the main campus. In addition to the 2,000 that attend their main campus, they now have 5,000 who attend these daughter congregations.

In addition, they have started churches all over the area, and all over the world, totaling over 80 churches that they have either started or a church that they stated has started. They now have grand-daughter and great-grand-daughter churches with a total of 30,000 in worship every single week. Last year, 3,600 people were in church that were not in church the year before because of this movement.

All that is from the book. I heard Bob speak recently and he gave an update on their progress. This last year they and their network of daughter churches planted seventy-five additional churches in one year.

Thus is the nature of multiplication growth. It doesn't look like much at first. A group that is on pace to double every two years or less might grow from 10 to 14 in a year. It doesn't look like much--growing from 10 to 14. But, if you can do that slightly faster--10 to 14 in 9 months and double every 18 months you can reach 1000 people in ten years. The second ten years gets really interesting.

It didn't look like much when Northwoods started that first church. Or the second. But as you keep multiplying, the exponential effect starts to kick in.

The need for new churches

Good news: 1,300 churches successfully start each year.

Bad news: 3,700 churches close each year.

Bottom line: there is a net loss of 2400 each year in America even as the population continues to grow.

The side benefit of church planting

Churches that embrace a vision for multiplying church planting receive an incredible side benefit at the small group level. I started this article speaking of the value of an example. Churches that start churches are an incredible example to their people when it comes time to divide groups. Churches that start churches can say with integrity, "We are giving people away to start new groups; you should give people away to start new groups."

When will I be ready to do this?

I cannot remember the source of this next little fact. I suspect it came from one of the Acts 29 audios I listened to recently. See They did a survey where they asked churches of all sizes when they think they will be strong enough and ready to start new churches. Churches at 100 said 125. Churches at 200 said 250. Churches at 1000 said 1250. Everybody said, "About 25% bigger than we are now."

This rings true in my experience. In talking to group leaders over the years about starting new groups, often the response was not to say "NO" or refuse to start a new group. it was, "not now." "When, then?" I would follow up. Usually, the answer was about 25% bigger.

There is a world of difference between the attitude of the person who is willing to start a new group when he has to and might be willing to actually do it (though, somewhat reluctantly) when the group is 25% bigger than it is now, and the person who eagerly wants his group to grow and divide and grow and divide grow and divide. The former is asking, "When do I have to do this?" if he is thinking about it at all. The later is thinking, "How quickly can I do this?"

One of the key ingredients in instilling this kind of attitude is leadership by example. If the leadership of the church has embraced the vision of growing and dividing, growing and dividing, growing and dividing, and is modeling that for the congregation, we have a very good chance that they will get it.

Northwoods Church in Keller, TX provides an outstanding example of one church that is doing just this.