What is the ‘Target Group’ of Grace Church of Philly?

What is the ‘Target Group’ of Grace Church of Philly?

 One of the most frequent questions I am asked about our new church planting endeavor in Philly is, “What is your target group.” Since, I am familiar with the philosophies of church planting and the abundant literature that gives impetus to that question, I know the kind of answer they are expecting. For instance, at Church Planting Village in an article on conflict in church planting, the following representative statement is made:

Each church plant has in mind a group of people they are trying to reach. This could be a cultural group, a socioeconomic group or an ethnic group, but there is a target group of people.[1]

Admittedly, my initial feeling is a bit of hesitation, knowing that I don’t have the answer they expect nor do I have the answer that would be supported by many church planting manuals.

University City in Philly comprises a diverse demographic age wise, educationally, socio-economically, racially and ethnically. If by the question of ‘target group,’ one means which of these groups we intend to share the gospel with, baptize, and teach, the answer is ‘everyone of those to whom the Lord opens the door of ministry.’ The ultimate target group for Grace Church of Philly is simply ‘people who need Jesus.’

Now don’t get me wrong! I do believe that gospel conversations flow more naturally through ‘homogeneous networks;’[2] however, though I do support homogeneity in evangelistic strategy, I reject homogeneity as a church planting strategy in a heterogeneous context.

We do believe that “the gospel is greater than ethnic boundaries, racial boundaries, economic boundaries, and cultural boundaries?”[3] We also believe that the church worship, fellowship, and ministry should and can reflect that greatness. 

We are moving into University City believing there are people there in need of the gospel and in whose hearts God is already at work. We have no assumption about who these people are or what target group they fit into.

We seek to love and show mercy on all whom the Lord brings across our path. We will love our ‘neighbors’ indiscriminately. We will minister to all in need. We will share the gospel freely and widely. We will cast the net widely and see whom God brings our way.

I hope and expect that when we look back, we will see that the Lord built a church that was beyond our expectations and that defied our strategy and planning.

Let me go back to the original question of who our target group is. I suggest, what I think is, a better set of questions: 1) “What are the many homogeneous networks that exist in your target area and what will be your evangelistic strategies to reach each of them, and 2) how will the experience of the gospel transcend the differences and reflect that transcendence in worship, fellowship, and ministry?”


[1] http://www.churchplantingvillage.net/atf/cf/%7B0938A074-4176-42D7-8428-77A665D9544E%7D/24%20Paper–Conflict.pdf

 [2] Homogeneous networks are people joined to one another by (usually) several webs of common interests and mutually beneficial relationships. These networks are called homogeneous because their members have something important in common (such as mutual ancestors, marriage ties, common work, or common disabilities). They are to be distinguished from stratified networks in which the master-servant, employer-employee, or teacher-student relationship tends to predominate. The members of homogeneous networks are sufficiently alike to allow them to trust each other’s judgment. New ideas pass freely from one person to another. (http://www.ijfm.org/PDFs_IJFM/03_1-4_PDFs/3_1Monsma.pdf)

[3] http://www.desertfather.com/2009/04/17/target-groups-are-for-wussies/


On September 10, 1970 I came to understand the great love of God for me, a sinner and a rebel. That evening I received God’s forgiveness and a new life through Jesus Christ, who died in my place and rose again to offer forgiveness and new life. I have been senior pastor for over 30 years planting two churches in Buckingham, PA and Queens, NY and serving two other churches in Brooklyn, NY and Roslyn, PA. I am currently the lead pastor at Grace Church of Philly.


  1. […] church if that represents your demographics. John has written on our philosophy concerning target groups. Author: Steve Davis    10 26th, 2010 in Uncategorized     No […]

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