Back to All Stories

What Are Unreached People Groups (UPGs)?

April 24, 2018 |  By Eric Vess

Unreached People Groups

There are nearly 17,500 people groups in the world today. The Good News of Jesus Christ has reached roughly 10,000 of them (“Why Do We Talk about People Groups?”). The initial efforts of foreign missionaries and, more recently, the faithful witness of native (indigenous) missionaries, have made this possible.

What are reached and unreached people groups?

According to mission specialists, a “reached” people group has an active indigenous church of between 2% and 5% of the population that is capable of evangelizing its own culture. That leaves more than 7,400 people groups without a vital, reproducing church. These are considered unreached people groups, or UPGs. That does not necessarily mean there are no believers or churches among them. There could be small groups of worshiping believers. But, without outside help, they would be unable to reproduce the church within their own culture. 

ANM talks a great deal about the 10/40 Window. Are all unreached people groups located there?

The 10/40 Window effectively highlights the world’s regions with the most extreme spiritual, physical, and social needs. These needs, paired with their limited access to the Gospel, result in the highest number of UPGs. As such, the Window is a more than worthy focus for global missions. Nevertheless, there are many UPGs located beyond the 10/40 Window’s boundaries. For instance, according to Joshua Project, 98 UPGs exist in the United States, 61 in Canada, 49 in Brazil, and 31 in Australia. The biblical mission to reach every nation — people, tribe, and language — is therefore a global effort. 

Planting the seeds of the Gospel among UPGs

Church planting is an organic term for church reproduction. The Gospel message is the seed; the people and their culture the soil; and the church planter or evangelist is the sower. As in farming, there must be good seed, soil prepared to receive that seed, and sowers dedicated to the task. A deficiency in any of these areas will result in a poor crop or none at all.

Any farmer will tell you that preparing a new field for planting is hard work. The same is true when planting the seed of the Gospel in an unreached people group. Their cultural soil will likely be difficult to till and resistant to the seed, and the sowers may be few.

Often just a small patch of field can be planted at first, but with faithful perseverance, the planting will expand. The Gospel seed will permeate the culture, and the church will begin healthy reproduction. A people group anywhere in the world is considered “reached” when the indigenous church is healthy enough to reproduce within its own culture without substantial outside assistance. That remains our goal at ANM.


Help Reach Unreached People Groups: Download “21 Ways You Can Advance the Kingdom Through Prayer”


Article updated 11/18/22