An Overview of People Group Lists by Dan S.

a_envio_responsibleHow many people groups are there in the world?  How many are unreached?  Which numbers are correct and which list of people groups is “right”?  The varying answers to these questions can cause confusion in the missions community.  The Lord has graciously provided the global missions community with several sets of people group information.  Each has great value and none are right or wrong.  Each list has unique perspective, definitions, criteria and sources which cause variation between the lists.  The following is an overview of the comprehensive global people group lists and several subsets and other important lists of missions data.


IMB / CPPI ( – The IMB / CPPI peoples database is a global list of ethnic people groups from a church planting perspective.  A private, secure online system is used by regional and national IMB researchers to gather and submit people group data to the IMB central database.  Outside data sources are also considered.  The IMB list is generally ethno-linguistic where people groups are defined by language and subdivisions of language based upon cultural or dialect distinctives.  In some cases other criteria such as religion are used to define a people group. Unreached is defined as less than 2% Evangelical (Christ-follower); % Christian Adherents is not considered.  The CPPI uses Affinity Blocs and People Clusters for grouping peoples.  A unique feature of the CPPI is the tracking of unengaged people groups – peoples without any active church planting occurring.  A people group is considered engaged when church planting methodology is underway or being implemented.  Suggested updates for review by IMB regional and national staff can be submitted to

World Christian Database / WCD ( – The World Christian Database provides statistical information on countries, cities, languages, world religions, Christian denominations, and people groups.  Data sources for the WCD include published and unpublished sources, field work, interviews, questionnaires and officially published reports of government-organized national censuses.  The WCD peoples list is ethno-linguistic, meaning that a people group is usually defined by language.  Within a language group other factors such as race, tradition, history, and culture sometimes define a subsection of peoples.  The WCD classifies people groups by World A, B and C.  World A peoples are groups with over 50% of the population unevangelized.  The WCD is available in print or online by annual subscription.  Suggested updates can be submitted to

Joshua Project / JP ( ) – The Joshua Project database is a global ethno-linguistic and ethno-cultural people group database from a church planting perspective.  Joshua Project is an open system gathering data from a variety of sources including field missionaries and researchers, national and regional initiatives, census data and published sources.  People groups on the Joshua Project list are defined by language, religion, culture and caste primarily based on on-site definitions.  “Unreached” is defined as less than 2% Evangelical (Christ-follower) and less than 5% Christian Adherent.  Joshua Project also uses Affinity Blocs and People Clusters for grouping peoples.  A distinctive of the Joshua Project list is defining people groups in South Asia primarily by caste / community rather than by language.  Suggested updates can be submitted to



Ethnologue (  – The Ethnologue is a listing of the languages of the world.  It provides language information by country and includes estimates of the number of speakers, alternate names, dialects and general language background information.  It is the compilation of SIL / Wycliffe field staff research.  The three-letter Ethnologue language codes are the ISO and Registry of Language (ROL) standards.  The global people group lists use the Ethnologue for much of their language information.  The current Ethnologue is 16th edition.  Suggested updates can be submitted to



HIS Registry of Peoples / ROP (– The Harvest Information System Registry of Peoples is an effort to standardize coding (but not content) of ethnic people groups.  ROP is a basic code set and is not intended to include additional information about people groups. A six-digit code is assigned to particular people groups without reference to countries.  The original ROP list came from Joshua Project and is now managed by the IMB.  ROP coding is partially incorporated in the global peoples lists outlined above in an attempt to facilitate cross-referencing. The latest ROP release was Dec 2007 and currently has limited activity.  Suggested updates can be submitted to

Etnopedia ( – Etnopedia is a wiki-based, multi-lingual people group online profile system.  Etnopedia is an editable website for the global Christian community to translate ethnic people profiles into other languages.  Many research efforts and researchers representing different ministries and organizations contribute to the information found on Etnopedia.  In general, Etnopedia uses people group information primarily from Joshua Project and field inputs.  In some cases information from the IMB and WCD peoples lists is also used.  Suggested updates can be submitted to

YWAM 4K Project ( – 4K is a system that uses geographic areas to provide a lens to understand the overall mission task.  Approximately 4,000 geographic regions called “Omega Zones” have been identified based on civil divisions using an “ABC – 369” system.  World “A” Omega Zones are 3 million in population and are where the gospel is widely unavailable, World “B” Omega Zones are 6 million in population and are where the gospel is moderately available and World “C” Omega Zones are 9 million in population and are where the gospel is widely available.  The particular focus is on where the gospel is most needed.  4K seeks to gather and provide geographic, demographic, language and people group information by Omega Zone.  4K uses people group data from the three global lists mentioned above.  Contact email is 

Call2All ( and Finish the Task / FTT ( ) – Call2All is a worldwide movement calling the church to a renewed, focused collaborative effort to fulfill the Great Commission.  Finishing the Task (FTT) is a related association of mission agencies and churches who want to see reproducing churches planted among every people group in the world.  Call2All and FTT both use the same subset of the IMB / CPPI peoples list focusing on the 639 unengaged, unreached peoples greater than 100,000 in population as of 2005.  Although updates in CPPI are being made, the Call2All and FTT list remains frozen in time.  As a subset of CPPI, Call2All and FTT list use the IMB definition for “unengaged” meaning no active church planting is occurring.  Suggested updates can be submitted to

Global Trends Fruitful Practices / GTFP – GTFP is a network of mission organizations focused on pioneer church planting among unreached Muslim people groups.  The current GTFP list of people groups is a subset of the IMB / CPPI and Joshua Project peoples lists focusing on the unengaged and unreached Muslim people groups over 100,000 in population.  According to GTFP, a people group is considered engaged when a people group meets the following criteria: 1) A pioneering effort in residence, 2) Commitment to work in the local language and culture, 3) Commitment to long-term ministry and 4) Sowing occurring in a manner consistent with the goal of seeing a church planting movement (CPM) emerge.  Suggested updates can be submitted to