The multi-site model is an established movement for church growth and Kingdom expansion.
- Approximately 8,000 churches are multi-site (includes about 3,000 churches that are multi-venue in one location.)
- Over 5 million people attend a multi-site church
- Success rate: 90%
- 88% report increased lay participation
- 85% growing by 14% a year.
Source: Multi-Site Solutions & Leadership Network Survey
It’s no longer a question of whether or not it works; the question is, does God want your church to go multi-site?
The multi-site model isn’t a fad to be chased or a formula for success. It’s a method that God has His hand on, and for as long as that continues, it’s an opportunity to help churches reach more people.
Multi-site isn’t for every church, and I often get asked, “How do I know?”
How do you know if adding campuses is the right thing to do for your church?
Ultimately, you need to hear from God, but here are some things from the voice of experience that will be helpful to you in the process.
Why Consider Multi-site?
1) More time with people
In the traditional model the pastor must write and deliver the sermons, lead the board, be responsible for the finances, cast big picture vision and the list goes on.
In the multi-site model, because the campus pastor does not do these things, (the lead pastor typically carries these responsibilities). The campus pastor has more time to shepherd and lead the people. He can focus on reaching more people for Christ and helping them develop their faith.
The multi-site campus pastor can focus on evangelism, discipleship, volunteers and leadership development. That is a tremendous advantage.
2) Greater Connection to the Community
One of the advantages of the multiple campus model is that they are usually smaller than the “main” campus, and therefore have more of a community connection rather than a regional reach.
Like the difference between an aircraft carrier and a speed boat, these campuses respond quicker, are more nimble, and focus on the actual community they have a presence in.
Even if there isn’t size difference, multiple campuses in a county or state allow you to be closer to the people you serve.
3) Increased efficiency
Creativity is fun, but not always productive. When you can duplicate that creativity, now you are on to something big!
Sometimes in order to reach more people, churches need to be able to scale. The ability to duplicate systems and processes helps us build a structure that is more efficient, faster, and therefore allow us to reach more people.
4) Better innovation
Each time you launch a new campus you learn and get better. It’s like planting a new church, you learn from your mistakes, gain good experience, and have better ideas.
Innovation does not celebrate merely being different, but being better. Click & Tweet! That’s the essence of improvement.
There is greater potential for a one campus model to become comfortable with the status quo, where multi-site challenges the status quo.
5) New life
Nothing living grows forever. The redwoods of northern California can grow to over 300 feet, but there are none over 400. Their typical life span is 500-700 years. That’s impressive, but not forever.
No single church grows forever either. New life comes from seeds, and the two most common “seeds” of new life for the local church are church planting and expanding through the multi-site model.
These five reasons don’t mean you should go multi-site now, or perhaps ever, but they are reasons why it’s a good idea for many.
If you are considering multi-site, readiness is a significant issue. Timing matters.
Is Your Church Ready? Here are five signs of readiness:
1) Your church is growing.
Record-breaking growth that gets your church’s name in a magazine isn’t necessary, but at least a modest growth pattern is important before launching your first campus.
The important thing is to understand that if your church is plateaued, or struggling in general, it may not be strong enough yet, or have the people resources to launch a campus.
2) Your culture is healthy.
For example, if your church culture is problem oriented, inward focused, resistant to change, or focused on programs more than the gospel, etc., it is wise to improve the culture before you multiply it.
If you experience excessive politics, general gossip and staff are unhappy, get those things corrected first.
The point is not perfection, but your church needs to be healthy before you recreate more of the same.
3) You understand that strategy never replaces leadership.
Systems, strategy, and structure are critical, but they are never a substitute for good leadership. These things serve the leaders, not contain or control them. They help you create an organization that can grow larger and faster, but a leader’s intuition, ability to hear from God and make good decisions remain invaluable.
4) The lead pastor is a compelling communicator.
This is a sensitive point, but let me be candid. There is lots of grace for a pastor in a live setting with the people he or she loves, and they love you back. When you change that experience to a screen, and you are no longer present, the communication skill required rises exponentially.
It’s true that you have a live campus pastor at each campus, but in most multi-site models the message is from one central communicator and broadcast to all the campuses. This skill can be learned, but have the honest conversations up front.
5) You are willing to invest in technology.
The cost will vary, but if you go multi-site, you will not escape a serious financial investment in technology. There are other significant start-up costs, but none quite as critical or costly as the technology to make your worship service work like it needs to.
In this HD+ culture, where people are accustomed to near “magic” on smart phones, you can’t expect them to watch an entire message on sub-par technology and still consider it relevant.
I hope these thoughts help you process your decision about going multi-site.