Posted 3 years 190 days ago ago by Doug Lawrence 0 Comments
The multi-site paradigm has been emerging for several years now and literally thousands of churches have ventured into what are, by now, fairly well-charted waters. I can't give you exact statistics, but the success stories are incredible. By definition, this is what constitutes a multi-site church—one church meeting in several locations—be that multiple venues on the same campus and/or different locations in the same city (or even locations spread across different regions). Multi-site churches share the same vision, budget and leadership across all of their locations, no matter how distant from one another they may be. This Seven Question Conversation
deals with cautions that churches might consider before leaping into the paradigm. Have this discussion over several months in order to make a wise choice.
Have we done our homework about how this phenomenon came into being?
Comment: Start with a Google search Multi-site Churches www.google.com/search and slowly work your way through the process of acquiring as much information as possible. There are many fabulous books on this topic currently on the market. As a suggestion, make sure that you read books that are written by unbiased authors as well as books written by passionate leaders within the multisite movement.
Are we organizationally competent enough to take on this very large and complicated undertaking and make it work?
Comment: Institutions are often guilty of over-promising and under-delivering. For example, if your church decided to double its membership from 1000 to 2000 within one year, there would have to be an incredibly well thought-through plan to make that actually happen. Statistically the odds would be against pulling it off. Having said that, it certainly is possible where there is sufficient leadership and "troops" to make it happen. In the multisite world, over-promising is sometimes a recreational sport. The often quoted line from "Field of Dreams" ("if we build it, they will come") has often proved to be untrue. Conversely, many churches are launching multisite programs with huge growth ensuing within a year. One thing is clear about those churches that succeed in this endeavor—they're highly organized. It will take every resource you have to make it work.
Have we built sufficient professional and lay leadership to implement the launching of these diverse locations?
Comment: Every multisite initiative requires at least one year of careful training and encouragement for those who will ultimately be responsible for turning a new venue into a church. In the past, many congregations became passive because there were well-trained professionals to drive the programs and leadership of their large church. In order to be an effective multisite congregation, the lay leadership will have to grow by at least a factor of 10. Often, to move people into that kind of leadership, there is a need to have weekly training sessions on many different aspects of ministry. This very time-intensive work can be done by both a combination of staff and laity. Occasionally this will lead to cessation of the other programs in the church because a church that decides to become multi-site often has to reduce programmatic offerings on it's main campus by at least half in order to do a new people-intensive thing.
Do you have sufficient funds available to acquire the needed site locations?
Comment: Few churches can afford to launch multiple church sites without at least a small capital funds drive. Having said that, the church doesn't need millions of dollars to begin the initiative. Many churches launch adequate programs with a few thousand dollars for media tech equipment and minimal rent. In the business world, entrepreneurs are encouraged not to undercapitalized their ventures and the same could be said for a church stepping into multi-site waters. There are many publications which will provide step-by-step costs and suggestions on adequate venues. Be sure you have done your homework before committing yourselves to a launch.
Is your congregation willing to "seed" a new site?
Comment: The pastor of one congregation where I was a frequesnt consultant offered this suggestion to another local church as they were contemplating opening an additional church site. He suggested that they check their demographics carefully before launching into a new territory because multi-sites generally don't thrive where there is not a preponderance of young families. Pastor Jim, let's call him, made the mistake of moving a new church into an area of primarily retired folks and it took more than two years to develop an adequate congregation to stay afloat. Also, without an "instant" congregation, few multi-sites survive. For that reason, it is important for churches to encourage a portion of their main congregation to move out to where the site is being planted. Not surprisingly, many people find the pioneer spirit of such a move to be very exciting. By-and-large, the number needed to launch a new site is at the very least 50 people. This so-called critical mass almost always insures there will be enough workers and leaders to build this new church into a reality.
Does your congregation understand the need for high-quality media tech equipment?
Comment: No multi-site can be built without appropriate creature comforts. Sure, the chairs have to be comfortable (well, sort of comfortable), but the power to communicate well dominates multisite startups. For example, if the sermon is delivered by video, it must have been captured and presented by relatively high-end equipment. The days of the Bell and Howell projector are over! If your home T.V. delivers a good, clean, HD image for you to watch the nightly news, isn't it equally important that the content of your sermons be delivered in a compelling and easily viewed technolgy? Churches frequently battle over the cost of media tech equipment in their main sanctuaries, but there is no debating the need for such equipment in multi-site environments. Most people who attend multi-sites don't care so much about stained glass windows, but they do care about being able to see, hear, and get the message and the music. Good technology is not the place to skimp when creating multisite budgets.
Question 7 Has your church failed over and over in evangelistic endeavors?
Comment: I hope you take this the right way. Churches that have never been very good at so-called "outreach" programs often fail with multi-site initiatives. On the face of it, the expectation for multi-sites is that people will come to church who have never been inside one. We used to call that evangelism, and we should still call it evangelism because that's precisely what it is. Churches that have not been very successful in caring for the spiritual health of their communities rarely understand what it takes to have successful sites away from their main sanctuary. A passionate vision must exist when looking to expand a church's reach. Examine the programs you have in place to help people gain such a passion and make sure the top leadership considers this a priority.
So, we might conclude that...
I love many aspects of how The Church is changing. The whole multisite movement has been particularly interesting to watch and be part of, but to proceed toward it without doing your homework, can be disastrous. Oh, the church might not crash and burn if you fail in the process, but you might demoralize your congregation because of a lack of success. Is God honored by multisite churches? Absolutely! Just do it right!
Doug Lawrence, internationally recognized speaker, author, and advisor, helps churches assess and improve their skillfulness in creating engaging worship experiences by utilizing his more than 35 years of "deep trench" worship leadership in prominent mainline churches. has been a consultant to church leaders for 35 years and is anxious to be helpful to you in leadership, musical, and staffing considerations. Or, if you wish, call 650.207.8240 for assessment information and scheduling.
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