About six years ago, I became overwhelmingly excited about the potential of multi-site churches. A multi-site church is basically a church that organizes worship gatherings in more than one location. That’s the basic idea.
Over the years, as I have dabbled in multi-site leadership, investigated many multi-site churches and read everything I could find on the topic… I’ve learned some very helpful things, made lots of mistakes and gotten even more excited about the potential of multi-site ministry.
There are basically 3 active models of multi-site churches.
1. House Church Networks: These are small house churches that group together for larger impact and operate under one centralized brand or style. Their leaders are usually networked together relationally but not necessarily responsible to one another formally. They are sometimes but not always connected to one leader or group of leaders in the movement.
2. Centralized Multi-Site Churches: These are congregations that are ultimately led by a centralized staff. The brand, mission and strategy are highly centralized and the local campuses are all intentionally similar or even identical. These congregations are run with varying levels of local/central control.
3. Branded Church Planting Movements: These are groups of leaders who work together to plant indigenous and autonomous congregations under one name or brand without being centrally controlled or inspected.
That is a very brief overview of multi-site churches in America.
I have personally seen all three of these approaches work very well. In fact, the church I personally lead tends to pull value from each of the three primary approaches.
I get so excited to see any of these approaches. All are valuable in the Kingdom of God as ways to effectively reach our ever-growing unchurched American population.
What is frustrating is to see any of these approaches abused or utilized by leaders who haven’t done their homework and counted the cost. Seriously, it’s a big problem.
On a regular basis… in fact, recently, a daily basis… I seem to be receiving phone calls and emails from people who are frustrated by the way their congregations are approaching multi-site.
Images of overly controlling senior leaders or under resourced local campuses keep rolling in. Other stories of conniving local campus leaders who split multi-site churches and cause trouble are equally troubling.
Churches with zero tolerance for adaptation and learning along the way simply cause more trouble than they bring missional value. Yes, it can be a big problem.
So… if you are going to attempt a multi-site ministry. Please do your homework.
May I suggest you read these first…
A Few Blogs You Could Follow…
A few Books You Could Read…
The Multi-Site Revolution
A Multi-Site Church Road Trip (both by Geoff & Greg Surratt)
Hybrid Church by Dave Browning
For the City by Darrin Patrick & Matt Carter
Exponential by Dave & Jon Ferguson
The Rabbit and the Elephant by Tony and Felicity Dale
Killing Cockroaches by Tony Morgan
And there are several other good reads for those who are interested in the motivation behind and the missional effectiveness of the multi-site church.
You may also want to check out TransforMissional Coaching by Steve Ogne and Tim Roehl.
This will help you as a leader think about the ways you can empower those you lead in the process.
Please don’t lead your church to do multi-site without doing a great deal of research and planning ahead. Don’t let ego guide you down that path. You could cause a great deal of trouble by trying to do this without knowing what and why you are doing it.
It’s certainly not a bandwagon upon which everyone should jump…
But it is, in my opinion, a wonderful way for some churches to reach out to their regions and beyond with the gospel.
I am thankful for the multi-site movement. I am blessed to be a part of it.
I am humbled by its potential.