By Jim Tomberlin, The XL Church Leader Magazine, Spring 2008
When I launched the first video-based satellite campus of Willow Creek in 2001 the primary question was, “Can this work?” Seven years and hundreds of multisite churches later, the question has shifted to, “Should my church go multisite?”
What started out as a “Band-Aid” for space and zoning problems of megachurches has developed into a viable option for every local church regardless of size. Multi-site is no longer a question of feasibility for a church, but more of a question of strategy, “Is it right for my church?”
Good Reasons Not to Go Multi-site
Before considering the factors in answering that question, let me share a few good reasons not to go multisite. . .
Multi-site is expensive.
Plan on investing an average of $250,000 to launch an additional campus, but that is far less expensive in the long run than buying more land and building more buildings at a single location.
Multi-site is leadership intensive.
Like everything else in church work, it all rises or falls on leadership. Success is not wrapped up in the latest technology or fancy facility; it’s all about putting your best leaders in the right place. This is especially important with a multisite strategy. Multi-site requires a release of people and resources. Don’t attempt to do this if you’re not willing to release staff, volunteers, and resources from the main campus.
Multi-site invites scrutiny.
Going multisite forces the church leadership to evaluate the effectiveness of every ministry in the church. Ministries
have to be simplified, standardized, and transferable if they’re going to be extended to other locations. This can be very threatening to sacred cows or ineffective ministries.
Multi-site is risky.
Adding additional campuses is not the same as just adding another ministry to your church. It fundamentally changes the way you will do church. Moving from a “mono-site” to a “multisite” church mentality is a major paradigm shift. It will change the way you organize staff, how you allocate resources, how you communicate from the pulpit and all publications, and how the church will be governed. Going multisite will change your church.
Multi-site won’t turn around a declining church.
Multiple campuses are not growth engines. The multisite model is a vehicle for growing churches. You cannot export life from a dying church.
Multi-site won’t fix a broken church.
A broken church launching another campus is like running on two broken legs—you won’t get far, you’ll fall down, you’ll hurt yourself, and you may cause permanent damage!
Don’t go multisite because everybody else is doing it.
Even though multiple campuses are becoming the “new normal” across the country, it doesn’t mean your church should
go multisite. Multi-site is for healthy, growing churches who become convinced this strategy is the best vehicle for fulfilling their vision.
Which brings us back to the original question, “Is my church ready to go multisite?”
Assessing Your Multi-site Readiness
The starting point in considering multisite begins with the vision of your church. “What is
God calling us to be, and then do, in our community?” Once you are clear on the vision that
God has given your church, then you can consider if multisite is right for your church.
Here are some questions to assess your readiness:
1 Is my church growing at least 5 percent a year?
2 Is my church facility 80 percent full at optimal inviting hours?
3 Is my church meeting resistance to campus expansion due to zoning rules, environmental concerns, or traffic congestion?
4 Is my community 50 percent or more unchurched?
5 Does my church have a good reputation in the community?
6 Does my church want to release more people into high impact, meaningful ministry?
7 Does my church want to launch new congregations in my region that are healthy, sustainable, and reproductive?
8 Does my church want to be more accessible to more people in my region?
9 Does my church want to reach and serve more people in the most efficient and cost-effective way?
If you can answer “yes” to any of these questions, then your
church may be ready to go multisite.
The biblical injunction “to be fruitful and multiply” is a good principle to follow as you
consider the multisite option. Healthy, growing organisms are fruitful and multiply. So if your church is healthy, growing
and fruitful in one location, then the real question is, “Why aren’t you going multisite?”
Go forth and multiply!
JIM TOMBERLIN is a pastor and multisite church pioneer. He lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, and serves the
body of Christ as a multisite church consultant and community transformation specialist. You can contact Jim
at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at MultiSiteSolutions.com