By Jim Tomberlin, repost from Ministry Trends
The decline in mega-campuses doesn’t mean a decline in ministry. Quite the contrary! Churches today are learning they can grow faster by inviting people to smaller facilities in multiple neighborhoods. In some multi-site churches, each location has its own worship team and preacher; in others, the worship service at one location is streamed live over the internet to other gatherings. While going multi-site is not cheap, it is much less expensive than building and maintaining one massive facility.
The multi-site approach allows a church to extend its geographic reach beyond the distance people are willing to drive to attend a mega-campus. The same church can have congregations in the city, in the suburbs, and in surrounding rural areas. And the cost and time of launching each site can be reduced by using existing facilities—schools, theaters, and commercial spaces.
Because they aren’t limited to a single location, many of yesterday’s megachurches are now becoming gigachurches with 10,000+ weekend attendees. Experience is showing that the multi-site strategy can reach more people with the gospel better, faster, and cheaper than operating a mega-campus.
FORCES OF CHANGE
What’s changed in the ministry environment that is making mega-campuses obsolete? Here are four major factors:
In the United States, the economic recession of 2007– 2009 liberated churches from building excessively large and expensive buildings. Even though the economy has recovered, churches today have lost their appetite for purchasing large parcels of land and spending tens of millions of dollars on a single campus.
Church buildings were once seen as key assets in communities across America. Today these facilities are increasingly viewed as liability. In the eyes of people who see little value in attending church, religious facilities cause traffic headaches, create noise pollution, and reduce property tax revenues. As a result, there is increasing community resistance to churches buying land and building facilities—especially large facilities. Leadership Network reported that the size of new church sanctuaries shrank from a median of 1,500 seats in 2010 to 1,200 seats in 2015.
We are at the beginning of a tidal wave of changes in church leadership. At many Protestant megachurches, baby-boomer senior pastors are retiring or leaving to pursue other ministry projects. And unlike previous generations, incoming pastors tend to view a large facility as a burden they’d rather not inherit.
The technological revolution has radically extended a church’s potential impact beyond the walls of its building and geographic location. Until recently, growing churches had only one option: expand through buying more land and building larger facilities. Many of these churches became megachurches, with 2,000+ people in weekend attendance. But through the internet and social media, the ministry of a local church is no longer confined to its facility. Any congregation can deliver its message and ministry anytime, anywhere on the planet—creating an alternative to buying land and building a bigger sanctuary.
Adapted from Church Locality: New Rules for Church Buildings in a Multisite, Church Planting, and Giga-Church World, by Jim Tomberlin and Tim Cool (Rainer, 2014)