Multi-Site Church: A Strategy for Church Planting{2}

At Conversatio Morum, we like statistics. Mainly because the numbers from them can help us see, in a general sense, where the culture is at and where it’s going. Knowing this is the case, they are also helpful when starting out as a church planter. The rule at this point is that a new church plant has a 68% success rate. This is actually encouraging, considering the previous trend was a 20% success rate. As a church planter, knowing the challenges and struggles inherent with starting something new, these statistics don’t surprise me.

In terms of a new campus at a church, the success rate tends to be in more of the 90% range. This is great when you think in terms of a church truly being local. Especially as urbanization continues. Think in terms of a church with several thousand people in a city of several millions. That church, although it appears large, is reaching less than 1% of the population. there’s also a plateau effect once a church starts to reach past a 15 to 30 minute radius and\or maxes the capacity of their facilities.

So what is a growing church to do? In my mind there are a few options. First, they can build a new facility, but that costs a significant amount of money and effort while also not dealing with the limitation imposed by the radius of your location. Second, they can add more services, but at some point that isn’t sustainable growth. Third, they can plant a new church, but then you have resource issues to deal with regarding starting something new and the lower chances of survivability.

So what does a growing church do? This is where multiple campuses can come into play. Adding multiple services when the sermon can be broadcast to other locations across a broad geographic area is scalable, especially in terms of not burning out your pastor. You’re no longer limited by a radius of distance from your location. You no longer have the resource issues that a new church plant deals with, since you have a greater resources of the sending location. Beyond that, there are other advantages when you begin looking at the issues with localizing your church. Each location has a greater ability to localize mission in its neighborhood context. To put this in some better terms LifeChurch (a multi-site mega church based in Oklahoma City) has pushed for greater locational mission in each of their campuses by adding to their Vision & Values statement “We wholeheartedly reject the label mega-church. We are a micro-church with a mega-vision.”
You can read more about this concept here.

By emphasizing the local church this way, the multi-site model not only becomes a church growth strategy, but a church planting strategy. This is taken to the extent that a few years ago Mars Hill Church in Seattle announced that there were no more “campuses” but now all locations are known individually as “churches”. You can read more about that here. When thinking through the implications of multi-site as a church planting strategy, specifically regarding church unity, the impact of having multiple church plants working together within a specific geographic area is far greater than multiple church plants all attempting to change a city/region apart from each other.

What do you think? Is this an effective church planting strategy or is it rebranded consumerist franchising with a Jesus stamp? Should church’s utilize this more for effectiveness, or work more towards sending out entire pockets of their church to other areas of the city?