March 13, 2024

Considering Multisite? What to Know Before You Launch – Episode 339 | The Unstuck Church Podcast

considering multisite what to know before you launch

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Multisite Madness?

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We’re kicking off a new series we’re calling “Multisite Madness?” The question mark is there because for some, all of the competing strategies and opinions around multisite can feel like madness: What really works? Is multisite right for every church? Is multisite right for ANY church?

Monosite churches considering their first campus have many of these same “first launch anxieties,” feeling like they don’t know what they don’t know. Going multisite can feel intimidating when everything is brand new and largely unknown.

And that’s where we come in…


When we work with churches considering multisite, we walk them through nine “Predictable Outcomes” of multisite to help them determine the right questions to ask and make the critical multisite decisions that lead to more predictable success.

These principles were created out of our combined 100+ years of multisite experience on our team, as well as working with over a hundred multisite churches (including those going multisite for the first time). 

In this week’s episode, Amy and I will unpack three predictable outcomes of multisite every church should know before launching their first location. We’ll discuss:

  • Common first launch anxieties
  • Replicating what you are
  • Why video really works
  • Financial planning for a campus launch

Going Multisite: How to Launch Your First Campus & Avoid Common Pitfalls

It’s true that going multisite too fast, too soon, or with the wrong strategy can easily get you multi-stuck. At this free webinar, Tony Morgan and Amy Anderson will help you get clarity on the how, when, and who of going multisite for the first time.

Churches need to be large enough that they can afford to send out 10% of their congregation, volunteers, leaders, giving, etc., to launch a healthy new location while still maintaining health at their original location. [episode 339] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet Multisite is a response to health and growth—it is not a solution for creating health and growth. [episode 339] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet Whoever talks the most from the stage in a church sets the culture, intentionally or by neglect. Different people teaching on different stages build different cultures over time. [episode 339] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet
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This Episode is Sponsored by PlainJoe:

Are you considering adding a second or third campus to your growing church? Need help telling your church’s unique story across every location? PlainJoe, a Storyland Studio, has you covered. Their team of creative storytellers, talented designers, and innovative architects are passionate about helping churches tell their stories through spatial, interactive, and strategic storytelling. To learn more about a large church can succeed launching its first campus in a smaller venue, read PlainJoe’s article: “8 Questions to Ask Before Your Church Goes Multisite.”

Other Episodes in this Series

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We use #unstuckchurch on Twitter, and we start a real-time conversation each Wednesday morning when the episode drops. You can follow me @tonymorganlive and The Unstuck Group @unstuckgroup. If Facebook is where you spend your time, I’m there, too.

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Sean (00:02):

Welcome to The Unstuck Church podcast, where each week we are exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. Nearly every church considering going multisite has some initial anxieties. They come to the realization that they don’t know what they don’t know and feel intimidated by the unknown. On this week’s podcast, Tony and Amy kick off a new series on multisite strategy with a conversation on the common multisite anxieties and some practical tips and data to address them. Before we go there, though, if you’re brand new to the podcast, head to and subscribe to get the episode show notes in your email. When you do, you’ll get resources to go along with each week’s episode, including our Leader Conversation Guide. Again, that’s to subscribe. Now, before we get into this week’s conversation, here’s a word from Tony

Amy (00:55):

Are you considering adding a second or third campus to your growing church? Need help telling your church’s unique story across every location? PlainJoe, a Storyland Studio, has you covered. Their team of creative storytellers, talented designers, and innovative architects are passionate about helping churches tell their stories through spatial, interactive, and strategic storytelling. Learn more at

Amy (01:39):

Well, Tony, today we’re kicking off a new series that we’re calling Multisite Madness, which I think is really fun. The question mark is there after Multisite Madness because for some, I dunno, all of the competing strategies and opinions around multisite, I think it can feel like madness. Like what really works? Is multisite right for every church? Is multisite right for any church?

Tony (02:02):

That’s right, Amy. You know, monosite churches considering their first campus have many of those same kind of first-launch anxieties, if you will, is kind of feeling like they don’t know what they don’t know. You know? You know what I talk, what I’m talking about?

Amy (02:19):

I do.

Tony (02:20):

Okay. Maybe we should try to read between the lines. Seeing large, growing multisite churches and assuming their strategies must be healthy, or seeing multisite churches that fail and wonder what went wrong. Going multisite can feel intimidating when everything is brand new and largely unknown. And that’s where we come in. When we work with churches considering multisite, we walk them through nine predictable outcomes of multisite to help them determine the right questions to ask and then make the critical multisite decisions that lead to more predictable success. So, those principles, by the way, we didn’t pull ’em out of thin air. We created them out of our combined more than 100 years of multisite experience on our team, as well as working with well over a hundred multisite churches through the years. So, in this series, we’re gonna walk our listeners through those nine predictable outcomes, and at the end, we’ll discuss going multisite through mergers, as well.

Amy (03:23):

It’s a great setup up, Tony, and too bad we don’t have brackets, right, for our March Multisite Madness series. That would’ve been fun. But I digress. Let’s, let’s just jump into today’s conversation on the first three predictable outcomes of multisite.

Tony (03:37):

So, the first predictable outcome of multisite is that you do replicate what you are. So, if you’ve been around our podcast for a bit, you may have heard these words: multisite is not a growth strategy. It’s a strategy to multiply healthy ministry. And that means you must have health and momentum before going multisite. The best reason to start a new campus is the same as the best reason to start a new service: because you have to. The second best reason is because you get to. In other words, multisite is a response to health and growth. It’s not a solution for creating health and growth. And, Amy, I definitely wanna double down on that because when I talk with pastors of multisite churches, they communicate to me all the time: They’re glad they’re multisite, but multisite is hard work. And so, if you’re thinking this is the shortcut to growth and health, you are, you couldn’t be more mistaken. We need to be focusing on getting healthy first, and then it’s that, “Okay, we get to go multisite now because we’re experiencing health and growth.”

Amy (04:54):

Yeah. Tony, in the Q4 2023 edition of our Unstuck Church Report, we found that 95% of the churches surveyed were experiencing attendance growth before they launched their first multisite location. So, that stat confirms with, you know, what our team at The Unstuck Group has learned through the years. Multisite is a great strategy for healthy, thriving, growing churches to reach more people for Jesus.

Tony (05:19):

That’s exactly right, Amy. That 95% number is so important because it really does illustrate our point. These churches were fulfilling their mission before they launched a multisite location. These churches were effectively reaching people for Jesus before they opened their first multisite campus. These churches had teaching and services that were drawing new people before they ventured into multisite strategy. These churches were multiplying disciples of Christ before they decided to open an additional location. So, what does this look like practically? Well, we recommend that a church have a minimum of 1,000 people in attendance before they are able to provide ample support for a new campus while maintaining strength at the sending location. And ideally, your attendance will be closer to 2,000 people or more before you launch a new campus.

Amy (06:22):

Yeah. Again, our Q4 2023 report showed that generally churches grow to between 1,500 and 2,000 people, Tony, before they launch their first location. And this data is consistent with what our team has recognized over the years. Churches need to be large enough that they can afford to send out, right, 10% of their, their congregation— their volunteers, their leaders, their giving—in order to launch a healthy new location while still maintaining that important health at the sending location.

Tony (06:54):

That’s right. So, we recommend 1,000 at a minimum, but the more growth that you can get at your original location before going multisite, the healthier both the original and new locations will likely be post launch. So, the big reflection question for this predictable outcome is: do we have a healthy culture and strategy worth replicating?

Amy (07:18):

And, Tony, just one more thought on this topic as we’re talking about: you need to be in a place of health and growth before you go multisite. I think this might be why, and I know we’re gonna talk about it in a future episode, but why so many mergers fail. Because a, a church approaches another church, you know, take over our building, take over this. But if that church that want, that they’re asking isn’t healthy, this, this merger thing is probably gonna divide the energy even worse. And so, we often say in the merger world, “Don’t marry everybody you date.” So, don’t take that call from another church as the green light to go multisite. Come back to these predictable outcomes before you make that decision. So, with that, Tony, what’s the second predictable outcome?

Tony (08:02):

The second predictable outcome is that video really does work. Again, if you’re a regular listener of our content, this will likely come as no surprise to you. However, this is one area where we continually get some pushback. And here’s why we believe in video teaching. Like it or not, whoever talks the most from the stage in a church sets the culture, intentionally or by neglect. So, by that, I mean different people teaching on different stages build different cultures over time. And the goal, the goal of multisite is to remain one church in multiple locations. So, in our experience, this is the most important step to maintain unity and alignment across all the locations, by having a teaching team that’s teaching through video primarily. It makes sure that every location is hearing the same communicator, the same teacher on any given Sunday. And because of that, the church is able to stay aligned, united in purpose. They’re unified across all the locations.

Amy (09:10):

Yeah. And you, and to be clear, we’re not saying that the lead pastor is the only person who is allowed to ever preach. In fact, we would probably say that’s not a great plan. Rather, we suggest team-based teaching over video every week to ensure that every location hears the same message. And Tony, we have seen this, right? We have worked with some churches that have stepped back from their, their multisite model where they had autonomous teachers at every location. And by the way, we could say, yes, they all taught the same message, different stories, or they had their autonomy. You know, they had the decision rights on what to teach. Doesn’t matter. They were less united at that stage in their multisite model than when they took a step back and, and reevaluated, how can we better move together as one church in multiple locations? And teaching was the biggest shift for those churches.

Tony (10:00):

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And so because of that, it really is best to use a video teaching team from the very start. And you know, Amy, I’m actually working with one great church, where the senior pastor and the teaching team are teaching on video to all the locations. The senior pastor isn’t the primary teacher. I mean, he is, he is a great teacher. But the team itself is actually carrying more weeks than the senior pastor does. So, it, it’s really not hearing from the same person. It’s making sure that every location is hearing from the same person on any given Sunday. But even before launch, it’s a wise to begin to leverage video teaching at the sending location in anticipation of going multisite, as this will model what the experience will feel like at your new location. So, before launching a campus, we’ve helped churches prepare with the following sequence. First, we need to introduce IMAG into the services so that people are watching the teacher from the platform on screens. And by the way, that happens. I mean, sit in any larger auditorium on Sunday morning, most of the people that are in the room, even though the the pastor is teaching in the room, are watching on the screens. Then, multiply services so you have multiple gatherings in the same building first. Then, multi-venue if you have space. In other words, same, same message, same service experience, just in different rooms in the church.

Amy (11:42):


Tony (11:43):

And then, multisite: so using that sequence of IMAG, multi-service, multi-venue and then multisite. And by doing that, it gets people accustomed to multiplication, first of all. But then, more importantly for this conversation, focusing on great teaching delivered, whether it’s in the room or on a video screen.

Amy (12:04):

And again, we know this can be controversial, but we wanna be clear that this isn’t just our opinion or our preference. We’re not team teaching vid, you know, team video teaching. We’re team whatever strategy helps multisite churches find that alignment and reach the most people.

Tony (12:20):

Yeah. And you know, Amy, we had did some recent research on this and, more churches are using video delivery of their messages than any other format, in-person teaching as an example. And we do know from previous research that the churches are more likely to have health and success with their multisite strategy if they use video delivery. In fact, we know that multisite churches with identical locations grow almost twice as fast as churches with more autonomy. So, furthermore, compared to the fastest-growing campuses with more baptisms, the churches that closed campuses were four times more likely to have used a model where their campus pastor was the primary teacher. So, again, all of this is pointing to, it’s can be controversial, but when it comes down to success, when it comes to predictable outcomes, video message delivery really does work.

Amy (13:26):

Yeah. And I think the research, as you just shared, shows that the healthiest multisite campuses were just much more likely to be using video teaching.

Tony (13:33):

That’s right.

Amy (13:34):

So, all right, Tony, what’s the final multisite predictable outcome that we’re going to address today?

Tony (13:38):

So, the third principle is to begin financial planning before launch. So, though multisiting can be less expensive, as an example, than trying to just continue to build massive auditoriums in a single location, there’s an expense associated with multisite and approaching the campus launch with an attitude of, “How little can we spend instead of how much does it take to reproduce our church strong from day one,” that can be shortsighted. So, this may seem obvious, but well before launch, you need a clear plan for how your sending campus is going to fund the new campus until that new campus is self-sustaining financially. And in our experience, that could take approximately three years. So, a lack of financial sustainability was the second most common reason that churches cited for closing down a campus. We, we just need to plan ahead financially for taking this step.

Amy (14:40):

Yeah. And that makes sense. After all, it’s reasonable to expect that it’ll take new people at the new campus some time before they’re ready to start engaging with their time and the financial support, support of the mission.

Tony (14:52):

That’s right, Amy. Planning financially for a strong campus launch is also important because first impressions matter. Launching cheap can mean under delivering on the church experience when the burden of a multisite campus is that it needs to start from day one as good or better as a sending campus. And, Amy, that just doesn’t have to do with the building that the church is meeting in, though that’s important. So, if it’s a portable space, we need to invest the dollars so that when we move in for services on Sunday morning, it actually still feels like the same experience that we’re getting at the sending campus. If we’re building, new or renovating, we have to invest the dollars so that the building reflects what we’re doing at the sending campus. But the other thing, Amy, is we, we have to put in the, the staffing dollars and the other expenses that really drive healthy ministry. And we’ve seen churches go one of two directions with multisite. We’ll talk more about this in in an upcoming episode, but either overstaffing at churches or they’re, when they’re sending staff, they’re, I don’t know how to say this. It’s almost like they’re sending their B or C team and very part-time or very temporary staff. They’re not investing in quality leadership. And because of that, from day one, that, that new campus struggles to, to match the same experience, ministry experience that people are getting at the sending location. So, we have to plan ahead financially so that we can launch new campuses that reflect who we are as a church, one church in multiple locations.

Amy (16:40):

Yeah. I try to remind churches going, when they’re going multisite for the first time, that that first new location, really any future location, is a come-and-see location during the opening weeks. In other words, there are gonna be more people coming to check that campus out. And it’s often a lot of the insiders who wanna see if that new location, if it feels like the same church, you know? Like before they invite their friends to this new location, they wanna see: does this feel like my church? And if that sending location is a large monosite, right? If it’s a thousand, 2,000, 3,000 in size, like we recommend, but the new location is too small, you’ve experienced this Tony, that church’s, if I can use the word brand or the feel of the experience, it is not replicated if that space is too small. Meaning if you’ve grown a large monosite to a certain size of experience and you launch in a building that’s too small, it’s gonna be tough for that, for that to be an inviteable location of your church. And so, I’m just, I guess reiterating: financially, you need to look at what is it gonna take to replicate our brand, our experience in that new space and then invest in it.

Tony (17:50):

That’s right. And one other side note here, if this really works, you are gonna have a lot of brand-new people showing up to that new location. And if you do, it wouldn’t be a surprise because we’ve seen that time and time again at other churches that are stepping into multisite for the very first time. Here, I mean, that is to be celebrated when new people show up to church and they’re getting to hear the gospel message for the very first time. The challenge with that, of course, is new people don’t give initially.

Amy (18:22):


Tony (18:22):

And so, again, this is, it’s about making sure we’re thinking ahead financially about not only what it’s going to take to get that new location open, but then, we have to consider, well, when all those new people show up, it’s gonna take us time to encourage them to take their next steps towards Jesus. And it’s gonna take them time before they’re invested with their time and their financial resources. So, again, what that means is the sending location has to be prepared to invest financially, not just to get the doors open for the very first time at that new campus, but also then to continue to support that new ministry until it can become financially self-sustaining.

Amy (19:08):

That’s right. I don’t remember if you said this, Tony, and again, you might say, “Duh,” to this, but when we launch new locations, sometimes, churches forget that giving is going to go down at that sending location because you’ve just peeled off 10% of your congregation.

Tony (19:23):

That’s right.

Amy (19:23):

So, just one other thing to keep in mind.

Tony (19:25):

That’s right.

Amy (19:26):

Well, Tony, any final thoughts as we wrap up today’s conversation?

Tony (19:30):

Well, if you’re a large, growing church considering expansion through multisite, I’d love to invite you to our upcoming webinar on going multisite: How To Launch Your First Campus and Avoid Common Pitfalls. At this free webinar, we’ll walk monosite churches through the predictable outcomes of multisite and how to know if you’re ready to go multisite and more. You can register for the April 4th event through the link in your show notes. And if you’re ready to explore your next steps towards multisite, we’d love to walk alongside you in this journey, and you can learn more and reach out to us at

Sean (20:14):

Well, thanks for joining us on this week’s podcast. At The Unstuck Group, our goal is to help pastors grow healthy churches by guiding them to align vision, strategy, team and action. In everything we do, our priority is to help churches help people meet and follow Jesus. And if there’s a way that we can serve you and your church, reach out to us today at Next week, we’re back with another brand-new episode. Until then, have a great week.

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

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