When I launched the first multisite campus of Willow Creek in 2001, the primary question was “Can this work?”
Thousands of multisite churches later, the question shifted to “Should my church multisite?”
Post-pandemic, the question has moved to “When should we multisite?”
What started out as a “band-aid” for space and zoning problems of megachurches developed into a viable option for healthy, outreach-oriented churches regardless of size.
Though multisite is no longer a question of possibility or feasibility for a church, the most important question is strategic: “Is it right for my church?”
7 Good Reasons Not to Go Multisite
In determining if multisite is right for your church, here are a few reasons not to multisite.
1. Multisite is expensive.
Typically, the least expensive, lowest risk and quickest way to launch a multisite is with portability. Even then, plan on investing $100K -$500K on portable equipment in a school, YMCA, or theater. Whether leasing or buying an existing commercial property for 24/7 utilization, the retrofitting will cost between $1M – $5M. The expense in upgrading a facility acquired through a church merger ranges between $100K and $1M. Though multisite is not cheap, it is far less expensive in the long run than buying land or building more buildings.
2. Multisite 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 reproduced in other locations. This can be very threatening to sacred cows or ineffective ministries.
3. Multisite 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. Multisite requires a release of people and resources. Don’t attempt to do this if you’re not willing to release your top leaders, staff, volunteers, and resources from the sending campus.
4. Multisite is disruptive.
Reproducing campuses is not the same as adding another ministry to your church. Moving from a “mono-site” to a “multi-site” church mentality is a major paradigm shift. It fundamentally changes the way you think and do church. And, the older and bigger a church, the more difficult the transition. It will change the way you organize staff, allocate resources, communicate from the pulpit, utilize social media, and how the church will be governed. Going multisite will change your church.
5. Multisite won’t turn around a declining church.
Multisite is a proven growth vehicle but it is not a growth engine. It will accommodate or even accelerate a growing church but it won’t jumpstart a declining church. Multisiting is all about reproducing and multiplying your church. You cannot reproduce healthy congregations from a sick or dying church.
6. Multisite 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! If your church is broken or dying, get help, get healthy, then multisite. (By the way, that’s what we do at The Unstuck Group—we help churches get unstuck!)
7. Don’t go multisite because everybody else is doing it.
Even though multiple campuses have become the “new normal” and a viable option in the church toolbox, it doesn’t mean your church should go multisite. Multisite is for healthy, growing churches who become convinced this strategy is the best vehicle for fulfilling their vision.
Which brings us back to the post-pandemic tactical question, “When should my church multisite?”
Assessing Your Multisite Readiness
Having reviewed some reasons not to multisite, here are some four compelling reasons to multisite with ten questions to determine your church’s multisite readiness:
1. The Great Commission.
Going multisite is an act of obedience to the Great Commission of “making disciples” and to the mission of your church. The starting point in considering multisite begins with the vision of your church. What is God calling your church to be, and then do in your community? Once you are clear on the vision that God has given your church, then you can consider if multisite is the best vehicle to fulfill that vision.
- Is my church growing at least five percent a year through conversions, baptisms and changed lives?
- Is my church meeting resistance to enlarging our current campus due to zoning rules, environmental concerns, or traffic congestion?
- Is my church facility exceeding 50% capacity at the optimal inviting hours?
(Though preachers and worship leaders prefer packed auditoriums, unchurched people in the post-pandemic era are more comfortable with space between strangers. Think about where you prefer to sit when going to see a movie at a theater full of strangers).
2. The Great Harvest.
Do you know the redemptive potential of your community? Jesus said “lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are ripe for harvest!” (John 4:35). What was true 2,000 years ago is even more so today. Most communities across America are 75-95% unchurched and your church is planted in the midst of a great mission field. Do you know the size of the harvest around you?
- Is my community 50% or more unchurched?
- Does my church have a good reputation in the community?
- Would my church be missed by the community if it disappeared?
3. Greater Impact.
Multisiting is all about taking your church to the people in the community next door. One of the most amazing and consistent facts about church attendance in America is that the majority of church-goers live within a 15-minute drive of their church building. The rest live within thirty minutes. Only a very few, if any, will drive more than thirty minutes to church. If your church will reproduce itself 20-30 minutes from its current location, it will expand its geographical reach into a new mission field.
- Does my church want to be more accessible to more people in our region?
- Is my church compelled by a vision to launch new congregations in our region that are healthy, sustainable, and reproductive?
4. Good Stewardship.
Multisite campuses cost less but have greater impact. The financially sustainable model for multisite churches is launching big in smaller facilities with multiple services. COVID finally cured us of our addiction to unsustainable mega-campuses and demonstrated that buildings don’t reach people, people reach people. We also learned that buildings don’t generate income, life-changing ministry does. Going forward new church buildings will be smaller, simpler, multipurpose, multi-venue and community-centric. Small is the new big!
Multisite churches reach more people better, faster and cheaper because they offer a good balance of evangelism and discipleship. Multisite churches provide more opportunities for volunteers and more support for them. Multisite campuses can reach more people from a solid base of mature believers who already live in the target area, who attend your church and carry your church’s DNA.
- Does my church want to release more people into high impact, meaningful ministry?
- 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 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 multisiting?”