MULTISITE CHURCH BEST PRACTICES

Search the web for best practices for leading a multisite church and you may get the sense that there are many ways to do multisite effectively.

Predictable Outcomes for Multisite Churches

Fifteen years ago multisite was just an emerging idea.

Today, it is a proven strategy that has allowed churches to expand into new communities and reach people they never would have reached from a single location.

For multisite to truly work, everyone has to be on the same page about why the church is engaging this strategy—from day one. Differing team members will likely have different purposes and expectations for the expansion initially.

Our team has 100+ years of combined experience leading in multisite churches and learning best practices. We’ve found there are increasingly some predictable outcomes to the different models and approaches churches take to launching campuses.

Getting on the same page early in this process sets the entire team up to be aligned and unified. Everyone needs to be pulling in the same direction.

We produce a lot of resources to help multisite churches get unstuck.
In this guide, we’ve organized some of the most popular by topic. Scroll down and explore! 

Interested in how we guide multisite churches through a planning process for healthy expansion?

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multisite strategy

For multisite to really work, everyone has to be on the same page about why the church is engaging this strategy.

Differing team members will likely have different purposes and expectations for the expansion initially. Getting on the same page early in this process sets the entire team up to be aligned and unified. Everyone needs to be pulling in the same direction, and that means the strategy has to be really clear.

Recently, some high profile multisite churches made the decision to un-multisite. For a variety of reasons, their ministry strategy has shifted from “one church in many locations” to “multiple independent churches,” some even boldly downsizing to one location.

Do these public shifts in strategy signal the beginning of the end for the multisite era?

In this episode, Tony sits down with Geoff Surratt, pastor and author of The Multisite Revolution, for a conversation on the future of multisite church, and whether or not it’s still an effective strategy in today’s culture.

One church. Multiple Locations. It’s the mantra of the multisite movement.

But in our experience? Few are truly one unified church meeting in multiple locations.

Instead, what we find is that many multisite churches are connected through one leadership structure, but beyond that, they are splintered in their ministry strategy.

They are really multiple churches trying to operate as one church.

In this episode, Tony and Amy unpack 3 specific warning signs a church that thinks it’s using a multisite strategy is really doing… something else.

It’s a dance. One church leads, the other has to follow.

The data is telling us more than 40% of all multisite campuses today are the result of a church merger or the acquisition of a church building.

How do you ensure a successful outcome?

Jim Tomberlin joins Tony Morgan in this third episode in our multisite series to explain what you need to know about church mergers and how you can leverage this strategy for healthy church expansion.


Tony Morgan and Jim Tomberlin recently announced that our two ministries—MultiSite Solutions and The Unstuck Group—are coming together!

Jim was one of the pioneers of the multisite movement back in the early 1990s and has been helping churches effectively transition from being one church to being one church in multiple locations ever since.

In this episode, Jim joins Tony on the show to discuss the history of the multisite movement, where it is today, bad reasons churches go multisite, the strategy differences between church planting and launching campuses, and more.

Research, podcasts, writing—you can find a lot published about how people are doing multisite. We see far less written about the actual outcomes of different multisite models and strategies.

Based on experience working in and with many different multisite churches, Tony Morgan and Amy Anderson discuss indicators a church is NOT ready to go multisite, principles that set a healthy foundation for expansion, and key systems differences between single-site and multisite churches—plus, the backwards thinking that results in failed campus launches.

Whether you’re leading a multisite church or just considering it someday, this episode is packed with practical application to make you more effective and help you avoid costly missteps.

We’re seeing a new trend: Churches that were one church in multiple locations are shifting to multiple churches in multiple locations. Is multisite still a great way to grow? Tony and Amy discuss this un-multisiting trend.

Prairie Lakes Church in Iowa is unique. Across the state, they have six campuses, a mix of suburban and rural congregations they’ve launched as a part of a strategy to put a Prairie Lakes campus within 30 minutes of every Iowan. For them, embarking on a multisite strategy has been the right answer for reaching more people while staying true to the local culture. A 3,000-seat auditorium? That just didn’t feel like the natural fit to address their expansion needs.

It’s the combo of rural and suburban settings that creates some of the challenges — but also some of the advantages — of a multisite strategy for this church.

Watch Prairie Lakes tell their story

multisite leadership

As your church moves from a single location to more and more campuses, leaders continually face new challenges.

Their roles change and evolve. Developing and empowering more leaders becomes even more essential. How you communicate, how you make decisions, and how you report within the new structure—If there was any crack of confusion before, those issues become tremendous gaps once going multisite. You’ll be managing tensions that didn’t exist before.

Think twice before launching another campus. Whether you are an existing or future multisite church, we want you to be as strategic as possible to reach as many people as possible. In this article we offer an overview of 9 ways going multisite can wreck your church.

Read How Multisite Can Wreck Your Church

Paul Alexander shares leadership insights from his multisite experience serving as the executive pastor at Sun Valley Community Church, a large multisite church in Phoenix, Arizona.

Read Multisite Leadership: Key Tools to Be a Great Leader

Multisite growth is exciting, but it can also leave the Communications Team feeling inundated by last-minute requests that lack coherence. Will everyone see the issues and adjust as the situation becomes increasingly difficult? Probably not without intentional leadership. Hillside Christian Church in Texas made some big shifts as it increased to 11 campuses, and in this article, Judy Stallwitz tells (and shows!) how they brought clarity to the communications strategy.

Read Staff Stress & Communication: One Multisite Church’s Story of Simplifying for a Healthier Team (with Illustrations)

How to Reduce Central vs. Campus Frustration in a Multisite Matrix

Central teams and campus teams have unique perspectives. But we have learned there are some strategies to reduce that tension and maintain a healthy, effective relationship.

In this episode, we discussed:

  • Questions we hear from multisite staff members that indicate there’s tension between central and campus teams
  • Why tension in the multisite matrix will never completely go away and the 3 areas every multisite church must clarify to manage and reduce it
  • How to clarify reporting relationships when your team members have more than one boss, or are wearing dual, triple or even quadruple hats (in multisite, it happens)
  • Why it’s important to identify campus vs. central calls in every level of your ministry
  • How to clarify authority and influence throughout the organization

All churches will hit growth barriers eventually—even the large ones. In this webinar, we shared things church leaders need to know about the unique challenges of increasing church attendance—and how to get unstuck.

Without clarity, campuses will begin to drift—not in an intentional, malicious way, but because decisions need to be made.

This sample module from our Multisite Unstuck Course is available for free! It will help you clarify central vs. campus calls and decision rights. With that clarity, it will also help you determine what types of campus leaders you need to execute your strategy.

Start Decision Rights – A Free Sample Lesson

multisite models, staffing and structure

One of the most fundamental decisions within a multisite strategy is the teaching model, which necessarily impacts the overall ministry model.

It determines how vision and culture will be established at every campus, what kind of leaders you need to hire, and how you’ll structure the team to support the ministry strategy.

While there is no single right strategy for multisite teaching, there is a way that is best for your church.

When a church launches its first campus, one of the biggest questions is, “How will we share the message over there?” Determining which strategy is best for your church requires your team to think through a variety of factors.

Read Video vs. Live: Which Multisite Teaching Strategy Is Best For You?

When churches experience growth, the multisite conversation often comes up. But that doesn’t mean the next step is always obvious. There are several different strategies for launching campuses. In this interview, Chris Surratt, who has served in two different multisite churches with very different strategies, to share some of his experience with centralized vs. de-centralized multisite models. In this conversation, we touch on:

  • Advantages/disadvantages of centralized vs. de-centralized multisite models
  • How the role of the campus pastor—and the type of leader needed to fill that role—changes depending on the model

In these interviews with Tammy Melchien, Teaching Team Pastor at Community Christian Church in Illinois, we learned how their successful live-teaching multisite model works, digging into their process and strategy, and how it has impacted their church as a whole.

Read Live-Teaching in Multisite: How Community Christian Makes It Work

There are, of course, various approaches that churches are taking when it comes to multisite models, but they are each designed to produce different results. Each model has its own unique attributes, benefits and challenges, and each approach requires a unique leadership style. In this article, one of our ministry consultants shares his take on the “best” model for multisite.

Read Multisite Models: Which Is Best?

Over the last 15 years, we’ve seen a theme emerge on the Internet: “There are many ways to do multisite!” It can feel like there’s a buffet of strategies out there that you can pick from and be successful. While it’s true that you can do multisite many different ways, each “way” has some increasingly predictable outcomes. We developed the Multisite Unstuck Course to help you apply the best practices we’ve learned to find greater multisite effectiveness in your unique context.

Explore the Multisite Unstuck Course

Ever wonder how pastors of multisite churches lead effectively across multiple locations? Leading one church in multiple locations comes with a wide array of challenges. This white paper will help you take your next steps in building a multisite strategy for a successful campus. This white paper, One Team. Multiple Locations: How Staff at Effective Multisite Churches Overcome Distance and Lead Together, is available for free in the Starter Resource Bundle in our online store.

campus resources

The culture of your launch team can set the tone for the culture of your entire campus.

Prepared, equipped and vision-driven teams create a contagious atmosphere of joy and excellence. It’s extremely important to launch with a specific purpose and strategy for your ministry team and volunteers.

In this episode, we discuss the five major mistakes that lead pastors can make when hiring a campus pastor. Tony explains why he is passionate about multisite churches using video message delivery, and why someone who mostly agrees with you may actually be more dangerous to your mission than someone who completely disagrees with you.

Launching new campuses can quickly turn organizational cracks into significant gaps. What steps can you take to avoid getting stuck on your multisite journey? In this webinar, Tony Morgan hosted Gavin Adams, Paul Alexander and Tammy Kelley for a conversation about the four most common mistakes The Unstuck Group has seen churches make when they launch campuses… and practical ways to avoid getting multistuck yourself.

Far too many churches find themselves “multistuck” because they don’t hire the right leader for the campus pastor role. Or even worse—many end up splitting into multiple churches (unintentionally) as the result of misunderstanding how this role should function in a healthy multisite church. In this free webinar, Tony Morgan will host a practical discussion with Jason Anderson (Eagle Brook Church), Jeff Henderson (Gwinnett Church) and Chris Surratt (Lifeway) on the role of the campus pastor and how to avoid the mistakes The Unstuck Group most often sees hurting churches as they launch campuses.

Creating an irresistible, welcoming environment for young families and their children is important for any church. However, when you are a church that meets in a rented facility, what additional things should be considered? What are the best practices?

Read How to Engage Kids in a Multisite or Portable Church Venue

Through our multisite consulting process, we guide churches through the journey of clarifying the organization-wide ministry strategy, and how it can be replicated effectively across campuses. Until recently, only our clients got access to this digital toolkit.

This toolkit includes resources to help you:

  • Determine which multisite model is best for you and your church
  • Clarify decision rights for your campus
  • Build a customized launch plan
  • Execute on a 12 month timeline to your next campus launch
  • Determine the best location and venue for your next campus 

We also include some sample job descriptions, done-for-you spreadsheets to help you plan financially… and more! Whether you’re leading a multisite church today, or considering this strategy for your future, we are sure you’ll find these resources invaluable.

Check out the Multisite Unstuck Toolkit.

Expansion without a strategy and a strong launch team can wreck your church. Build thriving campus launch teams with these exercises and tools to help you take next steps toward health. This guide on Building Healthy Campus Launch Teams is available for free in the Starter Resource Bundle in our online store.

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Without a clear strategy in four key areas, going multisite can get a church multistuck.

We can guide you through the process of clarifying your organization-wide ministry strategy, and how it can be replicated effectively across campuses. We do that in four phases.

We’d love to share more about what we’re learning works in healthy, expanding multisite churches. Would you like to start a conversation?

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