October 2013 – At one time an anomaly that may have raised eyebrows and questions, multisite churches are no longer a marginal trend. Among the fastest growing churches in the U.S., multisites – which have at least two separate campuses that share government, finances and a lead pastor – show every sign of surviving.
Regardless of debate on the multisite approach, statistics on the progress of multisite churches could not be plainer. As reported by Outreach Magazine, 62 of the 100 fastest growing churches in America are multisite. And according to data from Leadership Network (leadnet.org), multisite churches now number more than 5,000 in the U.S. In perspective, in 2001 there were as few as 200 multisite churches.
Considering how the multisite model is flourishing, most churchgoers will probably encounter a multisite church in some way, whether in attending or visiting a campus, leading or launching a new location or simply dialoguing on pros and cons. In that respect, a Christian active in his or her culture and faith community cannot afford to disregard the multisite approach. Such churches have become a feature on the face of modern Christianity that cannot be ignored, but which should be regarded with appropriate discernment.
Making a mentality check
Ed Stetzer, in a June 18 “Multisite Evolution” blog post on the Exchange (christianitytoday.com/edstetzer), discussed a few key considerations for an effective multisite church. While the multisite model offers a unique opportunity to create networks of churches, reach the community and expand congregations at minimal cost, it has some pressure points. Yet, those vulnerable areas can be transformed into its best qualities if properly addressed.
One area of priority is establishing a healthy Christian community of productive, connected and unified believers. “One of the weaknesses of a multisite church is that it can encourage a come-and-get mentality over a come-and-give ethos,” Stetzer wrote. Multisite is prone to an event-based attitude focused on the ministry of a particular pastor or church. Thus, Stetzer cautioned against adding sites to spread the “brand” of a pastor; instead, motivation should be “a proactive one intentionally seeking to saturate a region with the gospel.”
Multiplying leaders, mission
With this in mind, having exemplary leadership at new locations is critical. In fact, birthing new leaders is possibly the strongest – and most challenging – aspect of this model. Multisite offers a valuable opportunity for those gifted in shepherding and pastoral care, but perhaps not in teaching, to serve as campus pastors. Therefore, the main preaching pastor can devote more time to his primary calling.
By Stetzer’s analysis, “Regional multisites [should be] leadership development engines, sending out planter pastors and campus pastors (depending on the gifting and call of the pastor) to start churches or sites that reach lost people and develop more such leaders.”
In Stetzer’s final estimation, reproduction is what multisite churches are really all about: reproduction of a healthy church, reproduction of gifted leaders and reproduction of a gospel-oriented mission.
And that strategy is not just for multisite churches, he reminds readers. “I would love it if we all worked harder at producing disciples and leaders, and not spectators,” he concluded in his blog. “And, if you are going multisite, make sure you stay focused on the mission and its multiplication.”
66% denominationally affiliated
99% launched in past 10 years
90% success rate
50% average growth in first year
Multisite done well:
▶ Spreads healthy churches
▶ Multiplies leaders, not just sites
▶ Activates people into ministry