Why Your Church Should Think Twice Before Going Multi-Site

The multi-site revolution is the biggest thing to happen to the broader church movement in my almost 20 years of ministry. I’ve personally been involved in the launch of 12 campuses—working on 2 more as we speak!—and I’ve coached a bunch of other leaders through the process.I’ve written a lot on the multi-site movement and I’m genuinely a fan of this approach to multiplication.

However, you might want to think twice before attempting this approach to multiplication at your church. Avoid going multi-site if the following applies to your church:

  • You want to spur growth. // Going multi-site takes whatever is presently happening at your church and magnifies it. If your church is in decline, going multi-site won’t turn that around … it will probably push it further into decline. Take time to uncover why your church isn’t growing and focus on that before making the step towards multi-site. First nail it … then scale it.
  • Empty seats at prime time. // When was the last time your “prime time” service was packed to the roof? A building bursting with people provides the relational dynamics needed when casting vision for launching your services. Years ago, I heard an early multi-site pioneer say that if you didn’t have 7 weekend services at your original campus, you shouldn’t go multi-site. Although that is extreme, the core idea is correct. If you don’t have full services, it’s difficult to convince people to head to a new location.
  • Fuzziness on why people invite friends. // When launching your first campus, you’ll need to decide what to export to the new location. If there isn’t organizational clarity on what is most important, it will be difficult to make that transition smoothly. It doesn’t matter as much what leaders think needs to be exported—it matters what people in the church think is great about your church. Work hard to replicate that well.
  • Leaders who don’t build systems. // There are some church leaders who look down on documentation and repeatable processes because they see them as less spiritual. Those leaders have a harder time making the transition to multi-site because the entire ministry is built on systems. You need people in your leadership who can care for people through structuring a nurturing environment and not just by meeting one on one with people. Leaders need to be able to scale their influence through building a systematic approach to ministry
  • Ego-driven leaders. // If you are the sort of leader who needs to get credit for everything that happens, don’t go multi-site. If you are the sort of leader who needs every team to look to you for direction and answers, multi-site is not for you. One of the great paradoxes of multi-site is that it is often criticized because it elevates a few leaders over a larger number of communities. My experience is that leaders who thrive in multi-site are people who can empower, defer and encourage a wide variety of leaders. They give up control to allow their ministry to multiply. Think hard before you make this step: Are you willing to draw in other leaders and release the ministry over to them?

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on why churches should avoid going multi-site! Join the discussion in the comments section below.

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Rich Birch

Rich Birch

Thanks so much for dropping by unseminary … I hope that your able to find some resources that help you lead your church better in the coming days! I’ve been involved in church leadership for over 15 years. Early on I had the privilege of leading in one of the very first multisite churches in North Amerca. I led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 4,000 people in 6 locations. (Today they are 13 locations with somewhere over 5,000 people attending.) In addition, I served on the leadership team of Connexus Community Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. I currently serves as Operations Pastor at Liquid Church in the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. I have a dual vocational background that uniquely positions me for serving churches to multiply impact. While in the marketplace, I founded a dot-com with two partners in the late 90’s that worked to increase value for media firms and internet service providers. I’m married to Christine and we live in Scotch Plains, NJ with their two children and one dog.

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In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
— Ken
Thank you for this article! I'm the pastor of a small church. My gifting is in teaching and we are known for aiding Christians in becoming Biblically literate. Visitor's often comment on God's presence being very real in our services. But we just don't seem to be growing. I have some soul-searching, etc. to do and this article provides some solid ground from which to proceed. Thank you again.
— Jonathan Schultheis

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