Multi-site churches are all the rage these days. Everywhere I turn, I’m hearing about this church or that church that has “x” amount of campuses. Entire books have been written on the subject like the one at right.
This week, I’ve essentially covered what I think are the most important areas that need to be discussed when considering such a project. Multi-site churches simply operate as one church in two or more locations. On the surface, it seems economical to do it given what it costs to plant a church these days. Dig deeper though and there are many issues to be considered as we discovered this week.
Last week, I wrote of the decadence of the American church. That subject ties into this one in that some churches might wrongly seek to expand simply to feed an obsession for growth. In some cases, the largest churches are “big boxing” their way into huge growth and killing off many smaller churches in their regions. Is this true Christianity in action or simply market principles gone awry in the church world?
The church I pastor doesn’t have a ton of money. We are blessed to have some initial capital to utilize a storefront for the next few years but we must grow if we are to continue to pay the bills. In the end, my long range vision is to see our church healthy enough to establish another work that ultimately can stand on its own. How is this different from multi-site? Not much in the short term but quite a bit different in the long run. You see, with multi-site, most times people watch messages on screen and are pastored by a “campus” pastor who essentially does all the work of a pastor without the weekly teaching responsibilities. Again, the entire subject of video sermons can and perhaps will be another series for me to discuss. For now though, let’s just say that I feel a steady diet of that type of teaching might in fact, be harmful to the overall health of the church. Why? Because interaction with the sermon, and the preacher preaching it, is vital. The pastor preaching must sense that he is connecting. Anyone who has ever preached a sermon knows exactly what I’m talking about.
In my thinking, it’s a hybrid that would work for me. My long range plan is to establish another campus once ours fills up and all of our bills are being paid. In the short term, perhaps we shuttle pastors back and forth between the two campuses and a single message is delivered by one or the other and each campus gets a “live” preacher from time-to-time. Eventually though, the idea for me would be to allow pastor number two to begin delivering more messages in person by the time the new plant reaches a decent number. Within a few years, his entire preaching schedule is at that location and the mother church brings in a new pastor understudy to being the process again. Meanwhile, church number two and it’s pastor do the same thing. Now pastor number two becomes the mentor and he brings someone on staff to help them. Within another few years you have four churches stemming from the one. Others may disagree with me on this but I feel the same way the great historical preacher Richard Baxter did when he wrote (and I paraphrase) “You know the hearts of your people. You also know the struggles. It is your call to shepherd these people”
Multi-site has the potential to reach many new people for Christ if done well, with proper leadership. In all of this, I still feel leadership development is key if we are to see this vision become reality and the new church thrive as my friend’s did a few years ago.
What do you think?