Advantages of the Multisite church planting model

Advantages of the Multisite church planting model September 13, 2013

The proliferation of multisite churches in the USA continues to increase. It is a trend that is also beginning to take a hold here in the UK. The basic idea for those who may not be aware is that a growing church which finds it doesn’t have space for its congregation plants a site nearby that shares all the resources of the original church. In fact the new congregation is considered part of the original. It is one church, multiple sites.

It seems from the rapid adoption of this model that given the right circumstances planting a multisite is faster, less risky, less of a drain on leadership, and less costly than traditional church planting.

Ed Stetzer shares some research findings that may startle you:

  • Multisite churches reach more people than single site churches.
  • Multisite tends to spread healthy churches to more diverse communities.
  • Multisite churches have more volunteers in service as a percentage than single site.
  • Multisite churches baptize more people than single site.
  • Multisite churches tend to activate more people into ministry than single site.
  • via Trends in Big Church Buildings | The Exchange | A Blog by Ed Stetzer.

One of the many reasons for this benefit is that a large church tends to gather Christians from an ever-increasing area. Christians are very prepared to drive up to half an hour or even more to a church that is feeding us spiritually. But, it is hard for such commuting Christians to invite their non-believing friends to attend church or alpha courses miles away.

Thus, if a multisite service can be set up that does not leave members feeling “short-changed” from the original church, they will be glad to attend (after all its closer and more convenient for them). But more importantly, by attending a more local congregation, Christians will also find it easier to invite their friends.

This model often leads to dramatic growth in numbers, and to a release of ministry to serve the sites. Each site will need a pastoral team, a worship team, a welcome team, children’s workers, stewards, etc.

There seems to be so many advantages to this model that in some cases churches which are facing a slow but relentless decline have chosen to be adopted by a growing church and re-emerge as a new site.

A multisite model takes advantage of the spiritual momentum, blessing, and authority of a church that is experiencing a season of growth. It can become an incubator of healthy church life. Leaders who are not called or equipped by God to be a solo pastor may in some cases flourish as a site leader. Site leaders get to focus most of their energies on pastoring the flock rather than the relentless pressure of preparing a sermon every week. Most site leaders do preach themselves from time to time, but many are glad this is not so regular that it becomes a burden.

To be honest so far as I have been examining this phenomena I see few drawbacks to it. Like any model, it is no panacea. Also it must only be used in certain circumstances. I cannot see how going multisite could actually produce momentum that is currently lacking in a church, for example. But if the choice is between building a new mega-facility at mega-cost or starting a new site down the road, I can see why many wise pastors are choosing the latter.

If you are interested in finding out more about this model, I found an interesting short article from sermoncentral where I also found the graphic for this post. The book everyone refers to on this subject is The Multisite Revolution. I’ve not yet read it myself but hear good things about it.

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  • James Durbin

    Multisite seems to have many advantages, but there seems to be one major drawback. Multisite can mean that the preaching pastor can be detached from and not know the members of the church. In this respect the preaching pastor may not be able to adequately apply scripture for his members to grow in maturity.

    • I like the word “can” there. But in a healthy body with a caring pastoral team and a humble pastor the lead pastor will no some situations personally, and be kept aware of more. So actually may have a broader knowledge of the flock. But you are right. The church should have no place for detached unaccountable uncaring celebrity pastors.

  • bwig

    I agree about some of those advantages, but what bugs me is when a megachurch, or even one with a few hundred people is doing such a poor job of disciple making and raising up leaders that they have no one to give away who can teach the Word on Sundays. Plus, it perpetuates the weak discipleship model by making the rock star orator the focal point of a gathering of believers who are all supposed to be “priests” in the kingdom. The Western Church is weak partially because of how our services are more like going to the theater than to the gym. Sunday isn’t the game, it’s the practice for the game, and I think that simulcasting a professional oration reinforces that it’s the game, the goal of the Christian’s week. Bigger and more impressive is not always better – in fact, in my view it’s seldom better in terms of making better disciples who make disciples.

    • I think most mega churches actually release a lot of leaders to teach in other contexts than a Sunday, and the majority of them give the main preacher at least 12 sundays off a year and other preachers cover them. Actually I believe that there are many people who are gifted to preach occasionally but not anything approaching every week. So, especially with the multisite model, leaders are released and do get to preach from time to time, but can focus on the pastoral care of the flock much better (also not having to worry about basic admin tasks that often fall to a church planter as the first employee of a fledgling organisation). Basically it seems that multisite gives a healthy church a great opportunity to spread the health and blessing it is experiencing.

      • bwig

        I hear what you’re saying and I applaud the amazing things that mega and multisite churches can do that other churches can’t, but it reminds me of the George Whitefield – John Wesley contrast. Both great preachers with many thousands of converts, but Wesley was the one who started a sustainable movement because he made disciples and released them to do what he did. I realize that the church today is much more
        complex with its buildings, budgets and bureaucracies, which to me is a (if not “the”) problem. We spend most of our money, time, and energy on those three killer “B’s” and do little direct route advancement of the kingdom. So much of what we do is the circuitous path to reaching and teaching people. Good leaders know the way, go the way, show the way, and get out of the way of their disciples doing it at least as well, if not better, than they do.

        Then there’s the whole thing about the “quality preaching” that can be shared through the simulcast/multisite model. I’m all for good preaching/teaching in the Church, but it doesn’t seem
        to me to have been all that consistently effective in making better Christians. It can draw a crowd with pens and notebooks in hand, and good doctrine is always better than no doctrine or bad, but western Christians are already so obese with information and napping off our last spiritual meal. (Little strong
        there, I guess.) But my point is, though we need teaching, we also need to take more responsibility for our own biblical knowledge and get up and do something with it. I personally think the rock star preacher on the screen isn’t the most efficient way of mobilizing the saints to do the “work of ministry.” I think the preacher should be more of a pacesetter than a superstar. His job is to help people win their race than to impress them about how he’s winning his. To me the guy on the screen says, “The professionals do this stuff. Your job is to
        show up, enjoy the music, and pay the bills.” I think the “Filibuster Sermon,” where the expert does all the talking and the audience stays quiet looks more like going to the movies than to the gym.

        Then there’s the whole hazard of building a movement of churches around one limited Sermonating personality…
        “Safety in a multitude of counselors…” But enough is enough… Thanks for listening to my rantings.

        • Making disciples may actually be BETTER in a good multisite. The recent survey shows that almost all new sites see a big increase in volunteer involvement in ministry. Suddenly there are new departments needing heads, new small groups needing to be formed. And best of all the site pastor is freed from the burden of preaching every week, and of administration, and their job is simply to host the meeting, preach from time to time, and pastor the people. If he is a good disciple maker and spreads that culture in the site, it will take off. No wonder 85% of multi sites are growing…

          • The Sunday is about inspiring and equipping, the real work of ministry is done in small groups, in coffee shops, at workplaces, and with friends and neighbours