When Seacoast Church launched our first offsite campus in April of 2002, we only knew of a handful of churches around the country that were one church in multiple locations. Many of our friends (most of whom now lead multisite churches) thought we were crazy. We didn’t go multisite because it was cool, we just couldn’t think of anything else to do.
Twelve years later, multisite has become incredibly popular across the country. Leadership Network estimates there are over 8,000 multisite churches in America, and most of the churches listed in Outreach Magazine’s 100 largest and 100 fastest growing churches have multiple locations. So is multisite a good idea for your church?
It depends on several factors. Last week we looked at whether your church is healthy enough to go multisite. Today let’s look at the driving impetus behind opening another physical location. If you can’t answer the “Why” question, the “What” won’t matter. Here are a few positive drivers for churches who’ve successfully made the multisite leap:
When Seacoast Church went multisite, we were out of room. We were doing five identical weekend services and most of them packed. We tried to build a bigger building, but the town turned us down. We opened our second location to make room for more people.
North Point Church tells a very similar story. When they launched their Buckhead Campus, they were simply trying to open up seats at the Alpharetta location. There was no grand plan to spread across the country, they were simply out of options.
The most effective driver of multisite is rapid growth. When a church is adding new attenders on a weekly basis, there is forward momentum that overcomes many of the challenges of multiple campuses. Conversely, a church not growing on one campus won’t grow at two locations. Multisite almost never jumpstarts growth where none exists.
Another positive driver for a church adding locations is moving into an underserved community. My definition of an underserved community is one where:
- There are few, if any, vibrant life-giving churches, or
- There is a people group, culture or demographic not being reached by existing churches, or
- There is a rapidly growing community with a limited number of healthy churches.
One caution about labeling a community as underserved: Avoid the phrase “no good churches in town.” There are good churches in almost every community in America. They may not look, smell or sound like the amazing grace bomb you’re about to drop on the local middle school, but there is likely a good church already in the community. Know before you go.
Seacoast’s second offsite campus is located 100 miles away in Columbia, S.C. Opening a campus in Columbia wasn’t a response to growth or even moving into an underserved community; a church we had helped plant five years before asked to be adopted into the Seacoast family. Today that campus has nearly 400 attenders every weekend and launched a second campus in the Columbia area.
It is becoming common for churches to adopt other congregations. There are many reasons this can be a win-win if done correctly. (You can read more about healthy church mergers here.) One caution, not every chance to merge is good idea. A mentor once told me that “opportunity can be temptation in disguise.” If you are considering adopting (or being adopted) go slow, keep your eyes wide-open for pitfalls, and be willing to walk away if it becomes apparent that the merger won’t be healthy.
A final word of caution; going multisite will likely cost more, take longer and be more difficult than you imagine. Multisite makes a terrible hobby. Make sure you have a solid “Why” before making the decision to go multisite.