6 Dirty Secrets About Multisite Churches That (Almost) No One Is Talking About

6 Dirty Secrets about Multisite Churches That (Almost) No-one is Talking About

Is your church considering going multisite? It would seem like every church leader I talk with is wrestling with this approach on reaching new communitiesStudies have shown that basically every growing church is either already multisite or actively looking into it.

I’ve been a practitioner of this approach to church since the early 2000s. I can still remember having conversations with Greg Ligon from the Leadership Network many years ago and him telling me about nearly a dozen other churches that were doing something like what we were doing at The Meeting House—launching this dispersed approach to church. At that time, it seemed crazy to me that there were that many other churches trying out this approach; little did I know that in just over a decade, the multisite revolution would jump to 1,000 churches and impact the lives of millions of people.

What to Know About Multisite Churches

As an unabashed fan of this approach to reaching more people, I do have a confession to make. There are aspects of being a multisite church that aren’t as great on the inside as they look on the outside. There are some dirty secrets within this movement that I want you to be fully aware of if you are considering launching a new campus. Or maybe you already have a few campuses and something just doesn’t feel right.

Eighty-Five Percent of Multisite Churches Aren’t Launching More Than Two Locations.

Leadership Network has been at the heart of fueling this movement. They’ve done a number of great studies and books that have been cornerstone to this movement’s development. In fact, in a lot of ways, they deserve the credit for helping codify how this movement understands and talks about itself…a critical aspect of disseminating ideas. They’ve done a number of landmark studies into the dynamics of this movement that you should check out. In their most recent study, it was found that 85 percent of multisite churches don’t get two locations beyond their original location. The vast majority of multisite churches simply aren’t moving beyond three locations in totality.

Why?

It could be that the movement is still too young and this number is likely to rise over time. It could be that there is something built into the complexity of four-plus locations that is slowing down the churches’ abilities to go there.

Having talked with dozens and dozens of multisite church leaders over the years, I’m convinced about the problem: Most multisite churches launch campuses as opposed to launching a system for launching campuses. They think about how they extend themselves into a location or two, but don’t put enough creative thought into building a culture and approach that gets the church into the rhythm of launching regularly.

I had the honor of being a part of The Meeting House as this fantastic church launched its first six locations. After launching out the first location we set the audacious goal of launching one campus every year for five years! We had no idea what we were doing when we set that target, but it did impel us to think about building a system for sustainable launches rather than a single location. All these years later, this church has 19 locations and is actively looking to launch more in the future.

Finding Campus Pastors Is Really (Really!) Hard.

Over the years, I’ve had a number of whispered conversations with multisite church leaders at many conferences about this secret. Every once and while I talk with a senior leader on the phone who admits they are really struggling with this fact.

Finding, training, releasing, rewarding and, ultimately, retaining campus pastors is an incredibly difficult task.

We’ve suffered over the years with cute sayings about this role in an attempt to define it. Among the things we led ourselves to believe about what these leaders need to be includes…

  • Face with the place…
  • A big dawg leader!
  • Bleed the vision out one arm and the community with another…

When I think back about the most personally painful aspects of leading within the multisite movement, a lot of it has to do with managing campus pastor relationships.

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Rich Birch
Rich serves as Operations Pastor at Liquid Church in the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. He blogs at UnSeminary.com and is a sought after speaker and consultant on multisite, pastoral productivity and communications.