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Why We’re Ending Our Multi-Site Approach

It’s a Physical Approach in a Digital World
We must engage the reality of our new digital world and the promise it holds, not to mention the changes it is creating in regard to pursuing the mission. I have been blogging about this extensively in recent months, such as “A True Megashift: From the Physical to the Digital” and “The Phygital Church.”

The multi-site approach is a physical approach in a digital world. Even worse, a physical response to a digital demand. Yet as my friend Carey Nieuwhof has written, “the Internet is the venue in which the entire community you are trying to reach lives.”

We are finding that when someone is invited by a friend, instead of attending a physical campus, people first visit our website or some other online venture, and then—as a secondary step—attend one of our Internet campus services. Our attenders even intuitively recommend that process. In fact, our Internet campus is now our fastest-growing and second-largest collective venue.

Many years ago, I wrote the book Opening the Front Door, making the case for the weekend service being the front door to exploration. That is no longer true. The “front door” of the church is not even a physical place. The role of the multi-site approach was to remove geographical barriers; today, those are not the barriers that need to be removed. The unchurched do not begin with geography—they begin online.

Which bring us to the third consideration.

The 20-Minute Rule Is Obsolete
Because of the new digital realities of our world, once someone is exposed to a church online—and, hopefully, intrigued—traveling beyond the “20-minute barrier” becomes largely irrelevant.

If you’re unfamiliar with the “20-minute” mantra, many strategists maintain that people will not travel more than 15-20 minutes from their home to attend a church.

That may have once been true, but no longer.

Ironically, the multi-site approach itself, in light of a digital age, proves its obsolescence. The multi-site approach is based on a church having a regional appeal that allows it to establish a campus outpost outside of that mythical 20-minute window due to existing attenders in that 20-minute-plus area.

Translation: They already have people commuting from 20-plus minutes away.

Further translation: People most certainly will travel in the 20-plus-minute range for a church they are both attracted to and have come to experience and value.

In a pre-digital world, it was only the initial invitation that was thwarted by the 20-minute rule, because the only invitation to explore involved a physical attendance. But in a digital age, you’re not asking people to explore things physically. They can, and even desire, to do it all from the comfort of their home. Once they are intrigued by a church through all things online, they think little of driving to experience what they saw online, even if it takes longer than 20 minutes.