How is the “new normal” of multisite changing how we do church in America? In an increasingly secularized nation with overall church attendance in decline, multisite churches are growing in number and church attendance. The multisite strategy has become the “new normal” for healthy and growing churches in urban, suburban and rural communities. Leadership Network reports that an estimated five million people attend one of the more than 8,000 multisite churches across North America. Going multisite changes how church leaders think and do church. So how is the “new normal” of multisite changing how we do church in America?
The number of multisite churches is growing at a faster rate than megachurches. When I proposed the multisite idea to my Colorado Springs church elders in 1995, they responded skeptically, “Who would go to a multisite church?” Today, nearly ten percent of all Protestant churchgoers attend a church with multiple campuses. If multisite churches were a denomination they would be the fourth largest denomination in America.
Megachurches are getting bigger through multisiting because they are no longer limited to one location. According to Leadership Network’s Warren Bird, today there are 78 “gigachurches” with more than 10,000 in weekend attendance. Most of them are multisite churches. The smallest megachurch on Outreach magazine’s 100 Largest Churches list is nearly 6,000 in weekend attendance, a threshold that gets larger with each passing year.
The new economic realities, technological breakthroughs and shifting cultural attitudes towards churches and multisiting has changed the church facility conversation. New church buildings today are smaller, multipurpose, multivenue, community-centric and environmentally friendly buildings.
Denominations are being dragged into the multisite world by their leading churches doing it and their declining congregations in need of revitalization. Progressive denominational leaders are seeing the opportunities to grow their strong churches through multisite and salvage their struggling churches through mission-driven mergers.
A small but growing number of multisite churches are going beyond adding one or two campuses to multiply exponentially. These churches are becoming missional movements of reproducing churches through multisiting and church planting, nationally and internationally. These movements are becoming the new “denominations” of the 21st century.
The multisite campus pastor role did not exist a few years ago but has now become one of the most sought-after positions in the church. The “Senior Pastor” title is fading fast for “Lead Pastor,” and “Teacher” is preferred to “Preacher.” Growing churches are increasingly going to a teaching team model with a senior leadership team of three to five people. As baby boomer senior pastors retire, more churches are looking for new senior pastors with multisite experience.
Although in-person teaching teams are increasing—the use of video sermons, testimonies, promotions and announcements is becoming more mainstream in local churches. The larger the church and the more campuses, the more inclined to utilize video.
They are a-changing. Churches are changing their names because they either have cultural baggage or are geographically limiting for a multisite strategy. These new names are typically shorter and without the denominational label.
Church leaders are focusing less on “coming to church” and more about “being the church” in their local communities. They are focusing on doing good works and sharing good news through multiple campuses, small group “missional communities” and collaboration with other community-minded local churches, ministries and organizations.