When I launched the first video-based campus of Willow Creek in 2001, the primary question was, “Can this work?” Thousands of multisite churches later, the question has shifted to, “Should my church go multisite?”
What started out as a “Band-Aid” for space and zoning problems of megachurches has developed into a viable option for every local church, regardless of size. Multisite is no longer a question of feasibility for a church, but more of a question of strategy: “Is it right for my church?”
7 Good Reasons Not to Go Multisite
Before considering the factors in answering that question, here are a few reasons not to go multisite:
1. Multisite is expensive.
Plan on investing an average of $250,000 to launch an additional campus—but that is far less expensive in the long run than buying more land and building more buildings at a single location.
2. Multisite is leadership intensive.
Like everything else in church work, it all rises or falls on leadership. Success is not wrapped up in the latest technology or fancy facility; it’s all about putting your best leaders in the right place. This is especially important with a multisite strategy. Multisite requires a release of people and resources. Don’t attempt to do this if you’re not willing to release staff, volunteers, and resources from the sending campus.
3. Multisite invites scrutiny.
Going multisite forces the church leadership to evaluate the effectiveness of every ministry in the church. Ministries have to be simplified, standardized, and transferable if they’re going to be reproduced in other locations. This can be very threatening to sacred cows or ineffective ministries.
4. Multisite is risky.
Reproducing campuses is not the same as adding another ministry to your church. It fundamentally changes the way you will do church. Moving from a “mono-site” to a “multi-site” church mentality is a major paradigm shift. It will change the way you organize staff, how you allocate resources, how you communicate from the pulpit and all publications, and how the church will be governed. Going multisite will change your church.
5. Multisite won’t turn around a declining church.
Multiple campuses are not growth engines. The multisite model is a vehicle for growing churches. You cannot export life from a dying church.
6. Multisite won’t fix a broken church.
A broken church launching another campus is like running on two broken legs—you won’t get far, you’ll fall down, you’ll hurt yourself, and you may cause permanent damage!
7. Don’t go multisite because everybody else is doing it.
Even though multiple campuses have become the “new normal,” it doesn’t mean your church should go multisite. Multisite is for healthy, growing churches who become convinced this strategy is the best vehicle for fulfilling their vision.
Which brings us back to the original question, “Is my church ready to go multisite?”
Assessing Your Multisite Readiness
The starting point in considering multisite begins with the vision of your church. “What is God calling us to be, and then do, in our community?” Once you are clear on the vision that God has given your church, then you can consider if multisite is right for your church.
Here are 10 questions for your church to ask itself to gage its multisite readiness:
- Is my church growing at least five percent a year?
- Is my church facility 80 percent full at optimal inviting hours?
- Is my church meeting resistance to campus expansion due to zoning rules, environmental concerns, or traffic congestion?
- Is my community 50 percent or more unchurched?
- Does my church have a good reputation in the community?
- Does my church want to release more people into high impact, meaningful ministry?
- Does my church want to launch new congregations in my region that are healthy, sustainable, and reproductive?
- Does my church want to be more accessible to more people in my region?
- Does my church want to reach and serve more people in the most efficient and cost-effective way?
- Would you like to adopt or be adopted by another local church?
If you can answer “yes” to any of these questions, then your church may be ready to go multisite.
The biblical injunction “to be fruitful and multiply” is a good principle to follow as you consider the multisite option. Healthy, growing organisms are fruitful and multiply. So, if your church is healthy, growing and fruitful in one location, then the real question is, “Why aren’t you going multisite?”
Go forth and multiply!