April 14, 2015 Jim Tomberlin

Why Are Many Multisite Churches Stuck?

Most of the 8,000-plus multisite churches in the United States are stuck at one or two additional campuses because they don’t know how (or aren’t willing) to make the organizational changes necessary to fully deliver their church to multiple locations. The majority of multisite churches are still functioning like a mono-site church with campuses instead of as a church of campuses.

Very few multisite churches get beyond three campuses. Those that do figure out how to reproduce their ministry best practices and restructure organizationally.

We crossed that bridge at Willow Creek Church when we launched our third multisite campus and the home team cried out, “We can’t keep doing our job here and support all the campuses out there.” That was our game changer. It became our rallying call to figure out systems and processes to deliver our ministry best practices across multiple campuses in a cost-effective sustainable way.

Effective delivery revolves around three “gears” in a successful multisite church – guidance from a central leadership team, support from a central operations team and implementation by site staff teams.

The challenge of multisiting is managing the tension between these three gears and balancing consistency with local contextualization. Every multisite church lives in the tension of providing oversight and accountability while, at the same time, empowering site leaders to implement and contextualize. This tension isn’t bad; it’s healthy when managed properly. But, mismanage these tensions and they will become a problem. Churches who do this well go beyond just adding a couple of campuses; they begin a birthing movement of reproducing congregations.

Here are some characteristics I’ve observed of churches that are delivering their church well across multiple campuses:

  • Four or more geographical campuses
  • A multisite director on the senior leadership team
  • At least 50 percent of total church attendance beyond the original campus
  • Designated central staff that supports all the campuses
  • A designated campus pastor at the original campus who is not the senior pastor
  • Multisite campuses launching campuses
  • Empowered local campus pastors who are unquestionably committed to the mission, vision, values and strategy of the sending church

Multisiting is all about figuring out how to deliver your church to the people.

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Jim Tomberlin

Veteran pastor, multisite & church merger specialist, founder of MultiSite Solutions. Author of 125 Tips, Better Together & Church Locality
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