by Wade Burnett, Senior Associate, Multisite Solutions
Recently, I made a significant shift from local church leadership to the world of multisite consulting. The reason? I believe one church in multiple locations is an instinctive step forward in developing a culture of genuine multiplication in our churches.
In his book Spark: Igniting a Culture of Multiplication, Todd Wilson identifies three different types of churches embodying three distinct messages to their people:
Subtraction – “Please stay!” Addition – “Please come!” Multiplication – “Please go!”
In America, the vast majority of our churches are firmly entrenched in subtraction mode. Over 80% of American churches consist of less than two hundred people, and many of those are declining and dying.
One big exception, of course, is the American megachurch. Many megachurches have grown so fast and so large that they often run out of space or run out of capital well before they have maximized their reach in a given community. It was out of this precise tension that a solution was born — multisite church. One church in multiple locations.
In the fall of 2001, at the very beginning of the multisite concept, a number of early multisite pioneers and
trailblazers came together in Chicago to share their experiences and learn from one another. It was a historic gathering that gave birth to the multisite church movement. A progression of concrete advancements emerged from these initial gatherings, as did a number of enduring relationships among leaders that would serve the multisite movement for years to come.
Today, nearly fifteen years later, the multisite movement has advanced to a place of recognized leaders and best practices. We know how to do multisite now and we know how to do it well. The multisite strategy has allowed megachurches of 2,000 or more in weekend attendance to become giga-churches of 10,000 or more in attendance. At the same time, multisite has also expanded into a growth strategy for churches of all different sizes. Out of the 5,000 plus multisite churches in America today, only 20% are megachurches. The rest are small and midsize churches taking the best of the current model and adapting it to their unique contexts.
Despite these incredible advancements in the multisite world, there is one thing that was true about multisite church at the very beginning and that is still true today: multisite remains primarily an addition model of church. While multisite does indeed take church to the people, our primary message to those same people remains “Please come!”
This is not a bad thing. After all, addition is much better than subtraction! The multisite church has been a tremendous step forward that God has used in immeasurable ways and it blew fresh wind into the sails of many churches. Multisite changed the way we think about church.
Now, though, it is time to change the way we think about multisite. A growing number of successful multisite church leaders are wrestling with how to move from growth by addition to a movement-making strategy of true multiplication. The challenge is not to pit addition and multiplication strategies against one another. Instead, the hope is to inspire and learn from one another: how can we embrace both addition and multiplication strategies in our churches? Or more importantly, how do we take the people God has added to our congregations and see our churches really begin multiplying at the individual, group and congregational levels? What would we have to change? And what would have to change in us?
If you lead a multisite church with four or more campuses and desire to go beyond multisite addition to multisite multiplication, please consider applying to one of our Radical Multisite Learning Communities beginning this fall. Only a few spots left!