Is Your Multisite Church Actually Just Many Churches Sharing a Name and a Few Main Team Leaders?
You’ve probably heard this common phrase in the past from multisite churches, maybe even your multisite church:
“We are one church meeting in multiple locations.”
That’s a great phrase, and I understand the premise of why it’s communicated. Practically, though, I find “multisite” churches are rarely one church meeting in multiple locations. They are instead multiple churches tied to one budget meeting in multiple locations.
In other words, it’s not really one, unified church. Oh, yes, they may claim to have only one mission for why the church exists. And, oftentimes, all the locations are connected through one leadership structure. Beyond that, many of the multisite churches I’ve encountered are rather splintered in their strategy. In other words, they are really multiple churches trying to operate as one church. Practically, though, I find 'multisite' churches are rarely one church meeting in multiple locations. They are instead multiple churches tied to one budget meeting in multiple locations. Click To Tweet
These are some specific warning signs that indicate to me the church is really not one church in multiple locations:
1. “People would rather hear the campus pastor teach than hear the senior pastor teach on video.”
I think it’s highly appropriate for campus pastors to periodically teach at their locations. We’ve learned, though, that’s it’s very challenging for churches to maintain unity over time if each congregation is hearing from distinctly different teachers…many times with distinctly different agendas.
More often times than not, this one strategic decision is what leads to multiple churches in multiple locations and ultimately a church split.
2. “We need to use a different style of worship to reach people in our ministry context.”
If the style of worship must be different to reach a different group of people, and you can extend that to the feel of the service experience as a whole, you really shouldn’t be using a multisite strategy. Instead, you should be using a church planting strategy.
Multisite churches, on the other hand, should have the same experience whatever location someone chooses. Think about your last visit to Starbucks. Even though you’ve probably been to dozens of different Starbucks locations, they all sell the same products, and they all have the same in-store experience.
The same thing should hold true for multisite churches trying to be one church in multiple locations.
3. “The ministry leaders at the original campus don’t understand our limitations because we don’t have the staff like they do.”
In other words, there’s an us-against-them culture within the team.
In most instances this is because the church has not clarified central and campus ministries responsibilities, and they haven’t talked about who has decision rights.
Who has authority? Who has influence? And, are we really building a ministry strategy that can be deployed in multiple locations?
4. “We need our own lay leadership oversight to speak into the unique needs of our location.”
Each campus has its own lay leadership “advisory team” to be the de facto board for their location.
Or another version of this is that each campus feels like they have to have a representative from their location on the overall church board.
- The Unstuck Group Multisite Consulting
- The Unstuck Group Coaching Network
- The Unstuck Church Assessment
Either way, there’s a sense that the campus has at least an unspoken difference of opinion on the overall mission, vision and strategy for the church.
Again, could you imagine Chick-fil-A having a different board of directors for every location?
5. “That discipleship strategy won’t work here, so we’ll need to redefine the path.”
One campus has Sunday school classes. Another has small groups. One campus has full-blown women’s ministry. Another campus does not. One campus has a set of core classes to facilitate next steps. Another campus doesn’t have the resources nor the demand to support the class structure on a regular basis.
When there are distinctly different spiritual formation approaches, it means the “campuses” are really distinctly different churches.
6. “We have a separate Facebook page to communicate specifically what’s happening at our location.”
In fact, each location uses a separate web or social media strategy to connect with people who attend their location rather than having one unified approach for the church.
The need for this suggests that the leadership and the ministry strategy are not aligned.
The campuses are pulling in different directions, so there’s a need to differentiate the communications. This might work for the people who only attend one location. If you truly are one church in multiple locations, though, you end up with competing messages which really make it confusing for the new person who doesn’t realize the different locations with the same name are actually two different churches trying to be one church.
7. “Our people…”
Anytime anyone includes the phrase “our people” when talking about one of the locations, you know right away that it’s really not one church.
First of all, they are God’s people. They’re never our people.
Secondly, “our people” suggests the people at the other location are not our people.
The red flags should be going up. The church isn’t unified. There’s division. They are God’s people. They’re never our people. Click To Tweet
Multisite strategy can really work. For churches in the Sustained Health phase of the life cycle, it helps them expand their Kingdom impact and share the Gospel with more people. For churches that don’t truly become one church in multiple locations, though, multisite also has the tendency to create division and split churches.
I’d rather churches become healthy, thriving churches in one location rather than growing, divided churches in multiple locations. I’d rather churches become healthy, thriving churches in one location rather than growing, divided churches in multiple locations. Click To Tweet
The Unstuck Group has a process specifically designed to help multisite churches, or those considering becoming multisite, to navigate these potential landmines. Learn more about our multisite process and how we can help your church avoid getting multistuck.
Also, on July 24th at 2:30 p.m., I will host a free webinar, The Campus Pastor Role: What Makes It Work. Jeff Henderson (Gwinnett Church), Jason Anderson (Eagle Brook Church) and Chris Surratt (Lifeway) will join me for a practical discussion on the role of the campus pastor and how to avoid the mistakes The Unstuck Group most often sees hurting churches as they launch campuses. Check out the details below: