Starting in the 1990s, churches discovered ways to expand their mission and outreach by establishing multiple locations for their members. The idea of a multi-site church was a significant shift in the way churches prior to 1990 operated because it broke the barriers of tradition. Establishing a mult-isite church can be a strategic move for many churches across the world, but is it the right decision for your church?
As an organization who desires to see the Gospel impact all corners of the earth, it is important to understand the facts before jumping in headfirst. This will help you and your leadership team make a sound and lasting decision for your church when it comes to establishing (or not establishing) a multi-site church strategy.
1. Two Sites is the Norm for Multi-site Churches
Out of all multi-site churches, only 15 percent have three or more sites. This means 85 percent of all multi-site churches have only two sites. This percentage is staggering when you think about the nearly 8,000 multi-site church plants across the United States. One reason churches do not expand beyond two sites is due to lack of planning. Often, churches plan how their new location will impact the community surrounding them, but they fail to incorporate a sustainability plan. Your multi-site church plant sustainability plan should include each of the following pieces.
Define Your Church’s Culture
In order to maintain the same vision and mission within each church plant, you need to have a very strong understanding of who you are and who you want to be. By defining your church’s culture, you’ll have a baseline for how each site should operate so all sites can be run similarly. To learn more specifics about your church’s culture, read Ways to Create an Amazing Church Culture.
Establish a Branding Guide
Branding is important for any church and vital to the success of multi-site churches. Your branding guide should include these specifics:
- Mission Statement
- Vision Statement
- Color Palette
- Editorial Style Guide
By establishing a set branding guide, each new site your church establishes can stay within this framework and reinforce the ideas at the very heart of your church.
For more on branding specific ministries within your check, check out this article.
Use Technology to Multiply Ministry
This is another absolutely necessary piece to the success of any multi-site church plant. When multiple sites are established, it’s vital to maintain clear communication between each site, typically, through online resources. Combing campus logic and technology solutions ensure a smooth transition from one multi-site church plant to another. The experts at Ekklesia 360 specialize in multi-site church websites and currently serve many successful large multi-site churches, such as High Desert Church in California.
Communications Director Aaron Ullah (an e360 ministry partner) says his multi-site church relies on its website to unify and inform congregants attending multiple campuses. High Desert Church has four campuses and their model uses a localized approach. "For us, that means that some things are applied at every campus, such as consistent teaching on the weekends, and all church events that are applied across all four campuses," he explains. A run-of-the-mill church website would fall short of accomplishing this.
The High Desert website allows users to select and set their home campus, which Ullah says people really love. "It allows them to customize the website for exactly what they’re looking for at their campus. The “Set Your Home Campus” feature is so important for our model because there’s that local expression at each campus. Setting your home campus gives a user everything that they need to know about the campus they currently attend, or are looking to visit."
Ullah says High Church maintains a goal of enabling localization, in other words, "Each campus church gets to make decisions based on the community around the church," he explains. "Worship style and campus-specific events allows the campus to localize and express themselves," he says. Check out High Desert Church for more inspiration and a deeper look at how the site balances unity and individuality.
2. More Sites Equates to More Outreach
According to the Leadership Network, churches with multiple sites or campus have a 52 percent increase in the number of times the Gospel is shared. The reason behind this increase is not only because there are multiple sites, but it is because churches that have a concrete plan to expand have a more strategic vision to expand the Kingdom. The more strategic plans a church can establish, the more successful that church can be when launching into new areas.
3. Multi-sites Grow 170 Percent Faster… for Five Years
On average, churches with multi-site church plants grow 170 percent faster in the first five years than the average of all subsequent years. Even older single site churches tend to hit a plateau in their church attendance records after five years. This is driven by our current cultural focus on always wanting more, which filters into the church realm very easily and very quickly. Dr. Steve Taylor, a psychologist and senior lecturer in psychology at Leeds Beckett University defines our culture’s desire as follows:
“First of all, and most obviously, wanting creates dissatisfaction with our present state. It becomes impossible for us to appreciate or cherish our present state because we feel a sense of lack, and anticipate a better situation.”
This creates a unique challenge for older churches to constantly add new programs, tweak branding, and stay up-to-date in order to maintain attendance among churchgoers.
4. Inflexibility Leads to Closed Doors
When a church planning team is inflexible, it often leads to doors closing on multi-site churches. Refusal to adapt to new technologies has caused the downfall of some multi-site churches. For example, when multi-site churches first took off, there was a wave of hiring lead teaching pastors to teach at each location. When technology was developed to cast one pastor’s sermon across all campuses (live streaming), some multi-site churches refused to adapt to the new technology. In some cases, this rejection of new technology represented a shift from the theological beliefs of the original church. With different beliefs preached from each location, once cohesive multi-site strategies lost their holistic power.
5. Over Half of Multi-sites are Rented
Lastly, it is a common myth that churches have to own their property to be successful. Out of all multi-site churches, 52 percent are housed in rented spaces. Only 34 percent of multi-site churches own their property. Understanding these statistics gives freedom to the opportunities your church could experience by expanding to new locations.
Strategy and technology critical for the success of multi-site churches. To learn more about what your church needs, check out our Multi-Site Church Websites: An Organizational Manual for Websites to learn how a church website can strategically enhance multi-site churches. You can also speak with our strategy team to discuss multi-campus growth.