There is no doubt about it: multisite ministry is definitely the hottest trend among churches. Recent research actually suggests that it is not just a fad. In the United States more than 3,000 multisite campuses have been launched in some form or another over the last fifteen years. That nearly triples the approximately 1,300 megachurches that have cropped up in the last 30-35 years as part of the last great church dynasty.
Not only have multisite campuses been rising up everywhere, but multisite churches have, for the most part, had positive results. Sixty-four of the top 100 growing churches in America are multisite. Research shows that these types of churches tend to reach and baptize more people than single-site churches, and furthermore, it even shows that multisite churches have more success with recruiting and developing volunteers than their single-site counterparts.
If multisite ministry seems to be the wave of the present and future—then what is the best way to do it? After all, it takes massive amounts of time, money and manpower to pull off the launching of multiple campuses. By now there should be some guidelines on how it can be done effectively, right?
John Paul DeFrank and Tom Greenwood, principals at Beck Group have worked with countless churches in designing and constructing multiple campuses. Greenwood says that having a plan in place will save churches countless dollars and headaches in the long run.
"[The] rapid growth of multisite churches means that a lot of people are learning on the job," Greenwood said. "That is why master planning for multisite is so important.
"The idea of developing an effective strategy that defines some essential elements of what, when, where, and how can be the difference between success and failure [for a church]."
When it comes to church design and construction, Greenwood has been around long enough to understand what works and what does not. He has seen church projects that have stemmed from the Jesus People movement in the seventies, the megachurch movement in the eighties and nineties and the multisite movement of today. With this in mind, let's take his bare bones master plan of figuring out the what, when, where, and how and see where it takes us.
What type of multisite suits your church?
First things first; we have to start with the what. What type of multisite facility suits your church best? There are satellites, church plants, adopted churches, even simple overflow rooms. What is it that will best fit the culture and DNA of your church?
Doug Sluiter, executive director of Campus Support Services at Gateway Church in Texas has helped launch four multisite venues for Gateway, in addition to the original campus in Southlake. Gateway Church has seen massive growth in response to the various campus launches, which began with the North Richland Hills campus in 2007.
"When I came on staff in 2006, we had to do something. We were already doing three Saturday services and three Sunday services, Sluiter said. "We were out of space. So we launched North Richland Hills (NRH) out of necessity.
"In essence, NRH was an overflow room. It was a very successful overflow with 4,000 to 5,000 attendees."
At North Richland Hills, Gateway Church employed the extension campus method. There was no pastoral staff at the facility, no office support, and not even any signage or marketing that came out of the building. All of these things came from the main campus in Southlake. North Richland Hills had another "what", however. Their "what" was youth ministry. This was an area that the Southlake campus was missing, so Gateway's leaders made sure that NRH would not make that same mistake.
After what comes where
Where is the most effective community to build a satellite campus? Will it be in an existing building or new construction? Will it be in the middle of the city, the suburbs or the country? Brad Stovall, director of facilities management for Fellowship Church in Texas dealt with questions like these as the church expanded from one to six campuses. Stovall says that in determining adequate communities to host a campus, Fellowship's staff and volunteer team did their homework in researching where families that attended the church lived.
"We counted and counted and counted to figure out where people were coming from," he said. "Then we counted some more just to make sure we were right."
Gateway Church has a similar procedure in determining where they house their satellites.
"We looked at where our current members are coming from and when we saw a concentration of members we looked to expand to that area," Sluiter said.
Fellowship Church, based in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, also has a satellite campus in Miami, Florida. In this rare case, the "where" was predetermined before any research had been done. Stovall says that Pastor Ed Young is from Miami and he has always had a heart for the community. When a church in the city ceased ministry operations and simply ran as a child daycare, Young and his staff were able to take the remnants of the church and create the Miami satellite of Fellowship Church.
Developing a time table for when
The next part of the master plan for multisite campus creation is developing a time tablethe when. When can the church raise the necessary funds? When can the church raise up effective pastors and leaders to oversee the site? When can a facility be found? When can construction begin, and when will it end? Without the when, churches easily can wind up in debt, understaffed and with a flock that does not have adequate leadership.
Jeff Otero, senior consultant and vice president of Strategic Dimensions has a long history of working with churches in both renovations and building projects. He says that churches need to take careful stock of where they are currently at before jumping into the multisite craze.
"Do you need to expand?" Otero asks. "Don't just jump into multisite because it is the cool thing and everybody's doing it. "Have you maxed out what you already have in terms of multiple services? What other resources are available to you that you haven't tapped into yet?"
Just as important as a church's need at the present time is its leadership and volunteer structure. Otero says that churches need to be sure that they have the bandwidth, so to speak, to take on an endeavor as big as multisite.
"You have to look at your leadership," he says. "You need to have volunteers and lay leaders in place. You need a campus pastor and a worship leader."
Sluiter and Stovall agree that ministry leaders and pastors should be in position for at least three years before they are sent out to lead a new campus. This helps to ensure that the staff in place understands the DNA of the church and seamlessly carries the church culture through to the new campus.
Determining how to launch your multisite
Finally, the last facet of the master plan for multisite launching is the how. This area actually takes into account the previous three. How are you going to launch a satellite campus? Are you going to renovate or build? Will you create an extension of the main campus or a fully operational satellite with pastoral and office support staff? Where will your volunteers come from? What kind of commitment will you ask of them? How will you select and train your pastors and leaders that will assume responsibility for the new campus? The how questions are seemingly endless, but they all must be answered to have the best shot at success.
Otero and Sluiter say that finding trends in your church and planning accordingly will go a long way in helping to develop the how.
"To put together a strategy, start with the historical," Otero says. "What does giving look like? What does attendance look like? What are your growth projections?
"Look at how populations are growing from different areas. We do projections in the order of 5, 10, 15 years for finances, worship attendance and kids' church attendance."
Sluiter says that having the right people in the right place will help significantly with every step of the process, from design all the way through the launch.
"Having the staff in place is key," he said. "Also, get the right people at the table to help you design and execute it."