The multisite experiment began as a pre-recession Band-Aid strategy for megachurches that were out of room or restricted by zoning laws. It became the primary way healthy churches accommodated their growth during the recession. Even as the economy improves, the multisite model will continue to be the prevailing choice for accommodating and accelerating growth in healthy churches.
As anticipated, we saw in 2013 an increase in multisite mergers, church name changing, Internet campuses, and international multisite expansions. These trends will continue. Below are some additional developments emerging among 2014 multisite trends.
Megachurches to Giga-Churches
Megachurches are getting bigger because they are no longer limited to one location. LifeChurch.tv, based in Oklahoma City, is the largest church in America with more than 50,000 in attendance across 18 campuses in several states. The most vulnerable churches in America are the large mono-site, super-mega campuses with aging senior pastors.
Owning Multisite Locations
Up to now, the overwhelming majority of multisite campuses are in rented facilities. Because the multisite model has now moved beyond an experiment to a proven strategy, more churches are beginning to buy land to construct new buildings or purchase existing buildings for permanent multisite campuses.
New Rules for Church Construction
The rules have changed for constructing new church buildings. The churches going up today are smaller, multi-purpose, multi-venue, local community-centric, and environmentally friendly.
Not Maximizing the Model
Most of the 5,000+ multisite churches are stuck at two or three campuses because they don't know how or aren't willing to make the organizational changes necessary to fully benefit from the multisite model. The majority of multisite churches are still functioning like a mono-site church with campuses instead of a church of campuses.
"Multisiting" vs. Church Planting
Though the outcome of church planting and multisiting is the same, new congregations, church plants, and multisite campuses are not the same thing. There are geographic, gifting, and governance differences. A lack of clarity and understanding about these differences causes unnecessary problems in multisite churches. Some of the most effective multisite churches have also created successful church planting networks because they understand the differences and designed different strategies for them.
Churches with Four or More Campuses
Even though the majority of multisite churches are not fully maximizing the multisite model, more are growing beyond three campuses. The fourth campus is the game-changer that typically forces churches to change their structure, which positions them to take full advantage of the model and grow even beyond four campuses. These churches of four or more campuses typically have a full-time multisite director on the lead team, a dedicated campus pastor at the original campus, and a well-defined central support system.
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Multisite megachurches are leading the way in producing local congregations that are more economically, racially, and ethnically diverse, especially within Hispanic communities. These are not the traditional ethnic churches, but diverse congregations under the banner of one church in multiple congregations with racially diverse campus pastors on the church staff.
Multisite Teaching Teams
Whether they offer video sermons or not, there is a growing desire among churches to develop preaching-teaching teams. These teams strengthen the teaching bench of the church and develop teachers and potential successors while increasing the overall depth and breadth of biblical instruction.