The brick and mortar church building on the corner is not a concept you’ll find in the Bible—and the concept’s days may be numbered. Or at least no longer ubiquitous. The physical church building has more than a few limitations, including interior space, room for exterior expansion, financial burdens, and the backwards idea of church as a physical building instead of a spiritual community.
Enter the multi-site revolution, which threatens to redefine how we think about church and church buildings. The Multi-Site Church Revolution: Being One Church… In Many Locations by Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon and Warren Bird lays out the vision for multi-site churches and the practical reality of how to make them happen.
What is a Multi-Site Church?
One church meeting in multiple locations. It could be multiple venues on the same campus, different locations in the same city or even locations spread across different regions, states or countries. Multi-site churches share the same vision, budget and leadership across all of their locations, no matter how far flung they may be.
Take your pick of reasons, though the most common is a lack of space. When churches can’t add more seats or expand their building (due to lack of money or local zoning) going to multiple locations allows a church to continue growing and reaching people without being limited by the size of a sanctuary. As more churches experiment with multi-site it becomes less an issue of space and more an issue of how to effectively reach people. The Multi-Site Church Revolution quotes from the book Beyond the Box: Innovative Churches That Work, which comments, “The key to understanding the multi-site movement is to remember that fulfilling the Great Commission drives these congregations, not a growth strategy.” (22)
How Does it Work?
Just as there is no right way of doing church, there’s no right way of doing multi-site church. Almost every church does it differently. Some rent schools, theaters or auditoriums, some partner with other churches or organizations. Some have on-site preaching, some do live simulcasts and some do live or pre-recorded video sermons.
Basic Keys for Multi-Site
- Having a campus pastor at each location to ensure accountability and consistency is key.
- Video sermons aren’t as distracting as you might think. Many people report feeling apprehensive about video preaching initially, but quickly forget about the video and get hooked by the content.
- Multi-site church is not like rolling out a McDonald’s franchise. It’s not cookie-cutter church. Each different location can have it’s own unique features attributes. What’s key is figuring out the core DNA of a multi-site church that doesn’t change from location to location.
What About My Church?
The multi-site strategy is a concept any church should at least consider—it’s not just for mega-churches. It isn’t for every church, but it could be a solution to space problems, a better way to reach a specific demographic or a way to overcome the limits of geography.
Back to the Book
The Multi-Site Church Revolution gives a basic overview of multi-site churches and then dives into the nitty-gritty details, complete with several worksheets to help you process what it might take. Throughout the book are tons of stories of multi-site churches in action and one of the appendixes includes a list and basic details for more than 60 multi-site churches mentioned in the book.
It’s a great resource for church leaders with space problems or the vision to make evangelism a core part of their church. It’s also a good book for anyone who doesn’t understand the multi-site idea or thinks it’s just for big churches with big numbers.
Aside: What About Denominations?
As I read the book one of the big questions that kept coming back to me but was never answered is where do multi-site churches end and denominations begin? They are two different structures, but it seems like the lines quickly blur when a multi-site church crosses state lines or has more than a dozen locations. Are multi-site churches the modern-day precursors to denominations, enabled by new technology? Unfortunately this sort of high-level question isn’t addressed.