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Multisite Church Trends in 2020

Over the course of the past decade, I’ve talked a lot about multisite on this blog. If you dig around on this site, you’ll find no shortage of content on all things multisite. Recently, Tony Morgan, the founder and lead strategist for the Unstuck Group, and I had a conversation about some things we’re seeing in multisite strategies for the coming year.

What trends are emerging? What strategies are tried and true? And what are we seeing that might bring some help your campuses thrive? Tony and I share our thoughts—

Multisite Trends

“After many (some very public) churches opted to shut down, or spin off campuses as individual churches, it seems some have been led to believe or state that the ‘multisite movement’ is dead.” We’ve been using the ‘multistuck’ language for a while, but multistuck is now officially a trend. I’d assume this is for lots of reasons. But many churches had a tendency to jump on the multisite bandwagon, following other leading churches without really ‘counting the cost’ in advance—and I don’t just mean financially—and it gets them stuck.” — Paul

“I’m also seeing an increase in church mergers. With church attendance declining in the US and the pipeline of people jumping into ministry shrinking, mergers are going to pick up steam.” — Paul

Live vs. Video Teaching

“We need to stop arguing about video teaching and saying things like ‘It won’t work in our town or part of the country.’ People aren’t becoming less accustomed to screens in our culture. Bad teaching is bad teaching and bad video presentation is bad video presentation, but video teaching works everywhere. Rural multisite also works.” — Paul

“With rare exceptions, we’re seeing clearly that having different live teachers at different locations will eventually divide the church.” — Tony

Multisite Models

“I’ve seen churches use church planting principles to launch a multisite campus. That usually ends up with the wrong leader in the wrong location in a church that will eventually become independent.” — Tony

“Letting different campuses have the freedom to change ministry strategies to fit their ministry context is a recipe for disaster. It will divide the team and eventually divide the church. If the ministry context is so different that it requires a different strategy, then choose to churchplant rather than multisite.” — Tony

“Churches that hope to scale beyond just two or three campuses need to pay attention to their model to make sure it is financially sustainable. The more independent the campuses, the more it’s going to cost.” — Tony

“While there are a lot of ways people are trying to do multisite, not all multisite models or approaches are created equal. Some work (more people meeting Jesus and growing) better than others. I think many churches and church leaders are still confused about what multisite is and isn’t.” — Paul

Multisite Mistakes

“The biggest reason that multisite campuses fail is that they launch too small. Again, this is an indication that the church is trying to use a church planting strategy to do multisite.”  — Tony

One last thought… If your church is thinking about going multisite, you really should consider bringing in some outside help. That’s not just personal bias…that’s Kingdom minded. Without clear strategies for ministry, multisite, expansion and execution, multisite can get churches multistuck. We see it all the time at the Unstuck Group. Our team combined has 100+ years of experience leading in churches with successful multisite strategies. We can guide you to assess multisite readiness, build your model and strategies, and align your staff and structure to the strategy. Interested in learning how it works? Check out our Multisite Unstuck Process. Ready to start a conversation?  Let’s talk.


Posted in Leadership

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Top Posts of 2019 #1: “5 Keys to Growing your Church in 2019”

Thank you for going on this journey with me of counting down my most popular posts from 2019! It seems fitting that my last post of the year will be looking back to the first post of the year where I shared this list of helpful strategies to help your church grow in 2019. I hope it did.

I’ve never met a church leader that didn’t want things at their church to to change for the better. They want more people to say yes to following Jesus, they want people to become better friends with God, and they want their churches to think more about people outside of the church than those already in it.

The trouble is while most church leaders want this year to be better than the last, they don’t want to do anything different.

I’ve said this many times before, people (including you…and me) always want to change their circumstances, but they never want to change their lives. But everything gets better when we get better. Families get better when fathers and mothers get better. Students get better when educators get better. Organizations get better when leaders get better. And churches get better when church leaders get better. But better doesn’t happen by trying harder, it happens by trying different. It happens through change…but change is painful. Don’t let anyone tell you any different. It’s always easier and more comfortable to stay where you are than to change and move forward. But if you want to grow at some point you’ve got to stop doing what’s easy and start doing what’s right.

So, to that end, here are a couple ideas that will help you create change this year at your church…and maybe even in you.

Create Accessibility

One of the greatest changes you can make in your church to get different results is to make Jesus and His teachings more accessible to people who don’t know Him. Another way to think about this is to ask yourself or your team, “How accessible is everything at your church to people who are unfamiliar with Jesus and the Church?” How accessible is your website, signage, language, parking lot, building, kids and student ministries, worship services, and teaching to people who are unfamiliar with Jesus and His Church? Most churches simply make it too hard for people to meet and follow Jesus. They don’t do it on purpose, they’ve just forgotten what it is like to be unfamiliar with Jesus. And guess what will happen when you create more accessibility to Jesus? More people will meet Jesus…and isn’t that kinda the point?

Lean into Constraints

You probably have a list of reasons (or excuses) why you can’t grow. Barriers to the future or anchors to the past that are keeping you from getting to the future. Make a list of your top 5 constraints and figure a way through them or around them. You constraints may even be the thing that help you innovate and come up with a solution you would have never otherwise come up with on your own. To that point, one of the top 3 reasons the church I serve at went multisite 6 years ago is because the original location was nearing a point where it would be fully maximized. Today we’re reaching more people for Jesus than ever because we had a facility constraint that forced us into a new solution (multisite) that is helping us reach new people for Jesus than we ever would have or could have at that one original location. Your biggest constraints may just turn out to be your best friend.

Allow Hope to Die

Stop hoping things are going to change at your church. Hope doesn’t change or produce new results at your church. Action does. Specifically, new action. Hope is not a strategy. Too many church boards and church leaders are sitting around praying and hoping that Jesus would do something new and powerful in their church this year when He already did something new and powerful 2,000 years ago on the cross. He’s simply waiting for those same church boards and church leaders to have the same kind of courage He did and lead things forward.

Draft some new Players

If you want new results at your church, then it may be time to shake up the team a bit. New team members bring new experiences, expertise, ideas, and questions with them that aren’t currently on your team. You become who you hire and sometimes one or two new team members can help shift the entire locker room on a team.

Listen to Fresh Eyes

Sometimes you simply need fresh eyes, someone from the outside to help you see things differently. Sometimes you need an outside voice to say some things that you want to say but can’t. And sometimes you’re just stuck and need help. If that’s your church, then maybe the best step you can take to change things at your church is to engage the Unstuck Group. We help churches grow their impact through church consulting and coaching experiences designed to focus vision, strategy and action.

Taking new and different action will get you different results. And if you need a little help getting unstuck then connect with us at the Unstuck Group, we can help this next year be the best year of ministry you’ve ever experienced!


Posted in Leadership

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Top Posts of 2019 #2: “Why it may be Good and Time for a Church to Die”

A lot of energy and money can go into keeping a church on life support. But what if it would be better to let that church experience death with dignity so that it can have a lasting legacy?

A dying church doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a failing church. Death and failure are not the same thing.

The mission of the church is not to build a sustainable business that is annually profitable for shareholders. The Church is not a business, it’s the body of Christ and the mission of the Church is to help people meet, know and follow Jesus.

It is very possible for a declining church that is in the maintenance phase or preservation phase of their lifecycle to begin a new lifecycle of growth and impact in a community (for more explanation of the lifecycle phases of a church check out The Unstuck Church). However, churches that are in the life-support phase rarely recover.

When a church ends up in the life-support phase of the lifecycle they are headed towards one of two possible scenarios. They are either going to close their doors or experience some kind of relaunch (typically as a completely new church or a new campus of another church).

Unfortunately, many churches would choose to close their doors entirely than experience a relaunch or rebirth. It’s the attachment to the past, though, that leads to the church’s ultimate demise. Traditions win over adopting new approaches to ministry and experiencing life transformation. Personal preferences crowd out sacrifice and full devotion to helping new people meet, know and follow Jesus. Attendance dissipates and finances to keep things propped up eventually run out. But remember what I said a moment ago…

“A dying church doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a failing church. Death and failure are not the same thing”

According to the scriptures even King David served his purpose in his time and then died (check out Acts 13:36).

So, what’s a church to do if they’re in the life-support phase and they’re headed towards a certain death?

Invest in a Start Up

There are many existing church facilities in geographic areas around the country where the value of real estate is cost prohibitive for a church planter to begin a new work. That growing cost could actually become a ceiling that prevents new church plants to flourish in high dollar real estate markets. That new work would be greatly accelerated and have a better shot at success if a church on life support was willing to have the foresight to hand over their facility and remaining assets to a church planter and core team that has identified that location as a strategic opportunity.

Turn Over the Keys

Another option for a church in the life-support phase is to become a campus of a growing multisite church in the region. Many large growing multisite churches have a proven track record and the expertise needed to navigate this kind of a move.

Reinvest the Remaining Assets

Denominations have a tremendous responsibility and opportunity in today’s church climate. With many smaller denominational affiliated churches already in, or headed towards, life-support denominational leaders can liquidate these assets to remain in existence (and essentially cannibalize themselves) or reinvest these assets into new Kingdom expansion.

All of these options provide a dying church to not only die with dignity, but with their last act to deliver great Kingdom impact to the next generation. There can be dignity in death, particularly when led through in an honorable and healthy manner. While I would rarely advocate for the closure of a church, there are moments where it is the wisest course of action.


Posted in Leadership

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Top Posts of 2019 #3: “How to Change Things up and Get Your Church Growing Again”

We’ve finally made it to the top 3 in our top 10 countdown of 2019. And wouldn’t you know it’s a post about helping churches turn things around.

When momentum fades and growth begins to slow down at your church it can be tough to know exactly how to get things going in the right direction again. When plateau and stagnation set in it can be even more difficult to know what to do next.

Many church leaders I’ve talked to become paralyzed by the tension of wanting to keep long term people in the church around and engaged while also trying to reach new people by using old methods and approaches in an attempt to keep those long term people happy (wow that sentence is a mouthful). Change in this kind of a situation isn’t simple. If it were, every church that is plateaued or declining would turn around. While there are certainly some commonality in plateaued and declining churches there is not a “one size fits all” solution.

Most churches in this situation tend to adopt a measured approach to make incremental changes over time. While there are times when the wise approach is to make incremental changes over time, when things are stuck or declining it may take more courageous measures, because incremental change gets you incremental results.

“Incremental Change gets you Incremental Results”

If you’ve been leading in a church that is stuck or declining then you most likely already know what is getting you the results you’re currently getting, because you’re already doing it…it may be time to really do something different and take a different approach to get different results. Here’s a few things you can do right now to begin to change the trajectory of your church.

Listen to Different Voices

If you keep listening to the same people that you’ve always listened to you’re not going to generate any new ideas. Find some new voices. Instead of inviting the same old people to the meeting who have the same old ideas, change up the invite list. Bring in people from a different generation, background, or layer of the organization. I guarantee you’ll walk away with different ideas. Or make your next couple of hires from the outside. They’ll bring new ideas, different experiences and a new perspective to things.

Stop Learning from Other Churches

The Church is the only organization or people on the planet that has been entrusted with the Gospel and mission to share the Gospel with everyone on the Earth. But the Church does not have a corner on the market when it comes to innovation, organizational design, or leadership. So get outside of the Church and visit leaders from different industries and learn what principles can be transferred back into the area you’re leading in. A Chick-fil-A Executive once told me that they don’t look at other fast food companies to learn from, they go outside their tribe to other global industry leaders to learn from.

Fire Yourselves

This exercise will help you…I promise: Imagine that your entire leadership team has been removed and a new team is going to start. Before you pack up your boxes and move everything out, take a moment to write down the key issues you’ve never tackled and the changes you wanted to make. Help the new leadership understand what’s working, what’s broken, and what’s missing. Communicate the new initiatives they need to tackle and the things the ministry needs to stop doing. Once the departing team has confirmed that new direction, become the new leadership team. Start over, but this time follow through with everything you just agreed to do when you were out of a job. The reason this exercise is so helpful is that it helps to remove the emotions connected with core issues and new initiatives. It also eliminates the investment in ministries or strategies you’ve engaged in the past that aren’t working. A new leadership team wouldn’t have those attachments. They would start fresh. That’s what you need to do too.

Get some Outside Eyes

Bringing in an outside experienced professional with fresh eyes and different questions is a great way to help you begin to think differently. I know some great consultants at The Unstuck Group (the consulting group I’m involved with) that love the local church and want to see you win. We’ve literally helped hundreds of churches get unstuck!


Posted in Leadership

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Top Posts of 2019 #4: “How to Help Guests Self-Identify at your Church”

Guest services is a big topic of conversation in churches. How do churches provide a great guest experience without being creepy, overbearing, or treating people like customers? After all the Church is the Body of Christ not a business.

Churches are notorious for making guests feel awkward and out of place. I attended a church once that asked every guest to wear a rose sticker on their shirt and then remain seated during a time in the worship service when everyone else would stand up walk around and “greet” the new guests. Super awkward, but honestly mild. I could tell some really embarrassing stories how churches make guests feel uncomfortable.

The guest experience is an essential part of your church reaching new people. But building a great guest experience isn’t just about church growth and numbers, it’s ultimately about helping people feel like they belong at your church, so they can then begin to believe in the life-changing news about Jesus.

There are a few simple things your church can do to help guests self-identify.

Guest Parking:

Priority parking for guests and a great experience in the parking lot with a parking team and good clear signage is a great way to help guests self-identify.

New Kids/Family Check-in:

Having a new family check-in area for first time kids in the kids ministry is a great way to help new families self-identify.

New Ministry Engagement:

Simply pay attention to new ministry engagement each week. The first time someone gives, the first time someone jumps into a group, the first time they volunteer, or any other way they self-identify, check to see if it is their first point of engagement.

Mention Guests in your Weekend Services:

Make sure you address guests directly in your weekend worship services. Thank them from the stage for being your guests that weekend and tell them what step you want them to take. Some churches have a communication card they want guests to fill out and turn in, some direct guests to a particular place to receive a special welcome and meet the staff, and I’ve seen others invite guests to self-identify and on their behalf the church donates a financial gift to a ministry…i.e. “By simply being here this weekend you’re providing clean drinking water to kids in…let us know you’re here and make a difference in the life of a kid.”

So, here’s how the math behind it all works…

  • We know that the average church in America has around a 15% attrition rate annually. People move out of town, people get mad at something the pastor says and leave, and people die. There are all kinds of reasons attrition takes place.
  • We also know that the average church that has a great guest experience and weekend worship experience (including a strong kids ministry), retains about 1 in 5 guests, or 20%.
  • So, if a church that averages 500 people on the weekend is going to grow by 5%, or 25 people on average then they need to help 500 1st time guests self-identify. That’s a 1:1 ratio of guest to attender for the year.
  • Still not following? Say that church of 500 people is on average going to lose 15% of people to attrition, or in this case 75 people. If that church has a 1:1 first time guest to average attendance ratio for the year, that would mean that church would have 500 first time identifiable guests. If they retain 20% of their guests, or 1 in 5 first time guests (which would be 100 people), that church would grow by 5%, or 25 people in average weekly attendance.

Obviously, there are other ways to get things growing at your church. You could “close the back door” and cut the attrition rate, or you could strengthen the retention rate of new guests.

But none of that matters is you can’t help guest self-identify and get them in your assimilation pipeline.


Posted in Leadership, Volunteers
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