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Should your Church Start New Campuses or Plant New Churches?

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“Multi” doesn’t mean “Mega” anymore. According to a study conducted by Leadership Network there are more than 8,000 multisite churches across America and more than 1,600 megachurches (churches of more than 2,000 people in weekly attendance). While both are growing, the multisite church movement has outpaced the megachurch movement in America. What was once seen only as a Band-Aid solution for space issues at megachurches has become a vehicle for growth in local churches of all kinds and all sizes (the average size that a church goes multisite is around 850).

But multisite is not the only way to reach new people. Church planting has been a time-tested strategy to reach new people in new cultural contexts. Church planting works best to reach people who are culturally and/or demographically different than us, where a different approach than the way we do church would be the most effective. Starting new multisite campuses on the other hand works best for people who are geographically closer, and both culturally and demographically similar to us where the same approach to the way we do church would be the most effective. In other words, it’s not one or the other, it’s both-and. It’s about what approach is going to be the most effective in reaching people with the Gospel. However, there are some significant differences between adopting a planting or a multisite model.

Location

Unless a new church plant is specifically designed to reach a different demographic in a current community, church plants typically take place outside of a 30-minute drive time radius of the sending church. New multisite campuses are typically launched within a 15-30-minute drive time of the sending church.

Leadership

The prototypical Church Planter is entrepreneurial, has a unique culture they are building, a specific vision they are chasing, and acts as the team owner. Great Campus Pastors on the other had embrace an existing vision, implement that vision in their unique campus context, shepherd the local congregation, and are great at coaching the team.

Finances

In a typical church plant, it’s not uncommon that the plant team raises financial support outside of the budget to fund their salary and to fund the public launch of the ministry. Often this financial support may come from individual donors, sending churches, or sending organizations. In a multisite setting, the original campus or existing campuses fund the new campus including salaries, facilities, and start-up costs (usually with more significant funding than a church plant setting). Once that new campus is financially healthy they also typically begin funding central services with a fixed percentage of its budget.

Genesis

In a church plant, everything is starting at the beginning. Everything is new by nature, hasn’t been done in that unique church and context and by necessity must be created. In a multisite setting things aren’t being created as so much as they are being contextualized and replicated. After all, one of the reasons churches go multisite isn’t to create something new but rather because they have a culture worth replicating.

Governance

This one seems to be a bit of no-brainer, but church plants are typically self-governed and have their own board, even if they have a connection to a denomination. Multisite campuses, on the other hand, are governed by a central board of elders whose decisions influence every campus.

When it comes to managing the tension between church planting and multisite, it’s not a matter of either or, it’s both-and. They don’t have to be competing strategies. After all the goal is to lead more people, in more places, into a relationship with Jesus.

If your church needs help taking the next step with your multisite strategy I would encourage reaching out to the Unstuck Group. Our team has 40+ combined years of experience leading in successful multisite churches. Our proven multisite services are designed to help multisite churches clarify their strategy and effectively lead one church in multiple locations.


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