Before You Multisite: Four Questions to Ask

Just because it appears that “everyone is going multisite” doesn’t mean it is the best strategy for your church. Before you jump on the bandwagon, I’d like to suggest four philosophical questions.  Each question highlights a critical characteristic inherent within the DNA of successful multisite churches.

As with most question and answer processes, honesty is always the best policy. Such honesty requires a level of organizational self-awareness that embraces both the positive and negative facets of present reality. You may or may not like your answers to these questions; nevertheless, they provide insights into cultural shifts that must be made for you to build upon a solid foundation.

Question #1:  Is your church evangelistic?

Before you answer that question, let me frame it properly. The question being asked is based on present action, not belief. In other words, the response is not based on the fact that your church believes it should be evangelistic within its community, but rather that it is presently evangelistically effective.

In his book Multi-Site Churches, Scott McConnell states, “Multi-site churches are evangelistic. They have experienced growth and are growth oriented. In other words, their bent is to make decisions based on a desire for the kingdom of God to grow (pg. 6)." The essence of the multisite movement is not about the growth of the local church for the sake of amassing more constituents, but rather utilizing the local church as a tool for Kingdom advancement.

The essence of the multisite movement is not about the growth of the local church for the sake of amassing more constituents, but rather utilizing the local church as a tool for Kingdom advancement.

Question #2:  Is multiplication engrained in your culture?

Most American churches are all too familiar with the mathematical equations for division, subtraction and simple addition: Churches split (division), people leave (subtraction) and frequently, churches start a second service (addition). Yet few churches ever enter into seasons of multiplication. 

There is a considerable difference between adding an additional service and launching a new location. Launching a new site does not require simple addition, but the multiplication of every system within the church. It requires the perpetual reproduction of ministry staff, leaders, workers and managers at every level of the organization. Multiplication at this juncture is not accidental; it demands intentionality.

There are no shortcuts to multiplication required at the multisite level. Everyone, every structure, every system and every ministry must have multiplication engrained within its DNA. A church without such innate genetic coding suffers when attempting to go multisite. 

Question #3: What is the driving impetus behind your desire to go multisite?

Throughout multisite literature, practitioners address the need to thoroughly examine the intrinsic motivations that underpin the desire of church leaders to engage in this strategy. While multisite may be the newest church trend in this decade, it is, nonetheless, a strategy that must be entered into with proper motivation.

Many failed attempts of multisite can be traced backed to undetected competing or conflicting motivations that run counter to the ethos of the movement. These would include the desire to create growth rather than leverage existing growth. Often, failure is traced to poor usage of existing space to justify the need for a new site. Others attempt to eliminate conflict by dividing the church into two separate campuses to ease tension. This method falls outside the bounds of a healthy church. 

Although the multisite movement is growing and shows little sign of slowing, it is not an endeavor to be entered into lightly. It introduces new pressure points due to the complexity that ensues on all existing structures. Leaders are stretched. Budgets are strained. And when inescapable difficulty and conflict arises, the driving motivation behind the decision must endure the inevitable scrutiny—be upright, honorable and worthwhile.  

Question #4: Are key leaders behind the decision?

Due to the relatively short existence of the multisite movement, few church leaders beyond full-time ministerial staff have studied the model. As a result, churches considering launching into the world of multisite ministry must first decide to inform, expose and educate multiple layers of leadership within the church in the strategy. Each church must determine its tutorial procedures. Without some formal or informal process that enables leaders to gain critical insights into the culture of multisite ministry, key leaders may make uninformed decision that ultimately undermine successful implementation.

No doubt many other philosophical questions will arise as a church begins to consider whether multisite ministry is right for them. Each of these four questions is intended to prime the discovery process. As with most things, successful multisite church launches are always the byproduct of informed decision-making!

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