Why doing a multisite church is challenging
No models are perfect. Some are helpful. The multisite church model — one church in multiple locations — was an innovation that’s become the new normal for American churches and other countries around the world in recent years. And a recent conversation sparked this epiphany – that using a multisite strategy is not easy.
Yes, there are a number of advantages to doing multisite, like bringing ministry closer to where people lived, reaching people across a broader geography, leveraging what’s already successful to breed more success, to name a few.
And there are commonly known complexities and concerns, like how to manage consistency and complexity in multiple locations, would people respond well to video preaching (even though less than half of multisite churches use exclusively video preaching, the novelty of video preaching has cast a long shadow stereotyping the whole, along with its megachurch stereotype that overshadows the fact that the majority are not super-sized churches), how to transition the change for normal people, pushback questions about the theological basis and Biblical legitimacy, and many many more. All these are nuts and bolts operational kinds of questions along with the hard work of managing organizational change.
1 aha that hasn’t been vocalized much is this: the reason for why doing multisite church is hard because there is no steady state. This model is unstable (though that’s a little bit of a loaded word, so don’t let be a emotional trigger) and there’s no cruise control button. You don’t ever arrive or figure it out how to do it right.
With a single location church, it’s comparatively easier to get things up and running, define the weekly routines, and turn on cruise control for months and years with occasional adjustments for unexpected change. We’ve collectively got years and decades of experience with this model.
With a multisite church model, the church leadership team and pastoral staff has to constantly and actively manage the systems and processes that keeps it going. In part because the multisite church strategy is a useful way to facilitate growth, not to create growth, something that’s growing means something is changing, and that is not a steady thing. With human dynamics, that probably means every time you add another 50-100 people to the weekly attendance, you’ve got to make more adjustments. Change is stressful, even the good kind. While it’s a good kind of work and effort, it’s still work and effort.
So maybe by bringing this unspoken expectation into the light will help to lessen this subconscious frustration and add to your persevance in doing good things in multisite churching.