Now in its third decade, the multisite movement has transformed the church landscape across North America. More than 5,000 denominational and nondenominational multisite churches are increasing at an exponential rate in urban, suburban and rural communities.
The multisite movement began as a space solution for megachurches, developed into a growth strategy for healthy churches of all sizes. It evolved into a revitalization plan for stable but stuck churches, and has become a rebirth solution for declining churches that merge with a multisite church. So what’s next? Here are some of the trends emerging from the multisite movement in 2017.
Multisite to Multiplication
Multiplication is not a new concept. It’s in the DNA of every local church and in every disciple of Jesus, but it has been locked up in the way we have been doing church in North America for the past few generations. Multisite churches have discovered the effectiveness of adding multiple services in one location, reproducing congregations in multiple locations, and now are beginning to discover the exponential power of reproducing congregations that reproduce congregations—multiplication!
Multiplication to Networks to Movement
When churches reproduce congregations that reproduce congregations they begin to take on the characteristics of a movement. These churches are creating networks of congregations through multisiting and church planting that have the strength of centralized and shared resourcing without the bureaucratic weight of traditional denominations. Multisite churches are becoming the new denominations led by apostolic leaders that birth multisite campuses, plant churches and keep a multiplication scorecard. All of this is generating movement!
Church Attendance to Disciple-Making
Movement-making churches don’t just focus on adding and acquiring converts, but about releasing and sending disciples to start new congregations. These churches make disciples that make disciples that generate congregations. They believe that every disciple of Jesus has the seed of a church in them that needs to be unleashed. These churches are rediscovering the biblical doctrine of the priesthood of the believer and empowering disciples with an attitude of “you can do it; we can help” mindset. The trendy church words of the last few years—emergent, missional, incarnational all boil down to old-fashioned discipleship with an intentional emphasis on creating systems, tools and metrics to facilitate spiritual formation and residences to produce disciples who start congregations.
Megasite to Microsite
A microsite is a microcosm church. Microsites take church to the people anywhere, anytime by anyone. Micrositing is a volunteer-driven strategy that utilizes video worship and sermons to extend the reach of a church. They meet in homes, retirement centers, homeless shelters, bars, gyms, AA clubs, businesses—any place a small group of people can gather. Microsites are a cross between a multisite campus and a house church. They are all about taking church to the people further, faster and cheaper than the typical big-box multisite strategy.
Facility-Centric to Community-Centric
Multisite shifted the focus of local ministry from a facility-centered mindset to a community-focused outlook. Buildings are no longer the end game, but a means to the end of serving and impacting local communities beyond the walls of the church building.
Forward-thinking church leaders are focusing less on “coming to church” and more about “being the church” in their local communities. They are concentrating on doing good works and sharing good news through multiple campuses, small group “missional communities” and collaborating with other community-minded local churches, ministries and organizations.
Buying land and building facilities is occurring, but on a smaller scale. New church buildings going up today are smaller, simpler, multi-purpose, multi-venue and community-centric!
Church Decline to Church Revitalization
There has been a dramatic shift in church attendance across America. The culture no longer has a default value toward church attendance and even church attendees are attending church less than previous generations. As a result, a majority of the 350,000 churches across America are struggling and in decline. Many of them will not survive the next decade, but many are taking proactive steps towards revitalization and there is a growing field of resources to help them. This is also fueling the growth in church mergers.
Church Mergers—Last Resort to Viable Option
Mergers are becoming the new normal. Though nearly 40 percent of multisite campuses have come through a merger, church mergers are on a pathway of even outpacing the multisite movement. Once seen as a last resort or lose-lose option, church mergers have become a viable win-win option for struggling and stuck churches as well as strong churches.
Denominational leaders are seeing the opportunities to grow their strong churches and salvage their struggling ones through mergers with a multisite outcome. Church planters are acquiring permanent facilities and church growth through mergers. A growing number of churches are experiencing senior pastor succession through church mergers.
Succession—From in Hiding to the Boardroom
A tsunami of church turnovers is happening as aging baby-boomer senior pastors turn over the reins of their churches to the next generation. A topic once avoided, senior pastors are increasingly being proactive about developing their pastor succession strategy with their church boards to ensure a smooth transition and a healthy outcome.
Multisite churches have a built-in pipeline of campus pastors who are being mentored, groomed and prepared for succession by their senior pastor. Succession through a local church merger is also providing a less risky transition for a proven local pastor than the typical nationwide pastor-search process.
What trends are you seeing in your church in 2017?
Jim Tomberlin (@MultisiteGuy) is the founder and CEO of MultiSite Solutions and the author of several books, including Better Together: Making Churches Mergers Work (with Warren Bird) and 125 Tips for Multisite Churches.