Jim Tomberlin, church consultant, offers his annual report and forecast for the development of the multisite movement
The multisite model continues to be a proven and cost-effective vehicle for churches in reaching, serving and engaging more people locally and regionally. Leadership Network reports there are over 5,000 expressions of multisite church across North America with nearly 7 million people attending a multisite church nationwide. As Ed Stetzer concluded in the 2013 annual Outreach magazine issue of the 100 Largest and Fastest Growing Churches in America, “The common denominators of multisite, small groups and community engagement surface throughout 2013.”
The multisite experiment began as a prerecession band-aid strategy for megachurches that were out of room or restricted by zoning laws. It became the primary way healthy churches accommodated their growth during the recession. Even as the economy improves the multisite model will continue to be the prevailing choice for accommodating and accelerating growth in healthy churches.
As anticipated, we saw in 2013 an increase in multisite mergers, church name-changing, Internet online campuses and international multisite expansion. These trends will continue. Here are some additional developments emerging among multisite churches in 2014:
Megachurches becoming gigachurches.
Megachurches are getting bigger because they are no longer limited to one location. LifeChurch.tv based in Oklahoma City is the largest church in America with over 50,000 in attendance across 18 campuses in several states. The most vulnerable churches in America are the large monosite, super-big campuses with aging senior pastors.
Owning multisite locations.
Up to now the overwhelming majority of multisite campuses have been in rented facilities. Because the multisite model has now moved beyond an experiment to a proven strategy more churches are beginning to buy land to construct new buildings or purchase existing buildings for permanent multisite campuses.