6 Questions to Answer Before Going Multisite

What began as a radical idea three decades ago has spawned a movement of more than five million people attending thousands of multisite churches across North America.

Though there are over 5,000 multisite churches across North America, every one has a unique church-print.

There is no one-size-fits-all formula or model they all follow, but they all wrestle with the same issues. How they address those issues will determine their own unique model. So, what are the issues and key questions to consider in going multisite?

After three decades of coaching churches in multisite strategies I have concluded there are six common issues and corresponding questions that every church considering multisite must address.

Purpose. Why are we doing this?

The most important question to ask before going multisite is Why? There are many logical and stewardship reasons to multisite, but the primary reason to multisite is because you become convinced that it is the best strategy to fulfill what God has called your church to be and then to do. The most effective multisite churches are driven by an intense obsession to reach and serve more people. They have an overwhelming conviction that “We have to do this to be obedient to God’s purpose for our church.” This conviction primarily comes as God confirms through prayer.

Provision. What will it cost?

Any endeavor takes seed money to get launched. Though multisiting is less expensive than buying land and constructing additional buildings, it is not cheap. The average start-up cost nationwide for launching a campus in the lowest risk/lowest cost mobile church scenario is around $250,000. Add an additional million dollars to retrofit a 24/7 rented facility. Typically, churches will start by adding a multisite line item to their operating budget and/or have a special fund-raising campaign to launch a multisite campus. The Bible wisely reminds to sit down and “count the cost” to make sure we have enough money to finish before we begin an ambitious project. (Luke 14:28)

Pastor. Who will lead this?

The multisite pastor, often called the “campus pastor” is the most important decision to make in going multisite. As in every endeavor, everything rises or falls on leadership. The best place to find a campus pastor is usually within the sending congregation.

Campus pastors are the “face with the place” who need to be high-capacity leaders, team players, and DNA carriers of the church. To learn more about the characteristics of an effective campus pastor check out my previous blog post What Makes a Great Campus Pastor.

Programming. What will we replicate?

Multisiting is all about taking your church to the people.

Successful multisite churches have figured out how to reproduce, deliver and support their signature ministries consistently and in a unified way across multiple locations.

This begins with the sermon (in person or video) but also focuses on determining what are the core programs and roles to reproduce at every location.

Place. Where will we meet?

Multisite puts the local back in the local church.

One of the most amazing and consistent facts about church attendance is that the majority of church-goers in North America live within a 15-minute drive of their church campus. The rest live within thirty minutes. This targets the ideal location for a multisite campus within the 15 to 30-minute driving perimeter of the sending campus.

Map-point your church data base to discover where your church has concentrations of attenders at the 15-30 perimeter and launch there. This puts a new congregation in fresh “mission” territory, yet builds on the good reputation of the sending church with a core of people who have the church’s DNA.

Schools, along with theaters, are typically the lowest-risk, lowest-cost alternatives for going multisite. A portable church on wheels is typically good for a one-two year run in terms of energy and volunteer commitment that is needed to set-up and tear-down every week.

Leasing a commercial facility provides a 24-7 presence, but is more expensive because of the retro-fitting required for a church. There is also an growing trend where existing churches merge or become adopted by a healthy, growing multi-campus church.

People. Who will launch the campus?

The strength of a multisite launch is the core of followers who come out of the sending congregation. They already live in the targeted area of the new launch.

Figure out how many people it takes to have a fully functioning congregational expression of your church in a new location and enlist at least that many to serve for a one-year commitment. The larger this launch team core, the sooner the campus becomes self-sustaining functionally and financially.

So What Does It Take to Launch a Multisite Congregation?

You need:

• prayer to proceed
• provision to start
• a pastor to lead
• programs to replicate
• a place to meet
• a people to follow

When you have preceded with prayer, obtained provision to start, identified a pastor to lead, found a place to meet, determined programs to replicate and enlisted people to follow—you are ready to multisite.

Jim Tomberlin
Jim Tomberlin

Jim Tomberlin (@MultisiteGuy) is a multisite strategist and church merger specialist at The Unstuck Group and the author of several books, including Better Together: Making Churches Mergers Work-Expanded and Updated (with Warren Bird) and 125 Tips for Multisite Churches.