The multi-site movement is a hot topic right now in the church world. I think there are some things to be concerned about, as there are with every movement, but over all I see it as a really healthy thing. There is no doubt that there are a variety of different ways to do it, and some are better than others, but is safe to say that it is working. Here are some of my thoughts on it.
More Than Just a Fad
Some are writing the whole idea off as a fad, but this is just not the case. In fact the whole idea of the multi-site church is far from new. I think that, at least in the SBC, the decline of the local association has left a hole that needs to be filled. I still believe in the necessity of the local association, but I must save that topic for another day. Nevertheless, the decline of the association is obvious, and one of the reasons the multi-site church is becoming so popular is that it is replacing a missing piece to the puzzle.
All through church history we can observe churches networking together in one way or another, whether through the bishop in the Roman Catholic Church, Methodist districts, or the churches of Galatia to which Paul wrote his letter. The multi-site movement is not a continuation of any of those models verbatim, but there are undeniable parallels. The point is, the concept is not new, and it is not going away any time soon.
One of the healthiest things about the multi-site church is the possibility it presents for healthy church planting. Rather than taking a core team and starting from scratch, the multi-site church can use its resources and people to make a new campus. These campuses should be designed to eventually become autonomous. When the time to let go of the church comes, there is already a stability that could not have been achieved otherwise.
This will not only help the new church get on its feet, but it will provide missional momentum in the sending church. Both the new church and the old church will benefit from the fact that a new missional DNA will be ever present in the life of the church and the individual lives of its members.
Along those same lines, the multi-site church can be utilized for the revitalization of declining churches. Imagine how great it would be if healthy churches would respectfully adopt struggling churches to prevent closure and bring new life. I am not suggesting that big churches should take over small churches like a business merger, but I am suggesting that healthy churches could give a little extra boost to the struggling church. They can make this struggling church a campus for a season, and just like I mentioned with the plant, that campus would be released as an autonomous revitalized church.
One of the greatest benefits of the movement is probably one of the most under utilized. I believe that each campus of the multi-site church needs a live preacher/pastor. The video venue is working, and great things are being accomplished for the Kingdom. I just see an opportunity that is being missed in this model.
The benefits of having a real life preacher on every campus are numerous, but I will focus on the fact that young pastors could be trained up in healthy environments with great leadership and mentors. These campuses have the benefit of strong leadership from the sending church, and they can take a risk on a young pastor just starting out. This campus pastor role can be used to train up an entire generation of young pastors and preachers for the glory of God, and the result will be a healthier church in the long run.
Network of Neighborhood Churches
Jimmy Scroggins is the pastor of Family Church (formerly FBC West Palm Beach) in West Palm Beach, Florida. He, over the course of many years, led this SBC legacy church to become a thriving multi-site congregation. They have chosen to call their method, “a network of neighborhood churches.” The idea is that every neighborhood in south Florida will have a church to minister there. Rather than pushing for a regional mega church where people drive from all over to attend, they have chosen to take their people and start smaller congregations all through the region. In so doing, they are training up new pastors, they are reaching people who otherwise wouldn’t be reached, and they have successfully revitalized an old downtown first baptist church.
This is my preferred model, and there are no limits to its possibilities. This method does not require great financial support, it cuts out the need for large scale building projects, it can be done in smaller towns, and normal sized churches can put it into practice. Their method is not perfect, but it does seem to have great potential.
In conclusion, I am not completely sold out for the multi-site movement. I am however encouraged by its ability to reach the lost, plant new churches, and rescue the dying church. I am currently working in a multisite church and have seen first hand the good it can do. I am looking forward to see what the future holds for multi-site churches.
-Brayden L. Buss