By David Jackson, BCM/D Missionary for Church Multiplication
The last five years have seen the emergence of a new phenomenon in church methodology, known commonly as the “multisite church.” Defined simply as “one church in more than one location,” the multisite church is really a variation on a methodology begun almost 40 or so years ago under the name “satellite church.” While that emphasis never really “caught on,” the modern movement has quickly gained steam and has ardent supporters throughout North America, including here in Maryland/Delaware. Last year alone, the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware saw more multisite congregations start than in the rest of the decade combined.
The goal of the multisite strategy is to reach unreached people with the Good News of Jesus Christ. This, of course, is also the objective of all outreach/evangelism efforts and the goal of church planting, too. So is multisite an evangelism strategy? Almost all would agree it can be (and probably should be), since the multisite—a congregation of the church now meeting elsewhere—is (hopefully) seeking to reach those apart from Christ with the Gospel message. Is multisite a church planting strategy? Some of its advocates suggest this, and eventually over the life of the multisite congregation, I suspect that it will be in many instances. Most, though, see it as a church growth strategy “by extension;” that is, it grows the church not in the same place, but by moving to new locations in order to do so (i.e., thus it “extends” out into the world to share the Good News).
Regardless, many churches should consider this option, especially those who:
• Have a desire to reach lost people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ
• Are seeking to grow in order to maximize their impact on a lost and dying world
• Have many members who commute from great distances to their facilities
• Are landlocked and can’t build where they are OR can’t afford to go into a building project…yet
• Are considering closing the doors because they are unsure they can continue in the future
If any (or all) of these characteristics describe your church and you are mulling the multisite option, then ask yourself the following:
1. Is our church willing to meet in separate locations in order to reach more people for Jesus? This may mean locating your multisite in a more distant community where a number of your members currently live. By doing so they will have the ability to reach their friends and neighbors more effectively, since the new location will be in their own community (a place where unchurched people are more likely to attend and get involved).
2. Is our church willing to consider a merger with a struggling church, through which the struggling church becomes a multisite congregation of our stronger, healthier church? Such a decision could keep the more feeble church from dying, but only you and the church will be able to determine “at what cost” this merger could potentially take place.
3. Is our church considering a future relocation for ministry to another town or community? If so, starting a multisite congregation in that community may serve as a bridge to the future, a future in which you are able ultimately down the road to make the multisite become the beachhead to a new permanent location, while the former site you leave behind remains as a multisite congregation.
4. Is our church willing to share its resources (people and funds), in order to make a greater impact for the Kingdom? While multisite options usually don’t cost as much as church planting in terms of money, it may require a larger investment of people resources…at least at first. Churches that go this route have many options on the “preaching strategies” employed, but all require adequate volunteers to assist in the other areas of ministry for the congregation, as well.
The multisite option for churches offers greater flexibility at lower costs for those who are willing to go this route. Moreover, it affords any church a quicker return on their investment and more control over the congregation than church planting. If these things are important to your outreach and extension strategies, perhaps multisite is for you.
We on the BCM/D Church Multiplication Team stand ready to assist you in seeing God’s dream become reality.
For more information about multisite churches, contact David Jackson, missionary for church multiplication, at (410) 977-9867 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.