Understand Your Model of Multisite Church

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Pillar Church

  • “One church with one meeting in one place.”
  • There are different models of doing things, but it is not like one is more Biblical than the others.
  • This is the steady state control model with no driver to move it from beyond this model.
  • It does create restrictions on leadership. There are only so many leadership roles, and the church just grows by getting bigger – so there is no space for new emerging leaders.
  • An average leader can build a pillar church to 60-80 people. This can be frustrating if you can’t get past this, but one potential way is to multiply churches of this size.
  • There are two big motives for switching to multisite – it is either driven by trying to solve practical problems, or driven by mission.
  • When it is motivated by mission, this often gives a more healthy model as you are looking to the future more rather than evolving around a particular issue you have encountered.

Gallery Church

  • “One church with multiple services.”
  • This is the natural next step once you can’t all meet in the same meeting.
  • Means you can reach more people without securing a bigger building.
  • It can be consumeristic – and you are serving people according to their stylistic preferences.
  • It still has a small mission footprint as you are asking people to come to you.
  • It is a cost-effective way of maximising a facility.
  • You can learn some of the basics of how to multiply by doing it.
  • There is a limit – when you get to 3 or more sites it puts a lot of strain on volunteers.

Franchise Church

  • “One church cloned to multiple sites”
  • This is often someone trying to maximise a big teaching gift or a strong organisational gift.
  • It limits the space for all except the main leaders to develop their gifts. It just creates plenty of room for middle management.
  • An advantage is that you have something that is working that you can replicate and do again.
  • The ability to replicate this way is much faster.
  • You can end up with campus pastors who as they grow want more authority to lead something themselves.
  • When people critique multisite, it is often a caricature of this model.
  • Great character can overcome any model.
  • This model is most easily abused as you can most quickly propagate a platform for yourself.
  • It is important to think about what type of person it takes to lead in different styles.

Federation Church

  • “One church contextualised in multiple sites”
  • Would often be marked by local preaching at each location.
  • More shared leadership than a franchise.
  • There is a whole spectrum of exactly what this looks like.
  • Generally local elders at each of the locations.
  • Still a good amount of the ‘brand’ at each of the places.
  • There is still something of a top-down feel – a centralised leadership team is still making the decisions.
  • A challenge is the lack of ability for new leaders to shape and create something.
  • It can be challenging to make decisions and communicate messages in ways that resonate in all of the different locations.

Co-Operative Church & Collective Church

  • “One church made up of numerous independent churches”
  • The way to figure out whether you are in ‘multi-church’ is based on who makes the decisions and where money flows.
  • Preaching is contextual and local, but preaching themes are agreed and shared.
  • You can come at this from the perspective of autonomous church plants that want to work together.
  • As a central leader you need your own ‘soldiers’ who have bought into yourself to drive things forward, which is harder in this model.
  • A key question is where you are getting traction and what is your trajectory.
  • Consistency and brand control is more difficult.
  • We can somehow assume that autonomy is better – but this doesn’t seem to be a positive in scripture. Interdependence is a much more scriptural value.

Q&A

1. In the Co-operative and Collective Models, How Does Shared Culture Work?
  • Culture is undervalued. It is more important than the model.
  • Culture is a manifestation of the people in the church.
  • It is influenced by your values, but cannot be prescribed.
2. How Important Is It to Decide Your Model Before You Start?
  • You need to have an idea of where you want to be before you get going.
  • It is easier to give autonomy and responsibility away than take it back.
  • Veer towards a more centralised model and you can give authority away over time, but transitions the other way would be much more difficult.
  • A lot of churches want to go multisite but are staffed like a ‘pillar’ church. Bivocational staff helps.
  • Think like a chess player – everything will have knock-on effects several steps ahead.
3. What Things Should People Have Thought Through Before Going Multisite?
  • The first and second sites aren’t where you will feel the pain. It is when you get to 3 or 4 sites that you will need to change everything.
  • The rip effect on relationships with people who have gone to start the new site.
  • Raising leaders for the fourth, fifth and sixth sites is harder than the first three. Don’t confuse a leadership development track for a pool of leaders who are ready to go.