In our consulting work at Multisite Solutions, we get weekly calls from churches asking two questions: So, why should a church merge? Should we do this or not? When I meet with the two involved parties, usually two senior pastors or a senior pastor and a board member, we talk about the following questions they should also be exploring:
Around 2009, my friend Warren Bird, at Leadership Network, called and asked if I was seeing a lot of mergers in my multisite church consulting. I was, and he was seeing the same. “God is doing something,” Warren said. “We ought to write a book about it.” A couple of years later, we published the book, Better Together, Making Church Mergers Work. Originally, like many pastors and church leaders, I had a vague, negative idea about church mergers. We didn't see it coming when we started thinking about multisite during my years at Willow Creek Community Church, but mergers have become an unintended consequence of the multisite movement.
Discover the impact Millennials' values, allegiances, and assumptions will have on your church.
Many church leaders could write out a list of tasks and priorities for launching a new site. More challenging is having an effective communication plan and solid timeline for sharing the vision, building the team, and creating anticipation that leads up to the launch. What steps are most important to start with? How much time do you need, from start to finish, to build a core group and launch a new site? When is the right time to ask people to make a commitment? What should we be doing to get the word out?
What can we learn about church multisite strategy from the business world? As a communications specialist for churches, I am always looking at what's going on in our culture at large, not just within the church world, to help churches communicate clearly and carry out their mission. What are companies doing? What are stores doing? What are coffee shops doing? We want to learn from them what we can and apply those lessons to our ministries and churches.
I originally thought my calling was to use my talents to build high-rise buildings. I was in the high-rise world for the better part of three decades and thought I would stay my whole life, but then I bumped into a gentleman named Lyle Schaller. A member at my home church, he was a great influence on me. Before he passed away, Lyle would come up to me after worship on Sundays, tap me and say, "What's up this week, young man? What are you doing to advance the Kingdom? Never be afraid to use your secular gifts to do the Lord's work."
When I talk with churches about how to launch an online campus, I always share my own story of how I became connected with Church Online. I married an Oklahoman, and we initially settled in his state. We moved into our first little house and lived across the street from this church with very loud music. When I was pregnant with our first child, I felt terribly sick one Sunday morning. We were part of a great local church, but in that church, I had to wear heels and a nice dress to service. I told my husband, "I cannot do that today. I just can't do it, I'm so sick." He said, "Well, I'll just walk across the street to that church where you can wear jeans."
Typically, the most heated conflicts in a church have to do with differences in theological or scriptural interpretations and doctrinal beliefs. But there’s another aspect of church life that gets temperatures rising and causes daily dissension—“thermostat wars.” How many times have you struggled to keep everyone comfortable in a sanctuary that’s not too hot, not too cold—just right for everyone? And when your heat or air conditioning kicks on, does it sound and feel like a sonic boom just went off?
In 2001, the first multisite campus launched at Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago, using video to share the teaching across campuses.
In this Thanksgiving season, we'd like to extend our sincere gratitude to the 2017 Alignment Conference Partners, who helped make this year's event possible. Please take some time to review this year's roster of partners who play vital roles in supporting our clients throughout the year.
I was present at the beginning of this era of multisite ministry. It was an accident; I was just fortunate enough to work at Leadership Network at a time when we were making a list of and tracking the early practitioners of multisite. After a meeting with a church in 1997 that had already gone multisite, my team and I looked at each other and said, “ This is going to be big.” We then saw a cadre of churches doing similar things across various geographic areas and denominational backgrounds. What began as a list of 78 in the ‘90s has grown to more than 8,000, according to a Duke University survey. I believe we are still in the early chapters of this story. There has been a rapid replication of sites and systems to fit the current context, but we are a long way from seeing the totality of this movement. Drawing from the research within this report and my experience, here are some trends I have observed during the rise of expansion strategies, as well as a few shifts I think we have yet to see unfold: