10 Hidden Secrets of Multisite Churches

Even with consultants, books and conferences, there are still secrets to be told about multisite.

Multisite Churches secrets

When we started down the multisite road at Seacoast Church 15 years ago we had no idea what we were doing. There were no books on multisite and very few models to learn from. Today there are over 8,000 multisite churches across the country, dozens of multisite consultants and several books specifically written for churches considering becoming one church in multiple locations. Even with all of the available information, however, there are some hidden multisite secrets almost no on talks about. Here are my top 10:

1. Boring in-person preaching is lethally boring on video.

I have been told video teaching won’t work in the the Northeast, the Northwest, the West Coast, in England, in Europe and in India. Although I’ve seen successful video teaching examples in each of these contexts, what I’ve come to realize is that bad video teaching doesn’t work anywhere. When a church tells me video teaching won’t work in their context I often suspect the problem isn’t the video.

2. Multisite won’t make a stagnant church grow.

Many years ago Larry Osborne said, “Multisite isn’t an engine for growth, it is a response to growth.” A church that isn’t experiencing numerical growth almost never begins growing by launching a second campus. After the excitement settles down the church will be the same size it was before, but its expenses will be much higher.

3. Great preaching and great worship grow a campus.

No matter what model you pick, nothing grows a campus like great preaching and great music. Most campuses that struggle to grow are lacking in one or both of these areas. I’m not saying this is a good thing or a bad thing, its just a thing.

4. IMAG and video teaching are two completely different things.

Sometimes church will add IMAG (big screens in the auditorium to project video of what is going on on the stage) to “prepare the congregation for video teaching.” This is similar to buying a puppy to get ready to have a baby. Its just not the same.

5. Convincing people to leave a comfortable building to attend at a rundown middle school is really hard.

People don’t want to go to church in a school, theater or community center. They like a permanent building they don’t have to set up and tear down. It is a mistake to underestimate how hard it will be to convince people to switch from a worship center to a cafetorium.

6. Ministries on a large campus are different than ministries on a small campus.

It is very different to do children’s ministry for 500 kids than for 50 or five. Not everything that a larger church does scales well to a smaller context, so many ministries have to rethink their “non-negotiables.”

7. A campus pastor has two jobs: develop leaders and energize volunteers.

A campus pastor who can develop leaders and energize volunteers will grow a healthy campus; anything else a campus pastor focuses on is a distraction. If he can’t develop  leaders and energize volunteers, morale at his campus will suffer and he’ll constantly look to the mothership to bail him out.

8. Half of the people who help start a new campus eventually go back.

People who are fired up about starting something new, reaching a new part of a city or following a new leader get tired of setting up and tearing down. They miss their friends at the original campus. Their kids miss the shiny classrooms and great teachers. Campus pastors need to know that many of these pioneers will eventually migrate back, and that’s OK. The goal is to have enough new people from the community to more than make up the difference.

9. Adding new campuses is hardest on children’s ministry.

The most volunteer intensive ministry is always children’s ministry, and adding a new campus always means losing some of their best leaders. The children’s minister at the new campus has to instantly replicate what took years, even decades, to develop at the original site. Children’s ministry needs lots of TLC when new campuses are launched.

10. Multisite impacts everything.

Unlike other ministries, multisite impacts everything a church does. Every budget decision and every ministry initiative is now viewed through the lens of how it impacts every campus. Multisite is always complicated.

I still am a strong believer in multisite as a means of multiplication in the Kingdom. I have seen the incredible synergy of one church in many locations, and in the right circumstances I have seen the explosive growth that follows. It is important, however, to go in with your eyes wide open to the hidden challenges.

Geoff Surratt
Geoff Surratt, having served Saddleback Church as Pastor of Church Planting and Seacoast Church as Executive Pastor, is now the Director of Exponential. (www.exponential.com) He also works with churches on strategy, structure and vision as a free agent church encourager and catalyst. He has over twenty-nine years of ministry experience in the local church and is the author of several books including The Multisite Church Revolution and 10 Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing.