3 Warning Signs You May Not Be “One Church In Multiple Locations”

When multisite strategy is done right, healthy churches reproduce more disciples of Jesus. Unfortunately, my experiences at multisite churches are rarely one unified church meeting in multiple locations.

multisite strategy

When multisite strategy is done right, healthy churches reproduce more disciples of Jesus. Unfortunately, my experiences at multisite churches are rarely one unified church meeting in multiple locations. Instead, what I find is that many multisite churches are connected through one leadership structure, but beyond that, they are splintered in their ministry strategy.

There are several common warning signs that I commonly see when a multisite church, well, isn’t.

Warning Sign 1: The Wrong “Why”

  • Multisite is not a growth strategy. If your current location is not reaching new people, a new location won’t fix that.
  • Multisite is not a change strategy. If your current location is stuck in the past and you aren’t reaching younger adults, as an example, a new location isn’t going to fix that.
  • Multisite is not a succession strategy. If you are trying to give younger pastors leadership and preaching experience at a new location to prepare them to succeed the current pastor, you are trying to address succession the wrong way.
  • Multisite is not a diversity strategy. If your current location doesn’t reflect the community you are hoping to reach, launching a new location will not fix that. Church planting is the best way to reach a completely different demographic.

Multisite strategy is an evangelism. The multisite movement was the response of healthy, growing churches that ran out of space but wanted to continue reaching more people. Churches went multisite because their existing ministry strategy was working well. So, when they opened a second location, they used the same ministry strategy in that new location.

Warning Sign 2: Preacher Preferences

  • If you hear people communicating a preference for hearing the campus pastor teach rather than senior pastor, you are not one church in multiple locations.
  • We’ve learned it’s very challenging for churches to maintain unity over time if each congregation is hearing from distinctly different teachers on a regular basis. That’s why I have a strong bias toward multisite churches using team-based teaching through video. It’s the best way of keeping all the locations aligned and unified.
  • If you have a young pastor that wants to become a campus pastor because they want the freedom to teach their own messages, you don’t have a campus pastor. Instead, you have a future senior pastor or church planter. And, if you let them teach on a regular basis at that new campus, you should assume that location will eventually become an independent church and you’ve just appointed their future senior pastor. You thought you were starting a multisite campus. Instead, you’ve planted a new church.

Warning Sign 3: Different Worship Styles

  • If you sense you need a different style of worship to reach people in a different community, you really shouldn’t be using a multisite strategy. Instead, you should plant a new church.
  •   Multisite churches should have the same experience at every location.

There are many other warning signs that indicate that your church may not actually be one church in multiple locations! We go deeper into all of them in our new Multisite Unstuck Course.

The online course hits topics like:

  • Clarifying decision rights, choosing locations, and building volunteer strength for campus launches.
  • Developing a plan to reduce the tension that tends to develop between central ministry and campus leaders.
  • Offering a process to right-size staff and volunteer teams based on the size of your multisite campuses.
  • Providing tools for evaluating the campus pastor role and setting campus pastors up for success.


This article originally appeared here, and is used by permission.

Jim Tomberlin
Jim Tomberlin is founder and senior strategist of MultiSite Solutions, a company dedicated to assisting churches in multiplying their impact. Over three decades of diverse ministry, Jim has pastored a church in Germany, grown a megachurch in Colorado and pioneered the multisite strategy for Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago. Jim is the author of 125 Tips for MultiSite Churches and co-author of Better Together: Making Church Mergers Work. Jim is based in Scottsdale, AZ. You can email him directly at jim@multisitesolutions.com, subscribe to his MultiSightings blog or follow him on Twitter.