Update: When MultiSite Works Against the Mission

There have been many queries as to how things have been going at Meck since we made the strategic decision to end our multi-site approach in order to pursue other methods for ongoing growth and the pursuit of our mission to the unchurched.

You can read about that decision and our reasons for making it HERE.

I will confess that this update is not what I expected. I have been completely blindsided by it.

Since we have closed our sites, we’ve grown faster and become larger than at any other time in recent memory. I know, go figure. But from the very first weekend after closing our sites, our overall attendance has grown—and grown rapidly. We closed our sites at the end of May; currently, attendance in August 2019 is running 27% more than August 2018.

I have to reread that myself. We close multiple campuses, and grow by 27%, which for a church our size is stunning. We’re rushing to add services and fast-tracking building plans.

Why is this happening?

It’s early to venture too many conclusions, but here are a couple that seem apparent:

First, when you take the collective energies of a church and its staff and its volunteer base, and focus it on one site, it creates an incredible amount of energy. Think about light. Light that is diffused doesn’t make much of an impact, but focus that light through a magnifying glass and you can set something on fire. Focus it even more, and you have a laser than can cut through sheet metal.

Closing our sites has made us a laser.

Second, it was brisk reminder to all of us about the nature of our mission. A reminder that reaching out to our friends and family, neighbors and coworkers, is central to who we are. That we will make whatever decisions needed to reach our full redemptive potential. People at Meck knew why we closed the sites, what we were trying to achieve… and it renewed the fire within them for the mission and their participation with the mission.

So they’ve been inviting like never before because they were reminded – again – exactly what we are trying to collectively do as a Church. And just how much it matters.

These seem like intangibles, I know, but they are still very real. Yes, we have put fresh attention on all things digital, as we intended, but in truth that has yet to be fully realized. Yes, when you are focused on one campus, it makes for greater attention to detail from guest services to children’s ministry. Yes, the arts team is consolidated, allowing for its collective talents and energies to be invested in a single set of services.

All positive, all helpful, all productive. But the larger dynamic just seems to be renewed energy and focus and passion. It was such a pure missional decision, made from a position of already existing health and growth, that it poured even more fuel on the fire.

So our expected dip in attendance never came. The people we expected to lose by closing sites kept coming. From the very first weekend, we entered into the most accelerated growth stage in recent memory.

I was on a conference call with some other pastors who asked me about this, and when I told them what was happening, they said, “Wait until word gets out what’s happening at Meck—it’s going to make a lot of churches rethink things.” Another added, “It’s so hard to do multi-site—if we didn’t feel like we had to, I don’t think we would.”

I don’t want to say “Stop multi-site and you’ll grow.” I just know that it was true for us. And I will say that there are probably other churches just like us that would be served by rethinking their strategies, including the multi-site approach. Particularly if the only reason you are continuing to do it is because you fear you will decline (as we’ve proven that doesn’t have to be the case),

… or because you fear the optics of it.

On that last point, please don’t let that be your reason. I fear that many pastors and churches pursue the multi-site approach as a vanity project. They want to say they have multiple campuses, they want to appear large and successful, so they start sites. But for many, it’s a drain on their volunteer pool, their resources and more. It’s hurting more than it’s helping.

All to say, if vanity dictates your decision-making, you will make very bad decisions.

> Read more from James Emery White here.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

7 Reasons to Incubate Your Next Campus Launch

In elementary school, one of my daughter’s classrooms held an egg incubator. Over the course of a few weeks, the children learned about eggs and were able to watch their hatchlings emerge. This transparent case, with heat lamp and straw matting, become critical to the life of those little chickens, protecting them from rough handling and carefully controlling environmental conditions until the birds could begin to fend for themselves.

The multisite church movement no longer exists as a revolutionary approach to church multiplication. Campus launching is now standard practice for reaching new geographic areas and extending the gospel impact of congregations large and small. Despite the commonality of this model, it remains helpful to remember that new campuses could also benefit from the protection of an incubator early on. Holding at least two weeks of worship services on-campus at the sending church, alongside existing worship services, can be critical to the development of volunteers, leaders and staff. Carefully controlling environmental conditions in a secondary venue of worship brings benefits to both the team being sent, and those doing the sending.

Here are seven reasons to hold at least two incubator services before launching your next multisite church campus:

To Build Campus Identity by bringing the early adopters all together in worship and establishing the core team’s identity as pioneers months prior to launch.

To Sample Message Delivery by forcing communicators to think through their content and the context of their sermons. If preaching live to each campus, early incubator services help campus pastors practice applying local context in each campus or environment. For video communication, an incubator service serves as a lower-risk way to alleviate the fears of screen-driven sermon delivery.

To Bring Everyone Together by leveraging existing childcare and gathering space, usually a choir room or fellowship hall, at the sending campus. An incubator service may be the only time everyone on the launch team will worship as one body. Once launch happens, ministry volunteering and multiple services dissipate core team connectivity each week.

To See Who’s (Really) In by allowing leaders to get a feel of who is on the team and recruit or steer direction as a result. Seeing everyone in one room, without the immediacy of launch looming, brings cohesion to every one-on-one conversation. Savvy campus leaders will use an incubator to make those elusive personal connections that they have been missing.

To Share Launch Ownership by reminding the entire church body that they are being sent as one to this new frontier, represented by this group of launch pioneers. Minimizing the “them” and “that new church” language must begin as soon as possible. Incubator services reinforce a one church multiple locations mindset before launch even happens.

To Test Parallel Systems by replicating worship service processes in a controlled environment. Developing multiple teams for concurrent worship, delivering technology in a portable setting can be daunting. And while preview services on-site are helpful at debugging systems, incubator services at the sending campus can help everyone know what questions to ask in the first place.

To Train New Volunteers by creating excitement across the congregation. Seasons of launch are a natural time to bring new volunteers to the team at both the sending and multisite campus. Incubator services are effective in providing opportunities to shadow existing volunteers and learn the systems in a known environment.

WHETHER 2018 IS THE YEAR YOU ARE GOING MULTISITE FOR THE FIRST TIME, OR SENDING YOUR SEVENTH CAMPUS, CONSIDER HOLDING ONE OR TWO INCUBATOR SERVICES BEFORE YOU LAUNCH.

AT AUXANO, WE CREATE BREAK-THROUGH CLARITY FOR MULTISITE CHURCH TEAMS THROUGH A UNIQUE PROCESS OF LAUNCH EXECUTION PLANNING THAT FULLY INTEGRATES YOUR UNIQUE IDENTITY WHILE STRENGTHENING A WHOLE-CHURCH VISION. WE KNOW THAT MOST CHURCHES NEED MORE THAN ANOTHER GENERIC STRATEGIC PLAN OR NOTEBOOK OF MULTISITE BEST PRACTICES, AND HAVE HAD THE HONOR TO WORK WITH MULTISITE CHURCHES FROM 200 TO 20,000 DURING SEASONS OF LAUNCH AND GROWTH.

> Read more from Bryan.


 

Connect with an Auxano Navigator to start a multisite conversation today.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan Rose

Bryan Rose

As Lead Navigator for Auxano, Bryan Rose has a strong bias toward merging strategy and creativity within the vision of the local church and has had a diversity of experience in just about every ministry discipline over the last 12 years. With his experience as a multi-site strategist and campus pastor at a 3500 member multi-campus church in the Houston Metro area, Bryan has a passion to see “launch clarity” define the unique Great Commission call of developing church plants and campus, while at the same time serving established churches as they seek to clarify their individual ministry calling. Bryan has demonstrated achievement as a strategic thinker with a unique ability to infuse creativity into the visioning process while bringing a group of people to a deep sense of personal ownership and passion.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.