About six years ago the church I serve, Strong Tower Church, started throwing around the idea of going multisite. We felt our church, which had over 700 people showing up at that time, was probably reaching the max of what was possible in our small town of 2,200 people.
Multisite was something we knew lots of churches in big cities had already jumped into, but we had a harder time finding churches that had successfully done it in small towns. It wasn’t hard to figure out why. It comes at a significant cost, not just financially, although that’s definitely part of it. There are a lot of other costs that we weren’t necessarily prepared for as well.
But here we are 4 years and over a hundred baptisms later with a second campus that is on the verge of thriving.
So, what have we learned?
- It’s possible.
Yes it’s very difficult, but it is possible to make it work. It just takes time, money, people, and patience. If what you’re doing is currently working in your small town, then there’s a great chance it will work at the small town 20 minutes down the road from you.
- You Need a Strong Start.
When we started, we were able to send around 100 people from our original campus to the new campus. These people were already engaged with our church. They were giving and serving. We had every volunteer area covered from day one.
- You Need Money.
Not just to get started, but to keep you going. Depending on how you approach multisite ministry, it could be a significant upfront cost. It was for us because we wanted the new campus to be very similar to the original. We raised a significant amount of money through a capital campaign before we ever launched. This helped cover the upfront costs, and the budget shortages the first couple of years.
- You Need Strong Leadership.
The campus pastor position will be key to your success or failure. It takes a special person who has the ability to motivate and inspire while also being able to handle all the administrative tasks that come along with the role. They’ll also need to be able to develop a team of leaders, who often aren’t getting paid because you don’t have the money.
So it’s possible, but I need to tell you what else we’ve learned.
- Not Everyone will be Excited About It.
I remember taking a big giver to lunch to ask him about giving to the campus, and his response was basically, “yeah, but what about my own community?” He didn’t care about reaching people in another town. And he wasn’t alone. It was much harder to raise money for a new campus than for an addition onto the original campus.
- Some People will Leave the Church.
This was a big surprise to us. We thought everyone would love the step we were taking as a church, but some got tired of us talking about it and left, a lot of people actually. And some who left to start the new campus, eventually left there as well.
- It’s really Difficult.
Two campuses mean you need twice the money, twice the volunteers, and you get twice the amount of stress. Decisions can be twice as hard. Who makes the decisions? Do both campuses have to do it the same way? Who’s in charge of who? It takes a lot of trust and teamwork to work through the difficulties.
I share these last three with you because I always want to be real with you. Since we launched our campus our attendance has gone from 700 to 700 in four years. Yep, we haven’t actually grown any. Those we’ve gained at the new campus, we’ve lost an equal amount at the original. I’m not sure why.
So, yes it’s possible to go multisite, and I’d love to see more small town churches do it. Just know, it’s not going to be easy, and your results may vary.
Have you considered going multisite? Why or why not? Leave an answer in the comments. If you’re thinking of taking the step into multisite and are looking for some advice or coaching, shoot me an email and I’d love to help.