Understand Your Model of Multisite Church

For many of the challenges that multisite churches face, there are a variety of different approaches, and these flow from the philosophy of the church. Not all multisite churches are the same. Some are heavily centralised with each site acting like a 'franchise' with a common experience. Others are much more devolved, with leadership, vision, finance, teaching and other aspects of church life operating at a local level. Still others have a model somewhere between these extremes. One of the keys to navigating the different challenges of multisite church is gaining clarity on exactly what type of multisite you are building. In this webinar we talk through the different models of multisite and look at what the implications of each model are for how you build. 

Special Guest: Brad House (executive pastor of ministry at Sojourn Church in Louisville, Kentucky and co-author of 'Multichurch: Exploring the Future of Multisite')


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Pillar Church

  • "One church with one meeting in one place."
  • There are different models of doing things, but it is not like one is more Biblical than the others.
  • This is the steady state control model with no driver to move it from beyond this model.
  • It does create restrictions on leadership. There are only so many leadership roles, and the church just grows by getting bigger - so there is no space for new emerging leaders.
  • An average leader can build a pillar church to 60-80 people. This can be frustrating if you can't get past this, but one potential way is to multiply churches of this size. 
  • There are two big motives for switching to multisite - it is either driven by trying to solve practical problems, or driven by mission. 
  • When it is motivated by mission, this often gives a more healthy model as you are looking to the future more rather than evolving around a particular issue you have encountered.

Gallery Church

  • "One church with multiple services."
  • This is the natural next step once you can't all meet in the same meeting.
  • Means you can reach more people without securing a bigger building.
  • It can be consumeristic - and you are serving people according to their stylistic preferences. 
  • It still has a small mission footprint as you are asking people to come to you.
  • It is a cost-effective way of maximising a facility.
  • You can learn some of the basics of how to multiply by doing it.
  • There is a limit - when you get to 3 or more sites it puts a lot of strain on volunteers.

Franchise Church

  • "One church cloned to multiple sites"
  • This is often someone trying to maximise a big teaching gift or a strong organisational gift. 
  • It limits the space for all except the main leaders to develop their gifts. It just creates plenty of room for middle management.
  • An advantage is that you have something that is working that you can replicate and do again.
  • The ability to replicate this way is much faster. 
  • You can end up with campus pastors who as they grow want more authority to lead something themselves.
  • When people critique multisite, it is often a caricature of this model.
  • Great character can overcome any model.
  • This model is most easily abused as you can most quickly propagate a platform for yourself. 
  • It is important to think about what type of person it takes to lead in different styles.

Federation Church

  • "One church contextualised in multiple sites"
  • Would often be marked by local preaching at each location.
  • More shared leadership than a franchise.
  • There is a whole spectrum of exactly what this looks like. 
  • Generally local elders at each of the locations. 
  • Still a good amount of the 'brand' at each of the places.
  • There is still something of a top-down feel - a centralised leadership team is still making the decisions. 
  • A challenge is the lack of ability for new leaders to shape and create something.
  • It can be challenging to make decisions and communicate messages in ways that resonate in all of the different locations. 

Co-Operative Church & Collective Church

  • "One church made up of numerous independent churches"
  • The way to figure out whether you are in 'multi-church' is based on who makes the decisions and where money flows. 
  • Preaching is contextual and local, but preaching themes are agreed and shared. 
  • You can come at this from the perspective of autonomous church plants that want to work together.
  • As a central leader you need your own 'soldiers' who have bought into yourself to drive things forward, which is harder in this model.
  • A key question is where you are getting traction and what is your trajectory.
  • Consistency and brand control is more difficult.
  • We can somehow assume that autonomy is better - but this doesn't seem to be a positive in scripture. Interdependence is a much more scriptural value. 

Q&A

1. In the Co-operative and Collective Models, How Does Shared Culture Work?

  • Culture is undervalued. It is more important than the model.
  • Culture is a manifestation of the people in the church.
  • It is influenced by your values, but cannot be prescribed. 

2. How Important Is It to Decide Your Model Before You Start?

  • You need to have an idea of where you want to be before you get going.
  • It is easier to give autonomy and responsibility away than take it back. 
  • Veer towards a more centralised model and you can give authority away over time, but transitions the other way would be much more difficult.
  • A lot of churches want to go multisite but are staffed like a 'pillar' church. Bivocational staff helps.
  • Think like a chess player - everything will have knock-on effects several steps ahead.

3. What Things Should People Have Thought Through Before Going Multisite?

  • The first and second sites aren't where you will feel the pain. It is when you get to 3 or 4 sites that you will need to change everything.
  • The rip effect on relationships with people who have gone to start the new site. 
  • Raising leaders for the fourth, fifth and sixth sites is harder than the first three. Don't confuse a leadership development track for a pool of leaders who are ready to go.