Has the Multi-Site Movement Been Good for US Churches?

George Bullard’s Perspective on the Dave Travis National Church Intelligence Poll #1 — July 16, 2018

Dave Travis–pictured here–who has been connected at the hip since the 1990s with Leadership Network, is transitioning away from serving as their CEO. While he will maintain a relationship with LN, his core relationship will be with Generis at www.generis.com where he will provide strategic counsel to senior pastors. Generis is headquartered in the Atlanta area, and that is where Dave still lives. He never moved to Dallas with LN. (Smart move!)

As part of his transition, Dave has launched what he is calling the National Church Intelligence Poll. He has asked @100 people—George Bullard is one of them—to regularly provide their perspective on various strategic issues about congregations. With Dave’s permission, George is sharing his own perspective and interpretation on these poll results. These are George’s insights on Dave’s compilation of the first poll.

Has the Multi-Site Movement Been Good for US Churches?

On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 high, the average response from the national sampling was an 8. Here is a random list of affirmations, challenges, and suggestions from the poll with George’s insights interspersed within them:

Affirmations:

  1. The multi-site movement has dramatically increased the evangelistic impact of churches—reaching more people in more places.
  2. The multi-site movement has allowed congregations who develop great capacity to become a movement of congregations and some to spin-off new congregations with a growth DNA already in their spiritual culture.
  3. The multi-site movement has positively impacted church revitalization as multi-site congregations come alongside and adopt or absorb congregations in significant need of revitalization.
  4. The multi-site movement is “outside the box” strategic thinking and acting. It allows for an increased innovation, creativity, and quality of ministry in connecting the gospel with people.
  5. The multi-site movement reaches into community contexts not effectively reached by other congregations and touches the lives of people with the gospel who are not otherwise reached.

Affirmation and Challenge:

  1. If a multi-site movement uses a video/live streaming method for the message/sermon, and the proclaimer is exceptionally good, positive, and a healthy branding image for the multi-sites, this can free staff at the remote campuses to focus on evangelism, connecting with guests and new members, fellowship, discipleship, and missional engagement. Only one person must devote significant time to preparing a message/sermon. At the same time, it provides no intimacy with the proclaimer which may be important to some-to-many of the people. It can lead to the desire by some-to-many to be part of a congregation where they can see, hear, feel, touch, and smell the proclaimer. (This was in the survey, but there is also a lot of George in this statement.)

Challenges:

  1. The multi-site movement is not a replacement for church planting. Both are needed. In some areas and among some target or affinity groups one or the other approach works better.
  2. The multi-site movement should collaborate with other movements of congregations to develop collaborative strategies and not be a Wal-Mart
    church coming in and driving other congregations out of business without first seeing if an and/both approach would work and have greater synergy.
  3. The multi-site movement can become too singularly focused on growth that it outruns its supply lines and at some point diminishes it quality. In business terms “quality” is often a competitive advantage for multi-site movements if done well.

Suggestions from George:

  1. Continue refining and using the multi-site movement approach. It has great value for the overall Great Commission movement in the US.
  2. Develop collaboration approaches for various multi-site congregations to create an integrative approach to their strategy and tactics. Consider more deeply the demographics and lifestyle patterns of the larger context so they may serve the diversity of their context and not just skim the surface with a series of homogeneous campuses.
  3. In urban areas develop a more comprehensive city reaching strategy such as is represented by the Christ Together approach. (See https://christtogether.org/) Look at the model that has developed in Austin, TX and the one developing in Raleigh-Durham, Chapel Hill, NC.
  4. Consider models for multi-site movements to come alongside existing congregations to increase their capacity to reach and serve as a strategic effort rather than always planting a new congregation. (GWB: I am working with two models of this right now in my own association.)
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