Pros & Cons of Multi-Site Churches

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If you’re a committed member of your religious community, chances are you have heard about a growing trend in the industry: the multi-site church. What exactly is that? Usually, there exists one main church campus with several satellite locations. Different sites can be in the same city, or across the country. Multi-site churches are becoming more popular, but aren’t a new phenomenon. Several churches began to use the multisite model as early as the 1980’s. The Leadership Network, a Christian non-profit in Dallas, conducted a study and found that there were 8,000 multi-site churches in the US in 2012, and that’s up from 5,000 in 2010.

Is the multi-site church model right for you? We listened to comments from both sides of the pulpit, and put together a list of pros and cons worshippers are gabbing about.

Pros

The point of a church is to spread the word of God. With more space, a multi-site church achieves this goal. People have the choice to attend the main campus, or a different location if it’s more convenient for them. It might not be the same roof, but it’s the same message from the same people. Churches routinely say growth is an important objective, and offering multiple locations creates more opportunity to bring in new and young parishioners. If you’re in the middle of your building campaign and thinking of expanding, consider a steel building to fill your congregational needs.

Vitality is also a strong argument for multi-site churches. When creating a new church, whether it is the main campus or satellite, it generally has a great impact on the community very quickly. It creates chances for churchgoers to start new programs or ministries and interact. The strength of a church will always be its members and their commitment.

Multi-site churches also have to embrace technology. Until recently, when a tablet was mentioned in church, the pastor was talking about stone tablets and the Ten Commandments. Now we’re referring to iPads! Church leaders are finding ways to communicate with their congregation, using video to connect each site and allow users to witness the sermon from miles away. Generally, this is the foundation on how the shepherds get their message to the sheep in the multi-site church model.

Cons

There are two sides to every debate. Multi-site churches can’t be for everyone. One of the biggest detractors for this model: the pastor can be out of touch with his flock. Sure, with a completely dedicated preacher, this worry is alleviated in some cases. The reason parishioners identify with their particular religious institution is because they’ve prayed with their pastor. They have broken bread, shaken his/her hand after service and formed a spiritual bond through physical contact. Many agree the tangible relationship they share with their pastor fuels their spirit and keeps them coming back. It goes both ways too. How well does the pastor know his parishioners if he isn’t there to see them?

I think when it comes to the technology argument, it’s all about perspective. Does it become too much of a virtual experience when it should be a spiritual one? Technology is just a tool. It’s all how you use it. The use of video, in particular, has the multi-site hecklers wondering, “Why would you intentionally agree to watch a video instead of witnessing the real thing?” These traditionalists don’t want to feel like consumers. They crave more guidance in the spiritual journey, and they deserve to have it if that’s what fulfills them.

For some, multi-site churches represent a loss of local feel. Church isn’t merely a gathering; it’s a community of faith. Unfortunately, multi-site might not be the best option if it doesn’t fit the specific needs of your area. Consider if the message or pastors will be relatable to the local culture. How does the worship style translate to the satellite sites? Will it be accepted? Answer these questions before settling in other locales.

We’re not here to sway you one direction or the other, just present the points of debate and let you decide for yourself. When speaking about religion, I always hear my mother’s voice in the back of my head. “Religion is like ice cream,” she says. “There’s a flavor out there for everyone.” That rings true especially since everyone has their own relationship with God, even if they share the same religion.

Now we’d like to hear from you! Do you attend a multisite church? Tell us why you made the decision to attend your particular church below.

Photo courtesy: hoyasmeg

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