The 3 Models Of Multisite Ministry


Multisite ministry is an ever-changing, organic model for today's church. Churches that engage in a multisite approach have a host of questions to answer and decisions to discern before jumping into the numerous options available. Whether you are either considering a multisite model or currently in one already, I hope this post will help clarify a few of the different options of how to structure your multisite ministry.

What type of multisite church model do you want to implement? 

1. Franchise Model 

What is it? A true franchise model of multisite ministry utilizes live stream or pre-recorded sermons to broadcast to the congregation. If you choose not to live stream, pre-recorded messages can be created and played back at the other campuses. Recording usually happens the week prior to the service, and there are a variety of high quality playback systems currently available. The live teaching usually takes place at the main/central campus; however, some churches have started rotating live-teaching around multiple campuses to provide cohesion for the church as a whole.

For the franchise model to be truly successful, I believe there must be intentional time and development poured into the staff to understand the identity and DNA of the church. Our client, Lifepoint Church of Fredericksburg, VA is a good example. They do a great job of displaying their values to staff and volunteers whenever possible, like creatively painting them on the walls and adding them to their common language. Another important aspect of a successful multisite church franchise model is excellent communication and planning. You cannot expect another campus to execute a well-produced weekend service experience by communicating the elements only a day or two in advance.

Challenges: Staffing and reporting structure can be a core challenge in the true franchise model. It can be difficult to find experienced Campus Pastors without a desire to teach or lead a team. Another difficulty is that venues and auditoriums are different, by both physical features and location, so naturally a weekend experience at one site will not be the exact same experience at another site. There can also be an inequity in resources in available finances, staff, and volunteers.

2. Modified Franchise Model

What is it? The modified franchise model uses consistent weekend teaching across all campuses, as well as unified branding for the campuses/weekends. However, the worship expression and programing is not identical at each campus; each location will usually have its own unique flavor and feel within the boundaries of the church vision and mission.

In my experience, the modified franchise model is one of the most popular and successful models used among churches. The lead Campus Pastor has more autonomy to lead their staff and congregations, while still being supported by and connected to the larger core church. Lead Campus Pastors will also typically teach live from 6-12 times a year depending on the location and church model.

Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago, IL is a great example of the modified franchise model. The same artistic experience is present at each campus, but it is usually a unique expression depending on the location. The messages and teaching are consistent across all sites.

Challenges: As with most multisite models, communication and continuity are some of the key challenges for the modified franchise. It is important to maintain a consistent experience for the people that are attending, so that they feel the freedom to invite their friends and family. This can be maintained with increased communication and improved strategic planning from the leaders in the church.

3. Live Teaching Model 

What is it? The live teaching multisite is moderately decentralized because each campus has its own expression of local, live teaching, but it is still connected to the main campus by governance and elder polity. Typically, the live teaching is coordinated throughout all campuses and the Campus Teaching Pastors sit on a global teaching team to create the teaching calendar and content.

Challenges: Some of the core concerns with this type of multisite church model are that one campus could break off and become an independent church and that campuses with live teaching can become personality-driven. When hiring for a Campus Pastor who teaches consistently, it is imperative to find a balance between a follower (dependence) and full-entrepreneur (independence).

Some questions to consider as you look into multisite ministry and the models available to you: Do you want to be a church of churches or a church of campuses? Why are you considering multisite ministry, and what is the underlying motivation?

There is certainly no set right or wrong way to structure your multisite ministry, and there are pros and cons to all the models and variations of each listed above. As you look at your vision and goals as a church, consider your church’s mission, your staff and their capacity, and the people you aim to serve as you move ahead.

Which multisite model best fits your church's mission and vision?

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