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Grand Rapids, MI

Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Multi-Site Road Trip


[youtube][/youtube]I recently read the new book Multi-Site Church Road Trip by Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon, and Warren Bird.  After reading The Multi-Site Revolution several years back, this was a wonderful update. 6 or 7 years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Dave Ferguson for dinner at a restaurant in Brighton, Michigan where Community Christian Church was then working on a potential site.  Dan Reeves introduced me to CCC and the Ferguson brothers who were then cutting edge (and still are) in the multi-site movement.  Then, as reflected in The Multi-Site Revolution, multi-site was new, exciting, and and catalyst to new growth.  They were multi-siting in old churches and even in a housing development for the elderly.  I had a chance to hear their strategy at a small conference in Kalamazoo not long after that in which they talked about the "franchising" of churches.  Initially, that rubbed me the wrong way, but with the right spirit and for the right reasons, that idea was cheaper, more effective, and provided more accountability for "church planting" as well as more support for the planters (or campus pastors, as their usually called.)  I had a chance later to visit the Yellow Box and worship with CCC and was really impressed with their innovation, passion, and down-to-earth evangelicalism.  CCC was really my only real personal interaction with multi-siting until I began reading more about it in Leadership Network's articles.

I now serve at a large church just about to celebrate its 50th anniversary.  We worship just under 2000 most Sundays, and for the last 5 years, myself and the other leadership have worked diligently to move our church not only towards planting, but towards being a multiplication center with church multiplication at the heartbeat of our mission.  We've been involved in church plants in the past, but had gotten away from that focus and got sucked into the megachurch growth movement - which is only a negative comment because of the loss of a planting focus.   Out of that focus, we've decided to plant 4 churches in the next 5 years through venues, sites, and plants.  A month ago, we launched our first venue on our central campus called Rock Harbor with 60% of the attendees (170-200 total worshipers) from outside the church.  We're now looking to out first site to possibly launch in September or October.  We're also involved in the planting of a cluster of at least 5-10 churches in central Florida that will also launch this next year.

The Multi-Site Road trip has been an awesome primer in what's happening around the country and about the maturation of multi-siting over the past 10 or so years.   What I loved about this book was that it didn't give a silver bullet and didn't promote a one-size fits all approach.  In fact, exactly the opposite was true.  MSR defines multi-siting as "one church meeting in multiple locations" and identifies five basic models:

  1. video venues
  2. regional campuses
  3. teaching teams
  4. partnerships
  5. low risk models

The authors give examples of all these models and show how these models actually play out in real churches, real teams, with real struggles.  It also helps the reader to see that multi-siting is not just for the large, or mega church, but that it is a strategy for growth that helps churches to reach new communities, make room for new people, or as our planting network (The Harbor Network) would say, lives into the reality that "new churches reach new people."  It was insightful to read that multi-siting may be an evolution of church strategy not unlike the addition of a second or third service, something that will in the future be "the new norm" as the book calls it.  The book is both practical and encouraging, and is a must read for anyone either considering venues or multi-siting, as an alternative to traditional "planting," and as a catalytic idea for a church looking to expand into the community.

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