On Sunday, during my annual State of the Church address, I announced that Fellowship is taking concrete steps towards becoming a multi-site church. My explanation was brief, because time disallowed anything more, but I wish I could have said more. This is why I blog. On this platform I can provide greater detail than I could from the stage.
So what does it mean to become a multi-site church? Geoff Surratt, an early innovator in this area explains it as “one church meeting in multiple locations—different rooms on the same campus, different locations in the same region, or in some instances, different cities, states, or nations. A multi-site church shares a common vision, budget, leadership, and board.” A multi-site church is one body that is comprised of numerous gatherings.
The benefits of this approach are significant. By offering alternative sites in various locations a church can grow into places that lie outside of its general reach. The purpose of this is to make more and better disciples by bringing the church closer to where the people are. Every Sunday we see people travelling to Fellowship from Jackson’s satellite communities, but many of their neighbors will not. These are the people we want to reach. Multi-siting gives us access into these places and allows us to touch these people. It’s simply a new way to fulfill God’s wishes (Matt 28:20).
But is it a feasible option for us? What will it cost us? First off, it comes at no cost to our identity. To transition into a multi-site format does not change the mission, ethos, or experience of the church. Fellowship will not become less, or even different, we will simply become more. Secondly, the financial cost is moderate. It is a more cost effective option than planting a new church. By sharing resources between the sites, and using rented facilities, the expenses are greatly minimized. It’s a smart strategy. It’s also good stewardship.
What comes next? We have some important choices to make. There are numerous satellite communities that we would like to reach but we have to start somewhere. We must, and will soon, decide on a location. Then we need to find a quality campus pastor to lovingly shepherd this portion of our body. The role of the campus pastor is crucial to success. He is the carrier of our DNA, the one who ensures that our essentials remain constant. These two decisions will chart our way forward.
This process will take some time. These are not mushrooms that pop up overnight in a haphazard fashion, and that is a good thing—most of those are unsafe. A vibrant expansion of our body into new areas will require care in planning. The steps between a decision and a launch are many, but we are well on our way. May God lay the road ahead of us.