For some big churches, looking to get bigger, the multi-site model seems to be working for them. For others, not so much.
Though they take different shapes, multi-site churches usually involve an original location that replicates itself in other locations, using ditto branding, styles, and procedures. The main high-profile preacher is typically beamed to satellite locations via video.
The people at Leadership Network say the multi-site model is thriving. They report that 76 percent of surveyed multi-site churches intend to remain under the one-governance structure. However, some well-known large churches are dropping the model, and spinning off their satellites as autonomous churches.
Regardless of what’s popular today, how does the multi-site strategy fit the future–particularly the next generation that is entering adulthood just now? The young people of Generation Z, as they’re called, exhibit some different values that may be at odds with the church-as-franchise model.
Many observers and social scientists note the Generation Z population highly values authenticity and genuine connections. How does that fit a church that centers around a weekly crowd in a big dark room with fixed seating, and an eloquent stranger on a big screen? “The screen screams scripted,” not authentic, said Rick Lawrence, editor of Group magazine and a frequent writer and speaker on Generation Z.
Lawrence also explained that Gen Z teenagers insist on participation in their learning. He said, “It seems counter-intuitive because they’re so married to their screens, but their screen time is interactive. And a multi-site screen is the opposite of interactive.”
The multi-site approach is standardized, built for a passive crowd. And that’s not what Gen Z is looking for. Researchers and religion writers such as Ross Douthat of The New York Times, cite that Gen Z is the most individualistic generation yet.
Lawrence said, “Because the multi-site model de-emphasizes interactions even more than the traditional model, and because these are standardized environments, they don’t ‘smell’ good to Gen Z kids. They’re craving vigorous interaction where much is expected of them, and their voice always matters.”
So, how will the present multi-site fashion morph? For the Holy Soup podcast I spoke with Joshua Symonette, campus pastor at National Community Church in the Washington, DC, area. This church meets in rented movie theaters in multiple locations. He said the church’s staff is discussing the future of discipleship in their model. He noted that people today are looking for a sense of intimacy, in smaller gatherings. Will they find that among strangers in a darkened theater on a Sunday morning? Listen to his perspectives here:
As with other areas of life, what produces numbers today may not provide success or effectiveness in the future. In order to be the most effective messengers of the unchanging gospel, church leaders will be wise to study the characteristics of the emerging generations.
It’s a very good thing that Gen Z teenagers insist on participation in their learning which everyone should do. The passive traditional model is not good because it control and shut people from questioning doctrines which are erroneous and lock them up for destruction. The passive traditional model is ideal for false teachers.
2 Peter 3:15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
I have a tendacy when approaching a subject for learning, to start with the New Testament way and advice and move out from there.
For two years I investgated new testament life and living for believers and if I introduced the twelve disciples to what is happening today they would be flabbergasted as it is nothing like what they did.
The New Testament model is one church in each town (no denominations) all meeting in homes scattered around the town. That one church was governed by a plurality of Elders (not a pastor in sight), none of whom were paid to be an Elder. No leader was brought in outside of the town.
It doesn’t say this but I have a feeling that an Elder was in charge of a gathering in each home. Because there was no such thing as public transport there was a home meeting in every street. The scriptures says they went from house to house, not building to building. In other words they were free to go wherever they felt like. This happened because they were all one in Christ, not all one in the baptist or the lutherans or the pentecostals etc.
I am convinced that if we want to achive God’s commission for us, we have to adopt biblbical practices which means dismantelling all denominational practices and demands and go back to the one town model. The people who have the most to lose are the leaders as the New Testament church had lay leadership, not people paid to be christians.