Riding the wave

A Second Look at Campus/Multi-Site Churches

I am an old-school pastor who has tried to be open to see what God is using. Rick Warren's illustration of “riding the wave” is a lesson God has been using in my consulting and coaching ministry for many years. The illustration is simple: God creates the wave, we do not, but we can learn to ride the wave. 

One caution is we need to be sure the wave is one God is using and is not simply a man's idea of what success is. The main criteria in determining if it is God's wave, is the test of Scripture. Just because something is drawing people or building numbers in a church does not mean it is biblical. Every wave must be examined on the basis of the inspired Word of God. A wave without sound doctrine is not God's creation.

One of the waves that is producing growth today is the campus/multi-site church ministry. However, in some cases it is producing numbers without discipleship. Often these are the churches that have focused on the creativity of “worship” and drama without focusing on biblical discipleship. One unexpected positive result of this type of ministry is that we are seeing this becomes a feeder to other churches. People are drawn to the creative “worship” but begin to realize they want a deeper message and look for a church that may have both impactful worship and a clear plan for deeper discipleship. The result is God's Kingdom is being built. Therefore, personally, I resist being judgmental on ministries that do not necessarily share my passion and vision for churches to be “Biblically Balanced.”

Having said all this, I have learned to see and appreciate the value of campus/multi-site churches. My preference is the churches that have the balance between high impact worship and a high impact biblical discipleship. Thus, this article seeks to identify some of the positive reasons for campus/multi-site churches. The order does not reflect any priority or importance. 

  1. Multi-site churches provide hope for dying churches. The reality is many churches are struggling to survive today. The expectation for churches to have both good worship and good preaching is stronger today than in past decades. Struggling churches seldom are able to offer even one of the two.

  2. Multi-site churches allow a witness for the gospel to expand and/or continue in several locations. When a church closes there is a loss of a witness for the gospel. In some cases a campus type church may be the only true biblical witness.

  3. Multi-site churches offer the expertise of an experienced pastor and staff. Reality is that most struggling churches are declining because true “Pastor Leaders” are rare. Many pastors provide good pastoral care and/or good preaching but are not able provide the expertise that a multi-staff leadership team can provide. 

  4. The cost effectiveness is an obvious value. A full-time pastoral salary with even basic benefits has become cost prohibited for many churches. While we appreciate the sacrifice some pastors and working wives make we must recognize it is not the best or even most biblical model. A campus or multi-site church can often have quality preaching and worship at a much lower cost than one full-time pastor.

  5. A good message with high quality video production can provide a life-like presentation. Most people have become accustomed to video teaching with such things as simulcasts. People often attend video seminars and conferences where the teaching ministry is found to be very powerful. The experience of many in campus ministries has been that it is easy to become appreciative of a good video message. Technology has made High Definition an affordable option.

  6. A good quality worship leader can provide a high impact experience of true worship. A struggling church seldom can afford or has a gifted worship leader. In our culture a worship ministry is a vital part of building the pulpit ministry. Live worship has the ability to offset not having live preaching. 

  7. Multi-site churches can have a proven design without “reinventing the wheel.” Developing a strategic growth plan with limited resources is a difficult task. Beginning with a proven model greatly increases the potential for effective ministry and leadership development.

  8. A campus type ministry can be used as a means of replanting a church. Many churches with campus sites do not plan on releasing the church to be on its own. However, this is an option that might be something that needs to be considered. 

Personally, I had the privilege of being a small part of a church that transitioned to a campus ministry. The interesting response, after a short time, was that people became very appreciative of the video message and the growth was almost spontaneous. The effectiveness of a leadership team of the main campus greatly affected the entire ministry of the church.

In a future post some of the “must haves” in a campus ministry will be addressed.