Posted on 8/22/2012 by Warren Bird in the Learnings Blog
The new official statistic is that there are more than 5,000 multisite churches in North America. That’s more than 5,000 different churches, each of which has two or more different geographic campuses – one church in two or more locations. This finding was extrapolated from a national survey of churches of all sizes, and validated by Leadership Network’s constantly growing database of multisite churches.
What grew in popularity initially among megachurches has now expanded to churches of all sizes, especially those with attendances of 500 and larger. Back in 2001, Leadership Network looked high and low and found fewer than 200 documented examples of multisite -- and we likely found almost all that existed in North America. By 2006, Leadership Network’s database had grown to 1,500 specific examples. As I researched this growing movement, and as Leadership Network created peer networks of the pacesetting churches in this embryo movement, we discovered an incredible level of interest – by church planters, large churches, and many types of churches in between. We reported the first wave of these pioneers in The Multi-Site Church Revolution: Being One Church in Many Locations, by Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon, and Warren Bird, published in 2006.
When I co-authored a second book on the multisite moment, The Multi-Site Road Trip, published in 2009, I suggested the subtitle, “exploring the new normal.” At that point, the research suggested there were 3,000 multisite churches. As the growth has now mushroomed to 5,000 and beyond, multisite is truly a “new normal” in cities large and small, urban and suburban and even rural. Today it's hard to find a church leadership conference that doesn't deal with some aspect of multisite.
This rapid rate of growth for the number of multisite now outnumbers and outpaces the number of megachurches (churches with 2,000 or more in weekly attendance). By 1970 approximately 50 megachurches existed in the U.S., growing to 150 by 1980, 300 in 1990, over 600 by 2000 and then doubled to roughly 1,200 by 2005. As of 2012 an estimated 1,650 megachurches exist in the United States and Canada.
Leadership Network's research has underscored many of the benefits of being multisite:
- Multisite churches reach more people than single site churches.
- Multisite tends to spread healthy churches to more diverse communities.
- Multisite churches have more volunteers in service as a percentage than single site.
- Multisite churches baptize more people than single site.
- Multisite churches tend to activate more people into ministry than single site.
Multisite growth has many other implications. “This rapid increase and scope of the multisite movement does not surprise me,” says Jim Tomberlin, multisite pioneer and founder of MultiSite Solutions. “The multisite movement is being fostered from many different directions. In my recent co-authored book on church mergers, Better Together, we point out that 1 out of 3 multisite church campuses come as a result of a merger. Growing churches are utilizing mergers as a fast and effective way to go multisite.”
Leadership Network continues to explore new aspects of multisite from internet campuses to overseas campuses. As one example, today Leadership Network is hosting an online peer group of twelve campus pastors who compare insights and experiences as they learn from each other. "The Campus Pastor Innovation Lab is designed to assist campus pastors in navigating the challenges and opportunities of this newly emerged role," says Greg Ligon, co-author of the multisite books and designer of the Campus Pastor Innovation Lab.
See also Ed Stetzer’s recent blog on the implications of multisite and church planting.
To track with Leadership Network’s ongoing learnings about multisite, click here.