Growing a thriving multisite church is all about momentum. Launching too quickly without proper momentum can slow or even stall growth. Responding too slowly when momentum is present can result in lost momentum and high opportunity cost. How do leaders manage these tensions when making decisions about when to launch and where to invest resources?
There are several key metrics that greatly impact a church’s capacity to multiply, regardless of context and culture. These metrics allow teams to monitor and maximize momentum, and are used by leaders to leverage opportunities to launch, merge, or plant. Many of these metrics are the same whether or not you are planning to expand around the corner, across your region, or around the world. For brevity’s sake, we will spend a few moments on one of the key financial metrics you want to be monitoring.
Campus Viability – A Key Financial Metric
A key financial measure that impacts launch pace is campus viability, or the point at which a campus becomes self-sustaining. Campuses that perform below financial projections can be a significant drain on overall momentum. Campuses that mature quickly can create opportunities for accelerated growth and impact.
Expectations vary for how soon a campus should be self supporting. When it comes to standing on their own financially, multisite churches have different assumptions and have seen a variety of results. A variety of factors impact the sustainability timeline for campuses, including:
- Campus location. One of the greatest determining factors for being self-sustaining is the area in which a multisite is located. “Some campuses are missional because they are in poorer communities, while others are stronger because they are located in more affluent communities,” said one multisite leader. Another reported that their church approaches multisite launches like they would overseas missions. “We don’t expect that missionaries would ever be self-sufficient.”
- Overall multisite financial model. The plan for how campuses and shared services are funded will alter the “on-ramping” time for new launches. Some churches use a split approach, such as a 70-20-10 or 80-10-10 model, relating to campus costs, shared services, and new growth. Others will utilize a per capita system, where budget dollars and often staff alocation are based upon the number of weekly attendees. This also includes how much freedom each campus is given to plan and spend their budgets.
- Type of facility in which the campus meets. Overhead costs vary significantly based on the type of location. When asked to describe their newest campus based on three options: 52% said “we’re strictly renters (school, theater, etc.), 34% said “we’ve bought or constructed something, including a church merger,” and 14% said “we’re leasing something we can modify (leased commercial building, etc.)”.
- Staffing model. As an overall average (using medians), 48% of a new campus’ annual budget goes to staffing costs (salaries, benefits), 28% to equipment including technology, 17% to facility purchase or rental, 4% to central services and 3% to marketing/advertising.
- Two factors that don’t appear to impact campus viability expectations are church size and overall number of campuses.
Are There Shared Characteristics of Models that Multiply Effectively?
Over the past several years, we’ve watched as new multisite models have developed and morphed. From network models, such as that of Community Christian in Naperville, IL, to major city models, such as New Life Chicago, to smaller neighborhood and rural models, leaders are finding new and innovative ways to use multisite as a highly effective strategy across of variety of contexts. And while these approaches look radically different on the outside, there are some common internal characteristics that allow these leaders to create, monitor, and maximize momentum.
During one of our new offerings for 2015, the Leadership Network team will help multisite leaders explore the variety of models and metrics that can lead to multisite momentum. Our three-day gathering will be dedicated to:
- Evaluating key metrics that drive future launches.
- Exploring effective models of church multiplication.
- Developing a strategy to increase the capacity to multiply.
If this is an important topic for you and your team, you need to be a part of HUB. HUB is a new offering from Leadership Network that launches in March of 2015. Through this dynamic, collaborative 12-month experience, we will be diving into this and other important topics with churches across North America, giving you a chance to meet with expert thinkers and experienced practitioners to exchange ideas, gain insights, and accelerate results. To learn more about HUB, click on the button below.