Multiplication Center

What Are Churches Learning from the Largest Multisite Organization in the World?

June 26, 2018

If you are looking to learn about multisite, why not learn from the largest multisite corporation in the world? That’s exactly what 10 churches did in May 2018, as we began the second of Leadership Network’s Multisite Accelerators in Bentonville, Arkansas, in the “World Room” above The Walmart Museum. These churches, averaging over 9,000 in weekend worship attendance, over 7 locations each and looking to launch over 50 campuses collectively in the next 5 years, spent time learning about innovation in a flagship Walmart store, hearing from the Executive Vice President and CFO and the Executive Vice President for Corporate Affairs, and processing together the future of multisite in the church context.

But how does Walmart Corporation give us insight into the future of church multisite? It’s mostly about engagement–specifically digital engagement. Three years ago Walmart was spending the majority of their capital building “big-box” locations. Recently, that all changed–not by abandoning the “big-box” strategy, but by enhancing it. Another retail giant, Amazon, had been eating up the digital market. The leaders of Walmart realized that although they had mastered physical locations, they had left the digital realm virtually untouched. This year, Walmart will not abandon their store model, they will enhance it with greater focus on things like 2-day shipping, online Grocery ordering, in-store pick-up, Scan and Go checkout and by considering new things like zero-click shopping (you should Google that phenomenon).

Unlike many in the church space who have focused on the potential of digital engagement instead of physical locations, Walmart is focusing on both. People today do not just exist in the digital or physical realm–they exist in both. As church leaders we were challenged to explore what engagement looks like in both areas and how creating a greater online experience can point attenders to opportunities that direct them to their next steps in their walk with Christ or in engagement with the church. Walmart’s new focus on “both” revealed how digital enhancement leads to a smoother, more frictionless in-person experience. What can churches take away from this reality? The team from Manna Church in Fayetteville, NC, recognized an opportunity for new families to use online children’s ministry check-in–making their tags available upon arrival to church and skipping the kids check-in line. A small, digital enhancement that can have a tremendous impact on a family’s worship experience.

The participating teams also focused on data surrounding research Walmart has done on “The Busy Family.” In collaboration with our data insights partner, gloo, Leadership Network is providing churches in this Accelerator with the ability to leverage data to expand and enhance their community impact. In fact, my own church, Faith Promise in Knoxville, TN, will be using this data to more strategically advertise to the individuals and families surrounding our campuses, allowing us to focus on the individual needs of the families in the communities surrounding each location.

Ultimately, everyone walked away with a greater commitment to innovation, to rapidly prototype and test new ideas using the Accelerator “Build, Measure, Learn” cycle. As an example, Hope City Church in Houston, TX, a three-year-old church serving 10,000 attenders each weekend, is going to explore “pop-up” multisite locations in different communities to test the potential of multisite in areas surrounding their existing campuses.

This 3-day experience was packed with insights as the teams ended their time together by presenting their strategic plans to the Walmart Executives for feedback. Leveraging the power of the Accelerator process alongside the experience and expertise of Walmart’s high-capacity leaders proved a powerful catalyst for each team’s multisite vision. And we’re just getting started! Our next gathering for this group will be at the Fiat Chrysler headquarters outside of Detroit this fall.

If your church is looking to leap ahead in your multisite strategy, consider applying for our next Multisite Accelerator at Leadership Network. To schedule a discovery call with me, complete the brief form below. I’d love to connect.

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