So it’s been a while since there’s been an update here on patricktrawick.com. I promise it’s not because I’ve been lazy or because I’ve lost interest in the website. In all honesty, work with Biltmore Church and with Rockbridge Seminary has been at fever pitch since January. Not to mention the busyness that comes with having two young boys and a wife! There’s no way to cover everything that’s been happening in each of these areas, so instead I’ll share some insights I’ve gained with research I’ve been doing for seminary.
As many of you know, I’m currently pursuing a doctorate in ministry from Rockbridge Seminary. In December, I finished coursework and was approved to begin the final phase of the degree. So, during January, February, and March, I’ve been doing research with multisite churches (the topic of my dissertation) in preparation for writing my dissertation. The things I’m finding in this research are really good. So, if you’re a seminary nerd or multisite nerd like me, here’s just a few things that I’m learning:
1. Big Churches Have Small Campuses.
Most of the multisite churches I’ve researched have a total weekly attendance average of 5,000 or more and have at least four campuses. And while many of the campuses at these churches have well over 1,000 in weekly attendance, all of them have at least one campus who’s weekly attendance averages 400 or less. Simply stated, big churches have smaller campuses too.
2. There’s No Definitive Answer to the Portable vs Permanent Question.
A big question in the multisite ministry world is, “Should a church launch a new campus at a permanent site or use portable equipment in a rented facility until it’s more established?” I honestly thought there would be a more definitive answer among the churches I’m researching. However, when I asked the question, “Do you prefer to launch in a portable or permanent church setting?” the answers have been all over the map. Some answered, “Always permanent, never portable.” Others adamantly answered, “Always portable, never permanent.” And there some who simply answered, “We don’t really have a preference one way or the other. It depends on what is available at the time.” So, at this point in my research there doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer to the portable church vs permanent church setting when it comes to launching a new church campus.
3. Communication is Key for a Successful Multisite Church Strategy.
An entire section of my research has been dedicated to the issues of communication between campuses. Furthermore, when I asked the open-ended question “What is your greatest challenge in doing multi-site ministry?” many churches answered, “Communication.” In regards to successful communication, here’s what I’ve discovered so far:
- Meet Face-to-Face. Churches that seem to be doing multisite ministry well meet face-to-face as often as possible. Even when distance prevents a physical face-to-face meeting, churches are using video conferencing to make sure the face-to-face meetings can still happen on a weekly basis.
- Phone Calls Over Emails & Texts. There is a consensus among the churches I’m researching that things can get lost in emails and text messages. Oftentimes intent can’t be translated well in those means of communication. Therefore, if communication happens outside of the face-to-face meetings, phone calls are preferred over other forms of communication.
- Over-Communicate Often. If something is going to be successfully disseminated throughout many campuses of one church, it must be over-communicated often. It seems as though when a senior pastor or senior leadership is getting tired of communicating something, it’s just beginning to sink in with lower-level staff. And when the staff is getting tired of communicating something, it’s just beginning to sink in with key volunteers. When key-volunteers are getting tired of communicating something, it’s just beginning to sink in with attenders. See the pattern? If something is worth communicating, churches need to over-communicate it. Often.