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Monday, March 20, 2006

Multi-Site Mergers... Are They In Your Future?

Merger_1 I'm starting to see a small trend inside a trend.  While the multi-site church model is gaining steam, it seems that there are more and more church mergers within the multi-site movement.  This is now happening more and more.

Here's how it works... a strong, growing church parters with a smaller, struggling church.  They decide to join forces for the Kingdom to allow future growth for the stronger church and allow the smaller church to survive.

In other cases (like the one below), two vibrant growing churches are partnering together and merging.  The Chapel in Illinois is merging with one healthy church; and buying the facilities of two older churches.  This from the Grayslake Review...

What began with 20 people meeting in a Grayslake warehouse 12 years ago for a contemporary church services at The Chapel has now transformed into an organization that draws a total of 4,000 people for three services each weekend.

The Chapel, a contemporary non-denominational church with a 1,000 seat auditorium, continues to grow. But instead of adding on to their Grayslake site, they are merging with churches in other communities.

The Chapel is uniting with the Hawthorn Hills Community Church, 1200 American Way in Libertyville. The Chapel is also purchasing the land and buildings formerly belonging to Faith Lutheran Church in Mundelein and Life Changers International Church in Barrington Hills.

The Chapel will become one church with many front doors, said Senior Pastor Scott Chapman.

"We will have multiple campuses of a growing and relatable size," he explained. "It is an opportunity for us to do things together that we couldn't do separately."

Specifically, he said the churches could work together to address social issues such as eradicating hunger in local communities, ministering to inmates and helping single moms.

The uniting with other churches, called Launch Day, will officially take place on August 27.

Each campus will be named The Chapel, followed by the name of the town, such as The Chapel, Grayslake Campus or The Chapel, Libertyville Campus.

Roger Schweigert, founder and senior pastor of the Hawthorn Hills Community Church, said that he has is excited about the prospect merging with The Chapel.

"We are two healthy, vibrant, growing churches," Schweigert said. "By merging, we can maximize on the strengths of both churches. I really believe that this is a direction in which God wants us to go."

Services will be held at the multiple campuses with live worship at each location. The services will share live video lessons on 20 foot tall high-definition screens.

Senior Pastor Jeff Griffin said that having multiple sites will allow the church to feel smaller, not bigger.

"It will be a true neighborhood church," he said. "It will offer the ministry excellence of a large church with the intimacy of a small church."

By using multiple sites, officials at The Chapel say they can expand their reach and maintain smaller church congregations for a cost of approximately $9 million.

Members to the Chapel currently come from diverse communities including Grayslake, Gurnee, Libertyville, Mundelein, Lake Zurich, Antioch, Waukegan and Spring Grove.

"This will be a moment of transformation in the church, focusing on Christianity where faith and action are not separate," Chapman said. "It's been an amazing, God led process."

Whether you are a fan of the multi-site model of ministry or not, it is coming to a church near you in the very near future.  How will you respond?

FOR DISCUSSION:  How will this trend  flesh out in your community?  Is your church multi-site?  Are there other churches in your surrounding area that you could partner with?  If you're a small, struggling congregation, would you ever discuss partnering with another church and becoming a multi-site?

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March 20, 2006 in Multi-Site Churches | Permalink

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We're a small town (that happens to have one pretty big church in it--ours) and I don't see this "model" working here, although the possibilities intrigue me, I must say.

However, here's something we've done once or twice in the past, and are trying to do regularly going forward. We have the only really fleshed-out contemporary music program in our community. I've had a church ask us to send a worship team to their church some weekend to "show them how it's done" and maybe bring some of their members along in the process. That's exciting! They're real small and don't the same resources we do, but maybe they're more capable than they think and just need some encouragement.

If that was successful, would it mean that we might stop growing as fast as we have? (increase of attendance averages 100 each year for 10 years and no one else in this area seems to be really growing at all.) Well, if we didn't grow as fast because somebody else WAS would that be so bad?

I wonder what it's going to take for churches across this land to realize that we are all partners in ministry, working together, even when we don't know each other. Perhaps "merging" together is one way to accomplish that.

Posted by: Peter Hamm | Mar 20, 2006 9:14:41 AM

I think it is going to take people removing the focus from the numbers and the belief that they are the only ones with it really right, and focus on the mission to transform our world.

Wasn't there a joke article a few weeks ago about franchising?

Posted by: eric | Mar 20, 2006 9:56:19 AM

As pastor of a somewhat small and somewhat struggling church, I would really wrestle with this issue. Ed Young Jr.'s church approached my friend's church with an offer like this while they were between pastors, and they turned Ed down. In our case, due to changing demographics in our 'hood, there might be something to gain by it. If they paid off our mortgage debt (which is what was offered to my friend's church), that would free up funds to do so much more community/outreach ministry than we have been able to--but I don't know that Ed's style of worship services (and preaching) would be well received by a good chunk of the congregation. But then, the demographic here is probably not their target group.

As someone who's not real thrilled with the multi-site movement, an offer to become more effective outside our building in exchange for less effectiveness inside our building--that is what our tradeoff would be. The answer seems obvious.

Posted by: bishopdave | Mar 20, 2006 10:11:25 AM

As SBC we do have a multi site church it is called the local association and the state association. When local churches begin to work together and have a kingdom focus, the gospel message is spread and many are won to the kingdom. Let's face it, we are in a war, and the more that we mobilize our troops (churches) the more ground that we will take back from the enemy. May there be more people in Heaven than in Hell due to work that God has called us to do.

Posted by: Allen | Mar 20, 2006 10:11:56 AM

I have just recently become the lead pastor in a small church near the Chapel. I've met with Scott and respect his vision for the area and am eager to join in. When I first read about their plan, I had a more negative reaction...thinking...Hey, give me a chance, I'm new here.

But that was a pretty "fleshy" response. As I have processed it more, I am grateful for the reinforcements that will arrive soon.

Another thought I have...what would it look like for large churches like the Chapel to pull up alongside churches like ours -- new leadership, vision for growth, but slightly "under-resourced". Could they determine if a smaller church is a good investment and then invest that way instead of franchising? The investment would be more of a "grant" and would require some accountability, but the eldership would remain in the local community as would the primary preacher.

Just a thought...

Posted by: matt furr | Mar 20, 2006 10:56:20 AM

I think more unity in the Body is always a good thing.

Posted by: Nora Beerline | Mar 20, 2006 11:02:43 AM

**How will this trend flesh out in your community?

I could see it work if the 'network' of churches were spread across a wide geographical area. I see the multi-site as a way to tap areas the church currently isn't in as opposed to additional pew seat spaces.

**Is your church multi-site?

The church I just left was (two locations) and the church I joined is tiny (50-60 adults) and isn't :)

**Are there other churches in your surrounding area that you could partner with?

I've spoken to a dozen or so churches which all share similar doctrine, all of which could partner together for their combined benefit, but I've seen nothing that would indicate any would be willing.

**If you're a small, struggling congregation, would you ever discuss partnering with another church and becoming a multi-site?

I think the best quote I heard when I discussed this topic with my friend on our future church is "I'm a shepard, not a governer". Must admit, that was succinct and put the discussion to rest in my mind. (I'm somewhat of a megalomanic, but that was of myself and not seeking God first. Whatever God brings us to shepard, that is what we'll shepard, even if we or I must be co-vocational in order for the local church to thrive).

Posted by: Paul Davis | Mar 20, 2006 11:51:16 AM

Peter, I love your question: "Well, if we didn't grow as fast because somebody else WAS would that be so bad?" I hope we all enthusiastically reply, "NO!" You seem to have a kingdom mindset, praise God!

I must be getting conservative in my old age (42!), because I just had the thought, "I'd like to watch to see how this trend plays out." Not very innovative thinking, is it?! (Mine, that is.)

I'd like to see churches do whatever it takes to partner together to build the kingdom of God.

Posted by: Randy Ehle | Mar 20, 2006 2:49:05 PM


No one has taken up your thought for discussion, so I will. I think you both approachs are beneficial. I think of churches in the 'hood, that a white pastor could never reach, but has financial difficulty. Or, the small church that has a leadership problem--how about short term missionary leaders from the large church or mentoring by the senior leadership of the large church.

I don't know that assimilating smaller churches into satellite sites is necessarily a good thing. I believe the church should grow, but there are things a small church can do that a large church cannot. The problem is that the small church often tries to "compete" with or be like the large church instead of being themselves.

Posted by: eric | Mar 20, 2006 4:52:29 PM


I resonate with your last sentence. When I heard about the Chapel, my "flesh" immediately began to question my vision, which is similar, but still different than the Chapel's. I thought I should go more like they are so that I can grow like that, too. Not saying those are the right thoughts, but they are human ones for me. Having them move into our neighborhood has challenged our vision and the unique culture I think God is crafting in our smaller (at this point) church. I believe we will reach more people than we are...but only in obedient response to God's leadership.

Anytime the vision is challenged, it's a great time to refine it and own it a little more. This coming reality has done that for me.

And thursday, I'm having breakfast with the campus pastor who will be moving in down the road to see what life together will look like...I'm excited about that.

Posted by: matt furr | Mar 20, 2006 10:47:10 PM

Randy wrote "I must be getting conservative in my old age (42!)..."

HEY! Don't you start telling me 42 is old! (Yes... I am also 42...)

Posted by: Peter Hamm | Mar 21, 2006 7:15:10 AM

Man, you guys are old!

What are you even doing here?


(BTW, I'm ONLY 41!)


Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Mar 21, 2006 9:08:06 AM

Boys, Please stay on the topic at hand. :-)

Todd: Favor pls? There are some individuals who, in regards to multi-sites, "would like to have links to learn a little more." Thanks.

Posted by: Camey | Mar 21, 2006 9:41:03 AM

Thanks Camey for getting us back on topic. :)

Actually, you can click the 'multi-site church' category link on the right side of this blog to see all the articles and resources we've done on the multi-site movement. We've actually done quite a bit; and I think it's a good primer for the beginner.


Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Mar 21, 2006 10:09:16 AM

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