Posts Tagged Outreach
By Allen White
Multisite churches have multiplied ministries and reached the lost very effectively over the past decade in the US. What started as a desperate need for expansion at Seacoast Church’s Mt. Pleasant, SC campus and the subsequent denial by their city council to let them expand led to the launch of a new model that duplicated services across counties, states and eventually countries in the case of churches like Saddleback. The fix to a zoning problem became a launch pad for evangelism. Now, for the next wave.
A while back on a coaching visit to Seacoast Church, Josh Surratt mentioned to me that a family from their church had moved to the state of Maine and had 40 people meeting in their living room every Sunday watching the Seacoast service online. I said to Josh, “Maybe it’s time to redefine what a campus is.”
Prior to this, a multisite campus had always been a designated building, either rented or owned, some distance from the main/broadcast/original campus that provided a pastoral staff, worship, children’s ministry and other things associated with a church. Now there’s an opportunity for a new model that requires less overhead and could be put in any situation in a town of any size anywhere in the world.
While many churches will reach into the suburbs or into other metropolitan areas, few churches are reaching into small places. I don’t think it’s on the radar to plant a multisite campus in Possum Kingdom, South Carolina, the hometown of Bo and Bear from the band Needtobreathe. If you’re not familiar with Possum Kingdom, it’s right next to Honea Path. There are a lot of towns that no one’s ever heard of before and some of them have very strange names but every town has a group of people who could make up a microsite church.
Now some would object and say, “Doesn’t every small town have some sort of a small church already?” and the answer is yes. The problem is that we live in a national culture. We watch the same television programs and listen to the same music whether we live in New York City or in Podunk Holler, Arkansas. Small churches in small towns cannot compete with what the culture has to offer. It’s just hard to get people’s attention. There are churches, however, that have proven to develop effective ministries in our culture that have a broad reach. By bringing a microsite campus into a small town, you can bring in the quality and effectiveness of a large church ministry and package it for a living room. You could reach not just thousands of people in a metropolitan area but dozens to hundreds of people in a small town. If you do the math, there are more people in small towns than there are in large cities.
The idea of Microsite Churches is seminal at this point. A few churches are beginning to pilot this model or are considering a pilot. Let’s think about the keys to a worship service: you need music of some sort which can be prerecorded on video with subtitles and offered in a living room either through a download or DVD. You need teaching. Teaching on video is very common. I worship at a very large multi-site church and the teaching is by video. I’m at a multisite campus I have only ever met the senior pastor one time, but the video teaching makes you feel like you’re really there. The fact is when churches have the pastors on a screen, people will watch the screen even if the pastor is teaching live in the room.
There are a lot of things to think through: giving, childcare, counseling, marriage ceremonies, etc. But, let’s start with these few paragraphs and discuss what might be next. What do you like? What do you not like? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
There are good reasons and bad reasons to close your small group. One good reason to close your group is when a study becomes intensely personal. As your group is working through difficult issues in the lives of its members, it would be pretty awkward to add a new member. Once the issue is worked through, then it would be time to open your group again.
Your group could also be in a situation where a member of your group is facing a crisis. Rather than focus the group’s attention on welcoming new members, for a season, the group needs to focus on caring for the member in need.
Then, there are some wrong reasons to close your group. For instance, the group is happy with the members they have and they really don’t want any new people to spoil the party. The group’s motto is “We seven going to Heaven” or “Us four and no more.” The group may go on for a while, but the problem comes when a few members can’t meet any more. As the group begins to decline in members, it becomes increasingly difficult to add new members, because the group has been so close-knit and tight for so long.
Another wrong reason to close the group is fear that once a group reaches a certain number, the group will be asked to start a new group. Everybody’s happy together. Nobody wants to leave. The thought is just to close the group to new members and avoid the problem. Unfortunately, the group will begin to encounter some of the problems mentioned in the last paragraph. When I arrived at Brookwood Church almost three years ago, I made a promise: I WILL NEVER ASK A GROUP TO DIVIDE. I have kept that promise. We’ve recruited new hosts to start new groups. I’ve given strategies of sub-grouping to increase the level of participation in a larger group. But, I have never asked a group to divide. So, open up the doors. Let the new ones come in! When it gets to be a problem, let’s talk about it.
Closed groups can easily become sort of a cul-de-sac. They are receiving, but not giving. Just as the Dead Sea in Israel has no outlet and continues to build up mineral deposits, groups can calcify and become not just stagnant, but also rigid. One solution to this is for the group to serve together. Whether you take meals to the Frazee Dream Center or paint walls at Generations Group Home or collect items for Little Steps, your group has an outlet for ministry.
One of the worst things that can happen to a group is that the group just becomes all about itself. The group loses its edge. Everyone becomes more understanding of each others’ behavior and less likely to confront bad behavior. It’s easy to slip into complacency. A continued inward focus is not healthy for any believer or any group.
There are some good reasons to close your group for a season. There are also some good reasons to open your group:
1. You have the opportunity to help people connect who might otherwise be lost in the crowd on Sunday. People with friends in the church are the most likely to stay. Those who don’t know anybody are much more likely to leave.
2. An Open Group has the opportunity to reach people for Christ. While your group doesn’t need to hand out tracts on the street corner, your group can model Christ for someone who is searching. Eventually they might cross the line of faith.
3. Open Groups make us more Christ-like. I’m not saying that Closed Groups are ungodly. There are good reasons to be closed. Open Groups, at times, can make us uncomfortable. It takes extra effort to welcome new people and to help them fit in with the group. Open Groups force us to be a little more selfless. It’s not about what we like and who we like, it’s about God using the group to minister to others.
Open or Closed really depends on where your group is at and what you’re called to accomplish. Think about these reasons and pray about what your group should do next.