Mega-Churches, Multi-Site Churches, and the Smaller Church: Multiplying Kingdom Ministry Together
I’m an elder at a “smaller” church of 75-to-100 people—Cornerstone Community Church in Hobart, Indiana. It is from my perspective as a leader in a smaller church that I share a few thoughts about the multi-site church model.
What’s a multi-site church? Geoff Surratt and his co-authors in The Multi-Site Church Revolution: Being One Church in Many Locations, introduce the concept like this:
“Fueled by a desire to reach people for Christ, a revolution is underway. Churches are growing beyond the limitations of a single service in one building. Expanding the traditional model, they are embracing the concept of one church with more than one site: multiple congregations sharing a common vision, budget, leadership, and board.”
First, I Appreciate the Kingdom Vision of the Mega-Church Multi-Site Model
I’m thankful for the missional passion and kingdom vision of the multi-site movement.I have no theological issue with the multi-site model. I understand how a multi-site approach can be a wise use of resources—financial and people—and thus good biblical stewardship of gifts and treasures.
I served on a mega-church staff for nearly a decade in several roles, including Counseling and Discipleship Pastor. I loved my ministry at that church of 4,000.
I now serve as the Executive Director of the Biblical Counseling Coalition which includes some pastors of mega-churches with a multi-site vision. These churches have been incredibly generous to the BCC in terms of time, financial support, and personnel help. I appreciate them greatly.
Thus, I am not writing because I have an issue with the concept of mega-churches or multi-site churches. Nor have I or the church where I now serve been “burned” by a mega-church/multi-site church.
So, why would a “smaller church elder” address mega-churches and multi-site vision? Because most of the folks addressing it now are mega-church leaders. I’d like to start a conversation that perhaps would provide the mega-church leader looking at multi-site ministry with a bit of a different kingdom perspective.
The Mega-Church, the Multi-Site Model, and the Smaller Church: An Additional Way to Advance the Kingdom
In addition to the typical multi-site model, are there some un-thought-of ways for mega-churches that want to advance the kingdom in their community to partner with smaller churches.
Whenever I’ve read about the multi-site model, I hear phrases like, “a kingdom vision,” or “our vision to advance the kingdom in our community and beyond.” Great phrases that depict how the multi-site model seeks to advance Christ’s cause.
I propose that there are additional ways that a mega-church can advance the kingdom in partnership with smaller churches in their community. What would happen if a mega-church pastor with a kingdom vision sat down with the pastor of a smaller church and said something like this?
“I’m not wanting to imply that you or your church needs help or that our church is the great ‘savior,’ but I’m wondering if you would want to have a conversation about how our church might be a blessing to you and your congregation…”
I’d like to suggest two categories of partnership that could come out of such a conversation.
Mega-Church/Smaller Church Partnership 1: Offering to Assist in Resourcing the Smaller Congregation
Many smaller churches are solo pastor churches. No matter how gifted or energized, no one pastor can do it all, has every gift, or has been trained in every ministry area.
So, what if a larger church “loaned” one day a week, or one evening a week one of their pastors, staff members, or lay leaders who could focus on an area of equipping?
Perhaps it could involve:
• Loaning an Executive Pastor to assist with policy and procedures.
• Loaning an accountant/business staff person to assist with putting financial systems in place.
• Loaning a Counseling/Discipleship Pastor to help in launching a biblical counseling ministry by equipping lay counselors.
• Loaning a children’s church leader to assist with developing the children’s church ministry (or AWANAs, etc.) and equipping children’s church ministers.
• Loaning a youth leader to assist in developing/equipping a youth ministry/lay youth leaders.
• Loaning a Christian Education leader to assist in developing a Sunday School ministry.
• Loaning a Small Group Pastor to assist in developing a small group ministry.
• Loaning an Outreach Pastor to assist in equipping the congregation in missional ministry and evangelistic outreach.
• Loaning a worship leader to equip the worship team, or to assist the church in a special Christmas Eve or Good Friday or Easter praise service.
The options are endless.
Someone might push back, “But the people of our (mega) church are sacrificing funds to pay staff members who are ministering to other churches.”
Yes, an idea like this would require the mega-church pastor to help his people to develop a kingdom vision. In this type of kingdom vision the larger church partners with the smaller church to advance the ministry in the community through the smaller church that remains autonomous.
The mega-church pastor could also say to his congregation, “Our current stewardship and giving goes to many areas beyond our church—such as foreign missions. We are recommending a new line-item in our budget for local missions—helping other like-minded churches to advance the kingdom in our community.”
Folks in the smaller church also might push back with, “Are they going to take us over?” The pastor of the smaller church would need to help his people develop a kingdom vision where the goal would not be for the smaller church to grow dependent upon the larger church. The goal, as with any equipping, would be to empower the leadership of the smaller church so they are equipping equippers who can equip others also—the 2 Timothy 2:2 principle at work across churches.
Mega-Church/Smaller Church Partnership 2: Offering to Assist in Stewardship Needs
All of the same principles could apply with regards to financial assistance. Larger churches with a kingdom vision for their community could create line-items in their budget to assist smaller churches in their area.
Perhaps it could be:
• A one-time project to assist the church to launch a state-of-the-art church website, with the IT/Tech leader at the larger church assisting.
• A one-time project to assist the church to purchase a quality church sign.
• A one-time project to help the church purchase materials for the launch of a new ministry—like evangelism, or small groups, or biblical counseling, etc.
• A one-time project like funding the repair of a parking lot, or a roof, or purchasing a copier.
• A one-time offering to fund the smaller church to host an outside speaker to provide a seminar that ministers to the church and the community.
• A multi-year project with decreasing funds each year to allow the smaller church to hire a secretary, or a worship minister, or a part-time youth leader. The idea would be for the church to grow enough to then be able to self-support that position over time.
• A multi-year project with decreasing funds each year to allow a bi-vocational pastor to begin to invest full-time in pastoral ministry for the smaller church. Again, with the goal that the church grows enough that they could be self-supporting of the pastor over time.
Again, the options are endless.
Just as churches support the growth of indigenous churches across the world—so that they can eventually become self-supporting and independent—why couldn’t large churches do that in their own community?
What is the smaller church contributing in this partnership? The same thing the church plant on the mission field is contributing—extending the work of Christ through the Body of Christ.
What’s ‘in it’ for the larger church? The joy of seeing Christ’s work advanced. The joy of seeing their kingdom vision advanced in their community. The joy of teaching their people about sacrificial ministry in the wider Body of Christ.
There could be push back from the lead pastor of the mega-church. “You want me to advance the ministry of the competition?” That would not be verbalized, but it may be thought. We change that kind of thinking with a biblical vision of God whose resources are infinite, not finite, and whose character is that of a Rewarder, not a Hoarder. Such changed thinking would involve the larger church leaders broadening the definition of “advancing Christ’s kingdom in the community” to include advancing Christ’s work through empowering smaller congregations in the area.
There could also be some push back from the solo pastor of the smaller church. “Accepting assistance like this means acknowledging that I/we can’t do it on our own, and we need help.” Yes, that’s correct. Any lack of cooperation and partnership between larger and smaller churches may at times be due to a lack of humility on our part as smaller church leaders. A candid attitude of humility and acceptance of assistance would be required in this model of partnership.
Through the Eyes of a Smaller Church Leader
So, these are my initial ponderings about the mega-church kingdom vision from the perspective of the smaller church leader.
I’m not saying, “Don’t do multi-site ministry.”
I am saying, “Perhaps in addition to multi-site ministry, the mega-church can look at their community outreach through the eyes of the smaller Evangelical churches in the community.”
I am saying that, “Perhaps there are many creative ways to advance the kingdom in the surrounding community that show great respect for and support of the work God is doing in and through the smaller churches in the community.”
The Rest of the Story
In the next post in this blog mini-series on mega-churches, the multi-site model, and smaller churches, I’ll share some thoughts about the actual launch of a multi-site church and how the larger church might work cooperatively with smaller churches in the community.
Join the Conversation
How can the mega-church with a multi-site vision for kingdom ministry cooperatively support, empower, and partner with like-minded smaller churches in the community?
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