by Bethany Plumb

After taking a look at some of the challenges of multi-site church planting, and then the benefits of a multi-site over a megachurch, it’s time we get down to brass tacks on the subject. So, what exactly does it mean to be a multi-site church? What are the major differences—besides multiple locations—between a multi-site and other churches?

Multi-site expert Jackie Vance, from Harbor Church in San Diego, talked with me about the defining characteristics of a multi-site church and how they uniquely operate.

First, she said that some aspects of multi-site church plants remain centralized and shared between each site, such as:

  • One elder board or ruling body is typically in authority over all the plants.
  • There is one membership roll for the entire church, one federal ID number, and one insurance policy.
  • While each site has a separate budget, all are consolidated within the same accounting database.
  • Human resources matters are all handled at the centralized level.
  • Each site has the same mission and values.
  • Some services are joint, especially on holidays and other special occasions.
  • Typically, mercy ministries are shared across the church plants. For Harbor, their ministry to provide safe housing for victims of sex trafficking—Generate Hope—is church-wide.
  • Harbor’s model also allows for 10 percent of each site’s offerings to go to the church plant center in support of church-wide projects, ministries, and activities.

Side note here: A church planting center is responsible for recruiting and hiring, coaching the planters, and leading the church planting movement.

Then, of course, there are elements that are decentralized and specific to each site:

  • Ministry team leaders are decentralized, with their own strategies and tactics.
  • Each site has its own directory, ministry teams (and how they’re mobilized), Sunday-morning operations, volunteers, staff, etc…
  • Each site is contextualized for its community (why Sunday mornings look different between the plants). They each have something uniquely “them” with the overall theme of preaching the gospel.

Do you have other questions about the specifics of multi-site church planting? We’re happy to provide you with answers or put you in touch with the experts.

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