Before I talk about an advantage of multi-site over church planting I want to say again that I’m all for church planting!  In the last few years we have started our own NewThing Network which is all about church planting and creating a movement of reproducing churches.   However, we have discovered that within a close geographical distance there are some very real advantages to the multi-site strategy over church planting.  Take a look at the following table and read about just one of those advantages.

1st Service

Average at   1st Quarter

Retention Rate

CCC Church Plant

465

180

39%

CCC South Campus

552

360

65% (+26%)

CCC West Campus

606

350

58% (+19%)

When we started Community Christian Church in 1989, we had a big first Sunday with 465 attendees.  We were thrilled!  Then, like any church plant who uses a lot of marketing, we began to freefall for the next four to eight weeks.  The good news was that four out of every five people that were a part of CCC were previously unchurched.  The fact that we were reaching that percentage of unchurched was awesome!  But the tough news was three months later our attendance leveled off at 180.  That told us a retention rate of only 39%.                                                                        

Now notice eight-years later when we went multi-site.  The first Sunday at our new South Campus was another thrilling day with the majority of the 552 people being unchurched.  However, the fall after the first weekend was much less; we leveled off at 360, a 65% retention rate.  This was a 26% increase in our retention rate and significantly better than our launch as a church plant.  We found it wasn’t a fluke when we started our West Campus. On the first weekend at our West Campus we had 606 people attend, and the average attendance leveled off at 350 for a 58% retention rate.         

When we discussed our plans to go multi-site with consultant and friend, Lyle Schaller, he said, “The most important thing that you offer this new work is the Community Christian Church culture.”  At first, I was not sure what he was talking about.  In retrospect, I think Schaller was referring to two different aspects of our church culture: high expectations and quality experiences. In the eight years between starting a church and adding new campuses, we developed an culture of high expectations and quality experiences.  So when we started these new locations, the first time attendee came on opening day to a place with high expectations and a church that understood how to create quality experiences.  The bottom line: a new site within close geographical proximity can offer a higher level of quality than a new church, thereby retaining a much higher percentage of new attendees.

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