This is an article that I used to begin the discussion today during the online coaching seminar at Easum/Bandy on the Reproducing Church.
THE REPRODUCING CHRUCH
When I am traveling, one of the things that my eyes stay open for is a nearby Starbucks. I know I will NEED a GOOD cup of coffee in the morning. And when I go to any Starbucks I know I will GET a GREAT cup of coffee from some very friendly people in a relaxing, clean environment with great music filling the place. I know this because after hundred’s of visits in dozens of cities, I have almost never been disappointed. Starbucks has proven itself as a trusted brand. And that is why you now can find them on what seems like every corner of any given neighborhood.
Whether we like it or not, some similar thought patterns go into how people will or will not choose to attend church in a given community. And sometimes finding those trusted places where the good things of God can be found are not as easy as one might think. The mega church phenomenon proved that a great church draws from a whole region rather just one neighborhood if they become one of those kind of trusted places. The problem is that people will only drive so far and buildings can only grow so big.
That is why the Multi-Site Church revolution and what we are seeing at Community Christian is so exciting. We now clearly see that we are NOT limited to any particular community or region or building size. Our influence and vision for ministry truly has limitless potential. But for us to realize this God-given potential we must reproduce at every level: small groups, celebration services, sites and churches.
Reproducing Small Groups
When five buddies started Community Christian in 1989, we had no idea that ten years later we would be meeting at more than one location. What we did know was that we would emphasize the often talked about and less practiced idea of reproducing through apprentice leaders. This is something that we built into the very first small groups that met well in advance of our first service. We made sure that every small group knew it was expected that it would reproduce and that they way it was done was through developing an apprentice leader.
Reproducing Celebration Services
Reproducing was something we continued to invest in as we moved from one service to two in 1989 within the six months of starting Community Christian. Although we were growing, we didn’t reproduce a second service because we ran out of seats or space. We didn’t wait to react; we took a proactive step believing that if we had the leaders God would send the people. And it is this very reproductive fuel that ignites the reality of 22 weekly celebration services in 2006
The Multi Site Churc is simply an advanced and sophisticated understanding of that same idea. The same idea that motivated us to reproduce small groups caused us to reproduce services (congregations) and when God presented the opportunity, reproduce sites. When we started Community Christian we were just five college kids trying disciple one leader at a time; we didn’t know that in a few short years later we would have 8 locations in Chicagoland.
But the idea doesn’t end there for a church with a reproducing culture. In the last three years we have planted four churches and will launch a fifth next year. This simple idea of reproducing leaders has now evolved into a network of reproducing churches (www.newthing.org).
Benefits of a Reproducing Church
The brand Starbucks is trusted because of its faithful delivery of so many things of value to its customers. Similarly and over time Community Christian has become a trusted place where the good things of God can be experienced. We are so grateful for that just that. What we are discovering is when you take a trusted brand and empower it with the idea of reproducing you have the beginnings of a movement. Over the last few years have experienced many of the benefits of being a reproducing church: we have increased our outreach; involved more Christ-followers; and improved the quality of what we do.
Benefit #1 – Increased Outreach
At Community Christian, we want to reach more and more people. We don’t want to increase our outreach just to get bigger. We believe that each individual person matters to God and when you put all those people together in mass moving at the speed of Gods Spirit you have the makings of a movement. That is what we long to see. As we have coached hundreds of churches, we are seeing over and over again the churches that go to multiple locations dramatically increase their outreach. When Leadership Network surveyed one thousand multi-site churches, the number one reason churches added new sites was “for evangelistic purposes”. The second most frequent answer was “to get closer to their target group”. Churches that go multi-site are on mission with God and see an increase in their outreach.
Benefit #2 – Involved more Christ Followers
The church that reproduced sites will also experience the benefit of getting more people involved in ministry. We saw this benefit in a dramatic way last year when we started our sixth location. It was our second site that sponsored the start of this new site by sending 150 of it’s very best people. At the time those people left 54% of the people at the sponsoring location were both connected into a small group and involved in serving. So when those key people left we were concerned about the effect it would have on the sponsoring site. One year later we have seen the outreach increase from 800 weekly to over 1300 weekly with 74% of the people at both locations connected in a small group and involved in serving others. Wow!
Benefit #3 – Improved Quality
One of the great things that will also happen through reproduction and Multi Site Church is that as time goes on certain efficiencies emerge and sites begin to benchmark against one another in a health way. Every time a new location is launched you re-think how you do children’s ministry, creative arts, small groups and every key part of the ministry. And as you re-examine each ministry, all aspects of the church get polished and refined resulting in quality improvement. On top of that, since certain overhead and personnel items are being shared, costs are lower! We have found that churches can get better as they as they grow bigger and broader.
Geography, demography or building size need no longer be inhibitors. When your church history and tradition says “here” but growth opportunities say “over there”, you now can do both by employing the Multi Site Church strategy. Instead of making either/or choices we can choose the genius of the AND! Churches will find this new way of looking at growth and expansion motivating rather than maddening. And the benefits are there to prove it!