This post first appeared on the Seedbed Blog.
The model of church growth involving multiple campuses has exploded in the past few years. Often times this can be a meaningful way of connecting with new communities and individuals. It has even been shown as an effective way of planting a new church, but how does one know when a campus is ready to become a church?
A Unique Culture
Having a shared sense of culture and DNA is important for churches with multiple campuses but sometimes, mutations happen, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It is not uncommon for individual campuses to develop unique cultures that fit a unique context; this ability to adapt while sharing healthy DNA is what helps to make a ministry effective and grow.
A campus cannot become a church without healthy DNA, but it may be time for a campus to become a church when the healthy DNA of the multi-site campus mutates to the point of making it look completely different from the main campus. The hope is that church health is a shared quality of both communities, but the otherwise the resemblance between the campuses becomes less and less.
Stability & Sustainability
Often times the stability and sustainability of a multi-site campus is provided by the main campus through finances, staffing, facilities, and supplies. This is normal and expected, especially as a new campus gets started. However, when a multi-site campus reaches the point of becoming self-sustaining, it may be time for this campus to become a church. If the effective ministry of a multi-site campus is not sustainable without the resources of the main campus, it should not become a church.
But sustainability and stability are slightly different. Sustainability is about being able to maintain a certain level of effectiveness and engagement in ministry. Stability is one of the fruits of healthy DNA. The finances of the campus are stable. The staff of the campus are stable. The volunteer leadership of the campus is stable. Without stability, sustainability becomes a challenge and suggests that a campus is not ready to become a church.
Health & Effectiveness
Perhaps the primary indicator of whether a campus is ready to become a church is the overall health and effectiveness of its ministry. Is it reaching new people? Is it growing in attendance? Is its ministry of the word and sacrament transforming lives? The ability of a campus to connect with its community is evidence not only of its stability but also its unique culture which fits the specific context of its local community. If a campus is not healthy or effective, it most definitely should not become a church. It would be far better for an unhealthy campus to regain health before ever considering becoming a separate church. Plenty of unhealthy churches exist already.
There is much prayer, discernment, conversation, and planning that must precede a campus becoming a church. This is a process the Holy Spirit should initiate and guide as leadership from both the main campus and the multi-site campus are engaged in this journey together. If both sites do not agree, perhaps a church is not ready to be born.
Has your church or campus experienced this or currently thinking about starting this journey? What have you learned from your experience? What questions do you have as you pray about this potential change for your church or campus?