A couple of years ago, ministry leaders at Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Liberty, began to notice how many members were driving from an area near Kansas City International Airport, a nearly 30- minute drive.
Knowing that most people not already connected to the church do not like to drive that far to worship prompted leaders to consider options for reaching the area. The congregation chose to begin a second campus.
“We wanted to create a network to help people reach their friends and relatives who would not drive out,” said Stephen Boster, minister of the airport-area campus.
“Our vision is to connect people with God and others … to unleash the transforming influence of Jesus in the Northland,” Boster said. “It was an opportunity for us to move into a missional mindset … to bring the church out into the community.”
Developed several years ago, the multisite church model still is being used today, especially in urban areas, according to Glenn Akins, Baptist General Association of Virginia associate executive director. Among his responsibilities is assisting with new worship communities, including multisites.
Churches begin a campus in another area for several reasons. Some target a specific geographical area to reach a particular people group or to serve members who live in that area. “Some churches have figured out that they can reach a certain people group well and reach those in other sections of their city,” Akins said.
Bon Air Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., where Akins is a member, has four campuses. Its Buford Road campus is the original church. The church de-veloped a recovery community that is recognized as a leading national model.
“It’s a testimony to the church at large to allow it to mature and grow and to be contextualized,” Akins said.
Bon Air started another site that targets people within a five-mile radius and who use the nearby bypass to get to their offices. Otherwise, most don’t like to drive out of their area. The group meets in a local high school and has become an “area” church, he said.
A fourth site grew out of a previous ministry to a mobile home park. A group of about 10 to 15 Hispanics met in a Sunday school room at the Buford Road site. The church decided to try to combine the two, which now meets in a storefront.
The site offers two worship services, one in Spanish and one in English, with two site pastors, one Hispanic and one Anglo.
Many churches choose to use the multisite approach, rather than the mission/new congregation model, for cost effectiveness and the “synergy of resources that the satellite has access to,” Akins said. And “it builds on a recognized brand.”
A multisite church shares resources—financial, management and personnel—“so each doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Boster said. “We are networked for stewardship of resources, not only for money, curriculum and other resources, but also for ideas and best practices.”
But each site must contextualize resources to meet the needs of its individual congregation. Multisite churches utilize the senior pastor’s sermons on big screen either in delayed broadcast or on DVD. Each individual campus may have a site pastor to oversee administration and take care of pastoral responsibilities.
Although a mission or new congregation is formed to eventually become an independent church, most multisites are not.
“Most multisites remain together because of their shared DNA,” Akins explained. “They are so integrated, so woven together, there is no obvious way to cut them. ... There is an intentional interdependency on subsets.”
Akins believes most sites would not wish to be independent because of the cohesion they share. “Why would a McDonald’s franchise want to be independent? Why would a branch want to be independent of Bank of America?” he asked.
While most sites reach a people group or geographic area, governance often is the last issue churches address. Akins pointed out that most business franchises are governed by a document that spells out financial arrangements and other relationships. Every contingency is addressed.
“I haven’t seen one for multisites yet,” Akins said. “There are pieces in place but no document.”
Churches such as Bon Air and Pleasant Valley keep God’s call and purpose in mind and work through issues as they arise.
Pleasant Valley’s airport-area campus is only 15 months old, but leaders believe it has affected both congregations in expanding ministry, growing new leaders, people responding to Christ and be-lievers deepening their relationship with God, Boster said.
“There is no doubt that it is a God-given opportunity for us,” he said.
Church leaders feel God is leading them to expand the concept. “Our goal is to have more churches in the communities. We have a vision for another, but we are bathing it in prayer first,” he added.
Multisite work can be “complex and messy,” Akins acknowledged. “But we’re far more concerned about reaching people and transforming lives.”