Look Before You Grow, Part III: From Single-Campus to Multi-Site


If you have never thought of your church as a complex organization, adding a satellite campus will convince you.

And complexity multiplies with each campus a church adds. The same needs that exist in the parent church will exist in the satellite: visionary leadership, effective organization, and adequate resources (including technology).

The major step most growing churches take—buying or building their own facility—will be discussed in the Look Before You Grow e-book. Part I of this series laid out principles for managing church growth. Part II looked at guiding a fellowship to its first rented space.

The pastor’s role is indispensable

Max De Pree said, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, a leader is a servant and a debtor.”

For pastors, defining reality includes describing both current problems and possible solutions. Effective leaders describe a desirable future and then help the people work to bring it about.

What’s the reality of your current situation at your church? Can you envision ways to improve it? Are there alternatives to adding a satellite campus (e.g., reworking the schedule to allow more efficient use of your existing building and resources)?

Why launch a satellite?

I’m tempted to say, “If you’re outta space, think satellite!” (Sorry for that one.)

Here is a fundamental question to consider: Is the addition of a campus being driven by necessity (i.e., you’re outgrowing your current facility), or is it an intentional part of your church’s mission? All other things being equal, the more integral growth is to your church’s ongoing mission, the more likely growth will continue.

If your church is consistently operating at capacity, gaining space is probably the most obvious benefit to launching a satellite. The building need not be completely maxed out before the church adds a campus, but the planting church should be solid, stable, and growing before attempting to add a site.

But planting a daughter church can do more than give you more room. It can

  • Extend your presence into another community
  • Add opportunities to grow new leaders (at both campuses)
  • Recruit new workers
  • Build unity and enthusiasm in the body
  • Affirm the body’s steps of faith
  • Celebrate successes

How to know if your church is ready

Adding a campus will likely be more difficult than you might expect—unless you go in expecting it to be difficult. The words of church planting expert Steve Pike bear repeating: “At least ninety percent of problems that occur in multiplication efforts can be traced back to unclarified expectations and assumptions.” If your church is considering adding a campus, your leaders should invest plenty of time and prayer into clarifying your expectations and assumptions.

Your church may be ready to launch a satellite campus if:

  • You are consistently at 80% capacity or more in your current facilities.
  • A desire to grow is part of your church’s character.
  • You know that the satellite campus will meet an identifiable need in the new community.
  • You have qualified, trained leaders in place.
  • You have a core of dedicated men and women who will “seed” the church plant.
  • You have the necessary financial foundation; the parent church is willing and able to take on the financing of the satellite until it becomes self-sustaining.

Many challenges, even more opportunities

As they shepherd their congregations through the challenge of adding a campus, leaders will find endless opportunities to define reality, to serve, and to say thank you—to the people, and to the Lord.

Up next: Reviving growth in the plateaued church.