Many Churches, One Location

One of the trends in churches the past few years has been going multi-site.  This means that one church would have several locations, usually video venues.  What normally happens is that the preacher is recorded in one location in the Saturday night worship service, then that video is played during the sermon portion of the service on Sunday morning at the other locations.  Or sometimes the preacher’s message is fed to the other locations live via satellite.  The worship music and everything else is live, and each site has a campus pastor.  One common slogan for multi-site churches is “One Church, Many Locations.”

In today’s economy, I think we’re starting to see this trend inverted.  Now we’re having Many Churches, One Location.  Even with the drop in real estate prices, it’s still beyond the reach of many new or small churches to buy or even lease a building.  One solution?  For churches with buildings to share their building with other congregations.

This is actually a lot simpler and a lot more obvious than it might first appear.  While Sunday morning at 11:00 has for many decades been known as the “traditional church hour,” churches today meet for worship at a variety of times and even days.  This makes it easier for churches to share their buildings.

One local example I know of is SonRise Church in Berlin.  They lease the local high school for their two Sunday morning worship services.  Meanwhile, the building that they own and use for office space is offered–free of charge–to two different churches for worship on Sundays.  One church is an Hispanic church plant where their services are held in Spanish.  The other is a “historically black” (their term to describe themselves) church that was booted out of their previous worship space.  What a beautiful example of a church taking seriously the mission of Jesus Christ and leveraging their resources to build the kingdom of God!

Many church buildings sit empty for most of the week.  Strangely, at the same time, there are other churches who are struggling to find a place to meet for worship.  It reminds me of two guys I saw standing next to each other one time outside of an Orioles game.  One of them was yelling, “Tickets for sale!  Tickets for sale!”  The other guy, right next to him, was yelling, “Anyone got tickets for sale?  Anyone got tickets for sale?”

One common objection is that the other churches should just join with the church that has the building.  There are several problems with this: First, as the SonRise example shows, there are differences in language, style, and culture that are best served in separate congregations.  Second, if the building is not being used–why not let another group of God’s people use it?!?  Third, let’s be realistic: if these other people wanted to join our church instead of their own, they already would have.  Fourth, God likes to do new things.  It wouldn’t make sense for a young man with a call to plant a church that reaches a particular demographic to join with a church that is not reaching that demographic.  The list goes on and on.

Bottom line: We really have a problem as a church if we begin to think that our building is our building.  It’s God’s building–we’re just the managers.  Our job is to pay attention and see how God wants us to use it.

One church, many locations… or many churches, one location?  We don’t have to decide between them.  God will lead different churches different directions.  But rather than trying to hold on to what’s ours, we need to be open-handed and faithfully follow wherever He leads.

Published in: on February 26, 2009 at 11:48 am  Comments (9)  

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9 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Excellent thoughts, Nathan. Refreshing viewpoints that call for open-mindedness. I appreciate the eye-opening challenge to live as though what we have belongs to GOD, not us (’cause it does!). 🙂

  2. Thanks Christi, and I appreciate the way you and Josh model that lifestyle for the rest of us!

  3. I really like the saying:

    “We may go to different Churches, but lets walk together.”

  4. That about sums it up, Judy!

  5. Great site. You are an interesting writer. Hope you will visit at my place when time permits. Especially like your thoughts on the “Many Churches, One Location. Your links are helpful.

    Ron E

  6. I loved this Nathan… Thanks for sharing it. You are dead on!

  7. Thanks Terri. Hey, don’t you go to SonRise? : )

  8. Yes I sure do go to SonRise… but you are dead on about doing whatever it takes to reach people… whether one church many locations or many churches one location.. That’s what I meant… 🙂

  9. I knew what you meant. I was just messing with you.

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