Is this the future model for church success?

I am sure you’re aware that we are living in a time of massive change. We are all affected by it … and so are our churches.

As a businessperson, I love to observe other industries and markets and look at what is called ‘best practice’. That is where you find the best of other industries and then aim to apply certain qualities to your organization.

When I look at the church, I personally believe that, on the whole, it is in a healthy state. A lot is written about the church – most negative – but I am here to cheer churches on. We need them badly. They are the life blood of Christianity.

Except for a monthly surfing contest that my youngest son and I both compete in, we are in church every Sunday. In fact on the one Sunday that the two of us don’t make it, the other four members of my family still go off to church. Is there anything major I would change if the reins were handed to me and I was the new senior pastor? (Please God, no…. That is not permission for you to explore this idea!) Not really. I can’t speak for all churches, but my church does an excellent job.

However, the biggest change I see in the future is the campus church, otherwise known as the multisite church. Thom Rainer, the CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, wrote an excellent piece just recently, which got me thinking about just how right he is when it comes to campus churches, and which are my thoughts exactly.

The church is not isolated from the fact that the economies of scale of one organization being responsible for many churches is a very smart business model. We have seen this in business for years: burnt out small business owners who decide to merge or be acquired – or just walk away – because of the responsibilities of running their organization. Being responsible for the operation of an organization is exhausting, and our pastors aren’t immune from the financial pressures that are on director, be it a for profit or not for profit entity.

If there are six churches within a denomination say across a well spread out area, it makes so much sense to have them operate under the one roof. We do this in our company alone. Initiate Media really is a holding company, in that we have multiple businesses under the one roof. We are so much stronger because not only do we have many income streams, but it means we only have one CEO, one Art Director, one CFO … you get it. One set of costs, but multiple income streams. Businesses have been doing this for years, so I am not exactly a business mastermind in doing the same thing. Best practice …

Is the church any different? Not really. Every individual church has to run payroll, HR, accounts and on and on, yet they may only have a small congregation to help cover the costs. Even in our local area, there is one main Anglican church, with two campuses managed by the ‘head office’.

I also believe that churches coming together under a campus/multisite model will happen naturally. Some pastors will be burnt out, some will simply not be bringing in the income to support their church, while some pastors will be nearing retirement age and need an exit/succession plan. So it could be a natural fit for churches – when the time is right. As long as pastors are given some room to run their local campus with their own expression, this could be the smartest business move for our smaller churches that are struggling to keep their heads above water.

It’s just a suggestion, but it’s one I am passionate about so that we see great churches continue to survive – and thrive – in our local communities.

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