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Top 10 Traits of a Multisite Church


When does a church move from being a church with multiple campuses and truly become a church of multiple campuses? 

The change in the prepositions “with and of” is dramatic and very few multisite churches have made that change. The latest survey of multisite churches in 2010 by Leadership Network revealed that 85% of multisite churches have three or fewer geographic campuses. Ten years ago church consultant and guru Lyle Schaller told me that many churches will add a second campus and even a third campus, but very few will launch a fourth campus,  but those who do will launch more than four campuses. A decade later his prediction has come true.

Why are so few unable to break through the three campus barrier? 

The simple answer is that they have not made the paradigm shift from a single-site to a multi-site mindset. They embrace the idea of multi-siting, but they are still functioning as a single-site church with multiple campuses instead of functioning as a truly multi-site church. They are holding onto the old single-site ways and not thoroughly leveraging and benefiting from the multisite model. They look like a multisite church, but they still think and act like a single-site church with multiple campuses. It’s like using a DOS operating system on a Mac computer. It can be done, but it is a lot harder (if you even know what a DOS operating system is you are really ancient). That’s why many churches will give up adding more than one or two campuses and not make the transition to become a truly multisite church.

So what are the characteristics of a church that is on its way to becoming a true multi-site church? 

Here are 10 traits that I have observed among churches that seem to have made the shift from single-site to a multi-site paradigm:

  1. Four or more geographical campuses.
  2. A dedicated multisite champion on the senior team.
  3. At least 50% of total church attendance beyond the original campus.
  4. A teaching team that fully or partially utilizes video delivery.
  5. Dedicated central staff that supports all the campuses.
  6. A dedicated campus pastor at the original campus who is not the senior pastor.
  7. Regional campus-focused decision making rather that central campus-focused decision making.
  8. Grandchildren campuses. Multi-site campuses launching campuses.
  9. Campuses beyond 30 minutes from the original campus. Most of these will come through church mergers.
  10. Empowered local campus pastors who are unquestionably committed to the mission, vision, values and strategy of the founding church.

Is your church truly multisite?

Jim Tomberlin began his multi-site church journey in the mid-1990s when he was the senior pastor of Woodmen Valley Chapel. In 2000 he went on to pioneer the multi-site model at Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago. Since 2005 he has been consulting and coaching churches in developing and implementing multi-campus strategies. As Founder and Senior Strategist of MultiSite Solutions, Jim leads a seasoned team of practitioner specialists who can help you maximize the redemptive potential of your church. 


  1. Great article, Jim. I especially appreciate your comment on video training as a means for using the same technology across all campuses. In the same regard, considerations should be made for payroll, HR and time-keeping technologies.

  2. Hi Josh, Jim wanted me to share his reply with you:

    Yes, adding the third multisite campus is the game-changer for multisite churches. The “glass ceiling” for multisite churches is breaking past through to the third multisite campus. Most get stuck at three total campuses (the original campus + two additional campuses). It is a barrier that few multisite churches are able to break through because they are not willing to change their organizational structure to accommodate multiple campuses. This is the case in all organizations and churches, the structure that helped them get to one level of success, will hinder them from getting to the next level unless they are willing to change it.
    The statistic of only 15% of churches with three or more multisite campuses comes from the 2010 Leadership Network Survey of MultiSite Churches.
    Hope this helps,

  3. Jim, it’s interesting that most don’t grow beyond 3. Almost as if, on a multi-site model that’s the next “glass ceiling”. Similiar to the 120, 300, 800, 1000, 3000 numbers the most churches struggle through. Are those stats published somewhere I can find? Were those what you’ve encountered at MultiSite Solutions?


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