A church-centered Texas nonprofit has released a report stating that the number of multisite churches in North America has skyrocketed in the past 10 years.
According to the report released on Tuesday by the Dallas-based Leadership Network, as of 2012 there are over 5,000 churches with more than one location for worship, up from 200 in 2002.
Dr. Warren Bird, director of Research and Intellectual Capital Development at the Leadership Network and the report's lead researcher, explained the significance of the rapidly growing trend.
"What grew in popularity initially among megachurches has now expanded to churches of all sizes, especially those with attendances of 500 and larger," he said in a statement. "This rapid rate of growth for the number of multisite now outnumbers and outpaces the number of megachurches (churches with 2,000 or more in weekly attendance)."
Bird told The Christian Post that there were multiple reasons for this dramatic increase in churches with two or more campuses.
"Churches most likely to consider multisite are those with a heartbeat to help people connect with God through a vibrant local church," said Bird.
"A second group are those triggered by hitting some kind of wall: zoning restriction on growth, population is shifting to new area of town, etc."
The trend of multisite churches could be found across the board of Protestant Christianity, as the researchers "have multisite examples from non-denominational churches as well as from every major denomination or fellowship," he noted.
The Rev. Gary Shockley, executive director of New Church Starts at the Board of Discipleship of the United Methodist Church, told CP that multisite churches are increasing in his denomination.
"Of the 621 new churches started since January 2008 at least 50 percent or more were multisites," said Shockley.
"Of the 1,000 new churches we intend to start between 2013-2016 we are targeting 60 percent to be multisites, extensions or satellites of a vibrant existing UMC."
Despite the dramatic increase, Bird told CP that he did not feel that multisite congregations will eventually outnumber single site congregations.
"Because 80 percent of churches are 200 people are less in a typical Sunday, the majority will offer only one service – and in only one location," said Bird.
Other findings in the report include multisite churches being able to reach more people, spread to more diverse communities, have more volunteers, and have more baptisms than single site churches.
The Leadership Network has been tracking the rise of multisite churches for years, with Bird co-authoring a book in 2006 along with Geoff Surratt and Greg Ligon about the phenomenon. At the time, there were an estimated 1,500 multisite churches.
"We reported the first wave of these pioneers in The Multi-Site Church Revolution: Being One Church in Many Locations, by Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon, and Warren Bird, published in 2006," reads a Leadership Network statement.
"As the growth has now mushroomed to 5,000 and beyond, multisite is truly a 'new normal' in cities large and small, urban and suburban and even rural. Today it's hard to find a church leadership conference that doesn't deal with some aspect of multisite."