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Is the multisite church movement still growing?

The multisite movement is, by historical standards, a recent phenomenon. The 2005 research by Todd Rhoades found 10 such churches in 1990, a number that grew to about 100 by 1998. I am a part of that history since I led the church I served as pastor to go multisite in 1992.

Leadership Network research noted the number of multisite churches increased to more than 5,000 by 2012. I have coined this strategic approach “horizontal growth.” The church is expanding beyond a single site (vertical growth) to more than one site.

The multisite movement is not a fad. It is indeed a movement in many ways. There have been thousands and thousands of churches move in this direction around the world. Not everyone likes or embraces the multisite movement; but it is hard for anyone to deny its growth and paradigmatic impact.

I will add to this conversation with six updates about the movement. Some are obvious; some may not be quite as evident.

  1. All indicators point to continued growth of the multisite movement. I do not have firm updates on the number of these churches, but I would not be surprised if it is close to 10,000 in North America.
  2. The movement is moving from the early adopter stage to the mid-adopter stage. I estimate the percentage of American congregations moving to multisite is close to three percent. This number is a significant level pointing toward a breakout of many more churches.
  3. Recent decisions by some churches to revert back to a single site are not indications the movement is slowing. Recent decisions by a few churches to revert from multisite to single site are not indicators of a reversal of the trends. The Village Church in Texas and Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte are two well-known churches making news with their decisions. The leadership of both churches have stated good reasons for their decisions. With the sheer numbers of multisite churches today, you can expect occasional decisions to move back to single site.
  4. The internet church and the multisite church are moving toward some type of convergence. We are watching both trends carefully. Though I am not certain exactly what shape it will take, there is definitely something moving in this direction.
  5. The church replanting movement will continue to be a powerful fuel for the multisite movement. Most church replants are led by another congregation. When the acquiring congregation adopts another church, replanting and multisite take place simultaneously.
  6. Multisite churches will continue to develop specialized focuses. Family Church in West Palm Beach and other locations, for example, focuses on neighborhood churches led largely by marketplace pastors and staff.

This movement is not slowing down. To the contrary, it is a movement whose fastest growth is just about to breakout as it moves from the early adopter stage to the mid-adopter stage.

Stay tuned . . .

Originally posted at

Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers, an online community and resource for church leaders. Prior to founding Church Answers, Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.

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