A 7 Minute Read - By Chris Bright - posted on August 8, 2020

3 steps that will help you do multisite better

Since the dawn of space travel in the 20th Century, there has long been a fascination with looking for life on other planets. The thought is that in a universe as expansive as ours, surely we can’t be alone? Surely there is life on other planets?

Whilst we at thinking.church don’t concern ourselves with such quandaries (at work at least), we found this relevant when it came to planting a new campus in a multisite church.

“Why?” I hear you ask.

As scientists started to scour the universe for intelligent life, it became very clear that whilst the universe is gigantic, there are only some specific conditions in which life could potentially exist. For life to exist on another planet, it must not be too far away from a star, otherwise there’s not enough heat. No heat, no life.

A planet must also not be too close to a star. Too close and it will be too hot… too much heat, no life. Added to which, if it’s too close the planet will get sucked into the start by it’s gravitational pull with potentially messy results.

When it comes to finding life on other planets, you need to find the habitable zone.

The same, too, is true when planting a new campus for a multisite church. When you’re planting, there is a ‘habitable zone’ where new plants are most effective.

Firstly, let’s lay some multisite ground rules. A multisite strategy is about reaching more of the same kinds of people, whereas a multi-church strategy is about reaching different kinds of people. It means that in a multisite strategy, you’re going to be replicating what is currently successful in another place to reach more of the same. It’s a great strategy and has already been successful.

However, when it comes to planting, the physical location of a plant is crucial. The ‘habitable zone’ has been found to be approximately a 20-30-minute drive from the sending church. Plant any closer and you’ll find that the ‘gravitational pull’ of the sending church can be too much for people. It’s bigger, more established and you know what to expect.

Plant too far away and you get the opposite problem. Beyond a 30-minute drive you’ll have very few people in your congregation with which to build. When you plant in the habitable zone, you can wait until you get 50-100 people in the same vicinity to then plant with strength, and much greater chance of success. Beyond 30-minutes and you’ll find that you’ll be starting a congregation with ones and twos, which vastly reduces your campus success-rate, increases your workload, cost and time to become established.

How to find your ‘Habitable Zone’

Finding your habitable zone isn’t easy. However, in these three steps you can get a good grasp on where are the best places to plant a campus.

Step 1: Drive Time Maps

Use an open source drive-time map such as Travel Time Platform to find your 30-minute radius. You just pop your church’s postcode in and set it to 30 minutes and you’re away. On Travel Time Platform, you can even set the travel time to a Sunday Morning which will give a much more accurate representation of your church’s travel time.

Step 2: Get your Congregation’s addresses

This is by far the hardest step, as more and more churches don’t operate on a membership model, so getting this personal data must be voluntary, not to mention it must adhere to GDPR guidelines, that means being transparent as to why you are collecting this data, and only storing it as long as is appropriate.

Step 3: Create a Scatter Map

Once you’ve got your congregation’s addresses, you can plot them on a map. Services like ChurchSuite will do this automatically for you. The task is then to look for the clusters of congregation in the ‘Habitable Zone’ – the golden 20-30-minute drive time. If you’re starting to note that a large amount of your congregation is commuting from a similar area in the zone, that’s a good place to start planning your next campus.

You also might note that there isn’t enough people to plant with strength. That’s fine too, if your church is running out of space, look to start another service at your current location. It’s better to wait and go to multiple services than plant weakly.

If your church is bursting at the seams for space over 3 services, but the congregation aren’t commuting from the Habitable Zone, it’s probably a better idea to look at extending your current building or looking for a new facility.

Stretching the habitable zone

When COVID-19 hit, the church adapted and online services became the norm and this opened up the ability to stretch the habitable zone. With people now able to view your church service online, the possibility starts for small pockets of “Watch Parties” to form where small groups of people meet in homes to watch the online service.

This has profound implications as this means that groups of people can now be starting to form outside of the 20-30 drivetime radius. When that watch part gets large enough, it can transition to becoming a multisite campus. Amazingly, this can be in another town or even another country.

For this to work, online church is an absolute necessity. Trying to plant a campus outside the traditional habitable zone without online church won’t work. Also, the same rules apply for watch parties started inside the church’s gravity zone. If watch parties emerge within the gravity zone, it is still better to encourage people to join the physical location, if possible.

Need help going multisite?

Going multisite isn’t easy, and planting from a place of ill-health will only replicate ill-health. You can book a FREE 1-hour consultation call with us to talk through your multisite strategy.