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A multi-site story

As an XP prepares to set up his church’s fourth location, he looks back on the road to multi-site.

By Eric Rojas

In 2004, my church — Christ Community Church in St. Charles, IL — was formed primarily to reach the area’s unchurched. In 20 years, we grew from six couples to nearly 3,000 members. Today, about 5,500 individuals attend services at our multiple campuses.

A story of growth and expansion

As our church grew, sDC_Interior1o did our ministries. We kept our heartbeat for evangelism, but added in a heavy emphasis on discipleship and group life. Through ongoing ministry evaluation, we realized that people were traveling 30 to 60 minutes to get to our church. We also discovered a direct correlation between the distance traveled and how engaged a member was in the church’s community, discipleship and evangelism. We looked at several ways to attempt to remedy this issue and landed on a new thing God was doing: multi-site.

Before going multi-site, there were many questions to ask and strategies to develop. After a season of prayer, a group of 75 people came to us to tell us they had been attending our church in the hopes that we’d start a multi-site in their area — DeKalb county — about 45 minutes away from our home church. We agreed this would be our starting point.

Thus began a long and difficult search for our new campus home. After many months, we secured and transformed a vacant Farm-N-Fleet building into a new, permanent campus home. This location was part of a strip mall, which had some positive aspects — and some definite challenges, too.

DC-ExteriorPro: Our new church had room to grow. When stores in the strip mall folded and left, we added their square footage to our own.

Pro: Location, location, location! The new site’s location on a busy thoroughfare, as well as the intimate feel of the facility, was a good fit for our college town and young adult audience.

Pro: Plenty of parking. Another blessing was the abundance of Saturday night and Sunday morning parking.

Cons: Signage and worship space. On the challenging side was a lack of quality signage and the fact that the auditorium wouldn’t be as large as we’d have liked (and would eventually need).

Lessons learned

At the time of our foray into multi-site — 2004 — a couple of conventional strategies existed for goingSC_Exterior multi-site. First, a lot of churches were doing setup and tear-down on the weekends. Many churches were taking up residence in schools and theatres. Second, many multi-site churches were OK with smaller campuses.

Our own church’s multi-site strategy was to see a campus of influence in our community of 1,000-plus people. We were ready to resource this strategy with an investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars. In doing so, we grew from 75 people to a current attendance of about 1,000.

After several months, it became apparent that our strategy was going to be successful. So, we decided to press on and open a second regional campus about 30 minutes away. We soon discovered that our search for a campus home would be more difficult in this area. Seemingly all the schools, theatres and towns were apprehensive about the idea of a church being set up in their spaces.

We were led to a discussion with a community church without a senior pastor, which we ultimately adopted. While the process has some difficulties, the positives of approved zoning, pSC_Interior2 copyreloaded ministry setup, and a preexisting presence in the community made it a real win. In taking over an older building as we did, we realized we’d need to make significant investments to update the building structure, technology and signage. Because of our overall strategy, we were prepared for that.

For our church’s third regional campus, we decided to head 30 minutes east of our initial campus. We ran into many of the same snags as before in terms of towns not wanting a church and zoning issues. Going in with our eyes wide open — and being willing to move to a setup/tear-down model — helped us in our search. We landed in the community center at the heart of target area.

The labor isn’t easy each week; but, it’s fun to see God work in this type of campus situation, which we haven’t seen in our other campuses. Having an office presence in a local strip mall for a daily presence in the community is a big win, too.

In a few months, we’ll begin the search for our fourth regional campus. Having tried three different types of campuses, we’re extremely excited to see what God is going to do. We know it won’t be easy, but the rewards will be great!

Eric Rojas is executive pastor at Christ Community Church in the western suburbs of Chicago. He has been in ministry for 25 years. [Twitter — @erictrojas / Facebook — eric.rojas.xp]

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