Multi-site churches are becoming increasingly popular in our country. For what this is worth, here's what I think of this new reality.
I both like and dislike multi-site churches. It all depends on what is meant by the term "multi-site."
In the new world of the mega-church, multi-site refers to large groups of people who rarely if ever all meet together but are governed by the same over-arching mega-church name and structure. These are churches that are too large to meet in one place so they come together in different locations. The obvious problem is that churches are communities. How can you be a community and share life together if you are too big to even gather in one place? Additionally, churches of this size almost always have large budgets and staffs. The institution often overshadows the community.
John Piper is a favorite author of mine, but the church where he pastors has multiple sites. My guess is that the attendance swells at the particular building where he preaches in his rotation.
This mega-church type of multi-site reality ends up getting so large that most people in the church do not even know each other. This is not community - at least not what we see in scripture. This I do not like.
There is another type of multi-site church that I do like.
When "multi-site" describes small groups of people who meet together frequently but in different locations, this is a positive thing. Since churches should be communities, it ought to be clear that the people know one another. They gather frequently. They share lives together. They carry out the "one-anothers" of scripture.
The above implies that they gather together frequently. The majority of the time, they meet in homes (some times they may gather in parks, restaurants, coffee shops, beaches, etc.). Because of the frequency, it may be difficult for one family to always host the get-togethers. How can a church keep one family from shouldering the responsibility of having the meetings at their home all the time? The solution is simple. The church gathers at multiple sites - different homes.
Each simple church can work out how this will function. If the Sunday gathering (if there is one on Sunday) is the largest, then the folks with the biggest house could host that one. Others with smaller homes could host gatherings during the week. Some type of rotation could be set up. Flexibility would be a key to making this work.
One large benefit to meeting at multiple sites is that this way the church does not become identified with any one person or family. It doesn't get referred to as "so-and-so's church." Church leadership does not by default fall into the arms of this home owner.
This method also keeps any one family from feeling like the gathering is a burden. If every meeting is at one home, the hosts will eventually burn out. I like people, but having groups in my home that frequently would be difficult. If, on the other hand, we could host some gatherings but go to others' homes some of the time, this would be very welcome.
An additional bonus is that if the church gathers at multiple locations, this makes it easy for any of the people to go out of town without it being a big deal.
If "multi-site" describes a relatively small group (25 or so people) that meets in multiple homes - this I like.