For the past five years, the church in which I serve as Lead Pastor on the San Francisco Peninsula has adopted a multi-site model. Being a church of almost 3,000 people with only 2 acres in Foster City, we outgrew our facilities and felt this was the best way to continue to grow and reach the Peninsula for Christ. Our original campus is still in Foster City, but we have started two additional campuses. About five years ago, we started our North Campus in Millbrae (now in San Bruno), and then this past September we started a campus in Redwood City. We continue to function as one church on three campuses, with one budget and one board of elders. Each of our campuses has its own Campus Pastor and its own “campus specific” staff, but several of our staff serve all three campuses.
One of the challenges of doing multi-site has to do with preaching. With three campuses meeting every Sunday, we now have 156 Sundays a year (52 on each campus) to cover on the preaching calendar. Many multi-site churches have chosen to leverage the speaking and leadership gifts of one preacher and so they have him preach “in person” in the original campus and show a video of the sermon on the other campuses. It is argued that this is also a wise use of resources, in that it takes most guys 15-20 hours a week to prepare a message. But that approach has been criticized for several reasons: it just furthers the “celebrity” status of one person; it doesn’t allow young, emerging pastors to grow and develop their own preaching gifts; and it is contrary to an “incarnational” model of ministry.
What our church has adopted is a hybrid approach. Trying to cover 156 Sundays is a lot, so we still use video some of the time, usually when I am preaching on the “hub” campus. But we have also found that the multi-site model is a great way to train young preachers. Each of our Campus Pastors preaches “in person” several times a year on his own campus. On those weeks, I have an opportunity to work with them on their messages and debrief the following week. They benefit from that in several ways. First, if we never chose to go multi-site, we would only have 52 Sundays to cover, and they would get much less opportunity to preach. Second, if we had started a church instead of a campus, they would be burned out by trying to preach 52 times a year! Third, hopefully they benefit from the coaching I give them as well as the interaction between themselves as they prepare their messages on the same text. The bottom line is that more young guys are being trained to preach under this multi-site model than otherwise possible.