The multisite church movement is a significant and growing trend among Protestant (especially of the emergent, evangelical, or non-denominational type) congregations.
There’s lots of information out there (for example), but this infographic from unSeminary provides a nice summary of key points:
Okay, so as a Catholic Christian, what catches my attention?
1. 57% of multisite churches plan on launching another site in the next year. Wow. That’s a real confidence in the outreach aspect of evangelization that I don’t think all Catholic parishes, especially those that are recently clustered or merged, have. It’s also a real sense of movement, and vision that witness should necessarily mean an expanding of God’s family in a concrete way.
2. 37% of multisite churches started as a merger. That’s great news to hear, especially for Catholic parishes feeling down about being clustered or merged. It seems that in the this Protestant sphere, a merger is not a weak band-aid on an unaddressed problem, but something that can drive more witness and outreach. I see many Catholic parishes that are just plain dejected after mergers, but it looks like it can be a new fuel for vision and growth.
3.Churches typically launch their first new campus when they reach 1000 people, and new campuses start w/ 75-350 people. Hmm. Catholic parishes are much bigger [1100 families median size]. So, basically, if Catholic parishes were in on the multi-site trend, then pretty much every average sized Catholic parish would be launching new sites/campuses. Maybe this points us towards more collaboration, shared resources, etc. between parishes. Often clusters and mergers are a “last resort” for parishes with dwindling priestly vocations, worship attendance, and financial stability–but maybe we need to think more pro-actively and be a little less “parochial” 😉 about our parish boundaries.
4. 85% of multisite churches are growing. Attitude matters when it comes to evangelization. If you focus on the call to evangelize and add disciples, then it can happen. But, if a congregation is in mourning over becoming multisite/clustered/merged, then I doubt growth will happen on its own.
5. 1 out of 10 protestants in the U.S. attends a multisite church. I don’t have the stats on Catholics in America, but I’d guess we’re at a lower rate. Maybe then its just that we’re not as culturally used to the idea of a parish growing to multiple sites. Maybe time will show that the multisite trend is a negative one, that it’s not helping grow disciples in Protestant churches. I’m not sure. But, what I do know is that being a Catholic member of a multi-site/merged/clustered parish clearly isn’t the end of the world. The end of faith in Jesus Christ. Or the end of the essential purpose of the Church–evangelization.